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

Friday, November 11, 2005

Willie Pete Takes a Bow 

As long as Richard is doing updates on old stories, I'd like to mention one, covered here almost exactly a year ago, that the corporate press has finally deemed worthy of the spotlight: the shelling of Fallujah with white phosphorus rounds. White phosphorus is a vile incendiary, nicknamed "Willie Pete" in the Vietnam era.

Last week an Italian documentary called Falluja: The Hidden Massacre publicized photos of the effects of the incendiary on Iraqi civilians and the story has broken into a mini-scandal: (from Reuters)

A RAI documentary showed images of bodies recovered after a November 2004 offensive by U.S. troops on the town of Falluja, which it said proved the use of white phosphorus against men, women and children who were burned to the bone.

"I do know that white phosphorus was used," said Jeff Englehart in the RAI documentary, which identified him as a former soldier in the U.S. 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.

It's nice an atrocity has been pulled from the memory hole, but I'd like to point out that the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah was a well-known, much commented upon fact a year ago, at the time of the second Fallujah invasion -- mainstream accounts described "white phosphorous shells [lighting] up the sky" and the San Fransisco Chronicle even devoted a sentence to its grisly effects:

Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.

The only thing new about the RAI's account is that it provided pictures of the victims. I guess we're all used to the idea that shocking photos create news; I guess it's too much to ask that the use of a horrible chemical weapon by US forces might on its own merit newspaper headlines and mentions on CNN, but given that everyone knew white phosphorus was being used, couldn't some reporter have done some digging and come up with these images a year ago? I guess not -- apparently Italian state TV has better sources than the bigtime US media...

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