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November 9, 2005

US Use Of Chemical Weapons - Altercation Has The Proof

-- by Dave Johnson

Over at Altercation, scroll down to "Correspondence Corner."

A March '05 publication by the US Army confirms that US soldiers used white phosphorus offensively in the Battle of Fallujah. This directly contradicts statements made by the U.S. Department of Defense and by the US State Department.

Here is the story [PDF file] on artillery use from the March/April edition of the US Army's "Field Artillery Magazine."

. . . "WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

What the article does not say, however, is that there is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature.

This claim of "shake and bake" is further confirmed in a news article by an embedded journalist at the time. See here

Go to Altercation for the rest. (Note that this story is about Marines, not Army.)

Update - A former Marine writes about witnessing the use of White Phosphorus rounds in An Nasiriyah.

Update - Right Wing sites talking about this story:

Partisan Pundit,

I've talked with grunts who were there. Fallujah was full of stuff right out of Saving Private Ryan. It was straight up war. Dirty, nasty, knife-in-the-throat urban combat. Did "tens" of people really die from exposure to white phosophorous smoke? Maybe. And you know what? That is sad, and tragic if they weren't combatants. But you know what else? Either way, it wasn't a war crime.

It was just plain war.

Right Wing Fascist, The Left Tries to Make the Chemical Weapons Claim,
Does it surprise you? Just remember, as the ratio of liberal bloggers reporting the story approaches 1, the probability of the story being true either factual or true approaches 0.
little green rascist,
The latest story floated out to the ever-willing mainstream media by the “anti-war” crowd is that the US military used “chemical weapons” in Fallujah; Scott Burgess has a report that casts serious doubt on this claim: Ablution Exclusive: Weapons Expert Challenges White Phosphorus Claims.
protein wisdom, Weapons-grade Bullshit,
... is not a chemical weapon
Update - Please note the rebuttal comment from Confederate Yankee in the comments.

Posted by Dave Johnson at November 9, 2005 1:51 PM

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Comments

Thanks for stopping by my site to drop off that comment you lifted from Altercation regarding the Marine use of white phosphorous shells in Fallujah. I only with that you, Makr Kraft who left the comment at Altercation, and Hunter at Daily Kos had actually read the article for its substance before spreading it around, as it does not supports your contention. In fact, an accurate full reading of the “Field Artillery Magazine “article alone, when combined with basic chemical knowledge of the compound, actually serve to refute your argument completely. I won’t address the North Country Times article at this tie, but if you would like me to beat that dead horse, just let me know.

Fallujah, which at the time was a large urban combat area, was devoid of almost all civilian life. The population of 250,00 had been actively encouraged to leave the city before the battle. The article, posted in March/April “Field Artillery Magazine” shows that the TF 2-2 IN “encountered few civilians” during its attack south into a near ghost town. Only a few stragglers and the enemy remained.

Fallujah was an urban target, but clearly not a civilian population center when the assault occurred.

Further, you selectively chose to leave out the fact that article clearly states on the first page of the article that the vast majority of fire missions were for high explosive fragmentation rounds. This does not support the contention of “massive quantities of white phosphorus” as claimed by Peter Popham’s article in the Independent. In fact, you, Hunter, and Mark Kraft at Altercation seems to have an issue meshing reading comprehension with tactical knowledge, as exposed by the paragraph that you all cited as “proof” of chemical weapons attacks:

…"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

A primary use of white phosphorous is indeed creating smoke screens. But you somehow manage to transmutate the use of white phosphorous as a “potent psychological weapon” into that of a chemical weapon. WP was used to scare the enemy, so hat he would run, where he was then cut down by high explosive fragmentation ammunition. Am I to believe that you take issue with scaring the enemy before we kill him?

From there, Kraft makes a horrible, factually incorrect comment:

What the article does not say, however, is that there is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature.

Unequivocally this is false information. Altercation’s commentator Kraft is totally, completely wrong. White phosphorous has been used for over 60 years by the United State military, and is most often deployed to screen the movement of troops from specific enemy positions. As these soldiers assault the position screened by the white phosphorous cloud of smoke, they must often maneuver directly through that smoke to taken their objective. I have been unable to find one instance dating from World War II to the present where a soldier has become a casualty as the result of the “deadly chemical cloud” Kraft relates to. As one of my readers, a retired Army Lt. Colonel related to me via email, “I'm sure breathing the smoke isn't the best thing for you, but Sarin it ain't.”

