It was recently reported by the BBC that the Pentagon has admitted to using white phosphorous as a weapon in their assault on Falluja back in November of 2004.
For those of you not familiar with white phosphorous it is used as an incendiary devise (the above picture shows what the body looks like after a white phosphorous burn). If particles of ignited white phosphorus land on a person's skin, they can continue to burn right through flesh to the bone. Toxic phosphoric acid can also be released into wounds, risking phosphorus poisoning. Skin burns must be immersed in water or covered with wet cloths to prevent re-combustion until the particles can be removed. If white phosphorus particles are not removed from the skin then the particles can reignite and continue to burn the skin, so simply putting it out with water is not enough. Sounds like pretty nasty stuff to me, especially when it was being used in areas with large densely populated civilian populations.
The interesting part of this is that such weapons are outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which the United States is a party. The Pentagon maintains that white phosphorus is not a chemical weapon; even though a declassified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document reads "Iraqi forces loyal to president Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorous chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels."
I find it rather ironic that the premise for going into Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussain from acquiring and using chemical weapons, while at the same time the U.S. is using chemical weapons against Iraqis.
If this wasn’t enough it was also reported in the Daily Mirror that President Bush had told Tony Blair that he wanted to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera’s Qatar headquarters. Now keep in mind that al-Jazeera’s headquarters is located in the capital city of Doha’s downtown area and only 10 miles from the US's desert base in Qatar, which is one of the US’s most important allies in the war on Iraq. One should also note that protocol I, art. 79 of the Geneva Conventions states that:
- Journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50, paragraph 1.
This means that as civilians “violence to life and person including murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture are prohibited.”
I guess we can all be thankful that at least Tony Blair had some common sense and opposed the president’s idea of committing war crimes and infuriating the entire Arab world.
Yes folks war crimes are truly the most fun kind of crimes.