[News] The U.S. is Using White Phosphorous in Afghanistan
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 18 11:11:47 EDT 2009
May 18, 2009
Caught in a Lie
The U.S. is Using White Phosphorous in Afghanistan
By DAVE LINDORFF
When doctors started reporting that some of the
victims of the US bombing of several villages in
Farah Province last weekan attack that left
between 117 and 147 civilians dead, most of them
women and childrenwere turning up with deep,
sharp burns on their body that looked like
theyd been caused by white phosphorus, the US
military was quick to deny responsibility.
US officialswho initially denied that the US had
even bombed any civilians in Farah despite
overwhelming evidence to the contrary, including
massive craters where houses had once
stoodinsisted that no white phosphorus was
used in the attacks on several villages in Farah.
Official military policy on the use of white
phosphorus is to only use the high-intensity,
self-igniting material as a smoke screen during
battles or to illuminate targets, not as a weapon
against human beingseven enemy troops.
Now that policy, and the militarys blanket
denial that phosphorus was used in Farah, have to
be questioned, thanks to a recent report filed
from a remote area of Afghanistan by a New York Times reporter.
C.J. Chivers, writing in the May 14 edition of
the NY Times, in an article headlined Korangal
Valley Memo: In Bleak Afghan Outpost, Troops Slog
On, wrote of how an embattled US Army unit in
the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan, had come
under attack following a morning memorial service
for one of their members, Pfc. Richard Dewater,
who had been killed the day before by a mine.
After the ceremony, the violence resumed. The
soldiers detected a Taliban spotter on a ridge,
which was pounded by mortars and then white
phosphorus rounds from a 155 millimeter howitzer.
What did the insurgents do? When the smoldering
subsided, they attacked from exactly the same
spot, shelling the outpost with 30-millimeter
grenades and putting the soldiers on notice that
the last display of firepower had little effect.
The Americans escalated. An A-10 aircraft made
several gun runs, then dropped a 500-pound bomb.
It is clear from this passage that the militarys
use of the phosphorus shells had not been for the
officially sanctioned purpose of providing cover.
The soldiers had no intention of climbing that
hill to attack the spotter on the ridge
themselves. They were trying to destroy him with
shells and bombs. In fact, the last thing they
would have wanted to do was provide the spotter
with a smoke cover, which would have helped him
escape, and which also would have hidden him from
the planes which had been called in to make gun
runs at his position. Nor was this a case of
illuminating the target. The incident, as Chivers
reports, took place in daylight.
Clearly then, this article shows that it is
routine for soldiers to call in phosphorus rounds
to attack enemy soldiers, which is supposed to be
against US military policy for this material.
Whoever was manning the howitzer had a stock of
the weapons on hand, and was ready to fire them.
The US initially flatly denied using white
phosphorus weapons in Iraq, when reports first
began to come out, including from US troops
themselves, that they had been used extensively
against insurgents defending the city of Fallujah
against US Marines in November 2004. Under
mounting pressure, the Pentagon first admitted
that it had used the chemical in Fallujah but
only for illumination. Later, the Pentagon
added that it had used phosphorus as a screen
to hide troops. But finally, in 2005, the
Pentagon was forced to admit that it had also
used white phosphorus directly as a weapon
against enemy Iraqi troops in the assault on
Fallujah, a city of 300,000 that still held many civilians.
The same pattern of denial and eventual admission
regarding the use of this controversial and
deadly weapon by US forces now seems to be repeating itself in Afghanistan.
It is odd that given the controversy over the use
of white phosphorus weapons, which result in
terrible wounds and eventual death as phosphorus
particles burn their way down through flesh to
the bone and sometimes straight onward through a
body, leaving a charred channel of destruction,
the New York Times Chiversor perhaps his
editors back in New York?ignored any mention of
the issue while reporting on the use of the
chemical rounds to attack a lone spotter on the ridge.
Given the current controversy over whether the US
used white phosphorus shells or bombs in Falah
Province only days before, it is hard to
understand why the issue wasnt mentioned in this
particular article. Indeed, in the online version
of the story, the word phosphorus is set as a
hotlink to an article on the controversy over the
battlefield use of phosphorus, indicating that at
least someone at the Times has integrity and a good news sense.
As for the US government and the Pentagon, it is
clear that they know the weapon is a vicious and
controversial one, and that besides causing
horrific and painful wounds, it is profoundly
dangerous for innocent civilians, particularly
when used in town or village settings.
It is bad enough that the US is using this
weapon. It is even worse that it is forced to lie about it.
Surely if the goal of US policy is to win the
hearts and minds of Afghanistans people, it
shouldnt be using a weapon that causes such
terrible and indiscriminate wounds. Then again,
maybe winning those hearts and minds isnt the
goal. Maybe, as in the so-called Pacification
Program applied by US forces in rural South
Vietnam, the goal is to terrorize Afghan
villagers in Taliban regions into rejecting the Taliban in their midst.
Requests for answers from the press office at the
Pentagon, and at military headquarters in
Afghanistan regarding US policy on the use of
white phosphorus, and on the specific use of the
shells mentioned in the New York Times article were ignored.
Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist
and columnist. His latest book is
Case for Impeachment (St. Martins Press, 2006
and now available in paperback). He can be
reached at <mailto:dlindorff at mindspring.com>dlindorff at mindspring.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News