16.11.05

Willy Pete

You may have seen the scandal involving US forces using white phosphorus shells in Iraq - apparently a contravention of a few chemical weapons treaties if the shells were used against civilians. The US military claims they were using them to "illuminate the battlefield" (a story that has since changed).

Well, it seems British forces were using them, too. Only we were using them to "create smokescreens".

3 comments:

RTO Trainer said...

The military did not claim they were only used for illumination.

The UN Convention bans the use of incendiary weapons against civilans, not against humans. See for yourself: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/515?OpenDocument

Of course any deliberate engagement or targeting of civilians is
already a war crime. so that the US has not signed this one is not of especial import except to say that we aren’t bound by it expressly.

White Phosphorus is not banned.

It also isn’t a chemical weapon. We are signtory to the Chemical Weapons Convention which defines chemical weapons. See here: http://www.opcw.org/html/db/cwc/eng/cwc_frameset.html

So it isn’t a chemical weapon and it isn’t banned.

Indiscriminate use is. The stories circulating do not support that
contention. See here: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2004/04/11/military/iraq/19_30_504_10...

Cpl. Bogert received the coordinates for the targets and recorded them on a map. This is proper procedure. He’s receiving coordinates from a Forward Observer, indirect fire weapons never see their targets, the FOs do. The coordinates are plotted so that it is known what was ordered where. There is also a verification that takes place in the call for indirect fire to avoid problems with numerical transposition or other mistakes.

Dale said...

As a former Canadian armour officer, I can state that wp is the normal round for tanks to carry for making smoke screens.

The older style of 'real smoke' shells were more difficult to use and not as reliable at providing smoke where wanted.

And yes, any military person will honestly admit that it is a 'fringe benefit' that wp makes a very effective anti-personnel weapon.

Of course, no weapons should be fired at civilians in any conflict. But it is silly for people to get all worked up about the use of wp in a conflict. It's part of the normal arsenal and it will be used.

Doombreed said...

I'm sorry, rto trainer, but the US military did indeed claim - initially - that they were only using them for illumination:

"Phosphorous shells are not outlawed. U.S. forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

From USINFO.state.gov

Later statements admitted that the shells had also been used for other - still legal - purposes, which is why I noted this correction with the second link.

Secondly, I specifically noted that the use of WP is banned by treaty only if used against civilians.

And, thirdly, I do understand that military forces must use whatever means is at their disposal in order to get the job done. But if the use to which the shells was put was so legal, above board, and pure, why lie about it? Why start out with "illumination only", then go to "okay, illumination and smokescreens", and then end up at "okay, so illumination and a smokescreens and some minor use against enemy soldiers - which is perfectly legal!"?

Strikes me as almost akin to Reg's speech from The Life Of Brian.