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Thread: Willy Pete as a WMD...

  1. #1
    Council Member CPT Holzbach's Avatar
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    Default Willy Pete as a WMD...

    This one really makes me grit my teeth. From The Economist, 17 Nov 05:
    The grave allegation concerned the use, by American soldiers when they recaptured the rebel town of Fallujah last year, of white phosphorus. Did the Americans flout the rules governing the use of chemical weapons, one reason for ousting Saddam Hussein?

    The military use of the stuff for illuminating the sky during a night attack or for creating a smokescreen to cover an infantry or tank attack is generally regarded as acceptable. The Pentagon says it was used in those ways during its successful assault on Fallujah late last year.

    What is widely considered unacceptable, however, though perhaps not technically illegal, is the use of white phosphorus (“willy pete”, in military lingo) to winkle insurgents out of bunkers and foxholes by means of “shake and burn”. Moreover, filmshots shown on one of Italy's state-owned TV channels suggested that civilians were horribly burned by the stuff during the siege. If it was deliberately or negligently used in a manner that was bound to cause many civilian casualties, that would be a war crime.
    Opinions? I believe this is outrageous myself. This same line of thinking can justify that HE is a chemicle weapon. Or that bullets are chemicle weapons because the propellent is a chemicle compound. Slippery slope if I ever heard one.

    The more serious problem is that I believe this shows how poorly the American military is seen by foreign people, even our closest allies (in the above case, the British). Indeed, if it was INTENTIONALY used on civilians, it would be murder. But do they really think we would deliberatly, or through negligence, drop WP on civilians? Or is this just another MSM attack on America, Americans, and the President?
    "The Infantry’s primary role is close combat, which may occur in any type of mission, in any theater, or environment. Characterized by extreme violence and physiological shock, close combat is callous and unforgiving. Its dimensions are measured in minutes and meters, and its consequences are final." - Paragraph 1-1, FM 3-21.8: Infantry Rifle PLT and SQD.

    - M.A. Holzbach

  2. #2
    DDilegge
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    Default I agree...

    ...the mainstream media is digging up any reference they can find and then twisting the material to suit a particular bias and sensationalism ("if it bleeds it leads" and "the great coverup").

    Here is a recent London Times "news article" about the the use of WP and a reference to the Marine Corps Gazette - Phosphorus Was Used for Fallujah Bombs, Admits US.

    Take one white phosphorus mortar round, normally used to illuminate enemy positions. Add half a stick of C4 explosive. Wrap three times with detonation cord.

    Under the headline, “Some of the lessons learned during the battle for Fallujah”, the US Marine Corps Gazette is clear about the practical uses of phosphorus, which ignites on exposure to oxygen and produces an intense heat: “Used when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out.”

    Guidance like this, in the Marines’ own journal in September, lay behind the Pentagon’s abandonment on Tuesday night of its long-held position that white phosphorus was used “very sparingly” during the battle of Fallujah last year, and only for illumination...

  3. #3
    DDilegge
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    Default WP Factoid...

    Use of white phosphorous is not banned but is covered by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons. The protocol prohibits use of the substance as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.

    The United States is not a signatory to the convention. Britain is.

  4. #4
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Two 30 Nov. Op-Eds

    The Truth About WP - John Pike (Global Security), Los Angeles Times

    White (Phosphorous) Lies - Michael Fumento, National Review

  5. #5
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default CJCS Statement...

    Posted in full per DoD guidelines...

    Chairman Calls White Phosphorous Legitimate Military Tool
    By Donna Miles
    American Forces Press Service


    WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2005 – White phosphorous is a legitimate military tool, but U.S. forces have been highly judicious about using it to avoid harming civilians, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters Nov. 29.

    Pace defended use of the substance, which U.S. forces use primarily as a smokescreen, to mark targets or to flush enemy combatants out of protected positions. "It is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they are being used for marking and screening," he said.

    U.S. troops used limited white phosphorous munitions against legitimate targets during Operation Al Fajr in Fallujah, Iraq, last year, defense officials confirmed. However, officials refuted recent news reports that U.S. forces have used the substance as an incendiary weapon. White phosphorous can cause serious burns if it comes into contact with skin.

    U.S. forces have never used white phosphorous to target innocent civilians, officials said, and have taken great pains to avoid doing so.

    Just as with any other weapon, troops use a variety of factors to determine the appropriateness of using white phosphorous, explained Air Force Maj. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman. These include the target vulnerability and location, available munitions, and the potential risk to civilians and friendly forces, he said.

    "No armed force in the world goes to greater effort than your armed force to protect civilians and to be very precise in the way we apply our power," Pace said.

    "A bullet goes through the skin even faster than white phosphorous does. So I would rather have the proper instrument applied at the proper time as precisely as possible to get the job done in a way that kills as many of the bad guys as possible and does as little collateral damage as possible," the chairman said. "That is just the nature of warfare."

    White phosphorous was commonly used during the Vietnam War, where it garnered the nickname, "Willie Pete" among troops.

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    Default

    One of the sources that these reports have been using is a single paragraph in the Mar-Apr '05 issue of Field Artillery magazine:

    TF 2-2 IN FSE AAR: Indirect Fires in the Battle for Fallujah
    White Phosphorous. 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.

  7. #7
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Marine Corps Gazette also...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh
    One of the sources that these reports have been using is a single paragraph in the Mar-Apr '05 issue of Field Artillery magazine:

    TF 2-2 IN FSE AAR: Indirect Fires in the Battle for Fallujah
    Phosphorus was used for Fallujah bombs, admits US (London Times - 17 Nov.)

    Take one white phosphorus mortar round, normally used to illuminate enemy positions. Add half a stick of C4 explosive. Wrap three times with detonation cord.

    Under the headline, “Some of the lessons learned during the battle for Fallujah”, the US Marine Corps Gazette is clear about the practical uses of phosphorus, which ignites on exposure to oxygen and produces an intense heat: “Used when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out.”...

  8. #8
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    Sorry, SWJED, didn't mean to leave out the Corps.

    Here's the full Marine Corps Gazette article: Infantry Squad Tactics: Some of the Lessons Learned During MOUT in the Battle for Fallujah

    The bit that was selectively quoted in the London Times article is on page 9, under Demolitions.

  9. #9
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default You said a mouthful...

    Operative words when talking about the MSM:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh

    ...selectively quoted...

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