January 07, 2009

Another Leftist/Islamist Lie Up In Smoke

It doesn't seem that we can have a conflict in the Middle East without pro-terrorist Islamists and Leftists in the world declaring that white phosphorus (WP) is a chemical weapon, and that the military force using WP is guilty of a "war crime" or "atrocity" for firing white phosphorus shells—never mind that that Islamist force targets civilians, uses their own population as human shields, and commits rape and torture with barbaric impunity to those they suppress.

Such apologist claims, almost without exception, based upon either radical politics, gross ignorance, or a combination of the two. In either event, these shrill claims are decidedly false.

A typical case of ignorance is the one I cited several days ago in the Pacific Free Press where the headline called the use of White Phosphorus by Israeli forces in Gaza the " War Crime du Jour."

Likewise, "Cernig," posting at Crooks & Liars, posted an equally inflammatory, fact-free and generally unhinged rant on the subject:

And there are good reasons to believe that the IDF is simply lying as part of a propaganda war it admits has been eight months in the planning: the use of indiscriminate white phosphorus airbursts, in contravention of international law as it is understood everywhere except the US and Israel (the 1980 Protocol III to the Convention on Conventional Weapons containsa blanket restriction on dropping incendiary weapons from the air against military objectives "located within a concentration of civilians"); the way in which the IDF is throwing explosives around so freely that almost as many of its people have been killed by its own "errant' tank shells as by enemy action.

Like most Leftists, Cernig is quick to pick and choose his atrocities of choice, completely ignoring that Hamas purposefully targeted Israeli civilians with thousands of rockets and mortar shells, in order for him to attack Israel by purposefully (and ignorantly) misconstruing what the laws of land warfare are, and what white phosphorus munitions are being used, and how.

The Israelis are not firing White Phosphorus incendiary weapons into Gaza.

This photo from Gil Cohen Magen two days ago shows Israeli 155mm M825A1 white phosphorus shells, with "M825A1" written clearly on the sides. I've cropping the image to focus on the M825A1 shells.

Update: A higher-resolution crop showing the shell markings more clearly.

Likewise, this photo posted today shows more Israeli 155mm M825A1 shells near a self-propelled gun.

Clearly, Israeli forces are using 155mm M825A1 white phosphorus shells in Gaza. But the white phosphorus shells they are using in Gaza are not incendiaries, and they are not being used in any way that can possibly be misconstrued as illegal.


Because the M825A1 is a smoke round.

From Global Security:

The M825 is a 155mm Smoke projectile used to provide screening or marking smoke. It is a separate loading munition using a hollow forged steel shell. The shape is ogival with a boat tail for aerodynamic efficiency and a welded steel baseplate. Close to the base is a gilding metal drive band protected by a grommet until just before loading.

The M825 White Phosphorus (Felt-Wedge) is a 155mm base ejection projectile designed to produce a smoke screen on the ground for a duration of 5 to 15 minutes. It consists of two major components, the projectile carrier, and the payload. The projectile carrier delivers the payload to the target. The payload consists of 116 WP-saturated felt wedges.After ejection, the WP felt wedges fall to ground in a elliptical pattern. Each wedge will then becomes a source of smoke. The projectile is ballistically similar to the M483A1 DPICM family of projectiles.

Smoke ammunition is a limited asset. Since ammunition requirements vary with each mission, observers should know the amount and types of smoke ammunition available and how many minutes of coverage it can provide. Extensive, planned smoke employment should be coordinated early with firing units to allow for redistribution or requisition of ammunition.

That's the short version.

The full article goes into far more detail about the nuance about the difference between the use of "quick smoke" and "immediate smoke" for battlefield missions, but one thing is painfully obvious—these are artillery shells and they contain white phosphorus, but they are not incendiary weapons, and they are not, by any remote measure, illegal to use in Gaza or anywhere else. They are smoke shells, used to create smoke screens.

The kind of white phosphorus artillery shells used as incendiary munitions are those called burster-type white phosphorus, and Global Security explains the difference between the incendiary and smoke rounds in sufficient detail .

