NY Times on WP

It was only a matter of time before the ‘WP’ debate leaped from left-wing anti-war activists to left-wing blogs to the foreign press to the NY Times editorial page, so this was to be expected:

Now the use of a ghastly weapon called white phosphorus has raised questions about how careful the military has been in avoiding civilian casualties. It has also further tarnished America’s credibility on international treaties and the rules of warfare.

White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago. Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy’s positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body.

The United States restricted the use of incendiaries like white phosphorus after Vietnam, and in 1983, an international convention banned its use against civilians. In fact, one of the many crimes ascribed to Saddam Hussein was dropping white phosphorus on Kurdish rebels and civilians in 1991.

Pretty impressive. Overstating what it does, misstating precisely what it is, and packing in the Saddam/Kurd canard. All in two paragraphs.

The Pentagon says white phosphorus was never aimed at civilians, but there are lingering reports of civilian victims. The military can’t say whether the reports are true and does not intend to investigate them, a decision we find difficult to comprehend. Pentagon spokesmen say the Army took “extraordinary measures” to reduce civilian casualties, but they cannot say what those measures were.

They also say that using white phosphorus against military targets is legal. That’s true, but the 1983 convention bans its use against “civilians or civilian objects,” which would make white phosphorus attacks in urban settings like Falluja highly inappropriate at best. The United States signed that convention, but the portion dealing with incendiary weapons has been awaiting ratification in the Senate.

If the NY Times wants to elevate the debate to a question of moral issues, I have no problem with that. But not in the context of false charges, in the context of calling our troops war criminals, and in the context of overstating and misrepresenting the usage of WP. As I stated the other day, using charges of war crimes and indiscriminate use of ‘chemical weapons’ by our troops on innocent civilians as a vehicle to discuss the ‘larger issue’ of the ‘moral’ use of a weapon is tantamount to accusing an innocent man of rape to raise the ‘larger issue’ of ‘sexual assault.’

These are technicalities, in any case. Iraq, where winning over wary civilians is as critical as defeating armed insurgents, is no place to be using a weapon like this. More broadly, American demands for counterproliferation efforts and international arms control ring a bit hollow when the United States refuses to give up white phosphorus, not to mention cluster bombs and land mines.

The United States should be leading the world, not dragging its feet, when it comes to this sort of issue – because it’s right and because all of us, including Americans, are safer in a world in which certain forms of conduct are regarded as too inhumane even for war. That is why torture should be banned in American prisons. And it is why the United States should stop using white phosphorus.

‘Technicalities,’ sometimes referred to as ‘laws,’ are what govern warfare. If you don’t like those ‘technicalities,’ pressure to have them changed, and if you’ll notice, the NY Times even knows where to have that done- the US Senate, which has chosen not to ratify the ban. But let’s stop with the sophistry- what makes the use of a bullet legal is the choice of the target. That is what some might call a ‘technicality.’ Same with WP.

Furthermore, to equate the use of a legal conventional weapon with torture, which is illegal (unless Cheney has his way, it appears), is also an unfair comparison. And I will give you readers a chance to guess why the US has not signed the land mine ban- it isn’t because we like limbless orphans.

At any rate, at least Gail Collins and company managed to get through this with out calling WP a ‘chemical weapon’ or calling our troops war criminals.






124 replies
  1. 1
    MI says:

    Morning Everyone.

    Hey John

    Aside from a split hair here and there, I felt you and I were more or less on the same page regarding this issue, but I don’t have much objection to this NYT piece, which you obviously do, so I guess I’m confused.

  2. 2
    John Cole says:

    Actually, this editorial is a model of restraint compared to what we have seen from some of the people discussing this issue. They still misstate some things, oversimplify others, but the only thing that really rankled me was the charge of ‘war crimes’ and the use of ‘chemical weapons.’

    As to the use of WP, I am generally loathe to have the press and anti-war activists determine which munitions are best for the job, but that to me, is a debate that the military, if they really need to use WP,will win. If they can’t, get rid of it. I personally do not understand how this weapon is so much worse than other weapons, but that is me.

    Again, what really chaps my ass are the attempts to call the grunts war criminals and to call this a ‘chemical weapon.’

  3. 3
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    I’m starting to wonder if maybe the Steelers weren’t the only folks who got hammered last night.

    John, outside of a few fringe characters on obscure blogs that seemingly only you care about, nobody is saying anything bad about the troops. Quite the contrary, due to the ineptitude of General Georgie our people in Iraq have the sympathy of almost the entire country. After all, it wasn’t their idea to start this disastrous war, and the sacrifices they are making in this dubious cause are noted and honored.

    The real blame lies with the national civilian leadership and not those taking its wrong-headed and disastrous orders.

    That Team Torture could have sanctioned the use of WP in a civilian setting is something many do find plausible, however. But if it should be decided that atrocities were committed here, it will be the likes of Rumsfeld and Cheney sitting in the dock doing the Nuremberg Cha Cha, not our military.

  4. 4
    MI says:

    I think you’re getting hung up on your preconceived notions of people’s motives, which when they’re writing headlines exclaiming our troops Saddam-like in their use of chemical weapons against civilians, it’s hard to blame you. But for me, and I honestly think for the vast majority of people inclined to feel similarly, it just comes down to this: Did we use WP as a weapon in a situation where it affected civilians? If the answer is yes, we were wrong (imo), and we should take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    Feel free to call bullshit on anything else, and I’ll be right there with you, but hand to god, that’s what it’s about for me, *nothing more, nothing less.

    *well there’s the whole hearts and minds angle where I think this is an absolute disaster, but that’s kind of a different tangent.

  5. 5
    Steve says:

    So that is your message to the Iraqi people: “We are operating within the law”?

    The NYT makes a very simple point about how difficult it is to win hearts and minds when you leave horribly disfigured and slain civilians in your wake. You can disagree with their argument, but I’m a little puzzled that you seem to not even understand it. Offering up “we are operating within the law” as a response to this position is a complete non sequitur.

    I disagree with your statement in the comments that these things would be better left to the military. The military is the best at deciding how to accomplish a military objective. It does not follow that they are the best at deciding how to accomplish a political objective. And it definitely makes no sense to ask the military to define the rules of warfare.

    You seem to be taking a Cheney-esque position that it would be a bad thing for Congress to tie our military’s hands. It seems that you arrive at this position from an a priori belief that torture is bad and white phosphorus is not bad, rather than any principled position on the proper role of Congress in defining the rules of war.

  6. 6
    Steve S says:

    I’m so glad to hear John thinks we are better than Hitler.

    That’s enough for me!

  7. 7
    MI says:

    Again, what really chaps my ass are the attempts to call the grunts war criminals and to call this a ‘chemical weapon.’

    This is the point we’re most eye to eye on. I think I’m just frustrated that that’s kind of where you’re ending the discussion. This seems like something where we should shut the fringe out and then have an honest and grown up discussion about what happened and the consequences. We’re not really getting any of that.

    So, ok, lets scorn Kos for his chemical weapons BS, but then let’s talk about where we go from here.

  8. 8
    John Cole says:

    I disagree with your statement in the comments that these things would be better left to the military.

    That isn’t what I said. There are enough strawmen out there already, no need for you to construct more.

  9. 9
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    There is no “strawman” larger than the one you’ve been dancing with these last few weeks, John. I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that your supposed concern for the reputation of “the troops” is merely a red herring designed to deflect blame from the real object of your concern, the incompetent Bush administration and its disastrous policies regarding Iraq.

    Quit playing politics with the good name of our military.

  10. 10
    ppGaz says:

    Yeah, I’m confused too. The piece looks to me to pretty mild mannered and generally factual. More important, it goes nowhere near the “troops are war criminals” territory, despite your insistence that it goes there. I don’t see it going there at all. My take on this piece is that it’s what DKos would have done if the topic hadn’t been seized by the overwrought Hunter.

    If this is how MSM is going to treat the subject, as near as I can tell, you’ve won.

  11. 11
    Shygetz says:

    Paddy,

    WTF does GWB and Co. have to do with the use of WP?

  12. 12
    John Cole says:

    You know, Paddy. I don’t even know why I put up with crap like this from schmucks like you.

  13. 13
    John Cole says:

    PPGAZ- It doesn’t go anywhere near that, which is why I stated:

    “At any rate, at least Gail Collins and company managed to get through this with out calling WP a ‘chemical weapon’ or calling our troops war criminals”

  14. 14
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Shygetz: Bush is the Commander In Chief. Our military used WP in Iraq. The CIC gives orders to the military, and the military carries them out.