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at November 10, 2005 1:25 PM

You may want to share this with your readers. This is not a professional work, but just an informal analysis.

I had this conversation yesterday regarding this news story about WP being used as a chemical weapon.

I am a former fire support officer, who was trained to travel with infantry and armor units and be the eyes of the artillery to call for fire.
I read the article from the Italian news source, and let me state unequivocally that what it claims is physically impossible. A white phosphorous round used for illumination is a base ejecting projectile that "opens" in the air and floats down under a parachute. The projectile casing does continue down range, but fire direction officers and fire support officers along with the maneuver commanders clear this impact area as part of the calculations. The projectile casing itself could kill a person, as any bullet would, but it is not possible to use it as a chemical warfare attack.
The flare itself floats down and you would pretty much have to chase after it and position yourself under where you project it will land to even get burned. It is possible although very unlikely that this flare could hit a building and could cause a fire, but the injury wouldn’t be a chemical burn, but a burn from the building fire. I have never seen anything close to this happen.
The flares come down slowly and usually burn out first, but since they are the brightest thing in the sky, it would be easy to avoid one if it landed while burning. I have seen a few flares land on the ground while burning, but this is much different than a chemical attack.
The only way you could purposely harm anyone with this is if you direct fired at a short range. The projectile most likely wouldn't eject the flare (it has a timed fuse) and it really wouldn't matter if you fired Cheetohs at someone at that range, the concussion would kill them.
An artillery unit wouldn't use direct fire unless it was being attacked. And even then it would use their organic direct fire weapons and if necessary, another type of projectile. To use a WP for direct fire would be entirely counterproductive to the security of the battery even in self defense.

This Italian news story is nothing but a lie.

After being asked repeatedly to analyze the “Italian News Story” (gag), I analyzed the video, here are my thoughts

I analyzed the video and am pleased to announce that it is junk. There are many things I could point out, but here is what sticks out.
1. The “fire raining down from the helicopter” was the part that concerned me. I had to watch it repeatedly to figure it out. At first I thought it was the backblast from a missile being fired the other direction. After a more thorough analysis, I realize it was an air burst of WP artillery rounds. Those are basically small rags that looked like balls of fire. This is because it is night and it is hard to get perspective at night, with or without night vision equipment. Taken out of context, it is easy to make it look like fire raining down on the city. The rag would certainly burn, but it would be like a cigarette and you would just need to brush it off, maybe take off clothes, and get away from it.
2. The voice over states "contrary to the claim by the state department that WP was used in open fields, this was not true because tracer rounds were used to illuminate the enemy" Nothing could have spelled out liar any bigger than that one statement. Tracy rounds are never used to illuminate the enemy. The glow from a tracer round lasts tenths of a second and travels hundreds of miles an hour; it could not possibly be used for this function, again a claim that defies all practicality. Tracer rounds are used to see where your bullets are going so your fire can be adjusted, flat out. And quoting the State Department about a military function?

3. The pictures of dead bodies while hideous provide no analytical value. Contrast the opening from Vietnam, with the burned little girl, running from a napalmed village. That is conclusive evidence. Nothing about these dead bodies looked any different to the many dead bodies I have seen analyzing other videos (of dead bodies) that were all made that way (dead) by Saddam’s regime and then by Jihadists. There is no way to determine what killed these people by looking at pictures, except maybe by a forensics expert.

4. The soldiers, this is more complicated:
I find the taller guy, I think his name was Garret, credible. His story rang true and is tragically repeated. But this is not a war crime or a chemical attack, but bad target identification and a complete human tragedy, assuming the "civilians" were indeed non combatants, it is very hard for the soldiers to tell. Although I do question his motives that is irrelevant to this analysis since he provides no “evidence” of chemical weapons.
The other guy Jeff was a liar, to the point I would need to see his orders to believe he was in Iraq. He states, (paraphrasing) "the orders unequivocally came from the pentagon to wait until after the election".
How does he know this? Was he CENTCOM commander at the time? Did the CENTCOM commander call him up and tell him that? Even if it was true, that fact in itself is not nefarious.
The re-election of Bush would be a crushing blow to the Jihadists in Fallujah, and let me tell you, I have seen their own videos recovered from there and the place was crawling with them. It would make tactical sense to wait, if you were pretty confident that Bush would win. They call this tactical patience.
Also, the timing of the attack was heavily influenced by the Iraqi Provisional Authority. The U.S. had just helped them form and wanted to get them involved with running their country as soon as possible. That is why the first battle of Fallujah was ended, because the new Iraqi government wanted more time to talk with the Jihadists. That is until the new Iraqi government officials figured out that they were now the primary target of the Jihadists and told the U.S. effectively, go get them (the Jihadists in Fallujah) as soon as you can.
Jeff states (paraphrasing), that the U.S. was using chemical weapons because we used WP. Hogwash. The video itself showed the flares floating slowly to the ground and the ground itself gave perspective. Now I am not saying I would want WP on my skin, but I wouldn't want Drano on my skin either and I am not declaring chemical warfare on my home. Now a person could make the argument that you could take that Drano and throw it on your neighbor and that would be a chemical attack. True, but, you can not spew WP from a deployed flare because if it is burning, it is burning the WP. You wouldn’t want to put your mouth over it, of course, and you wouldn’t want to purposely hold it to your skin, but you would have to go out of the way to hurt yourself with a flare.

