What is the truth about the charge that "banned
weapons" (such as the napalm-like white
phosphorus) are being used in Iraq – specifically that they were used during
the November 2004 Battle of Fallujah? The U.S. Department of State has addressed
this through its "Truth Squad" Web
site, which debunks "misinformation" and anti-American slurs.
The State Department's Truth Squad is called the "counter-misinformation
As the Truth Squad points out, an important distinction must be made between
the lawful use of white phosphorus as an illuminator and the use of white phosphorus
as an anti-personnel weapon. The use of white phosphorus as an anti-personnel
weapon is against U.S. policy; however, its use as an illuminator is lawful.
According to the Truth Squad's official
"Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. U.S. forces have used them very
sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air
to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."
However, the U.S. Army itself disagrees with the State Department and says
that it does use white phosphorus as an anti-personnel weapon (see "The
Fight for Fallujah" [.pdf] in the U.S. Army's Field
Artillery magazine, March-April 2005 edition).
Indeed, Field Artillery magazine puts white phosphorus at the head of
its list of useful anti-personnel weapons deployed in Fallujah:
"a. Range of Munitions. The munitions at our disposal gave us excellent
"b. White Phosphorus. 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 [high explosive]. We fired
'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and
HE to take them out."
Fight for Fallujah" and Field
Artillery magazine are official publications of the U.S. Army. The State
Department's Truth Squad Web
site (called the "Identifying Misinformation" collection) is, in its
"[W]ritten by the U.S. Department of State's counter-misinformation
team, which has 12 years of experience in this area. It has extensive experience
in researching deliberate disinformation spread by countries such the Soviet
Union and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as well as urban legends and conspiracy theories."
Ultimately, the Bush administration cannot continue to hold out what are essentially
two versions of the truth about white phosphorus. The State Department's Web
site on "misinformation" should correct itself.