    Is this logic too subtle for you Shygetz? I’d try to make it simpler for you but there is no woodblock function on this site.

    Stop dumping responsibility for Bush administration orders on our troops.

  15. 15
    Paul L. says:

    Steve S Says:

    I’m so glad to hear John thinks we are better than Hitler.

    That’s enough for me!

    I’m so glad to hear Steve S. thinks we are the same/worst than Hitler.

    That’s enough for me!

  16. 16
    ppGaz says:

    PPGAZ- It doesn’t go anywhere near that, which is why I stated:

    Right. So wouldn’t you take this as a victory?

  17. 17

    I’m confused, John. First you said this:

    If the NY Times wants to elevate the debate to a question of moral issues, I have no problem with that. But not in the context of false charges, in the context of calling our troops war criminals, and in the context of overstating and misrepresenting the usage of WP.

    And then at the end you said this:

    At any rate, at least Gail Collins and company managed to get through this with out calling WP a ‘chemical weapon’ or calling our troops war criminals.

    So which is it? I have been pretty much on the fence with this issue, as I don’t really know much about it, and I can see why calling it a chemical weapon and accusing the troops of war crimes would irk you but I fail to see how you think this Times article is unfair. The article seems rather objective if you ask me.

  18. 18
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    John: Why don’t you just set this blog up like Bush has set up his administration? You know, surround yourself with lickspittle knuckleheads who will applaud your every august pronouncement?

    You’ll lose touch with reality that way, but who will be around to notice?

  19. 19

    No need to respond. I see my question has already been addressed.

  20. 20

    Paddy seems to be on spot here. John Cole’s fury over WP and the attack on America’s fighting men and women seems more and more like a strawman for parading around to distract from Bush’s awful war.

    The horse is dead, John Cole. Stop flogging it.

  21. 21

    Oh, lookie here!

    The horse is still dead.

  22. 22
    Steve S says:

    I’m so glad to hear Steve S. thinks we are the same/worst than Hitler.

    I said that?

    Where? I’m looking under my desk, and I just can’t find it.

  23. 23
    John Cole says:

    DEV-

    AHHHH. I see what you mean. That DOES look like I am saying the NY Times is making those charges. They are not.

  24. 24
    rs says:

    Shouldn’t the foreign press precede left-wing antiwar activists in your chronology?To me,your rants about whether or not Hunter called US troops war criminals takes your eye off the broader narrative-most of the rest of the planet saw Bush War II as unwarranted and illegal.The pump had been primed for hearts and minds worldwide to believe the worst.The seige of Fallujah and use of WP(as well as torture photos,deaths of unembedded reporters by American fire,etc.)adds detail to the broader brush strokes of that narrative.

  25. 25
    John Cole says:

    PPGAZ- I do think this is a victory of sorts.

  26. 26
    Steve says:

    As to the use of WP, I am generally loathe to have the press and anti-war activists determine which munitions are best for the job

    And yet you deny that you said the issue would be better left to the military. It’s no wonder we never manage to reach consensus around here.

  27. 27
    smijer says:

    John, I apologize if you have already done this and I missed it, but can you give a responsible citation for the facts you say are in conflict with the claims made in the NYT article about WP? In exactly what way did they overstate its effects? Can you show us where medical research has shown its effects are other than those listed by the NYT?

    Also… you’ve had it explained to you six ways from sunday that this is not about smearing “the troops”. Continuing with that line despite knowing better is putting you in some poor company.. That’s the stuff of Limbaugh and Coulter, not Cole. People like you are the kind of people that make it possible for the rest of us to find a grain of decency within the GOP. Please don’t ruin it.

  28. 28
    p.lukasiak says:

    I think I’ve finally figured out John’s thinking…

    Close up torture and murder of detainees — bad.

    Long distance torture and murder of civilians — Fine and dandy, if its caused by a chemical reaction using a weapon that the international community has banned for use against people, but (luckily for John) the US didn’t sign onto that treaty, so technically its not a war crime to burn babies skin off.

  29. 29
    ppGaz says:

    PPGAZ- I do think this is a victory of sorts.

    Me too. Just wanted to confirm it with you.

  30. 30
    John Cole says:

    It’s no wonder we never manage to reach consensus around here.

    Because some people intentionally misread what I write in order to disagree with me.

    I do not want the anti-war activists and the press deciding, from positions of relative ignorance, what weapons are best for what situations, which is ‘ that if their needs to be a debate, and the military really can demonstrate the utility and need for that weapon, they wil win the debate. The fact that the Senate has chosen to not ratify the ban would suggest that they did win the debate.

    But this is not a decision that should be made because Gail Collin thinks something is ‘ghastly.’ A SABOT round head-on to a tank is ghastly. Taking machetes to Hutus is ghastly. Your point?

  31. 31
    smijer says:

    here

    Ordinary phosphorus is a waxy white solid; when pure it is colorless and transparent. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in carbon disulfide. It takes fire spontaneously in air, burning to the pentoxide. It is very poisonous, 50 mg constituting an approximate fatal dose. Exposure to white phosphorus should not exceed 0.1 mg/m^3 (8-hour time-weighted average – 40-hour work week). White phosphorus should be kept under water, as it is dangerously reactive in air, and it should be handled with forceps, as contact with the skin may cause severe burns.

    Explain to me how you can rain this stuff down on cityscapes as was done in the video from the Italian media without needlessly endangering civilians? Explain to me how the NYT’s description of its effects are overstated compared to the chemical description?

  32. 32
    John Cole says:

    Long distance torture and murder of civilians—Fine and dandy, if its caused by a chemical reaction using a weapon that the international community has banned for use against people, but (luckily for John) the US didn’t sign onto that treaty, so technically its not a war crime to burn babies skin off.

    Yes, Lukasiak. I favor puppy blending and kicking handicapped people, too.

    Dick.

  33. 33
    John Cole says:

    Smijer- That requires a detailed repsonse. I will be back later after class.

  34. 34
    smijer says:

    By the way, when you conceded that there is a moral argument… yeah… there is. Thanks for recognizing that. Far and away more important than the argument over legality, or really anything else… those arguments matter. But at the end of the day, I’m the one paying for the WP – I’m the one responsible for handing it to kids in a place like fallujah. And it is a moral issue. Should I be doing that, or should I be locking the shit up? Should I allow it to be used as a weapon on my behalf? If so, should I allow it to be used like bullets? At the discretion of individual soldiers? Or should it be tightly controlled?

    Those are the real issues. “Quit making the troops cry” is not an adequate answer to them.

  35. 35
    John Cole says:

    Smijer- Go here.

    Now I really have to get to work and will be back later.

  36. 36
    tzs says:

    Also forget about what treaties we may have or may have not signed on to. The question is what the rest of the (civilized) world thinks of us for doing this. If they think that WP is a “chemical weapon” and to be banned, it’s pretty hard for us to continue standing on the top of the Most Moral Country hill beating our chests and not get more than a horselaugh from future audiences. We’ve already ticked off the EU in a big way with the whole CIA secret prison thing.

    I’m sure there are several countries that will now use our use of WP as justification of their doing so in the next conflict they have.

  37. 37
    marionnette de chaussette says:

    Smijer — A sabot round is a compound anti-tank munition in which a metal slug is injected into the cockpit of a tank by a high-explosive round. In most modern forms, the slug is made of depleted uranium.

    Go look at the chemical behavior of powdered U-238 in an oxygen atmosphere. (Here’s a reference. Go ahead — I’m not going anywhere.) Now, think about what happens inside the cockpit as the sabot enters. Dispersed white phosphorus burns the flesh off the bones. Dispersed powdered uranium melts the bones themselves.

    Let me ask you one question: why are you harping on WP? Everybody — not just the US — uses sabot-based weapons, and many use uranium metal for the sabot, both for its density and for its pyrophoricity. (And the ones who don’t use uranium use other pyrophoric heavy metals. Depleted uranium happens to be cheap and not useful for much of anything else.) It’s much more horrible…but nobody makes noises about that.

    And what about powdered aluminum? It burns at approximately the same temperature as phosporus in a suitable medium. It’s also toxic. It’s not banned — and everybody uses it in flares and illuminants, not to mention in thermite equivalents. Why isn’t it a chemical weapon?

    If WP was intentionally used against civilians, then I want to know about it. That would constitute the commission of a war crime by somebody, either the individual soldier who used it in contravention of doctrine or the officer, of whatever rank, who allowed it to become doctrine that such uses were acceptable, and we punish war criminals.

