Italian documentary alleges that US forces ‘used chemical weapons’ during assault on city of Fallujah
In a documentary to be broadcast by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, this morning, a former American soldier who fought at Fallujah says: “I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it’s known as Willy Pete.
“Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone … I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for.”
Photographs on the website of RaiTG24, the broadcaster’s 24-hours news channel, www.rainews24.it, show exactly what the former soldier means. Provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, dozens of high-quality, colour close-ups show bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised or turned the consistency of leather by the shells.
A biologist in Fallujah, Mohamad Tareq, interviewed for the film, says: “A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact.”
These rumors have swirled around since the original attack on Fallujah. For our own sakes we’d better hope that there is some rational explanation for all this.
The Independent (UK) was wrong to describe White Phosphorous as a ‘chemical weapon.’ It is an incendiary weapon. Protocol III of the 1980 UN convention on weapons bans incendiary weapons such as white phosphorus, but while the US has ratified the convention it has not signed onto Protocol III.
More than 80 countries have ratified the protocol and no longer stock incindeary munitions such as white phosphorus. Make of that what you will.
A significant question is (1) the nature of the WP munitions used, and (2) whether Fallujah could be considered a civilian area at the time of its use. Even UN Protocol III, which does not bind the United States, specifically limits its scope to civilian areas.
With respect to (1), evidence suggests that the phosphorous weapons were anti-personnel rounds with a significant casualty radius rather than ordinary tracers or flares.
A trickier question is whether Fallujah was a civilian target. We know for example that the army warned the civilian population to leave. Is it possible for every civilian who wants to leave to do so? I don’t know the answer to that.
*** Update #3***
James Joyner has the definitive run-down on WP.