« "When I wave my white flag, that means you surrender." | Main | California to Build Tunnel in Earthquake Zone »

Coming to terms on the war in Iraq

One of the aspects of the anti-war movement that has gotten on my nerves is the blatant dishonesty of the debate. In order to have a reasonable discussion, both sides have to agree on the terminology to use, and just what words mean. A lot of the terms have had very clear definitions for years, but the Left has been of late subtly changing the meanings of various words, intending to win the debate by redefining the language.

With that in mind, and armed with my copy of The Dictionary Of Modern War and other, online resources, I'm going to spell out just what a few of the key terms mean -- and, in some cases, just what they don't mean.

WMD: Abbreviation for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Easily remembered by the acronym "NBC" -- Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical.

Nuclear Weapons: Originally, this referred to weapons that used a nuclear reaction -- fusion or fission -- to cause destruction. Lately, however, radiological weapons ("dirty bombs,") weapons that contain radioactive material intended to harm people, have been added to the definition. They are not true nuclear weapons, but this is the category where they come closest to fitting in to.

Biological Weapons: Germs and viruses used as weapons, designed to kill or incapacitate through disease.

Chemical Weapons: Weapons that use chemical reactions other than combustion to cause death, injury, or incapacitation. Chemical weapons attack the skin, nervous system, respiratory system, or other part of the body.

Torture: The United Nations has a very high-sounding definition of torture, that they wrote in 1975. The United States Senate, in 1990, saw the rhetoric as having enough loopholes to drop Saddam's mass graves through and expressed its tentative support, with some very important reservations and caveats. I happen to agree with much of what the Senate said, and find that, as always, the devil is in the details.

The UN defines torture as such:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

The key word there is "severe." In the hierarchy of adjectives, "severe" is pretty much near the top. Lesser, comparative words would be "slight," "light," "moderate," "tolerable," and "significant," while "extreme" would be greater. To my reading, that means that physical and/or emotional pain and suffering can be inflicted to a certain degree, but not to extremes.

But where do you draw the line? That's the tough part. Some would say that to be safe, one should simply refrain from inflicting any sort of discomfort. But that's too limiting. There are times when coercive techniques, both physical and mental, are called for -- and we must be prepared and willing to use them, and accept the consequences thereof.

So, with those definitions out of the way, let's look at a couple of items that have come up during the course of the war:

Depleted Uranium. Depleted Uranium is an incredibly useful substance. Made from used nuclear fuel, it is incredibly dense. It also has other militarily useful qualities: it burns quite efficiently, and it tends to keep its sharp edges when it breaks. The military has found it exceptionally well-suited for penetrating armor, or actually making armor.

But it's still URANIUM. Doesn't that make it a nuclear or chemical weapon?

In a word, no. It is virtually useless in causing a nuclear reaction. (In fact, its use in nuclear weapons is as a damping agent, slowing down the reaction at a crucial segment to increase the ultimate yield of the bomb.) It has almost no radioactivity -- hence the name "depleted uranium". Yes, it's highly toxic, but only in the way lead or other heavy metals are poisonous. To attempt to use DU as a nuclear or chemical weapon is incredibly inefficient, as well as a waste of material that has far better uses.

White Phosphorus: Last week, it was alleged that the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah constituted the use of chemical weapons, and therefore WMDs, by the US in Fallujah. This was a complete and utter load of crap, perpetuated by the ignorant in pursuit of their illicit agenda.

WP is used mainly for generating smoke, to obscure vision. The smoke isn't especially pleasant, but it's hardly a poison gas. Further, it can also be used as a flare, generating light on the battlefield to illuminate the enemy.

Yes, it burns rather hot, but it's hardly an incindiary agent. Again, we have far better substances available than WP for use that way.

Finally, the chemical weapons ban specifically excludes combustion as a banned chemical process in weapons. That's all WP does -- it burns up. It doesn't poison, or create an acid, or destroy nerves, or shred lungs -- it just burns up.

So I'd like to see the Left set aside some of these tired canards that they HAVE to know are utterly false, along with the tired old "chickenhawk" schlock and the like, and present some REAL arguments. I know there are legitimate cases to be made against the war -- but you can't prove it by what a lot of them are saying.


TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Coming to terms on the war in Iraq:

» Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Miller bids adieu to the 'Times' (USATODAY.com)

» Darleen's Place linked with Yes, I DO question your patriotism

» Right Thoughts...not right wing, just right. linked with On the issue of torture

» TMH's Bacon Bits linked with The TRUTH about Iraq’s WMD

Comments (33)

DU is not made from ... (Below threshold)

DU is not made from "used nuclear fuel"; it is the unwanted fraction -- essentially pure U238 -- from separation of natural uranium into fissionable (U235) and non-fissionable (U238) fractions.

Great post, Jay. You inspi... (Below threshold)
JimK:

Great post, Jay. You inspired me to finally crystallize my own thoughts on the torture issue...danke.

By the definitions above, I... (Below threshold)
Al:

By the definitions above, Iraq was under sanctions for a lot of weaponry that was _NOT_ WMD.

The Chinese Silkworm anti-ship missile, the longer range surface to surface missile, and three or four UAV projects were all listed as violations by Blix et al.

You have hit the nail on th... (Below threshold)

You have hit the nail on the head with the query over the definition of severe.