    I’ve looked at the pictures in the Italian documentary, and the images I saw did not support the thesis that the bodies had been exposed to a pyrophoric weapon. Those images did seem far more consistent with decomposition. Those images are not enough, however — if you want to know why, ask Dr. Frist about how to diagnose brain damage from a film. We do need to investigate the claims as thoroughly as possible; however, the evidence to date exonerates the soldiers in Iraq.

    If it was used against military targets, however — well, it’s a terrible weapon. I’m sorry that it happened. I’m not sorry it was used, except insofar as I am sorry this war happened.

  38. 38
    p.lukasiak says:

    Dick.

    hey, I’m not the person justifying the use of WP as an anti-personnel weapon against civilians….

  39. 39
    ATS says:

    “At any rate, at least Gail Collins and company managed to get through this with out calling WP a ‘chemical weapon’ or calling our troops war criminals”

    Managed to? Are we to infer that Gail and company were aching to demonize our troops? This war has been going on for a good while now, and I have yet to hear anyone call our troops war criminals.

    Yes, we can expect individual crimes in any war, and individual loopy people to judge the whole military on that basis, but that is not the windmill at which John is tilting.

  40. 40

    WP is intended to force terrorists out of their hidey holes so they can then be dismembered by conventional high explosive artillery or gutted by small arms fire. It also makes a very useful instant smoke screen. Compared to the effects of the munitions that are actually designed to kill people, it’s nothing. WP smoke is of sufficiently low toxicity that our troops can fight through it without needing breathing equipment. A 155mm HE shell, on the other hand, will kill everybody in the open out to about 70m. That’s only ‘precision’ by comparison to carpet bombing. Warfare is not very nice. People do not fly through the air relatively intact when a shell goes off. Quite often the only way of ascertaining how many casualties an artillery round inflicted is to count spinal columns, as these tend to survive the explosion better than the other parts of a human body. If civilian casualties were incurred in Fallujah, it is dollars to doughnuts that the majority of them were inflicted by conventional artillery and bombs. Go on, take the next logical step: if there is any chance at any time that anywhere we fight a civilian might be harmed, then we should surrender.

    Finally, let’s not forget this is Fallujah we’re talking about—the heart of the insurgency. The second assault on it was telegraphed weeks in advance, and the so-called civialian population had ample opportunity to leave (and were indeed encouraged to do so). If you stick around in a firefight between a gang of mediaeval savages and the world’s most potent military, bad things are likely to happen to you. The overriding moral imperative in this conflict is to win against the forces of darkness. Tying our hands by mewling about a low-lethality munition that’s been in the arsenal of every army for decades is frankly pathetic.

  41. 41
    Retief says:

    The overriding moral imperative in this conflict is to win against the forces of darkness.

    Failing to make any progress towards winning after two and a half years of fighting a gang of medieval savages with the most potent military in history is frankly pathetic. I still don’t understand why everyone who wanted this war is not more upset at Bush’s continual failure to win it.

  42. 42
    Steve says:

    the so-called civialian population

    That shitty quote says a lot about you, buddy. I know that to your ilk, every raghead is basically a terrorist, but to the rest of us, there’s at least a possibility that some of those dead women and children were more than just “so-called civilians.”

  43. 43
    smijer says:

    JC – I read the writeup and editorializing at Tech Central… Frankly, I didn’t see anything that contradicted the factual claims of the NYT editorial, just disagreed with some things that the blogges were saying about it…

    marionette — The proximal reason I don’t bitch about depleted uranium or whatever other weapons is that I haven’t heard any complaints about their use (at least any that made sense on closer examination). I don’t know if that is because they are truly “bullet-like” in their affects (i.e. can – at least in theory – be targeted so that precisely enough to kill a tank or fox-hole without hurting the people in the building next door), because they are less bullet-like but not being used in urban environments, or because they are weapons with widerange effects but aren’t approved for urban warfare, or because nobody really cares how we kill except a very small minority who has to work really hard to get heard….

    Suffice it to say, if these other munitions are similar in effect and similar in use to the WP rounds, and I knew it, I would have the same concerns about them.

    David: ooooh, you’re such a stud.

  44. 44
    Lines says:

    I think David hates him some sand ni**ers.

    Just more of the same: demonize the “other side” so that anything you do against them can be rationalized later.

  45. 45
    demimondian says:

    When the Hopkins team went into Fallujah to do their mortality sampling, they found that approximately forty percent of the buildings that they needed to sample were no longer inhabited. In at least half of those cases, the neighbors had documentation to prove that every member of the family which had lived in the house had died previously during the course of the war.

    Those were families with children, Gillies. Many of “the so-called civilians” were babes in arms. War is horrible, civilians do die, and soldiers do their level best to avoid that. We serve no one’s interests except those of a tiny band of radicals to pretend that we haven’t killed civilians. We have. It’s tragic, and it’s awful, and it’s unavoidable.

    We are Americans — we apologize, and we mourn. We do not pretend that only the guilty have died. That defames the innocent.

  46. 46

    That shitty quote says a lot about you, buddy. I know that to your ilk, every raghead is basically a terrorist, but to the rest of us, there’s at least a possibility that some of those dead women and children were more than just “so-called civilians.”

    Hear, Hear. Well said. I know quite a few Bush Supporters who would not only be absolutely fine with nuking Iraq, they prefer to do so.

    These are part of the same group that wants us to believe this is about liberating the Iraqis.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    stickler says:

    So, at long last, what did the second Battle of Fallujah accomplish? Is the city secure now? Have we won over the population — have we won the battle for “hearts and minds?”

    The second Battle of Fallujah was optional. Bush waited all through the 2004 campaign to launch it, and after the election he gave the OK. The results were easily predictable long before hand.

    Aside from the WP issue, what did the battle gain us? Can anyone reasonably answer this question?

  49. 49
    Mithi says:

    The overriding moral imperative in this conflict is to win against the forces of darkness.

    Am I the only one who has a problem with this? There are no ‘forces of darkness’, you’re not fighting ‘evil’. Life is not a fantasy novel.

  50. 50
    smijer says:

    Am I the only one who has a problem with this? There are no ‘forces of darkness’, you’re not fighting ‘evil’. Life is not a fantasy novel.

    Yeah, it does pay not to forget that… But, when there are people doing bad things, it’s hard for anybody to surpress the urge to color their language with the fantastical flourish just to get our how deeply those actions offend them. I do it, too. Yeah, I know some people do it systematically in order to de-rail debate over an issue that their hellbound for leather is going to go their way *cough*George Bush*cough*… but this is one of those things that just isn’t ever going to go away.

  51. 51
    Lines says:

    Mithi: I noticed it as well. If you go to the hyperlink that David is using, the first thing you see are the buring twin towers. David seems to be one of those people that needs to remind himself on a very regular basis that we were attacked and we’re just executing sweet sweet justice on those that would harm us, by taking to them there, rather than here.

    I think its a form of willful ignorance. Forget they are people, label them as “demons”, “forces of darkness”, “Islamofascists” or what have you, its a method by which people like David can ignore the human side of the war.

  52. 52
    ppGaz says:

    Life is not a fantasy novel.

    Don’t tell the neocons and the evangelicals.

    It is to them. And right now, it’s their world and we are just living in it.

  53. 53

    Am I the only one who has a problem with this?

    No. It’s just that I’ve come to realize the biggest difference between Bush supporters and Bush haters is that Bush supporters believe in a mythical battle between good vs evil (no wonder he get the religious vote) while Bush haters think their black and white view is not only overly simplistic, it is dangerous.

    There are no ‘forces of darkness’, you’re not fighting ‘evil’.

    Agreed. But good luck convincing delusional people that.

    Life is not a fantasy novel.

    Oh I don’t know…Sometimes it does seem like it is. Heh.

  54. 54
    jg says:

    The overriding moral imperative in this conflict is to win against the forces of darkness.

    Frodo destroyed the ring, Sauron’s dead, books over, move on.

  55. 55

    WP is a useful tool for the control of fires on the modern battlefield. Without it, we would have to use HE for spotting rounds. HE has a vastly greater lethal radius. HE fills the air with red hot metal. If it hits you, it will burn the crap out of you.

    The guys who get hit with fragmentation rounds will tell you. They’ll cuss up a storm and tell you “it burns, it f-cking burns!!!!”

    Yep. Just like white phosphorus.

    The flash burns from a 155 shell explosion will also fry flesh brown, much like in a few of the pictures flying around.

    The fragments from a 155 High Explosive shell will shatter or puncture the walls of schools, nurseries, orphanages, apartments, and hospitals alike. The fragmentation from a WP shell does not have anywhere near the velocity or penetrating power of a WP round.

