Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Willy Pete

This is the soldier slang term for white phosphorus. It is used to illuminate a fighting field but it also has extremely unpleasant destructive effects on the human body. Now an Italian documentary has argued that the American troops used white phosphorus in Fallujah in the second sense:

Italian state TV, Rai, has broadcast a documentary accusing the US military of using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in the Iraqi city of Falluja.

Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical arms, though the bombs are considered incendiary devices.

Eyewitnesses and ex-US soldiers say the weapon was used in built-up areas in the insurgent-held city.

The US military denies this, but admits using white phosphorus bombs in Iraq to illuminate battlefields.

Washington is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus devices.

I don't know if this accusation is true or not, of course, but a thorough examination is certainly called for. Because of this:

Jeff Englehart, described as a former US soldier who served in Falluja, tells of how he heard orders for white phosphorus to be deployed over military radio - and saw the results.

"Burned bodies, burned women, burned children; white phosphorus kills indiscriminately... When it makes contact with skin, then it's absolutely irreversible damage, burning flesh to the bone," he says.