The airburst Cernig and other terrorist apologists laments as an illegal attack is instead how a smokescreen is created to protect advancing soldiers. It is decidedly not an incendiary weapon, is decidedly not illegal, violating no laws or conventions.

Make no mistake—these apologists, Islamists and Leftists alike, are lying, pro-terror shills.

* * *

Few nations on Earth exercise as much care in waging a "humane" war as does Israel and the United States.

In this present conflict in particular the IDF has gone to extreme lengths to reduce collateral damage, from the careful selection of targets, to using precision-guided state-of-the-art weaponry to maximize the accuracy of their strikes, to using distinct weapons systems designed with different capabilities to use the absolute minimum of force to destroy terrorist targets, to even going to the extreme of phoning civilians near terrorist targets in order to evacuate them prior to attacks.

As Victor David Hansen notes, Israel has gone to historical lengths to protect a hostile civilian population, even as those hostiles openly back and publicly cheer terrorist attacks—more than 6,000 in recent years—that purposefully target Israeli civilians.

There is no moral middle ground here, but one of the most clear-cut battles between good and evil mankind is likely to ever see on this mortal plane.

If you side with Hamas, you side with evil.

Perhaps, then, I shouldn't be so surprised that so many of Hamas' apologists are so willing to lie for them.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 7, 2009 12:30 PM

Then there are those of us from the Vietnam era who see nothing morally wrong about using willie peter on enemy positions and not just as marking rounds for artillery spotters.

Rules in warfare, when my life is at stake? I don't think so.

Posted by: Rex at January 7, 2009 01:33 PM

WP is indeed a smoke producing agent. When I was in the army our M60 tanks could shoot WP shells, and I think my tank carried a couple rounds. But you get smoke from burning, and WP burns on contact with air, so if you get it on you, you need to douse it with water and then pick off the bits of WP from your flesh or it will keep burning. So, its purpose is smoke but a side-effect is burning. I agree, it is fine for the Israelis to use them for their intended purpose or laying down smoke, and if some Hamas members get burned, well... maybe they ought to stop murdering people, then they won't run that risk

Posted by: Brad at January 7, 2009 01:54 PM

Wonder what would happen if Hamas somehow managed to fire white phosphorus rockets? Surely then the left would finally condemn them, right? /sarc.

Posted by: Vaultenblogger at January 7, 2009 01:58 PM

In Vietnam, my platoon was ambushed several times. To counter the threat, we were given 3 mortars. To turn a Willie Peter round into an airburst WP round was simply a matter of replacing the detonation fuse with a timing fuse. We practiced a bit to get the right time and elevation and charges to burst over the trees that lined the road where we travelled. The last ambush we had stopped immediately after we shot off a couple of these airburst WP rounds. Very effective at saving lives, namely ours.

Posted by: Mike at January 7, 2009 01:59 PM

Personally, I think Israel should drop cluster bombs, WP, napalm and thermobaric bombs on those large gatherings of Hamas when they have funerals or political rallies. Same thing with hezbollah.

Posted by: SamIam at January 7, 2009 03:21 PM

Unhinged is the polite way of saying it.

Posted by: Jack at January 7, 2009 04:48 PM

Not that anyone notices anymore but you cannot have a warcrime wunless both combatants are geneva convention signers *and following the conventions*. As soon as one side declines to follow the rules the other is freed of any obligations as well.

Posted by: rjschwarz at January 7, 2009 04:49 PM

And these people are picking sides. That is something they don't seem to want to admit.

I call this "Che chic" --- it is a Western (intellectual) society form of flagellation. They pat themselves on the back for being big enough to demonize the "us" while bending over backward to ignore the reality of the "other" ---- which means in reality that they champion the other - no matter how grotesque.

So, the Palestinians are just another of those poor, downtrodden masses, yearning to be free, trampled on by the rich, democratic, industrial-capitalist world order --- and as such victims of all that made the Che chic-types free (like capitalism and democracy and industrialization) ---- whatever this "other" does must be excused. ----- while the state of Israel - by being too much aligned with the world order - must be condemned.