Like all generic laws/guidelines etc, this one tends to look like it's saying somthing right, without actually saying anything at all!

"Some would say that to be safe, one should simply refrain from inflicting any sort of discomfort." which is plainly ridiculous - prison is supposed to be discomforting at the least!

The problem is that every case is individual & to have a sweeping statement saying "severe pain is torture" is pointless. Not that I'm in favour of torture, but I'm not sure how to define it to make it applicable across the board.

you should try living in Europe, wheere there are loads of "european directives" that are even more wooly, describing every aspect of life. Most of them are either ignored or taken to extremes!

For the definitive word on ... (Below threshold)

For the definitive word on DU, take at look at the 234-page report from Scandia labs, issued this past July. It directly addresses the issue of collateral damage from the use of DU and doesn't find much to support the theories.

http://www.sandia.gov/news-center/news-releases/2005/def-nonprolif-sec/snl-dusand.pdf

Jay, just for future refere... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

Jay, just for future reference you should note that the United States Code doesn't limit the term "weapon of mass destruction" to only N.B.C. devices. Under some circumstances, ordinary chemical explosives can also qualify as WMDs. See U.S.C. Title 18 Section 2332a, "Use of certain weapons of mass destruction." One of the charges against both Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols was "use of a weapon of mass destruction."

There are a large number of... (Below threshold)

There are a large number of technical and practical problems with this post.

The author wrote:
WP is used mainly for generating smoke, to obscure vision. The smoke isn't especially pleasant, but it's hardly a poison gas. Further, it can also be used as a flare, generating light on the battlefield to illuminate the enemy. Yes, it burns rather hot, but it's hardly an incindiary agent. Again, we have far better substances available than WP for use that way.

WP is very clearly an "incindiary agent." From Wikipedia:

White phosphorus is a common allotrope of the chemical element phosphorus which has found extensive military application as a smoke-screening agent and for target marking. It is also used as an incendiary weapon [1]. It is commonly referred to in military jargon as "WP" or "white phos". The Vietnam War era slang Willie Pete is still occasionally heard.

The notion that we have "far better substances" is a red herring since the Army itself has admitted (warning: pdf file) that it used WP for precisely the effect they're accused of:

WP [i.e., white phosphorus rounds] proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out.

The wiki page referenced also notes that the LD50 -- the dose required to kill 50% of a test group -- is 50mg. To put this in perspective, the multi-vitamin I take has roughly 447mg in one pill. So imagine cutting a standard multi into nine pieces. One of those, were it white phosphorus, will kill one out of every two humans unfortunate enough to ingest this tiny amount.

And we haven't even gotten to the burns yet...

The government website epa.gov (Environmental Protection Agency) notes:
Dermal exposure to white phosphorus in humans may result in severe burns, which are necrotic, yellowish, fluorescent under ultraviolet light, and have a garlic-like odor.

The author concludes:
Finally, the chemical weapons ban specifically excludes combustion as a banned chemical process in weapons. That's all WP does -- it burns up. It doesn't poison, or create an acid, or destroy nerves, or shred lungs -- it just burns up.

White phosphorus cannot legitimately be called anything but a poison. To suggest otherwise belies either willful or unwillful ignorance but it's ignorance no matter how you slice it.

Also, white phosphorus as a weapon is in violation of Protocol III of the U.N. Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

The convention has four protocols:

* Protocol I restricts fragmentation weapons
* Protocol II restricts landmines
* Protocol III restricts incendiary weapons
* Protocol IV (adopted in 1995) restricts blinding laser weapons

And so the United States violates Protocol III.

In conclusion, I think the author is seriously, seriously mistaken and demonstrably so. Yes, WMD is evil. It's even evil when we do it.

But I can put this entire argument in a clearer light. If Al-queda released WP into a NYC subway system and Bush referred to it as WMD, can the author seriously claim that he would argue the point?

Regards,
bodhisoma

The essence that describes ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

The essence that describes most of the attitudes affiliated with the (generally, convenient) "anti war" movement centers in a lack of respect and regard for human life. When it's not worth protecting, no amount of defense and effort to defend is "worthy" or explainably accepted.

I realize that's a very large statement there but among most who seize upon the "anti war" mantra as cause and purpose, you will also find a majority of those who consider military effort to defend, protect, serve as unworthy, as "harmful" to a great extent, who have, also, a diminished regard for human life.

And so, I write, as to the "essence" of the anti-war movement, it is almost routinely inclusive of an obstinate insistence that individuals can and need to choose death as an alternative to survival or even the life experience, such as it is. Thus, no amount of information about the reasons for "war" (use of military process to defend, protect, serve) is ever tolerable within such a sad state of moral depression.

Hmmm.The funny par... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

The funny part about White Phosphorus is that the end product is phosphoric acid.

One of the main ingredients of Coke-a-Cola.

Al,Something Jay d... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

Al,

Something Jay didn't mention is that the "WMD" definition sometimes (always?) includes delivery methods for NBC weapons as well. So, long range missiles were counted as "WMD", at least in the case of Iraq, since long range missiles are basically useless militarily unless they have nuclear warheads.

