Specifically, the British press are starting to notice that the US used white phosphorus and firebombs against Fallujah -- and then lied about it. The Independent is also getting into the act.
What nobody is doing very effectively yet, however, is effectively countering the claims that white phosphorus is just a bunch of harmless smoke, or seriously attacking claims that using white phosphorus against Iraqis is legal.
Contrary to statements that some have made, indicating that attacking Iraqis with White Phosphorus would be ineffective because white phosphorus burns too fast and is mostly just for smoke, it should be pointed out that weaponized White Phosphorus ordinance is not necessarily pure White Phosphorus. Rather, it is often mixed with other substances, such as rubber or plastics, in order to make the White Phosphorus burn slower. This modification also can prevent weaponized white phosphorus from being extinguished even with water. The recommended way to extinguish white phosphorus ordinance is with mud.
Those who try to deny the potentially lethal risk of white phosphorus mortar shells or helicopter-fired rockets, such as were used in Fallujah, also fail to point out that the ordinance is often set to explode before hitting the ground, showering large areas with white-hot, burning incendiaries capable of setting fire to or burning through practically anything they come in contact with. It was, infact, white phosphorus bombs that were used during the infamous firebombing of Dresden during World War II, which killed about as many if not more civilians in a single night than either the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
It was the US army-hosted article on the use of artillery in Fallujah which mentioned "shake and bake" white phosphorus attacks and "lethal missions" -- both of which weren't specifically mentioned in the State Department admission of white phosphorus attacks in Fallujah. The US army also hosts a report which mentions that the Russians used white phosphorus very effectively during their attack/leveling of the Chechen city of Grozny, specifically citing that white phosphorus was very useful against the Chechens.
"The Russians point out a side benefit of white phosphorus is that white phosphorus smoke is toxic and readily penetrates protective mask filters."
Admittedly, white phosphorus is pretty benign if used for just producing smoke, but clearly, white phosphorus has been used in Grozny and now in Fallujah in a way that appears to be far more concentrated, far more deadly, and far more indiscriminate than simple puffs of smoke. How deadly? How indiscriminate? I don't pretend to know the full truth. That said, I believe it should be investigated.
One of the dirty secrets of World War II following the firebombing of Dresden, was that there appears to have been a coordinated effort to repress the truth of the offensive use of white phosphorus against the Germans. The reason is spelled out in a document archived in Stanford University, drafted by the Supreme Headquarters of Allied European Command.
The following are the subjects on which every effort should be made to prevent information falling into the hands of the enemy . . . Stop all mention of the use of White Phosphorus Bombs as anti-personnel weapons. This is a contravention of the Geneva Conventions.
The position of the Army under Eisenhower is still the position that the Army has today. There are clearly situations in which the use of white phosphorus is legal, and other situations in which it is not. That said, the US military hasn't changed much -- they have shown a willingness to use white phosphorus in ways that are lethal to civilians in World War II, in Vietnam, and now, apparently, in Iraq.
We cannot expect other nations to protect the safety of civilians during times of war if we are not willing to adhere to the same restrictions. Our nation's use of white phosphorus against Iraqi cities makes the US look like a hypocrite in the eyes of the world's other nations. We have opened the door for other nations to create, develop, and use weaponized white phosphorus ordinance against targets that contain civilians in the future -- weapons specifically designed to be as lethal, as punishing, and as indiscriminate as possible. Indeed, we have given such nations all the legal justification they need.
There's lots of ways to produce smoke. Infact, most smoke ordinance isn't white phosphorus-based anymore. Maybe it's time for the US to rethink its policies regarding the use of white phosphorus... ideally before the next war comes around.
As for me, I'm seeing if I can't get a copy of the SHAEF document in question, and I have just submitted a FOIA request to the US State Department for
"all information, records, statements, notes, legal advice, or email correspondences on or relating to the creation of or possible modifications to the statement created by the US State Department . . . on the use of and legality of weapons in Fallujah."
I'm curious just how the U.S. State Department came to their previous conclusion that the US only used white phosphorus in Fallujah "very sparingly", for "illumination purposes", because it sure sounds line someone told a whopper. Perhaps it was one of Bush's neocon buddies in the Pentagon. Perhaps it was General Sanchez. Whoever it was, there are a few questions I'd like them to have to answer, ideally under oath before the US Senate.
It would be nice to see a little illumination on that issue, frankly.