    I’ve seen the overpressure from an HE shell shatter windows more than 1000m away from the blast. Needless to say, it plays havoc with eardrums at closer ranges, and the concussion alone from a 155mm HE shell is known to whip soldier’s heads around so much that they get brain damage to go along with their shattered eardrums, even if they escape the fragmentary effects of such a shell.

    But this is the shell that would have to replace the WP shell in the doctrinal marking role on the battlefield.

    Further, the smoke given off by the HE round is dark grey and black, and is much less visible. Which means we would have to fire MORE HE shells as we walk our rounds to the target, since observers will have trouble observing the HE rounds, particularly at night.

    The inevitable result is MORE collateral damage, and MORE noncombatants killed. Not fewer.

    I’ve never seen anyone with a WP injury who would not have been dead had the WP round that injured him been a high explosive round.

    Furthermore, WP rounds are vital to controlling close air support. Without WP marking, in many cases, we could not control the devastating fires of aircraft with anywhere near the precision we can now.

    If we cannot control CAS fires from the ground using WP markers, we will have to use Mk-77 or high explosives on the first run over the target, and adjust fires from that point, rather than use the much less destructive WP marking round and adjust from there.

    Again, the result will be the relegation of CAS to an area fires weapon. The collateral destruction in that case will again be vastly greater, since the observer on the ground has no other way to guide and control these fires.

    In some cases, the CAS will accidentally fire on friendly positions, because the WP round will not have been available to mark the limit of fires in order to protect friendly troops.

    There are end runs around that, such as the use of strobe lights. But those are extremely difficult to coordinate in practice, and are easily duplicated by the enemy.

    Finally, without the use of WP, you deny friendly troops precious seconds in the event of an “immediate suppression” smoke mission. If an element comes under fire and calls for smoke to screen it’s maneuver, the observer calls for WP on the first salvo because it builds up much more rapidly than regular smoke rounds. Otherwise, you will have friendly units under fire for an additional 30 seconds to a minute while you wait for your smoke screen to build up.

    That’s 30 seconds more for the enemy — who’s exact location may not yet be known — to take aimed shots at you.

    The use of WP on the battlefield rather than HE preserves lives and reduces collateral damage. Death from a WP explosion is no more gruesome or horrid than death from an HE explosion, and is a great deal less likely.

    Banning it will endanger more lives, restrict the utility of close air support – particularly fixed wing – have a deleterious effect on long developed AirLand doctrine (they don’t call it that any more, but you get the idea), particularly in the Marine Corps) and further encourage the insurgents to take shelter in the civilian population, where they can run photos of babies showing the terrible effects of American high explosive rounds as well.

    Banning the use of WP will kill more civilians – the exact opposite of the effect the NYT editorial board desires. The exact opposite of what everyone desires, except, of course, the mujahedeen.

  56. 56
    jg says:

    Are you saying we can’t win without WP?

    People keep saying its a conventional wepaon, kills just as deadly as a HE round. Does any of those FACTS matter in a war of perception? Its a battle of hearts and minds and we’re using what LOOKS like a chemwem to most people, especially to those its being rained on (incidentally). Pulling out an Army field manual won’t change anything.

    This isn’t a discussion about if WP is a chemwem so no matter how many current and ex military come in to say that its a conventional weapon over and over it doesn’t matter. The discussion is about how is it perceived by the people we’re supposed to be rescuing. Facts don’t matter here, you’d think right wingers would be used to that.

  57. 57
    smijer says:

    So, Jason… if we ban WP as an anti-personnel round in urban warfare, then we will have no choice but to use HE in same settings? No other alternatives, period? No way to use it for illumination/smokescreen without targeting it a buildings or the ground? No use of low explosive illumination rounds (kind of like what we see on 4th of July)? No limiting offensive maneuvers to daylight hours?

    Is it really an issue of “all alternatives are worse”? Or is that a smokescreen?

  58. 58
    Darrell says:

    Its a battle of hearts and minds and we’re using what LOOKS like a chemwem to most people

    So if a weapon looks scary to some who don’t know better, that’s what matters most. Incredible

  59. 59
    jg says:

    So if a weapon looks scary to some who don’t know better, that’s what matters most. Incredible

    Yes you fucking doofus. If the people who you are trying to help think your dousing them with chemicals it matters. We want them to like us remember?

  60. 60
    John Cole says:

    So, Jason… if we ban WP as an anti-personnel round in urban warfare, then we will have no choice but to use HE in same settings? No other alternatives, period? No way to use it for illumination/smokescreen without targeting it a buildings or the ground? No use of low explosive illumination rounds (kind of like what we see on 4th of July)? No limiting offensive maneuvers to daylight hours?

    Is it really an issue of “all alternatives are worse”? Or is that a smokescreen?

    I am not sure I see how firing flaming magnesium, titanium, or aluminum barium oxide and other white hout heavy metals is much better. Besides, if they worked in that capacity, don’t you think the military would be aware of them?

    BTW- Magnesium is used in illumination rounds already.

    As a former fireman, I can only tell you how much fun it is trying to put out a magnesium fire, like the engine of an older model Volkswagen. I remember spending hours trying to put those damned things out.

  61. 61
    Al Maviva says:

    WP is used in tracer rounds, to determine where the stream of fire is going, and to bring it on target accurately. Every third or fifth round is a tracer. The alternative is to just spray machine gun rounds downrange, hitting whatever you happen to hit, and looking for puffs of dust, people falling down, etc., to determine whether or not you are on target. This is a problematic tactic in an insurgency, especially when fighting in low light conditions.

    Likewise, WP is used in marker rounds, to mark a spot on a battlefield to guide in air support, i.e. bombs, strafing projectiles and other weaponry from fast movers. The alternative is to do without heavy air support (the U.S. infantry’s “blood makes the grass grow,” right?) or to just carpet bomb.

    WP is also used in smoke rounds. You pop smoke in front of a tank or an armored personnel carrier or leg infantry assault on an enemy position, or dump it into an enemy position to make it hard to see things and to create a panic among them and cause them to flee. You also use it to cover a retreat, for instance a Military Police patrol maneuvering away from an overwhelming ambush might pop smoke to cover the rear of an attacked convoy. The alternative is to attack or retreat across open spaces – pretty common in the desert, I’m told – without any cover. Again, higher U.S. casualties. Higher enemy casualties too, since you can’t use smoke and confusion to drive the enemy out of their positions and into the open where you can force surrender.

    As for use in the anti-personnel context, it’s woefully inadequate. If you set off a WP grenade, it might cause burns – if you keep holding onto it. Calling something as pathetic as a smoke grenade a chemical weapon is a bit of jackassery, and it makes me wonder if the Pentagon isn’t letting this story linger for a while, in order to come out later and refute and rebut it in a way that discredits the critics. You could conceivably use it as an incendiary, but it would take heaping great piles of it to burn anything up effectively. Anybody with a lick of military sense knows that magnesium is a far more effective metallic incendiary, and that if you really want to burn things up fuel-air explosives or nape are the ticket. They aren’t classed as chemical weapons either, my left liberal friends, so don’t get your hopes up.

    And if you really think that using WP post-1983 is a war crime, better get on our friend John here to turn me in to the Hague, because I used it, everybody I served with in the Gulf and Bosnia used it, and I’m pretty sure anybody who has ever popped smoke or fired a U.S. machine gun in anger in Greneda, Panama, Somalia, GW I, (pilots in Kosovo), GW I, or Afghanistan has used it. Not to mention all of our allies, all the Russians, all the Iraqi insurgents with tracer rounds, etc. That this is even up for debate, and that there is no discussion of the uses of WP and lack of viable alternatives, tells me that the NY Times not only doesn’t have any veterans of post-WWII vintage on its staff, but they don’t have anybody who has even looked seriously at U.S. military tactics and equipment. Their level of ignorance is rather stunning.

  62. 62
    Steve says:

    What is with all the military people who feel the need to spend half an hour rebutting a claim that no one is making, to wit, that it is immoral to use WP as a TRACER ROUND?

  63. 63
    Dave Ruddell says:

    Does any of those FACTS matter in a war of perception? Its a battle of hearts and minds and we’re using what LOOKS like a chemwem to most people, especially to those its being rained on (incidentally). Pulling out an Army field manual won’t change anything.

    Yes you fucking doofus. If the people who you are trying to help think your dousing them with chemicals it matters. We want them to like us remember?