I'm not sure about the "Silkworm"s but it's quite possible they can be fitted with nuclear warheads too. The Soviets put nukes on just about everything - SAMs, torpedos, depth charges, cruise missiles. Then again so did the US I guess, although i'm not so sure about the torpedos or cruise missiles (ASROC is the closest thing I can think of).

I don't think "WMD" always includes missiles to deliver them in the definition, more likely when it's used pertaining to situations like Iraq where both were being disallowed for the same reason.

I'm not sure what you're ge... (Below threshold)

I'm not sure what you're getting at here, Jay, with all due respect. Are you arguing that the U.S. used near-WMDs but not quite WMDs, and near-torture but not quite torture, and so a clear moral distinction can be made? That's like saying I pimp-slapped you but I didn't punch you so don't call it assault. If -- and for me this remains a humongous IF -- the U.S. transferred white phosphorus from incendiary use to some more nefarious use in Fallujah, it's not just wrong, it's unAmerican. This country is supposed to stand for something better than "near torture" or kinda sorta using chemical weapons.

Just how far is the right willing to downgrade what America stands for simply for the sake of protecting George W. Bush? Or perhaps more importantly, for the sake of justifying the deaths of American troops?

You won't find a more pro-military Democrat than me, Jay, and I take every account of American abuses with a HUGE grain of salt (and most often come down on the side of blaming the leadership and not the guys in the ditches). However, some of the allegations about what our forces have done AS A MATTER OF POLICY, are damning and represent a blot on the United States' record for decency in wartime. In that sense, the neocons and Mr. Bush have sullied this country's good name, and no amount of definitional rationalization can change that.

I agree that the Code Pinks and ANSWERS of the world are embarassing and often make asses of themselves, and at this point, I think the same probably goes for Ms. Sheehan, who has clearly lost it in her grief, but they're not really the issue, are they, since they have no power to affect U.S. policy. The ones who do are in the White House, State Department and Pentagon. If you're too much of a Republican to admit that these guys have led the United States down the wrong path -- on the issue of torture (which shouldn't even be used in the same sentence as "the United States", on war planning, and on the justification for the invasion itself (there clearly was no threat to the U.S., and the Constitution only gives the president the power to secure the freedom of Americans, not Iraqis...) then I just don't know what else to say.

Decency/wartime/winners -- ... (Below threshold)
epador:

Decency/wartime/winners -- three words that how often appear (when used honestly) in the history books?

Relative decency, we win out hands down, so what's your point JReid? Pure angelic decency in war, well even the French can't claim that.

I thought a heard a report ... (Below threshold)
Lyle W:

I thought a heard a report on the radio today and I believe it was from the The Jerusalem Post that Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has been heard stating his belief the White House staged the bombings in Jordan and that he would be providing documentation from Israeli witnesses of a desparate and diabolical plan that helped to smuggle operatives from Israel to Jordan.
Further, Muqtada al-Sadr believes this was an attempt by the Bush administration to divert attention from the legal issues mounting upon Vice President Cheney's office, while also boosting support for Bush's anti-terrorism plan.

Have you heard or seen anything like this? Could this be possible?

JReid, what I'm saying is t... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

JReid, what I'm saying is that the terms are black and white. They are or they are not. You're trying to argue that there is also gray, and gray is just as bad as black.

I almost murdered someone the other day, but I decided to keep my car on the street and off the sidewalk. I almost raped someone, but instead I just admired an attractive lady. I briefly considered stealing a soda, but instead forked over the buck for it.

But by your reasoning, I'm a thief, a rapist, and a murderer.

J.

I think what Jay is "gettin... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

I think what Jay is "getting at here", is that a chemical weapon is a chemical weapon and a nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon.

Whether or not you happen to like a particular weapon (personally, anything used to maim or kill seems pretty horrible to me) you can't really argue with the way that the world has decided to classify them. Most nations agreed to ban chemical weapons back about, what, 30 years ago. At the same time, they also wrote down the definition of chemical weapons, so it would be very clear what was being agreed upon.

Similarly, we're pretty clear on what's biological, what's nuclear, what's incendiary, what a mine is, and also on which of these we have agreed not to use for one reason or another (and when they're not allowed).

You can't just go and twist those definitions or agreements to suit your agenda. That's dishonest. If you have an objection, then make an honest objection. After all, if there's any merit in it, it should be able to stand on its own, right?

I have a great deal of contempt for people who use false accusations and distortions to make others outraged and agree with them (it's a form of brain-washing). I have no problem with people who make an argument for something they believe in. Try to be accurate and honest, and explain your feelings, and even people who disagree with you (who aren't complete retards) will be forced to at least concede that you state your beliefs in a mature and constructive manner. To do otherwise is counter-productive.

Oh, and by the way bodhisom... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

Oh, and by the way bodhisoma, you're completely wrong, sorry.

I've read the relevant conventions. You obviously haven't, to state what you have stated. A few little facts for you:

White Phosphorous is primarily, a smoke generating munition, secondarily, an incendiary and it has some toxic effects. In that order. You COULD argue, it's an incendiary first, smoke second (not very successfully, in my opinion, but it IS arguable).

