White Phosphorus and the Double-Speak of War

by Rainer Rupp Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005 at 5:35 AM

In a Pentagon report, the tactical use of WP against Kurds was decried as the use of a chemical weapon. Cover-up efforts are underway in the US to limit the political damage in using white phosphorus in Iraq.


The White Phosphorus used by the US in Iraq is allegedly not a chemical weapon. The Pentagon described white phosphorus differently in 1991

By Rainer Rupp

[This article published in: Junge Welt, 11/24/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.jungewelt.de/2005/11-24/009.php.]

With involvement of noted military experts and well-known newspapers including the New York Times, efforts to limit the political damage in using white phosphorus (WP) in Iraq are now underway in the US. WP was said not to be a chemical weapon. In the meantime, investigations have revealed that the Pentagon in its own 1991 report described the use of white phosphorus by Iraqi troops against Kurdish rebels as “the use of chemical weapons”. On Tuesday the Italian journalist Sigfrido Ranucci was the first to refer to this fact and reproach Americans for hypocrisy.

In a television report on RAI-24 on November 8, 2005, Sigfrido Ranucci told the public about white phosphorus banned by the UN since 1980. This revelation made headlines all over the world. First, the pentagon denied everything. When this was no longer possible given the factual situation, the US Defense Department claimed WP-grenades were only used to illumine enemy positions. At no moment was WP “used intentionally against people,” US military spokesperson lieutenant colonel Steve Boylan declared. However American officers in a military magazine wrote about the use of white phosphorus against Iraqi resistance fighters.

What now appears as a cover-up only arose through “stupidity and incompetence” of the public relations of the US military, said the security expert John Pike from the Global Security organization in the middle of November 2005. In the New York Times, the world became convinced “that Americans commit cruelties and afterwards deny everything.” This was said to be absolutely false in the case of WP because white phosphorus is not a chemical weapon. Nevertheless one can find the report of the military intelligence service of the Pentagon (DIA) to which Sigfrido Ranucci referred on the web page of GlobalSecurity.org.