    Putting on my DougJ Master Disguise Kit ($19.99, makes a great gift!) for a moment…

    Well, this is why The Left is telling lies about the troops isn’t it? They know that WP is legal, and a standard munition, but all they care about is making things in Iraq as bad as possible, so we’ll be forced to pull out. So, they make it sound like some horrible, exotic weapon, which makes the Iraqis hate us more. They’re trying to ruin the perception of the troops, which will make us lose the battle for the hearts and minds, and thereby lose the war.

    Or something like that. I only got the kit the other day, and I didn’t bother to read the manual.

  64. 64
    don surber says:

    We should use only marshmallows — like in “Ghostbusters” — in urban settings

  65. 65
    smijer says:

    Al Maviva, thanks for the explanations of how it is used as illumination/smoke… Most of that makes sense… However, there’s a disconnect between your characterization of it as a poor incendiary and the characterization of those reporting to use it in “shake and bake” missions in the city.

    and that if you really want to burn things up fuel-air explosives or nape are the ticket. They aren’t classed as chemical weapons either, my left liberal friends, so don’t get your hopes up.

    Don’t know about fuel-air explosives, but I know napalm is quite banned. Whether it’s banned as a chemical agent or as an incendiary…

  66. 66
    smijer says:

    Don Surber: Ooooh, you’re so masculine!

  67. 67
    Lines says:

    Why is anyone in this discussion that hasn’t watched the video of the burning white stuff falling like rain? Which of the uses outlined above would that have been? Smoke cover? Illumination during the day?

    You’re making excuses for something you don’t have all the facts on. Watch the damn video. I really want to understand what is going on in that video, and it appears there are people here that may be able to shed some light (really, no pun intended) on it.

  68. 68

    I see: because I believe the ideology we are fighting is evil, I hate ‘sand niggers’. Because I think the invasion of Iraq was justified and necessary, I want to nuke the place. Because I support the rights of Iraqis to live free from a psychotic tyrant and his murderous sons, I think every raghead is a terrorist. Right. What a risible caricature of my beliefs. It may surprise you to realise that there are some supporters of this war who base that support not on atavistic hatred of foreigners but through reason and introspection. I do regard Islamic fundamentalism as evil and its adherents as the forces of darkness. What else can you say about people who wish to coerce the entire world into living under theocratic dictatorship governed by 1300 year old scripture? I am a militantly atheist, free-speech absolutist libertarian minarchist. I am certainly no fan of the Bush administration and a fortiori the Blair Government (I’m an exile from Tony’s Utopia), but I do believe that they are more robust in combatting the enemy than the alternative (Kerry and the Left wing of the Labour Party). Painting me as some Arab-hating member of the 700 Club is plain silly.

    No military force in history has gone to more trouble to minimise casualties among non-combatants than the Coalition. But ‘minimise’ does not mean ‘reduce to zero’. That’s a counsel of perfection which, if tried, would hamstring us to the point of inaction. I’m sure there were civilian casualties in Fallujah, and they are regrettable. But getting all steamed up about the fact that some of them may—may—have been caused by WP, rather than the vastly more lethal weapons which are routinely and uncontroversially used by our forces, is absurdly histrionic. Given that several commenters with military experience have given a detailed defence of the employment of WP, what reason—other than a warmed-over version of “war is harmful to children and other living things”—do you have to deny its use by our troops? As for the preposterous suggestion that not to have wrapped the whole thing up in 30 months is somehow a failure: the US had been in WW2 for three months by the time that conflict had been going for two and a half years. Were liberals shrieking ‘quagmire’ and demanding we sue for peace with Hitler?. This war may well last for generations (I’ve argued before it’s an extension of a struggle that has, among the highpoints of its history, included the Battle of Tours, the Reconquista, the Siege of Vienna and the fall of the Ottoman Empire). Even so, we’re two weeks away from yet another free election. I’d hardly call that ‘no progress’.

  69. 69

    Oh, and as an addendum to Al Maviva’s post, WP is also used in trip flares. They’re about the size of a can of Coke, and sit on a metal stake. You run a trip wire from there to the nearest tree, and wait for someone to yank it. The guy tripping the flare might get a bit singed, but that will be the least of his worries, as he will very quickly be getting a lot of fire his way.

  70. 70

    I agree that discussing which tools we use to kill people and exactly how they are classified is pointless. More relevant questions are:

    1) What were the extent of civilian casualties?
    2) What gains did the invasion achieve?

    Without these two pieces of information there is no way to reach a moral judgment.

    From what I have read the whole city of Fallujah was considered a free fire zone. The city had 350,000 inhabitants, so it seems unlikely that all of them got out before the firing started. There are also reports of journalists being harassed for reporting there. One had his footage stolen from a hotel room back in the states.

    It is not unreasonable to theorize that thousands of civilian casualties did occur and that there is a vast cover-up being managed by high ranking officers going up to Rummy (at least). Further, I have seen little proof that the invasion had any strategic benefit and was, in fact, detrimental to our long term goals.

  71. 71

    Well, you can THEORIZE anything you want. It doesn’t matter. It’s what you can demonstrate with evidence that counts, not what you can theorize.

    Also, if what you have read calls Fallujah a “free-fire zone,” you need to read some better sources.

    FFZ has a specific doctrinal meaning, and the U.S. military doesn’t use FFZ anymore. All indirect fires have to be observed, or at least directed at a counterbattery radar signature.

  72. 72

    Why is anyone in this discussion that hasn’t watched the video of the burning white stuff falling like rain? Which of the uses outlined above would that have been? Smoke cover? Illumination during the day?

    I have watched the video.

    There is not one image in the entire thing that I can identify as WP in use.

    Also not one image that I can identify as a WP injury.

    The image you allude to is a night shot of a helicopter’s rocket pods’ backblast. The smoky strands and the embers are not especaily hot once away from trear of the pod. There’s even little dange (but not no danger) of secondary fires starting as a result.

  73. 73

    I think what John is saying is that the NYT times raped somebody. Or that somebody else called somebody else a war criminal, but the New York Times should pay the crime for the larger issue of sexual assault. Or something.

  74. 74

    it appears there are people here that may be able to shed some light (really, no pun intended) on it.

    Actually, no pun at all. WP is not used for illumination (State Department statements notwithstanding) as it does not burn long enough to produce much usable light.

    Most pieces of WP from a bursting munition will only burn for 60 to 90 seconds.

  75. 75
    Percy's PoP says:

    Doesn’t anyone remember that BushCo described WP as one of the Chemical Weapons Saddam used “against his own people”? And Saddam’s use of CWs was one of the reasons we couldn’t trust him not to use the biological and nuclear weapons Bush told us he had. And therefore we were justified to invade and conquer the oil fields – I mean invade and free the people of Iraq. Remember?
    THAT’s why our use of WP is such a big deal. WE called it a CW when Saddam used it. It’s another example of what the world sees as American hypocrisy.

    They torture – bad. We torture – it’s a few bad apples.
    They kill women and children – bad. We kill women and children – it’s collateral damage.
    Saddam steals $Billions – bad. Halliburton steals $Billions – it’s free enterprise.
    They use WP – bad. We use WP – it’s OK.

    The whole world sees Bush as a liar and a bully because of stupid decisions like this. It wouldn’t even matter if nobody was hurt by the WP – it’s the image. Bin Laden couldn’t have asked for a better recruiting tool.

    It didn’t help that the Pentagon’s first reaction was to lie about it – until the video came to light. That makes it look like they were ashamed of what they did.

    Just once I’d like to see honesty come before politics from our Republican leaders. What am I saying? That’s like expecting Ann Coulter to say nice things about liberals, or roosters not to crow. It’s just a part of their DNA.

  76. 76

    Tracers usually use Strontium, not phosphorus. (Russian and Chinese tracers use barium salts).

    Trip flares use magnesium.

    WP is not used for these applications because the smoke would be counter productive.

  77. 77

    I agree that discussing which tools we use to kill people and exactly how they are classified is pointless. More relevant questions are:

    Actually, the only really relevant questions, IMO, are:

    1) Is there credible evidence that civilians were deliberatelty engaged or targeted?

    2) is there credible evidence that force (in whatever form) was used indiscriminately (whether it resulted in civilian casualties or not)?

  78. 78

    From what I have read the whole city of Fallujah was considered a free fire zone.

    What are you reading that leads you to believe that? I ask becasue we don’t use free-fire zones. Reasonable care is a requirement in all cases.

  79. 79

    Doesn’t anyone remember that BushCo described WP as one of the Chemical Weapons Saddam used “against his own people”?

    No one remembers that. It didn’t happen.

