December 17, 2005
Last month, the broadcast of a shattering
new documentary provided fresh confirmation of a gruesome war
crime covered by this column nine months ago: the use of chemical
weapons by American forces during the frenzied, Bush-ordered
destruction of Fallujah in November 2004.
Using filmed and photographic
evidence, eyewitness accounts, and the direct testimony of American
soldiers who took part in the attacks, the documentary
"Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" catalogues the
American use of white phosphorous 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 use of chemical weapons
at the order of the Bushist brass and the killing of civilians
are confirmed by former American soldiers interviewed on camera.
"I heard the order to pay attention because they were going
to use white phosphorous on Fallujah," said one soldier,
quoted in the Independent. "In military jargon, it's known
as Willy Pete. Phosphorous 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, as reported here on March 18, a
medical team sent to Fallujah by the Bush-backed Iraqi interim
government issued its findings at a press conference in Baghdad.
The briefing, by Health Ministry investigator Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli,
was attended by more than 20 major American 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
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 by U.S. forces in the attack, in direct violation
of international and American 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 Dr ash-Shaykhli. But apparently this kind of thing is not
considered news anymore by the corporate gatekeepers of media
As we noted here in March,
Dr ash-Shaykhli's findings were buttressed by direct testimony
from U.S. Marines filing "after-action reports" on
websites for military enthusiasts back home. There, fresh from
the battle, American soldiers talked openly of the routine use
of Willy Pete, propane bombs and "jellied gasoline"
(napalm) in tactical assaults in Fallujah. As it says in the
scriptures: by their war porn ye shall know them.
This week, as in March, the
Pentagon said it only used white phosphorous shells in Fallujah
for "illumination purposes." But the documentary's
evidence belies them. Although there are indeed many white bombs
bursting in air to bathe the city in unnatural light, the film
clearly shows other phosphorous 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 multi-colored substance started
to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies
burned but the clothes intact."
As word of the documentary
spread across the Internet and into a very few mainstream media
sources, intrepid investigators dug out even more confirmation
of how Bush's battalions whipped out the Willy Pete and flayed
Fallujah's heathen devils with flesh-eating fire. A Daily Kos
diarist, Stephen D., dug up one of the U.S. military's own publications,
Field Artillery Magazine, which eagerly related the use of white
phosphorous, which "proved to be an effective and versatile
munition," the article said. "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."
Mr. D also points to a comment
on Altercation.com, that provides further ammunition for
"illumination purposes" on the effect of white
phosphorous on human beings. There, Mark Kraft writes: "There
is no way you can use white phosphorus like that without forming
a deadly chemical cloud that kills everything within a tenth
of a mile in all directions from where it hits. Obviously, the
effect of such deadly clouds weren't just psychological in nature."
Another Kossack, "Hunter,"
digs up mention of Willy Pete use as a weapon in Washington Post
reports from the battlefield itself last November. He then takes
on the hair-splitters who immediately arose on the Right to declare
that white phosphorous is not itself a banned substance, so it's
OK to incinerate children with it. Hunter's incandescant irony
is worth quoting at length:
"First, I think it should
be a stated goal of United States policy to not melt the skin
off of children. As a natural corollary to this goal, I think
the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian
neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children.
You can call them 'chemical weapons' if you must, or far more
preferably by the more proper name of 'incendiaries.' The munitions
may or may not precisely melt the skin off of children by setting
them on fire; they do melt the skin off of children, however,
through robust oxidation of said skin on said children, which
is indeed colloquially known as 'burning'
"And I know it is true,
there is some confusion over whether the United States was a
signatory to the Do Not Melt The Skin Off Of Children part of
the Geneva conventions, and whether or not that means we are
permitted to melt the skin off of children, or merely are
silent on the whole issue of melting the skin off of children[However]
I am going to come out, to the continuing consternation of Rush
Limbaugh and pro-war supporters everywhere, as being anti-children-melting,
as a matter of general policy."
Meanwhile, in the Guardian,
Mike Marquesse pounded home the reality of the overarching atrocity
of the attack:
"One year ago this week,
US-led occupying forces launched a devastating assault on the
Iraqi city of Falluja. The mood was set by Lt Col Gary Brandl:
'The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja.
And we're going to destroy him.'
"The assault was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment.
US troops cut off the city's water, power and food supplies,
condemned as a violation of the Geneva convention by a UN special
rapporteur, who accused occupying forces of "using hunger
and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian
population". Two-thirds of the city's 300,000 residents
fled, many to squatters' camps without basic facilities
"By the end of operations,
the city lay in ruins. Falluja's compensation commissioner has
reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed,
along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines. The US claims
that 2,000 died, most of them fighters. Other sources disagree.
When medical teams arrived in January they collected more than
700 bodies in only one third of the city. Iraqi NGOs and medical
workers estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 dead, mostly civilians
-- a proportionately higher death rate than in Coventry and London
during the blitz."
The atrocity-breeding mindset
behind the attack was evident from the very first, as I noted
in my Moscow Times column of November 18, 2004: "One of
the first moves in this magnificent feat of arms was the destruction
and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors and their
patients, including women and children were killed in an
airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports,
while the city's main hospital was seized in the early hours
of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could
be used as "propaganda centers," the Pentagon's "information
warfare" specialists told the NY Times. Unlike the first
attack on Fallujah last spring, there was to be no unseemly footage
of gutted children bleeding to death on hospital beds. This time
except for NBC's brief, heavily-edited, quickly-buried
clip of the usual lone "bad apple" shooting a wounded
Iraqi prisoner the visuals were rigorously scrubbed."
When you begin by bombing hospitals,
devouring innocent people with hot jellied death is not exactly
a stretch. It is simply part and parcel of the inhumanity of
the Bushist mindset.
Indeed, the slaughter in Fallujah
was a microcosm of the entire misbegotten enterprise launched
by those two eminent Christian statesmen, Bush and Blair: a brutal
act of collective punishment for defying the imperial will; a
high-tech turkey shoot that mowed down the just and unjust alike;
an idiotic strategic blunder that has exacerbated the violence
and hatred it was meant to quell. The vicious overkill of the
Fallujah attack alienated large swathes of previously neutral
Iraqis and spurred many to join the resistance. It further entangled
the United States and Britain in a putrid swamp of war crime,
state terrorism and atrocity, dragging them ever deeper into
a moral equivalency with the murderous extremists that the Christian
leaders so loudly and self-righteously condemn.
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 depleted uranium
rounds, the inhumane use of white phosphorus, the hate and the
blood and the misunderstandingsthis is the war and the system
that you support."
Chris Floyd is a columnist for The Moscow Times
and regular contributor to CounterPunch. A new, upgraded version
of his blog, "Empire Burlesque," can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.