Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Pentagon calls white phosphorus a chemical weapon

On November 9 and 17 of this year, I addressed the use of white phosphorus, an incendiary weapon, by U.S. forces in Iraq. Reaction from readers was, well, intense.

You can find those posts here and here.

No one thinks that WP is a humane weapon, and no one denies that it was used in Iraq, specifically in Fallujah, but one of the central questions of the discussion, both here and elsewhere, has revolved around whether or not it's a chemical weapon. The answer, I thought, was no.

But now Think Progress alerts us to a declassified Pentagon document that suggests otherwise: "A formerly classified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document titled 'Possible Use of Phosphorous Chemical' describes the use of white phosphorus by Saddam Hussein on Kurdish fighters:

IRAQ HAS POSSIBLY EMPLOYED PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST THE KURDISH POPULATION IN AREAS ALONG THE IRAQI-TURKISH-IRANIAN BORDERS. […]

IN LATE FEBRUARY 1991, FOLLOWING THE COALITION FORCES’ OVERWHELMING VICTORY OVER IRAQ, KURDISH REBELS STEPPED UP THEIR STRUGGLE AGAINST IRAQI FORCES IN NORTHERN IRAQ. DURING THE BRUTAL CRACKDOWN THAT FOLLOWED THE KURDISH UPRISING, IRAQI FORCES LOYAL TO PRESIDENT SADDAM ((HUSSEIN)) MAY HAVE POSSIBLY USED WHITE PHOSPHOROUS (WP) CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGAINST KURDISH REBELS AND THE POPULACE IN ERBIL (GEOCOORD:3412N/04401E) (VICINITY OF IRANIAN BORDER) AND DOHUK (GEOCOORD:3652N/04301E) (VICINITY OF IRAQI BORDER) PROVINCES, IRAQ.

In other words, the Pentagon does refer to white phosphorus rounds as chemical weapons — at least if they’re used by our enemies."

See also Daily Kos: "About the most frustrating thing about the White Phosphorus "debate" has been the endless discussion whether it's a chemical weapon or not. There are legitimate uses for WP -- battlefield illumination and target spotting -- but use as a battlefield munition has apparently been a big supposed question mark. This regardless the fact that WP objectively behaves like a chemical weapon."

And Seeing the Forest (with links to various right-wing apologists).

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