  80. 80
    Darrell says:

    They torture – bad. We torture – it’s a few bad apples.
    They kill women and children – bad. We kill women and children – it’s collateral damage.
    Saddam steals $Billions – bad. Halliburton steals $Billions – it’s free enterprise.
    They use WP – bad. We use WP – it’s OK

    Quite a number on the left don’t hesitate to equate us with Saddam. Instead of blaming terrorists who hide among civilians for Iraqi civilian deaths/casualties, they tell us we’re no different than Saddam. No distinction between Saddam’s targeted murder of civilians and unintentional civilian casualties resulting from fighting an enemy who hides among civilians

  81. 81

    Jason Van Steenwyk Says:
    FFZ has a specific doctrinal meaning, and the U.S. military doesn’t use FFZ anymore. All indirect fires have to be observed, or at least directed at a counterbattery radar signature.
    November 29th, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    I’m sure that is how things are supposed to happen, but perhaps not how it happened in Operation Phantom Fury. There are interviews with soliders who said they were told to “take the gloves off.” We took control of over 70% of the city in two days. If you look at the damage caused in that short amount of time it is hard to believe the official number of “insurgents” killed of 1200. The censorship done by the military makes any kind of independent analysis impossible.

  82. 82

    I’m sure that is how things are supposed to happen, but perhaps not how it happened in Operation Phantom Fury. There are interviews with soliders who said they were told to “take the gloves off.” We took control of over 70% of the city in two days. If you look at the damage caused in that short amount of time it is hard to believe the official number of “insurgents” killed of 1200. The censorship done by the military makes any kind of independent analysis impossible.

    Any credible evidence and I’m there with you. Until then, I’m going to grant teh presumption of innocense in the unchallenged belief that doctrine was followed.

  83. 83

    RTO trainer: I thought trip flares used both illumination and smoke so they’d still be useful by day in the jungle. I’m probably wrong, though.

  84. 84

    Oooh. There were interviews with soldiers who said that a third party told them to “take the gloves off.”

    But who were these soldiers? What was their MOS? Were they commanding companies or above? What were they armed with? What, precisely, was the change in ROE the command was expressing? What, precisely, does “take the gloves off” mean? Did they hear it from their chain of command, directly? And how much are you prepared to read into that, given that you don’t know anything about the source or the source’s source, nor the ROE in effect at that particular time nor how it changed from the ROE before that.

    (I’m willing to bet the ROE didn’t change much, if at all: Fire at threats, don’t fire at non-threats.)

    See, you heard it from a reporter who heard it from a guy who heard it from someone else, and RTO Trainer and I are talking using specific doctrinal terms that actually have **specific meaning* to the FSOs at battalion level who advise the field commander on fire support issues.

    Smart people will know who’s words ought to carry more weight. And they’ll know who’s been watching too much TV.

  85. 85
    BumperStickerist says:

    White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago

    Ummmm ….

    Did I miss the memo changing how long a ‘generation’ was?

    I’d expect that statement in an article about, say, WWI and mustard gas but not in anything regarding WWII.

    .

  86. 86

    Ther is the LUU-1 marking flare that produces smoke, but that’s aluminum salts.

  87. 87

    I ask becasue we don’t use free-fire zones. Reasonable care is a requirement in all cases.
    November 29th, 2005 at 3:59 pm

    Pool footage showed U.S. forces battling insurgents in a neighborhood surrounding the mosque. Troops were pinned down by gunfire on a rooftop, forced to hit the deck and lay on their stomachs.

    “When they’re using a mosque to do command and control for insurgents and kill my fellow Marines and soldiers and airmen that are out here — no holds barred, the gloves are off,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Sam Mortimer.

    and

    Kevin Sites, embedded with the U.S. Marines in Fallujah, wrote in his November 10 blog: “The Marines are operating with liberal rules of engagement.” Sites heard Staff Sgt. Sam Mortimer radio that “everything to the west is weapons free.”

  88. 88

    John;

    You’ve got hearsay. What I’ve asked for is credible evidence. A tape of that radio message would be nice. In which case we’ll have caught a SSG. Many many levels to go to get to Rumsfeld.

    And the first example is too vague to even be an allegation of anything. I read it to mean that he is willing to engage, without remorse a structure and those within that would normally be off-limits. And he’s right to do so.

  89. 89

    David Gillies

    When you call the actual civilian population, the “so-called civilian population”, the charge that you “don’t give a shit about civilian deaths in Iraq” sticks, in my opinion.

    And I am sure that most people share that opinion.

  90. 90
    smijer says:

    Any credible evidence and I’m there with you.

    I’m sorry, but that’s tantamount to telling the pentagon, “as long as you hide it effectively, go right ahead.”

    If you’ll read this thread, you’ll see that I’m still working out a position on the use of WP in fallujah, and I’ve gotten a lot of good input… but who is seriously satisfied that there was no wrong-doing at this point? Maybe there’s no “credible evidence”, but there’s enough of the circumstantial kind to raise a lot of questions… My problem is that the White House should be taking the lead on this… not waiting on the rest of us to scream for answers until they have no choice but to get with the Pentagon and have a look at it…

  91. 91
    Lines says:

    David Gillies:
    We’re fighting an ideology now? Then why are those that have been placed into power of the same sort of ideology? How do you have a war against ideology? I suppose you like to throw around the label “Islamofascist” with great pride and ease.

    And who in Iraq is “evil?” Do they wear headbands? Do they walk around and shout “I’m evil!” Do they all have little Cobra Commando insignias, some that will only show up in warm water?

    And how about your claims of “non-Iraqis”? Its a bullshit generalization that has been totally wiped out by the officers on the ground. Why do you feel the need to believe that its non-Iraqis causing the problems? Because possibly a nationalistic sense within the common Iraqi might be an impossible thing to battle as an occupier, further complicating the entire endevor?

    People like yourself need simple labels, good vs. evil, us vs. them, the Global War on Terrorism. You ignore the complexity in order to feel good about something that is a complete cluster fuck of epic proportion. You focus on single soldier accounts of “schools being built” instead of “200 Iraqi’s killed by car bomb”.

    I understand its hard to change your position on things of such importance, its hard to stop clapping once you’ve started. Sooner or later, though, your hands are going to start bleeding from all that clapping, how long will you keep going?

  92. 92

    Gillnitz,

    Get a clue.

    The first citation you present to demonstrate FFZs in Fallujah specifically refers to incidents where the muj are occupying mosques and using them for C&C and to fire on Marines. That’s a no brainer. That’s a threat, and the Marines are authorized to defend themselves. Sorry you have a problem with that, but you don’t get a vote.

    In the second instance, “weapons free” is also a doctrinal term, and refers specifically to direct fire weapons. By definition, direct fire is observed fire.

    You would give that command to your flank unit, for example, if there were no friendly units in that direction.

    FFZ is a fire support term and IF we used them (which we don’t), they would apply to indirect fire weapons.

    That’s my whole problem with these threads. You guys are wholly ignorant of the doctrine and the vocabulary, and simply are not equipped to have an informed discussion.

  93. 93
    ATS says:

    Surely we don’t NEED White Phosphorous when the mere sight of Turd Blossum and George Will would ferret oute any insurgent from the deepest cave.

  94. 94
    p.lukasiak says:

    You’ve got hearsay. What I’ve asked for is credible evidence. A tape of that radio message would be nice. In which case we’ll have caught a SSG. Many many levels to go to get to Rumsfeld.

    RTO is the kind of guy who wouldn’t believe the holocaust happened until an official report was issued by the Nazi government.

  95. 95
    Veeshir says:

    Comment of the thread

    I think David hates him some sand ni**ers.

    Just more of the same: demonize the “other side” so that anything you do against them can be rationalized later.

    It would have been funny if you had demonized him while accusing him of deomonizing the “other side” for ironic effect, but somehow I’m pretty sure that you really saw, and still don’t see, absolutely any irony in that statement.

    Just beautiful.

  96. 96

    RTO Trainer Says:
    You’ve got hearsay. What I’ve asked for is credible evidence.

    If you will recall the same journalist filmed the shooting of an unarmed wounded prisoner a couple of days later. Pictures taken by one of the two non-embedded journalists are here (Warning graphic):

    http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gall.....038;page=1

    As I said up thread, the other non-embed had his footage stolen. A collection of video from ebbeded sources is at http://www.fallujah.us/ .

    I’ve looked at just about everything I can find. Have I seen evidence of war crimes committed by US troops? No. Have I seen enough to make me think that we were more reckless with a civilian population then US military doctrine permits: Yes. Do I think that the military is engaging in a cover-up to hide the number and makeup of those killed? Yes.

