Did the US Use Chemical Weapons in Iraq?

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Documentary and Vets say White Phosphorus was used in Fallujah, killed estimated 1,200 civilians

This week, the broadcast of a shattering new documentary provided fresh confirmation of a gruesome war crime: the use of chemical weapons by U.S. forces during the frenzied destruction of Fallujah in November 2004.

Using filmed and photographic evidence, eyewitness accounts and the direct testimony of U.S. soldiers who took part in the attacks, the documentary Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre catalogs the American use of white phosphorus shells and a new, improved form of napalm that turned human beings into caramelized fossils, with their skin dissolved and turned to leather on their bones. The film was produced by RAI, the Italian state network run by a government that backed the war.

Vivid images show civilians, including women and children, who had been burned alive in their homes, even in their beds. This illegal use of chemical weapons and the killing of civilians are confirmed by former U.S. soldiers interviewed on camera. I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah, said one soldier, quoted in The Independent. In military jargon, it’s known as Willy Pete. Phosphorus burns bodies; in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone. … I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for….

     

The broadcast is an important event: shameful, damning, convincing. But it shouldn’t be news. Earlier this year, a medical team sent to Fallujah by the Bush-backed Iraqi interim government issued its findings at a news conference in Baghdad. The briefing, by Health Ministry investigator Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli, was attended by more than 20 major U.S. and international news outlets. Not a single one of these bastions of a free and vigorous press reported on the event. Only a few small venues such as the International Labor Communications Association brought word of the extraordinary revelations to English-speaking audiences.

Yet this highly credible, pro-American official of a pro-occupation government confirmed, through medical examinations and the eyewitness testimony of survivors including many civilians who had opposed the heavy-handed insurgent presence in the town that burning chemicals had been used in the attack, in direct violation of international and U.S. law. All forms of nature were wiped out by the substances unleashed in the assault, including animals that had been killed by gas or chemical fire, said ash-Shaykhli.

Ash-Shaykhli’s findings were buttressed by direct testimony from U.S. Marines filing after-action reports on web sites for military enthusiasts back home. There, fresh from the battle, soldiers talked openly of the routine use of Willy Pete, propane bombs and jellied gasoline (napalm) in tactical assaults in Fallujah on their popular war-porn blogs.

This week, as in March, the Pentagon said it only used white phosphorus shells in Fallujah for illumination purposes. But the documentary’s evidence belies them. Although there are indeed many white bombs bursting in the air to bathe the city in unnatural light, the film clearly shows other phosphorus shells raining all the way to the ground, where they explode in fury throughout residential areas and spread their caramelizing clouds. As Fallujah biologist Mohamed Tareq says in the film: A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multicolored substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact.

The vicious overkill of the Fallujah attack where an estimated 1,200 civilians died while almost all of the targeted insurgents slipped away beforehand alienated large swaths of previously neutral Iraqis and spurred many to join the resistance.

Let’s give the last word to Jeff Engelhardt, one of the ex-servicemen featured in the documentary, who recently issued this plea to his fellow U.S. soldiers on Fight to Survive, a new dissident web site run by Iraqi War vets:

I hope someday you find solace for the orders you have had to execute, for the carnage you helped take part in, and for the pride you wear supporting this bloodbath. Until then, you can only hope for an epiphany, something that stands out as completely immoral, that convinces you of the inhumanity of this war. I don’t know how much more proof you need. The criminal outrage of Abu Ghraib, the absolute massacre of Fallujah, the stray .50 caliber bullets or 40mm grenades or tank rounds fired in highly packed urban areas, 500-pound bombs dropped on innocent homes, the use of 25mm depleted uranium rounds, the inhumane use of white phosphorus, the hate and the blood and the misunderstandings … this is the war and the system that you support.

 

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