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US uses Phosphorus Bombs in Fallujah

An Italian TV documentary has claimed Iraqi civilians - including women and children - had been killed by terrible burns caused by White Phosphorus (W P). The documentary, \"Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre\", by the state broadcaster RAI, cited a Fallujah human-rights campaigner who reported how residents told how \"a rain of fire fell on the city\". Yesterday, demonstrators organised by the Italian newspaper, Liberazione, protested outside the US Embassy in Rome. Today, another protest is planned for the US Consulate in Milan. \"The \'war on terrorism\' is terrorism,\" one of the newspaper\'s commentators declared. While US commanders insist they always strive to avoid civilian casualties, the story of the battle of Fallujah highlights the intrinsic difficulty of such an endeavour. It is also clear that elements within the US government have been putting out incorrect information about the battle of Fallujah, making it harder to assesses the truth. The assault upon Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, took place over a two-week period last November. US commanders said the city was an insurgent stronghold. Civilians were ordered to evacuate in advance. Around 50 US troops and an estimated 1,200 insurgents were killed. How many civilians were killed is unclear. Up to 300,000 people were driven from the city. Following the RAI broadcast, the US Embassy in Rome issued a statement which denied that US troops had used WP as a weapon. It said: \"To maintain that US forces have been using WP against human targets ... is simply mistaken.\" In a similar denial, the US Ambassador in London, Robert Tuttle, wrote to the The Independent claiming WP was only used as an obscurant or else for marking targets. In his letter, he says: \"US forces participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to use appropriate, lawful and conventional weapons against legitimate targets. US forces do not use napalm or phosphorus as weapons.\" However, both these two statements are undermined by first-hand evidence from troops who took part in the fighting. They are also undermined by an admission by the Pentagon that WP was used as a weapon against insurgents. In a comprehensive written account of the military operation at Fallujah, three US soldiers who participated said WP shells were used against insurgents taking cover in trenches. Writing in the March-April edition of Field Artillery, the magazine of the US Field Artillery based in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, which is readily available on the internet, the three artillery men said: \"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions ... and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and spider holes ... We fired \'shake and bake\' missions at the insurgents using WP to flush them out and high explosive shells (HE) to take them out.\" Another first-hand account from the battlefield was provided by an embedded reporter for the North County News, a San Diego newspaper. Reporter Darrin Mortenson wrote of watching Cpl Nicholas Bogert fire WP rounds into Fallujah. He wrote: \"Bogert is a mortar team leader who directed his men to fire round after round of high explosives and white phosphorus charges into the city never knowing what the targets were or what damage the resulting explosions caused.\" Mr Mortenson also watched the mortar team fire into a group of buildings where insurgents were known to be hiding. In an email, he confirmed: \"During the fight I was describing in my article, WP mortar rounds were used to create a fire in a palm grove and a cluster of concrete buildings that were used as cover by Iraqi snipers and teams that fired heavy machine guns at US choppers.\" Another report, published in the Washington Post, gave an idea of the sorts of injuries that WP causes. It said insurgents \"reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns\". A physician at a local hospital said the corpses of insurgents \"were burned, and some corpses were melted\". The use of incendiary weapons such as WP and napalm against civilian targets - though not military targets - is banned by international treaty. Article two, protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons states: \"It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects, the object of attack by incendiary weapons.\" The RAI film said civilians were also victims of the use of WP and reported claims by a campaigner from Fallujah, Mohamad Tareq, that many victims had large burns. The report claimed that the clothes on some victims appeared to be intact even though their bodies were badly burned. Dahr Jamail, an unembedded reporter who collected the testimony of refugees from the city spoke to a doctor who had remained in the city to help people, encountered numerous reports of civilians suffering unusual burns. One resident told him the US used \"weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud\" and that he watched \"pieces of these bombs explode into large fires that continued to burn on the skin even after people dumped water on the burns.\" The doctor said he \"treated people who had their skin melted\" Jeff Englehart, a former marine who spent two days in Fallujah during the battle, said he heard the order go out over military communication that WP was to be dropped. In the RAI film, Mr Englehart says: \"I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it\'s known as Willy Pete ... Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children.\" The Pentagon readily admits WP was used. Spokesman Lt Colonel Barry Venables said yesterday WP was used to obscure troop deployments and also to \"fire at the enemy\". He added: \"It burns ... It\'s an incendiary weapon. That is what it does.\" Since the RAI broadcast, there have been calls for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the battle of Fallujah. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also repeated its call to \"all fighters to take every feasible precaution to spare civilians and to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality in all operations\". There have also been claims that in the minutiae of the argument about the use of WP, a broader truth is being missed. Kathy Kelly, a campaigner with the anti-war group Voices of the Wilderness, said: \"If the US wants to promote security for this generation and the next, it should build relationships with these countries. If the US uses conventional or non-conventional weapons, in civilian neighourhoods, that melt people\'s bodies down to the bone, it will leave these people seething. We should think on this rather than arguing about whether we can squeak such weapons past the Geneva Conventions and international accords.\"