Incendiaries are NOT BANNED by that convention. Read it! The restriction is that they're not used on civilians, or in situations that would result in large numbers of civilian casualties. If you know anything about history, you'll understand why. And since we have NO (repeat: no) evidence of civilian casualties from incendiaries, I'd say you'd have a pretty hard time arguing this has been violated. (Yes; I've seen those bodies that were claimed to be civilians killed by US incendiary weapons. For people who were burned, their skin is amazingly unbroken and unblemished. Also, most of them seem to be missing important bits of their anatomy, which might just explain why they're dead.)

On top of this, the US signed parts I and II of that treaty, but not part III. Only signatories are bound to follow it. But regardless, the US has not violated the terms of the treaty, regardless of whether it has been ratified, if incendiaries have been used on enemy combatants in a reasonable manner.

On top of THAT, the treaty SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDES incendiaries which are used PRIMARILY (see above) for smoke/light/etc.

As many of us have pointed out, most weapons are toxic. Lead is poisonous. But you don't shoot someone with a lead bullet so they'll die of the toxicity. And yes, people HAVE died from lead poisoning after being shot before.

If you read the definition of what a chemical weapon is (try the CWC), it not only specifically excludes incendiaries, but WP doesn't count anyway, since its toxicity is not the primary method of its efficacy.

So please try to use your eyes and brain before you post again, OK?

But where do you draw th... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

But where do you draw the line? That's the tough part
It seems the administration has drawn the line on what you can do to Americans and what you can do non-Americans outside our borders. As the author of the linked article suggests, this doesn't really make sense..If torture is wrong and we simply don't permit it in the USA.."Americans don't torture"..The extreme circumstances that Jay Tea says permit torture on non-Americans abroad ,should be allowed then on American soil, and on Americans abroad if the necessity is strong enough, according to this logic. A gray area with subjective limits, soon becomes a very slippery slope.

On the other hand, if we re... (Below threshold)
B Moe:

On the other hand, if we reclassify WP as a WMD, Iraq did have massive stockpiles of WP. As will almost anybody else we might want to invade in the future.^^

By my commenter moniker it ... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

By my commenter moniker it should be obvious I am an “old soldier” – over 31 years in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam, Central America and the first Gulf War to name just the battle zones. I’m not an anti-war activist neither am I a war hawk; I’m just a soldier who did his duty for a few years. My political ideology is conservative and…

I’m here to tell you, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. We are WASTING young American’s lives in this war on terror. In our unreasonable endeavor to fight a moral war; to execute moral battles, we are directly causing the needless deaths of our young heroes. We have this national stigma that says we must not use dirty tactics; that we must employ righteous maneuvers; that we may not strike until stricken. Those unrealistic expectations self-righteously imposed upon our warfighters costs us needless losses of young soldiers’ lives.

Because we fight a Muslim enemy we must be mindful and respectful of their religiosity. We must not defile their mosques, or the Qur’an, or their dead bodies, etc., etc. For crying out loud, al Qaeda doesn’t have as much respect for those things as we do. They certainly hold only contempt for our religious beliefs. In essence we have told our soldiers, leave your rifle, side arm and bayonet in base camp, take a net and go capture the enemy; or tie your right wrist adjacent to your left ankle before engaging in a fire fight.

Limited engagements are for the plays, not warfare. The objective of war is to win the unconditional surrender of your enemy. Is that our objective in this war? Containment is not an option. Conversion to Islam (at least for me) is not an option. Dhimmitude (again, at least for me) is not an option. Dying may be an option if necessary. Look, war is a total failure of diplomacy and humanity. Diplomacy was never an option where radical Islam is concerned. War is the only option left to control and defeat radical Islam. A strategic part of defeating radical Islam includes free democratic nations established in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Our young soldiers and their military leaders understand the mission and they understand the ultimate importance of their success. We on the other hand don’t want them to do what they are trained to do. If we were serious about defeating the terrorists in Iraq, we would have triple the boots on the ground; seal the borders with Syria and Iran and start a door to door search for the bad guys. We would deny them the ability to mount offensives because we would have enough troops to take them out before they could organize. I’m strategizing tactics now and that wasn’t my intent.

My point is; if you want to limit needless losses of our soldiers’ lives, turn them loose and let them operate freely. They are the most morale force under uniform in the world today; they will do everything in their power to limit collateral damage. But, when they have to get dirty to take out a dirty enemy, don’t hamstring them and for God’s sake don’t condemn them for immoral tactics. When you liberal hecklers have walked in their boots, then and only then will you have some room to criticize; otherwise you should silence your keyboards about whether the battle that just cost them several of their buddies was fought fair or not.

Was white phosphorus used i... (Below threshold)
Timothy:

Was white phosphorus used in Fallujah? Probably.

Was white phosphorus used as a weapon in Fallujah? Probably not.

As stated above white phosphorus is used as a smoke agent and for illumination.

Now is it possible for small pieces of white phosphorus from a parachute flare to break off? Sure.

I used to work on photo recon jets and we used white phosphorus for photoflash cartridges. I've seen military solid rocket propellent break off at launch and start fires. And, its also possible that a broken piece of white phosphorus might fall on a civilian below.

But the crux is that white phosphorus is not used as a weapon and is not directed against civilians.

Those Americans joining the terrorists propaganda war are doing a disservice to their country. Yes, you have freedom of speech, as well as, freedom to make an ass of yourself.