It really isn't about championing the Palestinians. It's about making themselves feel better for being "progressive" -- which means attacking the foundations of their own (Western) societies.

But -- it still - in the end - champions the likes of Hamas....

Posted by: usinkorea at January 7, 2009 06:07 PM

Well, even so-called "conventional" ammunition uses chemical propellants. Ergo, they are by definition chemical weapons.

Ooh, more war crimes!

Roofing nails packed into semtex vests, of course, are exempt from any arms agreements.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at January 7, 2009 11:14 PM

White Phosporus is considered a chemical round because way back when Christ was a Corporal, smoke screens were part of the job of the Chemical Warfare Service, usually with 4.2 inch Chemical Mortars, an improvement on the old British Four Inch Mortar that was smoothbored rather than rifled. That gray green color of the shell body indicates a chemical round and the yellow stripe indicates an explosive bursting charge for it. That's mostly by tradition and long ingrained habit, otherwise they'd paint the things red like any other incendiary device like tracer ammo.

White phosporus is an incendiary agent. It burns, and it does cause some horrible wounds. As Brad noted, our tanks were loaded with a few as a part of our basic ammunition load, along with SABOT, HEAT, HEP and BEEHIVE. As trained, WP was considered to be appropriate only for screening and antimaterial use.

We also considered it to be excellent for taking out SAGGER, (Soviet 9M14M Malyukta antitank missile) operators. Suddenly becoming a crispy critter, tends to take the motivation out of the hardest of the hardcore. Fire has always been a good psychological weapon.

I don't know whether the Israelis are using their SMOKE rounds legally or not. I'm not there and like most other people reading about the current incursion or watching it on television, I can't comment on what they're doing because of that.

I do know that if I had to deal with snipers or Engineer Tank Killing Teams or other people who were trying to kill me, I probably wouldn't be terribly fastidious about what I used on them, since I'm not infected with the Martyr's Disease. I want the other guy to die for his country, not the other way around.

I'm not sure that I'd use smoke for screening in Gaza though. Too heavily urbanised and what screens an enemy from me, also provides cover to an enemy, even with Thermal Imaging Sights. Concrete will hold and reflect a lot of heat and if it's daytime, that lowers the contrast of the target in question some.

Bottom line though, is that we all ought to take a wait & see attitude on this, especially when you consider the fact that lawyers are hip deep in our wars now, and what people do either establishes a precident or violates one with the possibility of being prosecuted. And whatever's happening there might well create precident to be used against our guys one day.

David Drake made the best point on the subject, when he noted that whenever you send out a guy with a gun to solve your problems, you've created a policy maker and when it's his ass on the line, he's gonna do whatever he thinks that he has to in order to get it done and stay alive. People who expect otherwise are either delusional or lying. Pick one.

Posted by: Michael Shirley at January 7, 2009 11:43 PM

Steve wrote:
Well, even so-called "conventional" ammunition uses chemical propellants. Ergo, they are by definition chemical weapons.

Ooh, more war crimes!

It's worse: human beings are powered by chemical reactions. They are also biological. The average Israeli soldier is quite a weapon in himself, so by sending troops into Gaza, Israel is using chemical and biological weapons against Hamas!

You may scream in panic and outrage now. ;)

Posted by: Patrick Chester at January 8, 2009 02:31 AM

First of all, EVERY weapon is a chemical weapon. Guns use gunpower, a chemical. Even a kitchen knives are made of chemicals.

White phosphorus is also a chemical weapon. But it is not a chemical weapons banned under the Convention on Chemical weapons that "Cernig" mentions above. Whether it is simply a smoke round or not, doesn't matter.

Cernig uses sleight of hand to claim it's banned for use in "objectives located within a concentration of civilians". But EVERY weapon in the world is banned for use against civilians - there is nothing special about that, and that's why his posting was complete nonsense.

Posted by: John Rohan at January 8, 2009 03:55 AM

On another subject; I have noticed that the media's pictures of dead children that I have seen are a bit unreal. The supposedly dead children are not bloodied in any way. That is not to say that children are not victims, but I expect the green helmeted man to appear shortly. I don't have any confidence in the reporting by the Gaza stringers nor the Western media either.