  97. 97
    demimondian says:

    smijer — I can’t speak for RTO or Jason, but I don’t think that any of us think that this shouldn’t be investigated. I currently think that the evidence I’ve seen to date tends to exculpate the soldiers in this mess. When I look at the images shown to date, I see discoloration due to death and decomposition, not flash burns, and *I think* not the effects of an incendiary. (Clothing’s in too good shape for an incediary, in my opinion.) I don’t trust any of it, though — I’m not there, I haven’t seen the detailed battle reports, I haven’t seen any trustworthy imagery of the casualties. I can’t judge.

    There’s enough to go looking, but bad looking stuff is really thin on the ground, and damning evidence just isn’t there. We should look — but we should expect that the results will come back negative. What infuriates me is that there are people who will respond to that by screaming “cover up”, and the soldiers who fought this war will never escape the false accusation.

  98. 98

    The White House should conduct an investigation every time civilians are killed? That’s not practical. So what’s the threshold here?

    As far as covering it up…I don’t know if you’ve served or not, but I put a lot of faith in our training. Yes tehre are people who break discipline, but almost never will everyone do so.

    Indiscriminate use or deliberte use agains civilians is an offense under the UCMJ. Knowing someone did and not reporting it is as well. We all know this. Someone would come forward and their story would fit the facts.

  99. 99

    Have I seen enough to make me think that we were more reckless with a civilian population then US military doctrine permits: Yes.

    Then you do think you’ve seen evidence of war crimes.

  100. 100

    Jason Van Steenwyk Says:
    The first citation you present to demonstrate FFZs in Fallujah specifically refers to incidents where the muj are occupying mosques and using them for C&C and to fire on Marines.
    November 29th, 2005 at 5:58 pm

    You (or someone) asked why I thought the rules for engagement were relaxed. I posted two quotes, by the same person from an embedded journalist, that said half the city is weapons free and that they were going to “take the gloves off.”

    You are arguing the military’s rules for engagement. What I am arguing is that those rules were not followed in the operation in question (Phantom Fury). Someone in Washington got reckless and put our troops into a position where atrocity was inevitable. Lots of people died including 38 of our own for what ended up being a net strategic loss. Criminal or not it was foolish.

  101. 101

    Do I think that the military is engaging in a cover-up to hide the number and makeup of those killed? Yes.

    What purpose would that serve? Who would benefit? You’ve stated, and then contradicted, that you don’t think you’ve seen indications of war crimes. If that’s correct, why should there be a cover-up?

  102. 102
    smijer says:

    RTO – the white house should lean on the Pentagon to find out what’s going on when there are reports that WP is being used for ground targets in densely populated cities. That’s pretty practical.

    and the soldiers who fought this war will never escape the false accusation.

    No… Americans learned their lesson in Vietnam… it won’t be the soldiers who will suffer accusations, false or otherwise. It will be the people who used them.

  103. 103
    demimondian says:

    The White House should conduct an investigation every time civilians are killed? That’s not practical. So what’s the threshold here?

    No — the White House should do an investigation when a huge firestorm comes up. Leaving this kind of shit hanging is much worse than saying “We’ll look at it.”

    When the Italian “translator” was killed, it just took a pair of satellite photos to debunk the story. I doubt that it would take more than that here.

  104. 104

    the white house should lean on the Pentagon to find out what’s going on when there are reports that WP is being used for ground targets in densely populated cities. That’s pretty practical.

    Well, no. Because there is nothing inherently wrong with using WP on ground targets (ground targets? What else you gonna use it on?) in densely populated cities as long as doctrinal measures are taken.

  105. 105
    Retief says:

    David Gillies:

    I do regard Islamic fundamentalism as evil and its adherents as the forces of darkness.

    If this is true, what in the world are you doing applauding our instalation of a fundamentalist muslim government in Iraq. Do you think that when people name their party the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, that they are just kidding?

    Jason Van Steenwyk, what has given you the mistaken impression that the term “Free Fire Zone” has anything to do with direct or indirect fire? Go check the wikipedia for a good description of a free fire zone. Along those lines, if weapons free is what you’d tell your flank company if there are none of your troops to their west, is it also appropriate to tell them that if there are no civilians to their west? You can’t just presume that after civilians are warned to vacate a zone, then anyone still present may lawfully be attacked. You can’t just declare a whole zone to be “civilian free.” Warning civilians to leave doesn’t eliminate the legal requirements to discriminate between civilians and non-civilians in targeting weapons directly or indirectly. Now, the reporting I saw at the time of Phantom Fury did not make it seem like the Marines were being indiscriminate, but I’m starting to wonder. (Surely we’d see a lot more bodies if they had, wouldn’t we?) Even if standards relaxed to “kind-of disrciminate” it would be both understandable and a problem. And the news blackout from the town isn’t encouraging.

  106. 106

    No—the White House should do an investigation when a huge firestorm comes up. Leaving this kind of shit hanging is much worse than saying “We’ll look at it.”

    You know the biggest single reason why government, the DoD in particular doesn’t investigate things that arguably they should? Not for fear of finidng wrongdoing. For fear of finding nothing wrong.

    It’s the devil you know; inevitably, when an investigation clears people, the immediate countercharge is, “Whitewash!”

    As a general rule, investigations are done when it is known in advance that someone f—-d up.

  107. 107

    Along those lines, if weapons free is what you’d tell your flank company if there are none of your troops to their west, is it also appropriate to tell them that if there are no civilians to their west? You can’t just presume that after civilians are warned to vacate a zone, then anyone still present may lawfully be attacked.

    ‘Weapons free’ doesn’t abrogate, abridge or alter the ROE. It means that you carry your weapon, locked, loaded, and at the ready because you not only are allowed (under the ROE) to use it, but will probably have to. Nothing trumps the ROE. There are other terms that carry similar meaning, like the various stages of ‘arming level.’

    No one designated or meant to designate anything as ‘civilian free.’ For that matter, no one can.

  108. 108
    ppGaz says:

    I do regard Islamic fundamentalism as evil and its adherents as the forces of darkness.

    Me too, but then I regard ALL fundamentalism that way. Islamic or otherwise. It’s all life-threatening.

    Fundamentalism is faith gone mad. It’s the complete abandonment of reason. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what brand of fundamentalism you have on your hands.

  109. 109
    W.B. Reeves says:

    It’s good to see this discussion getting around to substantive matters rather than a screamfest.

    One observation. I find it odd that some in this debate lay such emphasis on US military regs and doctrine. Not that these are unimportant. At the very least they give us an insight into how our troops assess the propriety and legality of their actions in combat. That’s important because the vast majority of the civilian population have no real idea what it is to be under fire and can’t conceive of the kinds of decisions that soldiers in combat are called upon to make.

    The oddity in this context is the lawyerly spin. The argument seems to be that if current military doctrine and regs were followed, no charge of war crimes is credible. The trouble is that the military doctrine or regs of an armed force whose members have been accused of war crimes has never been accepted as exculpatory. Indeed, that defense was explicitly repudiated at Nuremburg.

    Anyone who has a minimum of knowledge of the War Crimes Tribunals is probably familiar with the catch phrase “I was only following orders.” What may not be understood is that in the vast majority of Nazi attrocities this was indisputably true. German military thought and tradition made no allowance for refusing the orders of a superior.

    Many of the defendants at Nuremburg could and did show that their actions conformed with the doctrine and discipline of the Wehrmacht, not to mention the laws promulgated by the civilian politicians. The Nuremburg tribunals made it plain that they did not accept this defense.

    Personally, I think that such a defense does have merit when you are dealing with the actions of enlistees who are both dependent upon and subject to their superiors. Particularly when it comes to judging what is, or is not, a legal order. I think it has no merit when applied to the higher echelons, both political and military. After all, it’s these folks who set doctrine and policy. They can hardly be said to be simply following the regs.

    This opinion not withstanding, I find it very odd indeed that so many seem to think that military authority can determine what is and is not a war crime. The history of the jurisprudence makes it abundantly clear that this is not so. Never more so than when the military in question is institutionally subservient to civilian political and legal authority. If our troops are being instructed otherwise, I’d say they’re being set up to take a fall.

  110. 110

    The oddity in this context is the lawyerly spin. The argument seems to be that if current military doctrine and regs were followed, no charge of war crimes is credible.

    Its odd that a legal question (war crimes) would be discussed in legal terms?

    The Nuremburg comparisson flls apart when one compares US military doctrine to the laws and agreements that govern warfare. Our doctrine is formulated to be compliant. Nazi Germany’s was not. In many cases however, there was no codified standard, the motivation behind the 1949 round of Geneva Conventions.

