Thursday, November 24
Behind the phosphorus clouds are war crimes within war crimes
We now know the US also used thermobaric weapons in its assault on Falluja, where up to 50,000 civilians remained
George Monbiot, November 22, 2005, The Guardian
The media couldn't have made a bigger pig's ear of the white phosphorus story. So, before moving on to the new revelations from Falluja, I would like to try to clear up the old ones. There is no hard evidence that white phosphorus was used against civilians. The claim was made in a documentary broadcast on the Italian network RAI, called Falluja: the Hidden Massacre. It claimed that the corpses in the pictures it ran "showed strange injuries, some burnt to the bone, others with skin hanging from their flesh ... The faces have literally melted away, just like other parts of the body. The clothes are strangely intact." These assertions were supported by a human-rights advocate who, it said, possessed "a biology degree".
I, too, possess a biology degree, and I am as well qualified to determine someone's cause of death as I am to perform open-heart surgery. So I asked Chris Milroy, professor of forensic pathology at the University of Sheffield, to watch the film. He reported that "nothing indicates to me that the bodies have been burnt". They had turned black and lost their skin "through decomposition". We don't yet know how these people died.
But there is hard evidence that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon against combatants in Falluja.
As this column revealed last Tuesday, US infantry officers confessed that they had used it to flush out insurgents.
A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC that white phosphorus "was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants". He claimed "it is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal." This denial has been accepted by most of the mainstream media. UN conventions, the Times said, "ban its use on civilian but not military targets". But the word "civilian" does not occur in the chemical weapons convention. The use of the toxic properties of a chemical as a weapon is illegal, whoever the target is.