White phosphorus has no place in a kinder, gentler war

November 16, 2005  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Weblog

Here we go again. It's not enough that every time we bomb a terrorist safe house we're accused of killing 40 civilians but missing the terrorists. (Why is it always 40?) Then we're told we must turn both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo into facilities fit for Martha Stewart. Now the defeat-niks are screaming about our use of white phosphorus shells during the bloody battle for Fallujah last year. Known to U.S. troops as "Willy Peter" or "Willy Pete," and capable of being packed into a huge array of munitions, WP is a burning agent that can be used as a smokescreen, a smoke marker, or an anti-personnel weapon. It's hardly new, having been first used in the 19th Century while becoming a fixture in World War I. Nor should it be news that it was used at Fallujah. "The Fight for Fallujah," in the March-April 2005 issue of "Field Artillery gives explicit detail on how WP was used in the battle, for screening, marking, and killing.

Yet it's being treated as a major new revelation because of an Italian video made available on the Internet titled "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" -- as if the use of WP necessarily involves a massacre or as if there haven't been awful massacres in recent years using nothing but knives, machetes, and clubs.

The accusations against WP are two-fold. First, it's allegedly outlawed by the Geneva Convention because it's a chemical weapon. And, being a chemical weapon, our using it puts us in the same category as Saddam, or so says the popular leftist blogsite Daily Kos. But according to the authoritative website globalsecurity.org, "White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory." Is it a chemical? Sure! So is something else you may have heard of. It's called "gunpowder." And those chemicals used in high explosives? Yup, they're chemicals too.

Second, supposedly WP is allegedly quite horrific in that when it makes contact with a soldier, even just his clothing, it can burn his flesh all the way down to bone. Nasty, yes. But remember this was being used against men who were sawing off civilians' heads with dull knives. Which is a more terrible weapon?

Fact is, the American weapon of choice remains high explosives. WP's best use against personnel is to flush them out of foxholes and trenches where they can either surrender or be shot or blown up.

Finally, it's claimed that some civilians were hit by WP. Unfortunately, when you have an enemy that not only hides among civilians but hides as civilians (in total violation of the Geneva Convention, you Daily Kosers), any weapon is a potential threat to non-combatants. As we see on a daily basis, the terrorists' primary enemy is Iraqi civilians. If you want to save civilians, kill terrorists.