BTW - for the Kossacks et al - Last week, I had the opportunity to pass by the Pine Bluff Arsenal, which is our country's depot for white phosphorus. The arsenal exit is a nondescript exit in the woods along a low volume freeway. There isn't a really good place to stand and protest. Standing water. Soggy shoulders. Lots of bugs. No gas station, no c-store, no restrooms. Bring a porta potty or make other arrangements, if you come.

Also, any protestors need to be ready to evacuate with little notice as the arsenal is currently burning VX nerve agent. Any protestors are likely to be stampeeded by workers in the event of any accidental release.

DC is a better protest site - good hotels, great food, restrooms, national media, lots of citizens

Hi Nicholas,First,... (Below threshold)

Hi Nicholas,

First, try to tone down the insults. Continue with them and I won't bother responding. It's called an "ad hominem" attack and it makes your argument weaker, not stronger.

Nicholas wrote:
White Phosphorous is primarily, a smoke generating munition, secondarily, an incendiary and it has some toxic effects. In that order. You COULD argue, it's an incendiary first, smoke second (not very successfully, in my opinion, but it IS arguable).

This is not my argument nor have I stated it is my argument. This is known as a "strawman attack," which is to say setting up an argument your opponent did not make so as to refute it.

Nicholas wrote:
Incendiaries are NOT BANNED by that convention. Read it! The restriction is that they're not used on civilians, or in situations that would result in large numbers of civilian casualties. If you know anything about history, you'll understand why. And since we have NO (repeat: no) evidence of civilian casualties from incendiaries, I'd say you'd have a pretty hard time arguing this has been violated.

We will probably agree most strongly on this point with one exception; you claim there is no evidence. This is incorrect. We have evidence which even I will agree is not fact. Given that this is being reported world-wide (far more outside of the U.S.) I would suggest a fair investigation.

Don't mistake me for an ABB (Anyone But Bush) liberal fanatic. While I do despise (yes, despise) Bush and I am about as leftist as you will find, I believe that truth is the goal here, not browbeating the current administration.

Unfortunately, credibility is the better part knowing how to proceed here. I believe Bush himself this week said that we were wrong in the WMD claim. Some call it willful deception, some say it was a matter of faulty intel.

None of these facts are currently disputed by anyone and for the sake of argument I will not refer to them as "lies."

We were told of "500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX." Incorrect.

We were told of "30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents." Incorrect.

We were told of UAVs. Incorrect.

We were told Saddam had a strike capability ETA of 40 minutes. Incorrect.

We were told of a link between Iraq and Al-queda. Incorrect.

We were told about Saddam's attempt to obtain yellowcake from Niger. Incorrect.

We were told about mobile weapons labs. Incorrect.

We were told about aluminum tubes used for processing fissile material. Incorrect.

We were told that Iraq was rebuilding destroyed nuclear facilities. Incorrect.

We were even told that Saddam kicked out the U.N. inspectors. Incorrect.

I don't want this argument to drift away from the WP issue, but when the Army says that WP was not used against civilians in Fallujah, am I ready to believe them out-of-hand despise some evidence to the contrary, am I prepared to roll over?

Not a chance.

Heck, I challenge you to show me what correct facts we were told about Iraq. Was Saddam a vicious murderer? Yes. Would that be worth invading? That isn't up for me to decide, that is up to the president who has an obligation to fulfill the will of the people.

Would the citizens of the United States have supported invading Iraq if we knew then what we know now? We both know the answer to that question.

There exists a growing number of leaders -- including some Republicans, too -- that agree this war is hurting our effort vs. terrorism. Pardon my caps but THIS IS KEY. Terrorism is certainly a bona fide threat, let's be clear on that. I still get sick to my stomach when I watch people leaping from the towers.

You may not be aware that my employer took a nose dive when (a) the dot-com burst and (b) the CTO of my company died on Flight 11. While I didn't know him as a friend, I did spend a bit of time with Danny Lewin (we even went shooting at the same range, yeah, I'm a leftist and I shoot) and I can tell you he was one of the brightest and most charismatic people who I've ever met. You might recall a story of how one passenger was knifed to death prior to the plane hitting the tower and that was Danny.

Ex-Mossad, winner of many mathematics awards and big part of IBM's Haifa offices. At Danny's eulogy his father went off on a full-on rant vs. arabs. Was it an understandable reaction? Definitely. I sure as hell wasn't about to argue with the man.

But we CANNOT lose sight of what we are in the process of fighting terrorism. Nietzche comes to mind, something about looking into the abyss.

So what we need to do is insure that we are not seen as worse than Saddam. Are you aware that 200,000 Iraqis have been killed since we arrived? Saddam killed about 12,000/yr. I think his total is estimated to be 240,000. Part of that responsibility is to police ourselves so when evidence is presented that we have WP'd civilians to death then I strongly recommend we fairly investigate the claim.

And that's my whole point.

I think the key difference between "conservatives" and "liberals" is that liberals tend to see things as interlocked. They see a cause and effect and I'll even agree that liberals tend to see too much cause and effect and lose sight of the big picture. Conservatives tend to think that there is no cause and effect. Do you suppose that we are hated worldwide for no reason?

The way to fight terror is to make an attempt to figure out why. If there is one thing you should take from this post it's this: If we don't I guarantee we'll lose.