    Enlistees don’t get a pass under the UCMJ. We are all resposnible for our individual actions. PV1 is just a responsible for knowing what is legal and not as I am as a SGT and as my BG is.

    If you know of a reg or policy that is not compliant please let me konw and I’ll pass the information up.

    Military authority does not determine what is a war crime. The laws do. It is a safe bet that our regulations and policies are in line with applicable laws. If the orders issued are illegal they won’t be followed. (There is long detailed answer to the question as to how to deal with an illegal order, so I won’t lay it out here unless someone asks.)

  111. 111
    cdunlea says:

    If the orders issued are illegal they won’t be followed.

    Sorry, but that’s a ludicrous statement. Were you asleep while the rest of us were reading about Abu Ghraib? Or were those orders legal under the Geneva Conventons?

    Under the UCMJ it is still permissable for a field commander to shoot an enlisted man who questions orders in combat. Knowing that, how many E2s will stop to determine the legality of setting a house on fire if they believe there’s a sniper in the attic? And I doubt Lt. Calley’s men thought much about the “legality” of what they were doing at My Lai.

    In the long run, a jailhouse lawyer’s appropach to what is or not legal is meaningless so long as you are being judged in the court of world opinion. You mentioned Nazi Germany as an example of noncompliance with the GC. In what way? Allied soldiers and flyers captured were treated according to the pre-1949 standard just as we treated them. What riled most people, though, was what they were doing to their own citizens, and every Jewish and Gypsy person under their control; nevertheless, under the laws of the Third Reich, that treatment was legal. That’s why the German SS documented so much of what they were doing for Allied troops to find later; not only were they not ashamed, it never occurred to them that genocide was illegal.

  112. 112
    Jason says:

    Jason Van Steenwyk, what has given you the mistaken impression that the term “Free Fire Zone” has anything to do with direct or indirect fire? Go check the wikipedia for a good description of a free fire zone

    I did. Really. In all seriousness, you’re sending me to a wikipedia site for a doctrinal definition? It links to the actual manual for doctrinal terms and symbols (I know it well) and we see that the term “free fire zone” doesn’t exist at all. You know, like RTO Trainer and I have been trying to tell you.

    There is a ‘free fire area,’ in the manual, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually used in practice in Iraq, or anywhere else. (In 13 years of commissioned service, I’ve never seen it used in combat or training or CPXs or anywhere else.

    What the FFA means is if you acquire a target in that area, you don’t have to coordinate with higher to clear fires. You may assume there are no friendlies there. So if you see a tank, you can kill it, knowing it’s not one of ours.

    It does NOT mean that every target within the FFA is hostile. And that’s what this dolt who wrote the wikipedia article doesn’t understand either. But you still have to observe what you’re shooting at, and that is true all over the battlefield.

    You don’t fire up a hospital just because it’s in a free fire area. That is a violation of the ROE. And as RTO Trainer points out, nothing trumps the ROE, short of the Law of Land Warfare.

    And there is nothing in the Law of Land Warfare which prevents U.S. forces from killing insurgents with WP or high explosives. In Fallujah.

  113. 113

    Lines asks: “And how about your claims of “non-Iraqis…”? ”

    OK, this isn’t particularly hard. Search this entire comment thread for an instance of where I have used the phrase ‘non-Iraqis’. I’ll help you: “some of the scumbags that the US military is converting into briefly-airborne steak tartare are non-Iraqis”.

    And anybody that thinks that the incoming Iraqi administration is going to be a fundamentalist Islamic body needs emergency dialysis: that much bile in the bloodstream and you’re a candidate for immediate therapy before your liver shuts down. In your cramped, biitter worldview, our forces can do no right and the enemy can do no evil.

    Civilians will die in any conceivable conflict from now until the last trump. We can strive to our utmost to drive that toll to zero. But to regard the death of a non-combatant as an absolute evil that trumps all others is puerile.

  114. 114
    Devil's Advocate says:

    No one is calling the grunts “war criminals”.

    The war criminals are the people responsible for the start and execution of this war of choice, i.e., Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Rice. Not only did these people mislead the country into this war, they have been abysmally incompetent at executing it.

    As for the use of white phophorous, I would not put anything past this Administration after the scandals of Abu Graib and Guantanamo. I would not be surprised in the least if the decision to use white phosphorous came from Rumsfeld’s office.

  115. 115
    Veeshir says:

    I saw this Thomas Sowell article linked on Boortz.
    With this absolutely beautiful quote that fits into this thread as if it was made for it.

    It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.

    That’s why I’ve sworn off it here. Futility isn’t my bag.

  116. 116
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    “The Pentagon says white phosphorus was never aimed at civilians, but there are lingering reports of civilian victims. The military can’t say whether the reports are true and does not intend to investigate them, a decision we find difficult to comprehend. Pentagon spokesmen say the Army took ‘extraordinary measures’ to reduce civilian casualties, but they cannot say what those measures were.”

    Sounds pretty intriguing to me, John. Indeed, it sounds strikingly like the Administration’s language about torture accusations. Could it possibly be that the military under Rummy’s control is also getting sloppy about not using WP when it will cause large numbers of civilian casualties? Nah. (By the way, the “lingering reports” include TV film of the apparent civilian victims.)

  117. 117

    As for the use of white phophorous, I would not put anything past this Administration after the scandals of Abu Graib and Guantanamo. I would not be surprised in the least if the decision to use white phosphorous came from Rumsfeld’s office.

    Despite that
    1) There is nothing wrong with using WP?
    2) The SecDef does not control fire support?

  118. 118

    (By the way, the “lingering reports” include TV film of the apparent civilian victims.)

    Not one of which is identifiable as what it is claimed to be.

  119. 119

    Sorry, but that’s a ludicrous statement. Were you asleep while the rest of us were reading about Abu Ghraib? Or were those orders legal under the Geneva Conventons?

    How did the story of Abu Ghraib come out? Who first said, “This is wrong,” and did something about it?

  120. 120

    Under the UCMJ it is still permissable for a field commander to shoot an enlisted man who questions orders in combat.

    Wrong. The UCMJ does not allow for summary executions.

    Where do you people GET this crap from?

  121. 121

    Under the UCMJ it is still permissable for a field commander to shoot an enlisted man who questions orders in combat. Knowing that, how many E2s will stop to determine the legality of setting a house on fire if they believe there’s a sniper in the attic? And I doubt Lt. Calley’s men thought much about the “legality” of what they were doing at My Lai.

    Who first said about My Lai, “This is wrong,” and did something about it?

    Commanders are not allowed to shoot those who question orders. Where on earth would you get that idea.

    Were it true I’d have been dead years ago.

  122. 122
    Retief says:

    Jason, Look I understand that current US doctrine is not to designate areas civilian free or “free fire zones”, because that would be a war crime. We did act that way in Vietnam, warning civilians to leave and then treating anybody left as an enemy. Yes free fire zones are a war crime and that’s why there’s no such thing as part of US military regulations. Not being part of the regulatins does not mean that a free fire zone can’t exist. In the video Jeff Englehart says that the orders going into Falludja were

    “We were told going into Fallujah, into the combat area, that every single person that was walking, talking, breathing was an enemy combatant. As such, every single person that was walking down the street or in a house was a target.”

    If he’s right, that’s illegal, and against your ROE. Now I’m not saying “trust Jeff” I’m asking if there’s anything to what he says. And the only answer I’ve heard is “there couldn’t be, that would be against the rules.”

  123. 123

    Then if you’ve got evidence other than a discredited E-4 radio operator who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, quoted by a discredited source, then post that.

    But that has nothing to do with WP.

    Look, you knuckleheads are trying to INVENT new war crimes now, evidence be damned. You got shot down on the WP story, and you’re trying to smear troops now with anything that will stick.

    Bruce: There is no evidence that WP caused large amounts of civilian casualties in Iraq. WP doesn’t cause mass casualties. It’s not designed to. It’s designed to produce smoke and light.

    HE and DPICM are designed to produce mass casualties. If there were mass casualties produced by any ordnance in Fallujah, it would have been from HE and DPICM. NOT from WP.

    The higher the WP to HE ratio, the lower the casualties downrange will be, civilian and enemy alike.

    Jeez…how do I get it through your thick skulls. WP is LESS LETHAL than HE.

    You morons ought to be APPLAUDING the use of WP over HE, if you are truly concerned about noncombatant casualties.

    But saving lives is not your real agenda.

  124. 124
    Neo says:

    There are lingering reports that the New York Times is a newpaper. “All the news fit to wrap fish”

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