Posted by: amr at January 8, 2009 07:27 AM

Personally I'd have no issues with the Israelis going "old school warfare", which would entail pretty much wiping Gaza off the map. That's how wars were once fought and that's how the Islamists are fighting. I believe Sun Tzu said never leave an enemy at your back, and that is basically what Israel has done, except no matter which way she turns there's an enemy at her back.

We imagine ourselves and the world to be so civilized when in fact the majority of the nations/cultures/population is FAR from it. You deal with the uncivilized on a level they will understand. From a position of strength and the promise of utter obliteration.

Posted by: Scott at January 9, 2009 09:16 AM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/09/2009 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by: David M at January 9, 2009 12:24 PM

A little lesson on terminology might help keep this thread focussed.

Today's lesson is taken from the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force 29 April 1997.

Reading from Article II (Definitions and Criteria), paragraph 1: "'Chemical Weapons' means the following, together or separately: (a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention..."

Moving now to paragraph 9 of the same article: "'Purposes Not Prohibited Under This Convention' means: [...] (c) Military purposes not connected with the use of chemical weapons and not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare;"

Put them together and what have you got? (No, not 'Bibbity boppity boo') You've got this: Phosphorous (white or red, and there are munitions that use both), if used for military purposes not involving poisoning people, is not a 'chemical weapon' (burning people, by the way, is not the same as poisoning them - and I've yet to hear the morons bleating about phosphorous burns complain when a soldier gets ripped apart by fragments of white-hot steel from an exploding IED). A lead bullet doesn't constitute a chemical weapon when you shoot it into someone, even though lead is toxic. You're not using lead to poison the person, after all; you're using it to makes holes in him. There's a difference.

Phosphorous is also used as an illuminating agent in tracer rounds. Does that mean that every 5th bullet that comes out of a .50 calibre machine gun is also a 'chemical weapon'?

The definition of a 'chemical weapon' in the Convention is intent-based; if you're not intending to poison people with a given substance, then the substance is not a 'chemical weapon', no matter how toxic it might be. Generating smoke is clearly a purpose not prohibited by the CWC, which means that WP smoke rounds are not chemical weapons. Many of the other very toxic chemicals used by militaries are also not 'chemical weapons' because they're not used "to cause, through chemical action on life processes, death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals" (Art II, para 2).

Let's keep it real, here, or pretty soon the Huffington Post will be trying to ban toothpicks because wood is made of cellulose, and OH GOD, THAT'S A CHEMICAL TOO!

By the way, Israel - like its neighbours, Egypt and Syria - is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and therefore is not bound by its provisions. Something to think about.

Posted by: Arms control guy at January 9, 2009 12:32 PM

I hope the administrator of this website respects free speech because this may test some of the views I've read. The use of WP gets complicated.

Assuming the 116 each, WP saturated felt wedges released by a 155 mm M825A1 WP smoke projectile can cause burns deep into tissue if it lands on a person... assuming burning WP is extremely difficult to put out when it gets on the skin (remember from basic training?)... assuming that, unlike other burns, painful chemical burns due to the absorption of phosphorus into the body through the burned area can result in liver, heart and kidney damage, and in some cases multi-organ failure . . . assuming that half the human being on the ground in Gaza are civilians ... assuming half the civilians are children ... assuming you wouldn't want your child to experience a M825A1 round fired over their head at, say a 4th of July celebration ... then why is it okay for the country of Israel to do so?

This is not a high school football game where you yell "kill 'em." There are real, live, innocent children on the ground (and their mothers) and, be honest now, while use of WP rounds may be legal in warfare, is use of them in a densely populated civilian area, (knowing they likely are harming innocent civilians, including by the way, Palestine Christians), the moral way for a civilized nation to conduct a military operation?

Am I aware that Hamas has fired their rockets into civilian areas? Yes. Are you aware they have killed less than 10 people? Are you aware that use of disportionate force can be considered a war crime?