Nicholas wrote:
(Yes; I've seen those bodies that were claimed to be civilians killed by US incendiary weapons. For people who were burned, their skin is amazingly unbroken and unblemished. Also, most of them seem to be missing important bits of their anatomy, which might just explain why they're dead.)

I'm not sure if we're talking about the same pictures but the ones I've seen are of people with intact clothes with badly burned bodies underneath. This is consistent with WP.

Nicholas wrote:
On top of this, the US signed parts I and II of that treaty, but not part III. Only signatories are bound to follow it.

This, I think, is the worst and most despicable argument you offer. Al-queda has not signed it either. Does this, in your mind, make them exempt?

Speaking of which, I notice that you did not pick up on my very straight-forward question; "If Al-queda released WP into a NYC subway system and Bush referred to it as WMD, can the [you] honestly claim" that you'd argue with Bush?

In fact it's the only part of my post that you did not address. Please answer this question directly.

Nicholas wrote:
On top of THAT, the treaty SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDES incendiaries which are used PRIMARILY (see above) for smoke/light/etc.

We agree that WP is not banned by anyone for use as an illumination munition. If you believe that Protocol III does not ban use of an incindiary directly on civilians, please let me know the basis of this assertion.

Nicholas wrote:
As many of us have pointed out, most weapons are toxic. Lead is poisonous. But you don't shoot someone with a lead bullet so they'll die of the toxicity. And yes, people HAVE died from lead poisoning after being shot before.

This argument is a non sequiter.

I look forward to your reply. If it contains personal attacks, again, I will not bother to reply.

Regards,
bodhisoma

Bodhisoma,Let me a... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

Bodhisoma,

Let me address some of your points.

First, doctrinally, the U.S. Army Field Artillery employment of WP is:
1) as an obscurant (smoke) to screen the movement of troops and equipment – delivery is most contact detonated (when the shell hit the ground).
2) as an incendiary against enemy fuel and ammo dumps- delivery most likely is air burst to saturate the area with burning bits of WP
3) as an incendiary against enemy equipment (like trucks, trailers, tentage – light unarmored stuff) – delivery most likely the air burst for the same reason as #2.

Mortar delivered WP would be contact detonated and the usual employment is as an obscurant (smoke). However, from what I’ve read at the battle of Fallujah in Nov 04 mortars fired WP mixed with HE. It was a psych tactic to force the enemy our whereby the HE did it’s killing work. A nice piece of thinking in my book.

WP is employed as an incendiary by artillery fire against fuel, ammo and equipment – NOT PERSONNEL. Mortar fired WP is only good for smoke as there isn’t enough WP to be effective as an incendiary – however, if no artillery were available, mortar fired WP would probably be employed in that roll as well.

As for the US use of incendiary that would violate the Geneva Accords are more like Napalm or flame throwers. Tanks with flame throwers are an extremely effective weapon against an enemy that is holed up; as in a building. Our main battle tanks are well armored against small arms and withstand most RPG hits, so M1 tanks with flame throwers in Fallujah would have been most effective (not to mention the fire breathing dragon psych value).

Good Lord man, we haven’t found any caches of WMDs, so yes we were wrong. But to deny the intelligence that was supplied by Israel, Great Britain, Egypt, Russia and a couple other countries that all indicated that Saddam either had WMD or was perfecting technology is to suddenly (and conveniently?) forget. To claim the Bush lied you must include all the congressmen (both Democrat and GOP) past presidents and past cabinet members also lied. They had the very same intelligence by which to make their statements.

The al Qaeda-Iraq link was made in the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report that was made subsequent to the invasion. That same report also substantiated the yellow cake claim. And mobile French-made military chemical labs were captured on the initial thrust in 2003.

“…the Army says that WP was not used against civilians in Fallujah, am I ready to believe them out-of-hand despise some evidence to the contrary, am I prepared to roll over? Not a chance.”
First of all, the Army didn’t claim they didn’t use WP, they said they didn’t use chemical weapons. They admitted to using mortar fired WP mixed with HE. The disturbing part of your comment is in your unwillingness to believe our military. So, basically your first position is to condemn our military until it is proven they didn’t do what they are accused. Please do not come back with Abu Grahb – that investigation was already months old within the Army before the Army made it publicly known, and it involved a few bad apples. It certainly doesn’t compare to employing Rican against civilians.

How many of your 200,000 Iraqis dead figure is attributable to US combat actions and how many to the terrorists bombings? There is a big difference and to insinuate otherwise is being dishonest with the facts.