c. He states (paraphrasing) when they used the stuff (WP) they would come over the net and say the WP is coming or "commence bombing" or something.
Commence bombing? Who was on the net giving this sitrep, Clark Gable? That’s about the last time anybody used this term. This guy is a clown. And notice he makes claims and then says, oh, I didn't see it, but I heard about it.

5. The real tip off about the credibility of this “news story” is the pictures of dead animals.
The voice over said, paraphrasing: that several animals were found dead with no visible sign of trauma.
First off, did they examine the animals? If so, they didn’t show it. Sure something is not visible, if you don’t look! Animals die everyday from natural causes, hunger, disease, or even getting hit by cars or possibly by conventional weapons.
And get this, they show people who appear burned and claim this to be a sign of a chemical weapon, then they show animals with no injuries in the context of this discussion to imply they died of a mysterious chemical weapon. Their “facts” not only fail to support each other, but they directly conflict with each other. Yet they choose to throw them at the viewer with full understanding of the emotional impact of these images.

6. A human rights group based in Fallujah? For crying out loud, that was Saddam's power base. That is were the people burned four contractors and hung them from a bridge.

By introducing these “facts” in the context of a chemical weapons discussion, yet not having any supporting evidence, I can only conclude that not only are these charges false, but this was done with the documentary creator’s full knowledge that they were baseless charges. In other words, they purposely lied, which goes to their credibility.


After I wrote this, I was informed of more “supporting evidence” linked on the www.Dailykos.com:

“"WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."
-- Field Artillery Magazine, via Steven D

My analysis:

I don’t mean to speak for the author, but this is evident

""WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition."

Very true and widely known among redlegs (artillerymen). Nothing interesting here.

"We used it for screening missions at two breeches ..."

The kind of projectile they are speaking about here creates smoke. It is widely, commonly, and legally used by every army to conceal their men. Usually, if an obstacle needs to be breeched, the smoke is delivered by artillery in between the obstacle and the enemy observer. It can also be placed on the enemy to confuse and scare them. The smoke itself is uncomfortable, but not dangerous, unless you want to sit on top of the projectile and breathe it. I know because I have experienced it.

"and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE."

Notice he said psychological weapon and not chemical weapon. This is because the smoke would confuse the enemy and conceal our movements and would indeed, scare them.

"We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents"

A poor choice of phrasing because it is not technically accurate and does give the wrong impression, but this is a soldier and not a politician or a marketing strategist. (After further consideration, I think if the reference is to the projectile itself and not to the effect on flesh, it could be accurate. The HE would shake the ground and the material that creates smoke does so by burning (baking) but you would pretty much have to try to set yourself on fire by rolling around in it.)

"using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

This takes a little bit of imagination. Imagine you are in a fighting position and the enemy is dropping smoke near your position. You ask yourself "why are they dropping smoke here?" the answer "because they are coming right through here." So, you haul butt out of your defensive position and expose yourself to HE.

This statement has absolutely nothing to do with the “dual use” of smoke (WP) as a chemical weapon. It is stating that WP can have a psychological effect as well as a tactical use. That is the only “dual use” here.



-Ray Robison is a Sr. Military Operations Research Analyst with Scientific Applications International Corporation at the Aviation and Missile, Research, Development, Engineering Command in Huntsville Alabama. His background includes over ten years of military service as an officer and enlisted soldier in the Medical Branch, Field Artillery and Signal Corp including the Gulf War and Kosovo operations. Most recently he worked as a contractor for DIA with the Iraqi Survey Group.

Posted by: Ray Robison at November 12, 2005 8:33 AM

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