Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dept. of "They Sure Don't Show That on Fox, Ya'll!" (Or CNN)

From the San Francisco Chronicle, here's a little description of what's going on in Iraq right now that you probably won't hear on the TeeVee:
"Usually we keep the gloves on," said Army Capt. Erik Krivda, of Gaithersburg, Md., the senior officer in charge of the 1st Infantry Division's Task Force 2-2 tactical operations command center. "For this operation, we took the gloves off."

Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.

Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, said, "The corpses of the mujahedeen which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."
Pointing this out, of course, will get me labeled a "love-the-world pacifist" by the likes of the illustrious John Derbyshire. For the record, I'm not a pacifist.

Here's what I could find about international law and the use of white phosphorous:
Perhaps the most notorious charge of use of a weapon causing superfluous suffering came concerning the American use of napalm during the Vietnam War. Napalm became symbolic of the supposedly illegal conduct of the war by the American forces. Following the war there were demands for a convention outlawing napalm. The International Committee of the Red Cross organized a conference to draft a treaty on napalm and other forms of incendiary weapons. In the course of deliberations on this subject, it was noted that napalm and other incendiary weapons, such as white phosphorous used to mark targets, were standard in most modern
armies. Napalm was important in antitank warfare and in attacks on fortified areas, especially caves, bunkers and tunnel complexes.

Faced with these facts, the negotiating states finally agreed to a 1980 Weapons Convention that does not ban napalm or other incendiary weapons as such. Instead, it prohibits the use of such weapons directly against civilian targets or their use when military utility is not clearly proportionate to the risk to civilian targets.

-- from Military Medical Ethics Volume 1, Chapter 8: "Just War Doctrine and the International Law of War" (PDF)
I guess you could argue that the use of white phosphorous in the streets of Fallujah doesn't endanger civilian targets. If you're even interested in international law.

(Via Boing Boing.)

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