“I'm not sure if we're talking about the same pictures but the ones I've seen are of people with intact clothes with badly burned bodies underneath. This is consistent with WP.”
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG (to quote Sen. Robert Byrd.) I guarantee if burning WP hit clothing it would burn the clothing. It burns at about 5,000oF, how could it not burn the clothing yet burn skin beneath it? Besides, it burns locally where it hits, not globally over all the body. The WP smoke cloud is no more poisonous than the billowing smoke from a pile of moist fall leaves. If you stood directly in it could cause a nasty cough, but not fry the skin over the entire body. It could produce a choking feeling because the smoke would contain little exchangeable oxygen.
Al Qaeda is extremely unlikely to use a weapon that is patently useless at causing mass casualties such as WP. It would be a totally useless expenditure of their network and resources to employ a pure WP weapon.
“The way to fight terror is to make an attempt to figure out why. If there is one thing you should take from this post it's this: If we don't I guarantee we'll lose.”
I you and your wife were walking down a street and a man stepped out with a gun and said he was going to kill you and then your wife, would you try to understand why he wanted to do that? That approach will only ensure your children are left parentless. However, if you carried two shiny revolvers on you hips and were known to be the fastest draw in the world and had the resolve to shoot him in the blink of an eye, he’d probably give you a wide berth and you wouldn’t have to show your skills. It’s called peace through strength with a resolve to use it. My friend, we know the reason radical Islamic terrorists are targeting our citizens and our way of life. Our freedom threatens their ability to rule Muslims with a theocracy called sharia law. We did not win WWII by “understanding” why Hitler wanted to rule all of Europe and Hirohito wanted to rule all the Far East. We won by exercising a greater resolve and utilizing superior firepower.

You would do well to reflect upon what works and what doesn’t. We’re in a fight for our very way of life, our very freedoms and liberties and understanding why the radical Islamic terrorists want to kill us doesn’t stop it.

Hmm. Very odd statements ab... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

Hmm. Very odd statements above.

"I'm not sure if we're talking about the same pictures but the ones I've seen are of people with intact clothes with badly burned bodies underneath. This is consistent with WP."

Says who? Everything I've read suggests that WP will burn just about anything, including STEEL. If it will burn steel I'm pretty sure it will burn clothes. Please give me a source for your claim?

I have seen pictures claimed to be of civilians burnt to death from Fallujah but they didn't look at all burnt to me. I don't know for sure if they're the same pictures. So far nobody has shown me pictures of bodies which look burnt.

"This, I think, is the worst and most despicable argument you offer. Al-queda has not signed it either. Does this, in your mind, make them exempt?"

Sure. There's nothing stopping Al-Quada using incendiaries on enemy combatants, and it would be no more immoral than anyone else using it on enemy combatants. But does Al-Quada attack enemy combatants? Hardly. They typically target civilians, something the US does not do, which makes them despicable. The US may accidentally kill some civilians occasionally but they do not target them on purpose.

On top of that, which nation-state do they represent? Where are their uniforms? Equating Al-Quada to the military of a legitimate nation-state doesn't make sense. Even under the Taliban they didn't operate as a military force.

"Speaking of which, I notice that you did not pick up on my very straight-forward question; "If Al-queda released WP into a NYC subway system and Bush referred to it as WMD, can the [you] honestly claim" that you'd argue with Bush?"

WP is not a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Anyone claiming that is an idiot. I don't care who it is, including Bush.

"We agree that WP is not banned by anyone for use as an illumination munition. If you believe that Protocol III does not ban use of an incindiary directly on civilians, please let me know the basis of this assertion."

I never claimed it does not ban the use on civilians. I just claimed that the US would not intentionally use it on civilians and would try hard to avoid accidentally hitting them. This is the point of the incendiary portion of the CCCW.

I'm sorry but I don't call wild accusations "Evidence". If you want to claim some people have been burned to death, and that's evidence, get someone qualified to make that statement, like a coroner, who knows how to look at a body.

Here's the so-called evidence:

* Video supposedly of a "helicopter dropping WP". Only problem with the video is there's no helicopter in it. It's an aerial mortar burst, used to produce smoke, not set things on fire.

* Bodies supposedly burned with some kind of incendiary. Only their clothes are intact, and I see no signs of burning. Where is the expert who has stated these bodies are of people burned by WP?

* Statements that WP were used. The military admits it. Problem is, all the statements claim to be using it to generate smoke (or, if you count illumination flares containing WP, light).

I suppose you could bring these pieces of "evidence" to some kind of court case, but I think expert witnesses would make one regret it.

*sigh* I give up. I'll let someone else say the same things over and over and over again.

Honestly, why does it matte... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

Honestly, why does it matter who uses what weapon on whom?

What we want to avoid is hurting or killing people who don't deserve it. Innocent bystanders, civilians, etc. - none of them deserve to be hit by any weapon. Any weapon which hits the right people and not the wrong people is a good weapon in my book.

I would love to see all conflicts solved without any violence. Unfortunately, that requires both parties to be reasonable. Al Quada is not reasonable - you can not negotiate with them. Saddam and his government were not reasonable. Violence happened, people die.

We should aim for as few people to die and be injured as possible. If WP will help achieve that aim - great! Hell, if chemical weapons would help, I would be fine with that too. The reason we didn't want Saddam to have WMDs is because we're pretty sure he would use them indiscriminately. The US, UK, etc. DO have WMDs and do not use them indiscriminately. I have no real problem with this.

So why get so outraged about what weapons are being used? If you want to be upset about civilians dying unnecessarily, well, you have the right to be upset and you have the right to demand the combatants do everything in their power to avoid it.

The US has shown that they're willing to put their own soldiers in harm's way when they could just destroy their enemies and to hell with the collateral damage. I think that's very honorable. (See what Old Soldier says above). Does Al Quada do that? No, they do the opposite. What about the Syria- or Iran-backed fighters? Not really. Most of the parties to this conflict couldn't care less about dead civilians, except the US/UK/allies.

