June 20, 2007

Recycling the Dead

Just eight days ago, in advance of the now-engaged campaign in Baquba, Italian-based "news" site Uruknet re-posted in full an article by The Peoples Voice, a site dedicated, according to the masthead, to "Environmental, political, and social justice issues."

The People's Voice post attempts to re-raise the specter of the "illegal" use of Mark 77 firebombs and white phosphorus ordnance that they and other questionable media outlets claimed were used against civilians in the 2004 assault on Fallujah and in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003. The article features three graphic pictures of victims that the site intones were killed with firebombs and white phosphorus.

There's a funny thing about at least two of those three pictures, however.

The first image they use in line with comments about the use of Mark 77 firebombs in 2003 was actually taken in Fallujah in 2004, following the American assault on that city, and was featured in the Italian-made documentary Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre that I roundly debunked in November of 2005.

As I stated at the time about this photo:

Body 3. 9:38 Extremely decomposed remains, cause of death undetermined. No apparent burn marks on the body or clothes.

Body 3 referred to the order of appearance of the remains, and 9:38 corresponds to when the photo was shown in the documentary. Interestingly enough, while the People's Voice leave the reader to infer that this body was the victim of a firebomb, the Italian documentary claimed that this body had been killed by white phosphorus. Details, details...

While the photo is of extremely low quality (and therefore easy to spin any way you desire), it is clear the corpse is clothed. Something that burns as hot as napalm or firebomb would likely have burned the clothing completely away, if not most or all of the body as well.

The fact of the matter is that we don't know what killed this suspected insurgent in Fallujah, and the attempt by the RAI documentary to claim he/she was a victim of white phosphorus is equally irresponsible as the People's Voice attempt to link the corpse to a a strike by a Mark 77 at any point in the war, much less a period in time that doesn't coincide with the claims made in the article's text.

The next body shown in the People's Voice article was also lifted from the RAI documentary, and led the reader to believe this body was the dead suspected insurgent was killed by white phosphorus.

As I noted when I first saw this picture in the RAI documentary:

Body 18. 19:40 Military-aged male, moderately decomposed. No sign of burns on face or clothes.

Once again, (like every single photo in the RAI documentary) there is no physical evidence on this corpse consistent with white phosphorous wounds.

Chris Milroy, professor of forensic pathology at the University of Sheffield (England), after seeing these bodies in the RAI documentary, said:

..."nothing indicates to me that the bodies have been burnt". They had turned black and lost their skin "through decomposition".

It might also be worth noting that the author of the Guardian article cited above made false claims regarding the use of thermobaric weapons in Fallujah (to the best of my knowledge, precisely one thermobaric weapon has been dropped in wartime, and that was used against a cave in Afghanistan).

The third body shown in the People's Voice article, point or origin unknown, also shows a badly decomposed body, cause of death unknown and partially skeletal, as some sort of incendiary weapons victim as well, without any pathological proof presented.

As for the actual charges made in the People's Voice article...

Well, to call them "highly selective" in nature would be fair, as would be calling them "inconsistent" with the military use of white phosphorus even on personnel, "ignorant" as to its actual effects of such weapons on the human body (it would burns holes in a person that did not brush or shake it off; it does not engulf them), and "misleading" overall.

In other words, the entire article is unreliable, but as People's Voice is concerned with environmental issues, we can at least commend them for recycling the dead.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 20, 2007 10:36 AM

It is interesting how this story keeps resurfacing. I think much of it is caused by an ignorance of ordinance and its various effects.

I do believe the Marines used fuel-air explosive ordinance to clear some of the building in Fallujah. Whether it was responsible for the effect they are complaining about is unknown. From what I have seen, it was an effective means of clearing the enemy and saving American lives, something that apparently disappoints the authors of this reoccurring story.

Posted by: Merv Benson at June 20, 2007 12:21 PM

Yeah, unfortunately it's a regular practice in the media to use a photo to buttress a story, whether that photo is actually of the scene or event or not. They just find a photo that lines up with what they're talking about and plug it in. I've seen it happen with my own just recently. One of my photos from the Tal Afar truck bombing in late March showed up in a story about a suicide bomber in a building in Baghdad just a couple of weeks ago. All they wanted was a good pic to show a destroyed building.
I'm deployed right now as a combat photographer so I check the web every now and then to see where my photo's end up.

Posted by: Chris at June 20, 2007 12:53 PM

Merv, I believe what you are referring to is the Marine-deployed SMAW-NE shoulder-fired rocket, a close-to-medium range thermobaric warhead. The common complaint about the SMAW-NE is that it had great difficulty penetrating structures, forcing those Marines firing to either aim for a door or window, or use the SMAW-NE through holes opened up by more conventional anti-tank rockets. Once inside, the blast typically collapsed walls and killed thos einside the structure with it's confined overpressure, or shock wave.

