November 24, 2005

Military Intel Officer Scoffs at Think Progress "Chemical Weapons" Story

Originally posted in the comments at Defense Tech, a military reader weighs in on the debunked Think Progress article being repeated by such frauds as Sigfrido Ranucci.

The "military reader" writes:

"I have to chuckle at the 'chemical WP' story from the 'Think Progress' website.

Can they truthfully say that "Pentagon Document Described White Phosphorus As 'Chemical Weapon'". Sure they can....technically. That is what the words say. However this is not not some Pentagon policy paper, or tactics manual, or even primer on WMD making that claim. It is a HUMINT field report, from a Kurdish source. And we all know several things by now about this type of reporting.

First, HUMINT reporting can be shaky on several levels, for many reasons. One of the main problem with HUMINT...having a truthful source.

Second, it is a field report. A straight regurgitation of what the source told the reporter. No analysis has been put against this info whatsoever, it is simply an info report. Chances are, the guy who did up the report had no idea what White Phosphorus really is, so the info sounded like it would make a good report on Saddam's treachery. Also, I would bet, that when the report actually reached an analyst who knew a thing or two about Chemical Weapons, it was probably tossed in the burn bag as ludicrous.

Lastly, we have to remember the source was the Kurdish opposition. As we well know now, the Kurds were willing to provides lots of "intelligence" to us, much on it not up to snuff. They did this for many reasons, including money, and to influence us to act against Saddam. Once again, a problem with HUMINT is that sometimes there are motives behind a source, not just the information.

Thus I find it a little ironic that a movement from a certain end of the political spectrum that has chided the President for going to war based on bad intelligence (and worse), is now trying to pillory the Administration and DoD based on the same type of "bad intel" from the same suspect source pool.

Bottom line is that this is not a definitive "Pentagon Document", but rather one piece of suggestive information provided to the DoD. Thus this is not an example of how the Pentagon considers "white phosphorus rounds as chemical weapons" as 'Think Progress' would like to have us believe. It is hardly a smoking gun, say in the way if they found a hypothetical document penned by a Pentagon lawyer warning that WP could be considered CW. That would be something with direct influence on policy, this report is not. I don't think that 'Think Progress' is being underhanded in their analysis, just plain wrong. I just don't think they know what kind of report they are referencing, or how to read it.

I then sent sent the following message to Think Progress via their web site's contact form:


I've been reading (and commenting) on your story, "Classified Pentagon Document Described White Phosphorus As ‘Chemical Weapon'" for several days now.

A simple reading of the formerly classified document shows that it is nothing more than a transcript of a phone call between two Kurdish civilians. The Pentagon does note label white phosphorus as a chemical weapon, the civilians do. Your contention is false.

If John Podesta took down notes of a phone conversation between Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, that fact that he wrote those notes would not mean that Mr. Podesta endorsed the positions, would it? Of course it wouldn't.

If Think Progress is indeed a "nonpartisan organization" seeking to "provide a forum that advances progressive ideas," don't you think that the idea of advancing truth would warrant a retraction of your erroneous story?

Thank you very much for your time.


Bob Owens
Confederate Yankee Blog

I do not expect a response.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 24, 2005 12:06 AM | TrackBack

A comment on John Cole's website today got me to wondering something.

There are quite a few organo-phosphorus chem weapons out there, of which include such (real) chemical weapons as tabum, sarin, soman, VX – obviously dangerous in even minute amounts. Many insecticides such as malithiaon, dursban, and diazinon belong to this group; indeed most nerve agents are organophospates. Pretty much all of them, including the insecticides, are cholinesterase inhibitors.

Perhaps this HUMINT source was confusing 'phosphorus' weapons with phosphorus nerve agents, of which most of the major nerve agents are a class.

See here:

Posted by: Buddy at November 25, 2005 09:33 PM