US 'uses incendiary arms' in Iraq

November 9th, 2005  

Topic: US 'uses incendiary arms' in Iraq

Who to believe? The Pentagon or the journalists?

Watch the documentary mentioned in the article here (Both English and Italian versions available).

Source BBC World News

Spontaneously flammable chemical used for battlefield illumination
Contact with particles causes burning of skin and flesh
Use of incendiary weapons prohibited for attacking civilians (Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)
Protocol III not signed by US

Italian state TV, Rai, has broadcast a documentary accusing the US military of using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in the Iraqi city of Falluja.

Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical arms, though the bombs are considered incendiary devices. Eyewitnesses and ex-US soldiers say the weapon was used in built-up areas in the insurgent-held city.

The US military denies this, but admits using white phosphorus bombs in Iraq to illuminate battlefields. Transmission of the documentary comes a day after the arrival of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on a five-day official visit to Italy.

It also coincides with the first anniversary of the US-led assault on Falluja, which displaced most of the city's 300,000 population and left many of its buildings destroyed.

The documentary was shown on Rai's rolling news channel, with a warning that the some of the footage was disturbing.

The future of the 3,000-strong Italian peacekeeping contingent in Iraq is the subject of a political tug-of-war, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

'Destroyed evidence'

The documentary begins with formerly classified footage of the Americans using napalm bombs during the Vietnam war.

It then shows a series of photographs from Falluja of corpses with the flesh burnt off but clothes still intact - which it says is consistent with the effects of white phosphorus on humans. Jeff Englehart, described as a former US soldier who served in Falluja, tells of how he heard orders for white phosphorus to be deployed over military radio - and saw the results.

"Burned bodies, burned women, burned children; white phosphorus kills indiscriminately... When it makes contact with skin, then it's absolutely irreversible damage, burning flesh to the bone," he says.

Washington is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus devices. Last December, the US state department issued a denial of what it called "widespread myths" about the use of illegal weapons in Falluja.

"Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Falluja, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters," the US statement said.

However, the Rai film also alleges that Washington has systematically attempted to destroy filmed evidence of the alleged use of white phosphorus on civilians in Falluja.

Italian public opinion has been consistently against the war and the Rai documentary can only reinforce calls for a pullout of Italian soldiers as soon as possible, our correspondent says.

Both the Italian government and opposition leaders are talking about a phased withdrawal in 2006.

President Talabani and the US say the continued presence of multi-national forces in Iraq is essential.
November 9th, 2005  
Italian Guy

I need your input on RAI TV as a source of news or stories about the US
November 9th, 2005  
Italian Guy
This one goes to show what I was saying before about our Prime Minister controlling the media.
RaiNews is our public television channel, "allegedly" controlled by Berlusconi, Bush's friend.
As you can also see from this case, RaiNews is indeed a left-wing television.
This stories about napalm being used on Falluja in 2004 is actually old stuff that they recycled.
As usual it is a lie: White phosphorous flares has been used for decades to just illuminate the enemy positions at night:

"Italian TV has an upcoming scoop on another American chemical super-weapon-- injecting toxic lead capsules into the bodies of enemies through a secret technology codenamed "guns."

Here are some to-the-point comments I'm sure you'll be interested in reading:

"Actually, WP is used as a marking round, not an illuminating round. It is against the Geneva Convention to use it against personnel. It can, however, be used against trucks, cars, backpacks, shoes, weapons, and hats".

"But the story reminds me of one about some (Fallujan?) insurgents who wired a school or something with chemical weapons so that when U.S. troops came it, it would detonate and appear that Americans were usng chemicals against non-combatants.
So in addition to questioning whether the eye-witnesses were telling the truth at all about burned bodies, it is also worth noting that even if bodies were burned by chemicals, that says nothing about who burned them.
And for any doubters out there, do you really think the terrorists are above burning the bodies of Iraqi civillians to make American troops look bad? And does anyone here think Italian television is interested in the answer to that question?"

"Actually, WP is used as a marking round, not an illuminating round. It is against the Geneva Convention to use it against personnel.
As I understand it, the only weapons that are against the GC are WMD. Any other weapon is essentially free for use, so long as the target is legitimate. If you shoot an anti-tank rocket at a single enemy combatant standing in the middle of the field, you didn't violate the laws of war, just engaged in massive overkill. (More likely you missed and wasted a rocket.) What the Italian story is doing is playing the invent-a-war-crime game. They make up the laws of war, distort their meaning, or distort the context of US orders/regulations, and then make accusations against the US.
A famous example is John Kerry's claim that "free-fire zones" were war crimes -- a claim that glosses over the fact that the zones were "free-fire" only if you had a combatant target; US soldiers were still forbidden to fire on non-combatants.
In this case, the Italian paper is (correctly) citing the GC ban on chemical weapons, but then (incorrectly) claiming that any weapon that involves a chemical is a chemical weapon. WP and napalm *ARE* chemicals, but so are water, gasoline, and gunpowder. The GC ban is on contact and inhaled agents -- gases -- not incendiaries. They're counting on people not looking closer at either the GC".

