November 08, 2005

Popham, Meet Sites

Update: The conclusions I drew in the post below are almost completely wrong. See why here.

British writer—I hesitate to credit him with the title journalist—Peter Popham, published an article the UK's Independent today titled "US forces 'used chemical weapons' during assault on city of Fallujah." In the article, Popham claimed, in part:

Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.

Sadly, almost none of Popham's article is true. As I said in a comment this afternoon at Ezra Klein's blog (with my typos from the comments cleaned up, of course):

White phosphorous is not a chemical weapon.

White phosporous may been used in Fallujah consistent with its primary purpose, illumination of targets, but exactly zero evidence is presented for the claims that is was used widely and purposefully, as a weapon. In fact, the Independent provides no direct evidence at all.

And then there is simply the application of logic.

WP is not very useful in an urban, close quarters battle environment that the Fallujah battlespace was. High explosives are much more effective in most environments but especially in close quarters, and pose far less of a threat to your own troops who are constantly moving forward into the areas where these weapons would have been used. Do you really think Marines would have poured hundreds of rounds of such an agent into an area that they would then immediate occupy? The story shows a complete ignorance of tactics or even a shred of logic.

A corresponding point is readily available video from inside Fallujah that ALL of you have likely seen.

Does ANYONE remember Kevin Sites? Ignore the blowhard from the Independent that said no reporters were present. Kevin Sites was the embedded video-journalist that shot video of a Marine shooting a wounded insurgent inside a mosque as he followed them through Fallujah (as a side note, the Marine was cleared).

You will notice, as you watch the film, that NONE of the Marines had the chemical protective gear needed to survive in the WP-saturated environment that the Independent claims existed. The story is easily proven false by the video evidence provided by journalists who were there.

You have a simple choice: do you believe a story that provides no direct evidence, or do you trust your lying eyes?

Mr. Popham, meet Kevin Sites.

As I mention in the comment at Klien's blog, Sites leaped to stardom as one of the many embedded journalists reporting on Mr Popham's "unreported" assault on Fallujah, when he captured video of a Marine shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner in the head inside a Fallujah mosque.

Does this image ring a bell?

Video of the shooting and other images captured by sites clearly show American Marines operating in Fallujah--when Popham claims "massive quantities of white phosphorus" were used, without any chemical protective gear in sight.

No chemical gloves or gas masks are present in another still from the infamous Fallujah mosque video:

Nor here:

Nor here:

As a matter of fact, a Google image search for "marines fallujah" shows that none of protective clothing needed to survive in an environment where "massive quantities of white phosphorus" was used can be found in any of the pictures from Fallujah.

Mr Popham and his editors at the Independent should learn to check facts before running such easily disproven propaganda, or better yet, perhaps they should consider a new line of work.

Other Coverage:
The Mudville Gazette
Ballon Juice
Outside the Beltway

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 8, 2005 08:22 PM | TrackBack

The best defense against white phosphorus is to not be near it. It is hot enough to burn through metal. We used white phosphorus grenades during Desert Storm to disable Iraqi vehicles by melting the engine block.

I don't see any sign of a white phosphorus grenade in the pictures attached (long canister, like a long aluminum soda can, painted red, with the firing pin on top). However, these grenades are much too dangerous (to the bearer) if hung on the utility belt like other types of grenades.

Posted by: Doug Halsted at November 9, 2005 07:33 PM

Doug, I think you're describing a thermite grenade. WP grenades wouldn't be that great for disabling an engine block.

Posted by: Tony B at November 9, 2005 08:06 PM

Doug, that was definitely a thermite grenade.

WP grenades were painted a light blue green, were cylindrical with the bottom tapering in conical fashion with a blunt end (almost like a large stubby projectile). They were just slightly larger in diameter than the old pinapple frag grenades. A nasty little device - kinda like a flash-bang with smoke. They were intended to give an infantryman momentary cover to maneuver. Not very useful as antipersonnel. Also very useful against wood (or straw) buildings and very useful in taking out ammo and POL dumps.

Posted by: Old Soldier at November 9, 2005 08:29 PM