The military is FINALLY defending itself in regards to WP:
The United States’ most senior general has defended the use of weapons containing white phosphorus in Iraq.
General Peter Pace said that such munitions were a “legitimate tool of the military”, used to illuminate targets and create smokescreens.
Two weeks ago, the US admitted using it to flush out insurgents in Falluja last year – raising concerns that it might have hit civilians.
Gen Pace said no military went to greater lengths to avoid civilian casualties than the US army.
He said white phosphorus, a chemical that burns on exposure to oxygen, producing a bright light and lots of white smoke, was used primarily to illuminate a battlefield or to hide troop movements.
“It is not a chemical weapon. It is an incendiary. And it is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they’re being used, for marking and for screening,” he said.
If it comes into contact with human skin, white phosphorus can ignite and burn down to the bone if it is not exhausted or extinguished.
An Italian TV channel has reported that the US used white phosphorus against civilians in Falluja, and showed pictures of burned bodies.
The US has denied this.
“A bullet goes through skin even faster than white phosphorus does,” Gen Pace said.
“So I would rather have the proper instrument applied at the proper time, as precisely as possible, to get the job done, in a way that kills as many of the bad guys as possible and does as little collateral damage as possible.
“That is just the nature of warfare.”
It is about damned time, and merely reiterates what I have been stating from the beginning. Those who have been making charges that ‘chemical weapons’ were used against civilians, or the more sanitized charge, that we used WP ‘carelessly’ or ‘indiscriminately,’ with no regard for civilian life, have had their charges go without an official response for far too long.
WP is not illegal, it is not in and of itself ‘immoral,’ it is not a chemical munition, and as Gen. Pace points out, it is simply another tool that when used appropriately, is needed. The problem for critics is that ANY military behavior is de facto a ‘war crime,’ since they view the entire war illegal, and these WP charges have just been a dishonest canard used to attack the troops, the administration, and the nation.
And before you think General Pace is just another one of those dishonest Pentagon flacks, I offer you this, which Tim linked to earlier:
When UPI’s Pam Hess asked about torture by Iraqi authorities, Rumsfeld replied that “obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility” other than to voice disapproval.
But [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace] had a different view. “It is the absolute responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it,” the general said.
Rumsfeld interjected: “I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.”
But Pace meant what he said. “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it,” he said, firmly.
Gen. Pace is a decent man trying to do the right thing by his troops, his country, and the Iraqi people. He should be allowed to continue to do his job without having to defend against outrageous charges leveled by activists and partisans with no evidence and lots of agenda.
*** Update ***
Here is another version of the same WP/Gen. Pace story from Defenselink:
White phosphorous is a legitimate military tool, but U.S. forces have been highly judicious about using it to avoid harming civilians, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters Nov. 29.
Pace defended use of the substance, which U.S. forces use primarily as a smokescreen, to mark targets or to flush enemy combatants out of protected positions. “It is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they are being used for marking and screening,” he said.
U.S. troops used limited white phosphorous munitions against legitimate targets during Operation Al Fajr in Fallujah, Iraq, last year, defense officials confirmed. However, officials refuted recent news reports that U.S. forces have used the substance as an incendiary weapon. White phosphorous can cause serious burns if it comes into contact with skin.
U.S. forces have never used white phosphorous to target innocent civilians, officials said, and have taken great pains to avoid doing so.
Just as with any other weapon, troops use a variety of factors to determine the appropriateness of using white phosphorous, explained Air Force Maj. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman. These include the target vulnerability and location, available munitions, and the potential risk to civilians and friendly forces, he said.