What I, Italian Guy, know about it is what follows:

1. MK77 is not technically napalm, although it is a very similar incendiary substance b) use of NAPALM AGAINST CIVILIANS was banned by an intenational treaty of which the US is not a party anyway. c) the story of the US using Mk77 dates back to before the fall of Baghdad and the story itself has always been about MILITARY targets, I have never heard other sources apart from Rainews that witnessed its use in Falluja.
2. a) White Phosphorous is an incendiary weapon of large common use among all the world's militaries. Since it also produces a thick layer of white smoke and is very glary it s usually used in tracer bullets. It really is a terrible weapon, it just burns it all, doesn't extinguish easily and its smokes are slightly toxic. b) As far as I know WP is not specifically banned by any treaty, in fact as I already stated everybody uses it c) The 1980 UN ban in about the indiscriminate use of incendiary substances on civilians, but while it mentions napalm it doesn't talk about WP.
d) The US is not bound by anything though since it never signed the ban itself.

3) As for the US troops' words, "having heard via radio" that WP was being used doesn't necessarily make for an eye-witness, and most importantly, doesn't let us know whether it was used as smoke-producer , to illuminate or as an incen diary. And it doesn't let us judge its "indiscrimateness".

4) About this video that sunb! reports (, from what I know WP is unloaded inside special containers that crash on the ground and not rain-dispersed as that image seems to indicate. This is absolutely mandatory since it is a substance that burns when exposed to air, otherwise the launch platform would risk getting burned itself. Maybe it's a new cluster system of dispersion, but it also could NOT be WP as well. About this, I am not an expert. Anyone here is?

5) The video is the usual mountain of half-lies, innuendos etc.
One example is when the US soldier is asked:"Were chemical weapons used in Falluja?" and he answers "Yes, WP". But CHEMICAL WEAPONS in military jargon, and in the intenrational judiciary language, are another thing. They are the chemical aggressors and this is a list of ALL of them: As you can see WP is not one of them. Of course WP is a chemical substance too, but following this train of thought exposives are too, and so are bullets that contain propellant.
What about the miserable lie according to which to illuminate the targets WP was not used (this should somehow prove WP was used as incnediary), but that tracers were.
Tracers are bullets that burn a minimal amount of magnesium or red phosphorous to produce a glary tail. They are used to realize what bullets are actually hitting, at night, and not to illuminate, since they can't illuminate but themeselves.

I know other way more qualified members on the boards will contribute and maybe correct me on the blunders I made. Oh and just some heads-up: 98 % of those "journalists" write for communist newspapers. Remember when I say "communist" I really mean "affiliate to the communist party", they are proud of calling themselves that. And of course they are free to broadcast their anti-American lies on Berlusconi's media.

UPDATE: The following is the note from the US Embassy in reply to allegations in that "documetary". It is in Italian but I have no time to translate it, nor have I found it in English. You can Babelfish it, and ask me about anything you might not understand.

Questo documentario appare non neutrale, elaborato da professionisti che non si trovavano a Fallujah all’epoca dei fatti raccontati. Oltre 100 giornalisti invece sono stati ‘embedded’ con le Forze di Spedizione dei Marines a Fallujah per informare in merito all’Operazione Al Fajr.
Il documentario viene mandato in onda un anno dopo gli eventi che pretende di descrivere. Tuttavia, nel confezionare questo servizio, nell’arco di un anno di tempo, gli autori non si sono curati di chiedere alcun commento in merito alle ipotesi da essi avanzate. Se lo avessero fatto, sarebbe stato detto loro che le forze statunitensi non hanno ne’ preso di mira i civili ne’ usato in modo indiscriminato le armi di cui si riferisce nel documentario.
Le forze statunitensi che partecipano alla coalizione dell’Operazione Iraqi Freedom continuano ad usare l’intera gamma di armamenti legali e convenzionali contro obiettivi legittimi. Le forze statunitensi non usano il napalm e il fosforo bianco come armi chimiche o come surrogato. Gli Stati Uniti hanno distrutto l’ultima riserva esistente di Napalm nel 2001. Abbiamo ancora una bomba incendiaria, la bomba E-134 Bomb, Fire, Mk 77 Mod 5. La bomba incendiaria Mk77 non e’ napalm. La sua composizione chimica e’ diversa. Non e’ fuorilegge o illegale.
Le forze statunitensi non hanno usato le bombe incendiarie Mk77 nell’Operazione Al Fajr. L’unico caso in cui e’stata usata la Mk77 durante l’Operazione Iraqi Freedom e’ stato tra marzo e aprile del 2003, quando i Marines hanno utilizzato molte bombe contro obiettivi militari legittimi.
Sostenere che le forze statunitensi abbiano usato il fosforo bianco contro obiettivi umani nell’Operazione Al Fajr e’ semplicemente sbagliato. Le forze statunitensi usano il fosforo bianco come fumogeno o per segnare gli obiettivi. Contrariamente alla presentazione offerta dal documentario, il fosforo bianco non e’ fuorilegge o illegale o bandito da alcuna convenzione quando viene usato in questo modo.
Le forze di sicurezza irachene e la forza multinazionale sono impegnate da due anni e mezzo in operazioni contro i terroristi, gli insorti ed elementi del vecchio regime. A tale riguardo, questo conflitto si e’ dispiegato esattamente come avviene in qualsiasi conflitto della storia bellica moderna. Le forze della Coalizione fanno veramente ogni sforzo per evitare la perdita di vittime innocenti, nonostante la pratica seguita da elementi del vecchio regime, dai terroristi e dagli insorti di prendere deliberatamente di mira i non combattenti, di usare i civili come scudi umani e di mettere in atto e condurre attacchi contro le forze della Coalizione dall’interno di zone abitate da civili. E’ questa la storia vera, e viene riportata da giornalisti provenienti da tutto il mondo.