Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White Phosphorous in Afghanistan

The Associated Press recently reported that injured civilians in Afghanistan are showing signs of being injured by White Phosphorous. White Phosphorous is a chemical agent that can be used legally in war to illuminate targets or create smoke, but its use in heavily populated areas or in situations where civilians can be injured and burned is condemned internationally and can even constitute a war crime.

The American military has denied that they used this substance in this most recent battle which killed 125-140 civilians in the Farah region, but hinted that the Taliban may have been responsible for its use. The United States is also blaming the deaths of these civilians on the Taliban by claiming that they used these civilians as human shields during the fighting. Chris Floyd reacts:

What's more, the Pentagon is now trying to claim that the mass slaughter of more than 140 civilians last week -- killed after a sustained bombing raid destroyed a compound where children, women and old men were sheltering from a battle miles away -- was really the Taliban's fault. How can that be, when officials of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, the International Red Cross and eyewitnesses on the ground all say that the compound, and three surrounding villages, were pulverized by a raid lasting several hours? Why, the discovery that some survivors were also by white phosphorus proves it! Because although the Pentagon routinely uses white phosphorus all over the country, it didn't use it on the day of the slaughter! And how do we know this? Because... the Pentagon said so! Case closed! Just as it was when General McChrystal signed off on Tillman's medal for his heroic death in battle, despite knowing the truth about the "friendly fire" killing.

It should be noted that the United States has used White Phosphorous before, most notably in the 2004 assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah. In October, 2008 I listened to Iraqi veteran Eugene Cherry also confirm the use of White Phosphorous by the United States. From my piece in October:

In 2004, after the U.S. assault on the city of Fallujah, independent reporters began to report that the United States had used chemical weapons on civilians during the assault. Reporter Dahr Jamail was one of those who began to report that he had spoken with Iraqi doctors who treated citizens who "had their skin melted". The U.S. initially denied having used white phosphorus during the assault, then said they had used it only to light up enemy positions at night, and then admitted that they did use the chemical weapon, but assured us that they did not target civilians. Eugene Cherry confirms that the United States did use this weapon and that the those within the military called it "shake and bake".

Despite these recent deaths of Afghan civilians and the call from Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the U.S. to end the airstrikes, the Obama Administration has made clear that the airstrikes will continue.

Above photo is courtesy of here

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