News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Willy Pete Up to Old Mischief

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Willy Pete Up to Old Mischief

In the siege of Falluja in Iraq by US Marines, numerous accounts suggested that US forces used weapons containing phosphorous. Phosphorous against enemy troops and civilains is outlawed by international conventions. Although at first disputed by the Pentagon, the US finally admitted that it used weapons with these components but maintained that the way the weapons were constructed did not violate the international conventions.

The US soldiers called the weapon "Willy Pete." It was used in a tactic that these forces called "shake and bake." This tactic included first bombing deeply embedded enemy positions until they left their bunkers--the shake--and then lobbing the phosphorous weapons onto the bewildered enemy--the bake. ...

I have documnetd this use of these weapons elsewhere in this blog. The issue gained enough mainstream coverage that the Pope condmened their use. The Pope's concerns were no doubt in response to the fact that not only were enemy combatants targeted with these weapons but civilians too were afflicted exposed to and killed by these weapons.

Recent reports from Lebanon indicate that Israel may also be using these weapons. A video (via RawStory) depicts patients being treated by Lebanese doctors for what appear to be severe burns that resemble phosphorus bomb wounds. According to one report from Exapatica:

The Israeli military is using chemical weapons during its bombing of Lebanon, a Belgian-Lebanese professor claimed during a press conference in Brussels on Thursday.

The press conference was organised by the secretary of the Tripoli archbishop, Monsignor Jean Abboud. The Belgian professor of Lebanese origin, Bachir Cham, is the head of a hospital in Lebanon.

"The bodies don't look like they normally do. After an explosion there were no traces of blood loss or subcutaneous haemorrhages [bruises]," Cham said via mobile phone direct from Beirut.

"The hair and sometimes the beard and the moustache remained intact. I found no traces of the pressure wave by the explosion. The colour of the skin was black like a shoe, but the skin was not carbonised or burnt."

Eight mummy-like bodies were taken to the hospital on Monday and photos taken of the corpses. Two children's bodies showed no indication of wounds resulting from an explosion.

"I have the impression that a poisonous product penetrated the body via the skin. Death follows with almost 100 percent certainty," the professor said.

Update 1 Lebanon's President, Emile Lahoud, is now saying that Israel used phosphorous weapons (via Mojo Blog):
Lebanon's president accused Israel on Monday of using phosphorous bombs in its 13-day offensive and urged the United Nations to demand an immediate ceasefire.

"According to the Geneva Convention, when they use phosphorous bombs and laser bombs, is that allowed against civilians and children?" President Emile Lahoud asked on France's RFI radio.
Update 2 Defense Tech provides links and quotes on why these weapons are not phosphorus based.
Only one newspaper I found - South Africa's Star - correctly identified the one potential violation of the international law banning the use of incendiaries against noncombatants, rather than the more popular accusation that Israel was using "chemical weapons" in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (to which Israel isn't a party, anyway). Comment from the Israeli army? "We use only weapons and ammunition which will best hit our targets and cause least collateral damage," said army spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal. Yep. FAEs are very powerful conventional weapons, but they aren't toxic chemical weapons.
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