Think Progress responds, sort of, to the posts I have made taking them to task (here, here, and here) in a piece called ‘The Truth About ThinkProgress’ White Phosphorus Coverage.”
The response, in a nutshell, is that they never claimed WP is a chemical weapon. Instead, they state it is ‘technically not a chemical weapon,’ which, I guess, is true- in the sense that I am ‘technically’ not 42 feet tall, I am ‘technically’ not the Master of the Universe, and I am ‘technically’ not the best damned Elvis impersonator in the world.
They did, however, state the following:
In other words, the Pentagon does refer to white phosphorus rounds as chemical weapons — at least if they’re used by our enemies.
In fact, even in this post, they continue to be disingenuous:
The purpose of exposing that the Pentagon cable described White Phosphorous as a “chemical weapon” is not to dispute its technical classification.
Hogwash. Not only did they inaccurately distort the intelligence report they used as ‘proof,’ but the purpose of ‘exposing’ the cable was to mislead people into believing that the Pentagon itself thinks WP is a chemical weapon (they do not), and that there is some validity to the charges that we are using chemical weapons on civilians and enemy combatants (there is not). Now I know they won’t take my word for it, but perhaps they could look at their own trackbacks. Here is how their readers interpreted their post:
Just because they don’t classify it as a chemical weapon, doesn’t mean that it’s not a chemical weapon.
“Willy Pete” is usually used as an illumination device, but it is a chemical, and when it’s used as a weapon, as in Fallujah, that makes it a “chemical weapon”.
But as we know, up is down, war is peace, and 2+2=46. – Lt. Bighorn
It must be really sad to think that just because you say things like, “We don’t torture” or “We didn’t use chemical weapons” that people are going to believe it.
These people are sorry excuse for Americans. – Kiki
Or how about some of the bloggers who linked to your post to help get out the story:
My Blahg: IS WHITE PHOSPHORUS A CHEMICAL WEAPON?
The Liberal Avenger– We (rightly) accuse Iraq of using chemical weapons against the Iraqi people – including White Phosphorus. We cite Iraq’s use of chemical weapons as one of the reasons for going to war there, in fact we pull Iraq’s chemical weapons use out of our asses everytime somebody questions the war.
We use the chemical weapon White Phosphorus against Iraqis in Fallujah. Then we deny we used White Phosphorus. Then we concede that we used White Phosphorus, but not as a weapon. Then we concede that we used White Phosphorus as a weapon, but it isn’t a “chemical weapon.”
And wingnut war cheerleaders think we liberals are unhinged…
Think Progress today states: “ThinkProgress never claimed that White Phosphorus is properly categorized as a chemical weapon.”
Their readers say otherwise.
Much more here from TCY.
From a Major in the USAF who works with HUMINT (posted by Noah Shactman to preserve his anonymity):
“I have to chuckle at the ‘chemical WP’ story from the ‘Think Progress’ website,” one military reader tells Defense Tech…
Can they truthfully say that “Pentagon Document Described White Phosphorus As ‘Chemical Weapon'”. Sure they can….technically. That is what the words say. However this is not not some Pentagon policy paper, or tactics manual, or even primer on WMD making that claim. It is a HUMINT field report, from a Kurdish source. And we all know several things by now about this type of reporting.
First, HUMINT reporting can be shaky on several levels, for many reasons. One of the main problem with HUMINT…having a truthful source.
Second, it is a field report. A straight regurgitation of what the source told the reporter. No analysis has been put against this info whatsoever, it is simply an info report. Chances are, the guy who did up the report had no idea what White Phosphorus really is, so the info sounded like it would make a good report on Saddam’s treachery. Also, I would bet, that when the report actually reached an analyst who knew a thing or two about Chemical Weapons, it was probably tossed in the burn bag as ludicrous.
Lastly, we have to remember the source was the Kurdish opposition. As we well know now, the Kurds were willing to provides lots of “intelligence” to us, much on it not up to snuff. They did this for many reasons, including money, and to influence us to act against Saddam. Once again, a problem with HUMINT is that sometimes there are motives behind a source, not just the information.
Thus I find it a little ironic that a movement from a certain end of the political spectrum that has chided the President for going to war based on bad intelligence (and worse), is now trying to pillory the Administration and DoD based on the same type of “bad intel” from the same suspect source pool.
Bottom line is that this is not a definitive “Pentagon Document”, but rather one piece of suggestive information provided to the DoD. Thus this is not an example of how the Pentagon considers “white phosphorus rounds as chemical weapons” as ‘Think Progress’ would like to have us believe. It is hardly a smoking gun, say in the way if they found a hypothetical document penned by a Pentagon lawyer warning that WP could be considered CW. That would be something with direct influence on policy, this report is not. I don’t think that ‘Think Progress’ is being underhanded in their analysis, just plain wrong. I just don’t think they know what kind of report they are referencing, or how to read it.
Additionally, the officer emailed me this follow-up:
I have some experience reading and working with such reports, which is why I found the whole issue so laughable. And given what I have read on your sites, I take back the thought that they were no being underhanded. But I still do think that all of their hysteria is being driven by the simple fact that they don’t know what the hell they are reading. Those of us in the biz know that all “IIR”s are to be read with a salt shaker nearby, and never smartly used as a sole source for analytic conclusion. It doesn’t even take into consideration the possibility of something being lost in the translation between Kuridsh source and American. Not to mention that this could be 3rd or 4th hand information. Nowhere does it say that the source’s brother actually witnessed the activity. It is entirely possible that what we have is a version of the ‘Telephone Game’ with a couple of different languages….
I want to find a HUMINT report in which a source refers to his sighting of lights in the sky. That way I can claim that there is a US Govt document confirming the existence of UFOs!
**If you decide to use any of this info, please do not use my identifying information.**