I agree with the argument made by the Israelis that we would not tolerate Mexico firing rockets on San Diego for as long as they have tolerated it from Humas. They make a good point.

I know eliminating the Hamas problem the moral way would cause a few more casualties on the Israeli side. Isn't the moral thing what the good guys do? Everyone knows Humas is outgunned a thousand to one in this conflict. Why can't Israel show a little moral restraint expected of a civilized country???

Unfortunately, military forces often must take place in civilian areas. Military Law only regards as criminal those deaths or injuries to civilians in a war zone that are caused by deliberate (i.e. not accidental) attacks on civilians by military forces, "OR" by grossly disproportionate use of force, in EXCESS of what military necessity provides for, against a military objective in close proximity to civilians or civilian buildings. Oops!

This is just my $.02. God bless you and your children and all the innocent children we are obligated to protect.

Posted by: Retired 28 year U.S. Army Vet at January 10, 2009 07:04 PM

Are you aware that use of disportionate force can be considered a war crime?

I would expect a 28 year veteran to know that the assessment of 'proportionate' or 'disproportionate' is based on if the civilian casualties inflicted are reasonable with regards to the objective the operation was intended to achieve.

It most definitely does not mean you only get to inflict as many casualties on the other side as you have sustained.

I would also expect that a 28 year veteran would know that the presence of civilians very explicitly does not make it illegal to attack a military target- and positioning civilians in proximity to such a target is a war crime by the party that puts the civilians in proximity to the target.

This is basic stuff.

As far as the children are concerned, it's a damn shame their parents didn't do a better job of finding people who aren't murderous lunatics to run their country. Now they get to deal with the consequences. Hopefully they will do a better job next time. For their part, the Israelis seem determined to reduce the number of murderous lunatics in Gaza.

Posted by: rosignol at January 12, 2009 12:39 AM

Retired 28 &c,
"OR" by grossly disproportionate use of force, in EXCESS of what military necessity provides for, against a military objective in close proximity to civilians or civilian buildings."
You raise a point, sir.
However, isn't the idea (and I say this as one with no military experience) to make sure the balance of forces is grossly disproportionate? This strikes me as similar to the argument that the rockets fired by Hamas into Israel on a daily were not terribly accurate and therefore the Israelis are being mean by being more accurate and effective.
Israel is at war against an existential threat. They are trying to win that war. The way to win, really win, any war is to kill enough of the other side that the survivors sue for peace-on your terms-to stop the killing. The civilians elected the savages to run the government. I don't like to say it, but they have only themselves to blame for the consequences.

Posted by: irish19 at January 12, 2009 01:40 AM

Existential treat? Here's an old article about who Israel considers an existential threat:

Is Gaza an "existential" threat to Israel? Absolutely not. Is Iran? Absolutely. Would Israel like to bomb Iran while we have troops in Iran? I don't know but some sources think so:
(You may also want to read the reader comments below it). If Israel is allowed to employ unrestrained military force in the region, will our 140,000 troops in Iraq be at risk? Will we ever get out of there?

We put the cost of the Iraq war on our credit card, meaning your kids pay for it. Who pays for the next one, your grandchildren? We're not just talking about the children of Gaza, we're talking about OUR children.

Look guys, Israel is our ally, but are they concerned with our best interests? Would it serve their purposes if the U.S. keeps troops in the middle east "FOREVER?" How could they make this happen? Maybe the unrestrained use of force against Iraq, which the Bush administration is trying to prevent. If we continually accept Israel's use of unrestrained force, will it serve our country's needs?

I seriously doubt we can EVER get out of Iraq if Israel is allowed to conduct unrestrained military operations. Isn't it time we consider our own interests.

Again, just my $.02 which is about all ANY of us will have for retirement if we keep paying for wars on credit. The United States is now in about the same condition as England after WWII, out of resources. Think about it.

These are only my thoughts. I don't intend to enter an endless debate, so I'm signing off.

Blessing to all of you. I know each of you is doing your absolute best to be a good citizen of our country and has it's interests at heart.

Posted by: Retired 28 year U.S. Army Vet at January 12, 2009 03:16 PM