Italians Release Video of Phosphorous Attack on Fallujah
The Italian television network RAI has released a video that includes an interview with an ex-Marine and footage of the use of phosphorous bombs at Fallujah in November of 2004.
White phosphorus is a form of incendiary bomb.
The Italian press is calling the phosphorus bombs “chemical weapons” and alleging that they were used indiscriminately and against civilian populations.
The use of incendiary bombs against civilian targets or concentrations of civilians with no military function is forbidden by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Although the US ratified Protocols I and II of the Convention, it does not appear to have adopted Protocol III into US law.
There also exists a Convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction, Paris 13 January 1993, which went into effect in 1997 and which the United States signed.
The 1997 convention, however, does not appear to refer to incendiary bombs:
‘ ARTICLE II
DEFINITIONS AND CRITERIA
For the purposes of this Convention:
1. “Chemical Weapons” means the following, together or separately:
(a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;
(b) Munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals specified in subparagraph (a), which would be released as a result of the employment of such munitions and devices;
(c) Any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of munitions and devices specified in subparagraph (b).
2. “Toxic Chemical” means:
Any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals. This includes all such chemicals, regardless of their origin or of their method of production, and regardless of whether they are produced in facilities, in munitions or elsewhere. ‘
As a historian, I feel it important to point out that the use of phosphorus bombs or massive bombing in Iraq is not a new thing. The British used incendiary bombs to control the rebellious Iraqi tribes. (The British also used mustard gas in Iraq, long before Saddam.) Of course, the difference between kinds of munitions can be exaggerated. It is no fun to have “conventional” arms rain down on your family from the sky.
I wrote in a review last year for The Nation:
‘The airplane also allowed a close surveillance of the population in a manner that the supposedly despotic predecessors of the British, the Ottomans, could never have dreamed of achieving. This aspect of British rule in Iraq has long been understood by, among others, the eminent historian of Iraq Peter Sluglett. In his 1976 study, Britain in Iraq, Sluglett quotes Member of Parliament Leopold Amery as saying, “If the writ of King Faisal runs effectively through his kingdom, it is entirely due to the British airplanes.”
Yet, as [Toby] Dodge points out, the airplane quickly demonstrated its limits, in large part because it depended on raw power and fear rather than on legitimate authority. The British used night bombing and incendiary explosives to destroy villages around Samawah in 1923 as a means of forcing the population to surrender its rifles and submit. While the destruction of six villages and the killing of 100 men, women and children terrified the peasants, they simply dispersed from the area and took their rifles with them. The Royal Air Force high command considered following the fleeing Iraqis, but concluded that further bombing would only be a slaughter. According to Dodge, the high command feared that the British public would discover exactly how they were ruling Iraq. ‘
Indeed, Sir Arthur Harris, who planned large numbers of British bombing raids in Iraq in the 1920s, went on to become the architect of the fire-bombing of Dresden during World War II, which killed at least 25,000.
The lessons of British Iraq were mostly unknown to the American politicians who planned out and executed the 2003 Iraq War. One of them is that the military occupation of a conquered population is a barbaric business and can easily draw the colonizer into the use of horrific means to control the rebellious occupied. The Americans’ moral fibre is being destroyed from within by things like Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and other atrocities. In the end, America may not any longer be America. The country that began by forbidding cruel and unusual punishment is ending by formally authorizing torture on a grand scale, and by burning small town Iraqis down to the bone with white phosphorus.