'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, November 15, 2004

Rumors of Hard News 

It's funny ... the United States has been rewarded for its failure to stabilize Iraq with the gift of conducting military operations without the scrutiny of an independent press; the country is just too dangerous for journalists to do their job there. This dynamic has led to a poverty of hard news stories about Fallujah: stories in which Fallujan civilians are interviewed, stories that attempt to assess the damage to the town or the number of civilian casualties there.

This poverty of hard news forces one to take a look at less reliable news sources than the mainstream Western press. The story of Monday's clinic bombing, for example, was first reported by the Chinese press, which is more willing to print sketchily sourced material than just about any other bigtime news service as far as I can tell, but turned out to be true.

Anyway, right now the big rumor is that the US forces in Fallujah used (or are using) illegal chemical weapons against the insurgents. The Middle Eastern press propagated the story and the original source seems to be the insurgents themselves. IslamOnline.net & News Agencies cite "resistance sources" and "an Iraqi doctor, who requested anonymity" via Al-Quds Press. Here's an excerpt:

US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein’s alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988.

"The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally-banned chemical weapons," resistance sources told Al-Quds Press Wednesday, November 10.

The fatal weapons led to the deaths of tens of innocent civilians, whose bodies litter sidewalks and streets, they added.

[ ..]

"The US troops have sprayed chemical and nerve gases on resistance fighters, turning them hysteric in a heartbreaking scene," an Iraqi doctor, who requested anonymity, told Al-Quds Press.

"Some Fallujah residents have been further burnt beyond treatment by poisonous gases," added resistance fighters, who took part in Golan battles, northwest of Fallujah.

In August last year, the United States admitted dropping the internationally-banned incendiary weapon of napalm on Iraq, despite earlier denials by the Pentagon that the "horrible" weapon had not been used in the three-week invasion of Iraq.

The above is quite correct regarding the use of napalm -- I think The Independent broke this story back in August -- and the napalm example is relevant to any discussion of the truth of the chemical-weapons-in-Fallujah claim. Napalm, after all, is a chemical weapon, so we know the US is willing to subject Iraqis to these sorts of horrors if it pleases to do so. I wonder, however, if the above claims of people being "burnt beyond treatment" are actually descriptions of the results of the white phosphorous rounds fired in Fallujah; the use of white phosphorous during Operation Phantom Fury has already been widely reported by the Western media.

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