While my own knowledge of overpressure effects is very limited, it is the same primary blast or "shock wave" mechanism is well known, and I doubt it would be responsible for the appearance of these bodies. The hot desert sun and natural process of decomposition seems to be a far more plausible cause.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 20, 2007 12:54 PM

Ahhh! But you seem to not grasp the fundamental fact that anything-- anything at all!-- is justified when the cause is "social justice," and our beloved environment! The glorious ends easily justify the means.

Likewise, Al Queda "freedom fighters" get to shoot children in the head AND still retain their status as "holy men." When the goal is good enough, pure enough, true enough, everything is justified.

Posted by: Mike at June 20, 2007 01:03 PM

I blame global warming.

Posted by: Steve at June 20, 2007 01:22 PM

I think you have described the ordinance I was referring to. Reports I have seen suggested it was pretty potent once penetration was achieved. (Pardon the pun.)

Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist push what I call a victim offensive from time to time. Hezballah was pretty effective with theirs during last summers war with Israel. The Palestinians have also used victims offensives to get pressure on Israel to stop effective attacks. Bin Laden has used them in recruiting videos.

This one is like Jason in his goalie mask. Every time you drive a stake through it a few weeks later it comes back. I ran into it a couple of months ago on a UK terrorism site.

Posted by: Merv Benson at June 20, 2007 02:50 PM

You use the phrase "suspected insurgent" in your post. I never saw the documentary. Do they establish that these are bodies of insurgents or civilians?

Posted by: dmarek at June 20, 2007 04:32 PM

The media ignores the dead bodies produced by our enemies because they cannot blame them on the President, or our military.

Terrorists kill, say, 50 in a market bombing. The number is reported, and the story ends.

However - if our troops kill ONE civilian, who may or may not be an actual "civilan", who may or may not have done something to GET killed in the first place....and the press picks the entire thing apart. They go to great lengths to reconstruct the very thoughts inside the head of the troop who did the killing, making insinuations and suggestions that lead the reader/viewer to believe that the troop member did it on purpose, out of some wild vengeful tirade of anger.

Yet....50 dead are reported as "50 dead" reporting as to the motivation (jihadi islam) used by the attacker, where he might have gotten his weaponry....etc etc etc.

The press is full of terrorist tools....This piece by CY confirms it!

Posted by: LisaV (aka "Talismen" - Lady Crusader against jihad) at June 20, 2007 04:38 PM

the photos and so-called journalism that accompanied them kinds remind me of the "biker" photo from Hollister in the 1950's. Can you spell fabrication, or is it journalistic license?

Posted by: David W Shamblin at June 20, 2007 05:48 PM

I have the original pictures of my nephew and his brother marines while they executed phantom fury,and othersthru 030405 and whatched camp fallujah being built to safe guard the returning civilians.The fire fights were to the point andvery defenative,drope it or loose it all,if you want to dance you better bring a few buddies then we can party.I got alot of marines partying with inscumbags,guess who wins.Also marines taking care of the civilians,children and old men an women,showing their human side during war.Those who needed to be gone(poof)the marines made it happen and no more threat.oorrraaahhhThe people were warned,if you stay you are considered a badguy,and we will kill you!!The people were warned,but the weak and old were taken care of by the same marines who were trained to kill.Hell the medic took care of a few dogs that were injured.Didnt see any firballs but do have pics of buildings braught down,no fire no smoke just flattened.

Posted by: referman at June 20, 2007 06:29 PM
You use the phrase "suspected insurgent" in your post. I never saw the documentary. Do they establish that these are bodies of insurgents or civilians?

It's been a year since I've watched it, but I suspect you could find it on Youtube, or somewhere else. I don't exactly recall what they called them, but my general impression, as I recall it, was that they were attepmting to imply that most were innocents, even though most bodies were military-aged males, and some were clearly wearing military load-bearing equipment.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 20, 2007 10:19 PM

Well, good job. You have just given them the information to use so that the next pictures they show of the latest American war crimes will be more believable.

But you should know, that just like the Jews are always in the wrong, so are we, with or without pictures.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by: Papa Ray at June 20, 2007 10:56 PM

Your spam filter defeated me. I'll not comment at your site again. Ever. G

Posted by: Gerry at June 21, 2007 12:45 AM

I'll not comment at your site again. Ever.

You'd really do that for us?

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 21, 2007 09:43 PM

Uruknet? Would that the be voice of the fighting Uruk-Hai? :-)

Posted by: pst314 at June 23, 2007 01:33 PM