If you want as few people to die as possible, you'll help support those who are trying to minimise civilian casualties and end violence. If you see something you think is a violation of their principles, get CREDIBLE EVIDENCE and complain about it until they investigate. That's fine. But I'm sorry, in this case, there is no credible evidence of such things happening. WP is a diversion from what should be the real issue.

I hope that this rings true with some people.

Oops, this didn't come out ... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

Oops, this didn't come out sounding right:

"Honestly, why does it matter who uses what weapon on whom?"

Emphasis was supposed to be on the "what weapon", not on the "on whom" part.

I think the reason people think incendiaries are bad is not because they kill people, but because they survive with nasty burns. That's what makes them "worse" than, say, HE. Of course, it's a bit fallacious; HE maims quite effectively; but burns certainly are not nice.

So, I would be a lot more upset to see some horribly burnt civilians than some charred (or not charred) bodies. Do they exist? Has anyone interviewed them? I'd like to know. Please point me in the relevant direction.

This whole "white phosphoru... (Below threshold)
BrianOfAtlanta:

This whole "white phosphorus used against civilians" story is, at least so far, utterly bogus. The RAI crew who made up this story are either complete idiots or else bald-faced liars. Nobody who knows the first thing about white phosphorus could honestly report that burnt bodies with the clothing intact is consistent with exposure to white phosphorus. White phosphorus burns whatever it comes in contact with. It will incinerate your clothing before it touches your skin. In fact, it burns clothing much more easily than skin because skin contains water. Strike a match and watch as it flares. That's red phosphorus, which is the tamer cousin to white phosphorus. Imagine what that would do if it came in contact with your clothing, and you'll understand how utterly stupid this whole story is.

Until someone shows civilians with something which appears to be actual wounds from white phosphorus, this story is just that - a fairy tale.

Saddam had a cache of WP, b... (Below threshold)

Saddam had a cache of WP, but, until now, we've never claimed it as proof that Saddam had chemical weapons.

http://www.pentagon.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20041029-1522.html

So, if YOU are going to claim that WP is a chemical weapon, then you have to admit that Saddam had chemical weapons and Bush didn't lie.

Thanks for the replies. I ... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the replies. I feel some decent points have been made and I'm glad to see the name-calling died off.

I'll investigate this a bit more on my own given the information provided. I may very well be wrong about the does-not-burn-clothing claim. I seem to recall seeing that somewhere in relation to WP but that might be my neurons misconnecting someplace, too.

Perhaps this blog can revisit this subject if evidence warrants it. I'll almost assuredly be updating my blog with what I find (when I have the time to dig a bit deeper) and if I feel I'm mistaken I'll post it there as well.

Regards,
bodhisoma

Sorry if you felt like I wa... (Below threshold)
Nicholas:

Sorry if you felt like I was attacking you. I've just been upset at the rumors flying around. I didn't mean to target you personally.

I think, even if there is a kernel of truth to this, it's still being blown out of all proportion. Well, there should be enough information now for people to have informed opinions.

I've done a little more res... (Below threshold)

I've done a little more research and I am Officially Skeptical.

http://www.needlenose.com/node/view/2263/31731#comment-31731

Though to put a nail in the coffin, I'd really like to see an official rebuttal. As I understand it, a WP round is on a timed fuse and lowered via parachute to the ground. If the round fuse is set differently and enough of them are used, could WP be used in the manner the documentary alleges?

If I found some a couple of disinterested professionals (scientists?) who would assert that the claim simply could not be true regardless of the method of WP deployment, then I'll concede defeat on this one.

I still think Bush is a liar and an *ss. =)

Regards,
bodhisoma

Oh my. Looks like I'm goin... (Below threshold)

Oh my. Looks like I'm going to have to pull a Kerry. Or a Santorum, depending on how you want to look at it.

From news.bbc.co.uk:
____

US used white phosphorus in Iraq

The Pentagon has confirmed that US troops used white phosphorus during last year's offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Falluja.

"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC.

Col Venable denied that the substance - which can cause burning of the flesh - constituted a banned chemical weapon.

Early this month, Italian state TV, Rai, said white phosphorus had been used against civilians in Falluja.

The US military vehemently denies this.

Washington is not a signatory of an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus devices.

The US-led assault on Falluja - a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency west of Baghdad - displaced most of the city's 300,000 population and left many of its buildings destroyed.

'Incendiary'

Col Venable told the BBC's PM programme that the US army used white incendiary munitions "primarily as obscurants, for smokescreens or target marking in some cases".

"However it is an incendiary weapon and may be used against enemy combatants."

And he said it had been used in Falluja, but it was "conventional munition", not a chemical weapon.

It is not "outlawed or illegal", Col Venable said.

"When you have enemy forces that are in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on and you wish to get them out of those positions, one technique is to fire a white phosphorus round or rounds into the position because the combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives," he said.

He said a statement on the US state department denying it had been used was old and based on "poor information".

After the Rai documentary was broadcast on 8 November, Italian protesters went to the US embassy in Rome to vent their fury.

But a spokesman at the UK Ministry of Defence said the use of white phosphorus was permitted in battle in cases where there were no civilians near the target area.
____

So we can conclude a few things from this report:

(a) Something that was once outright denied by the military was found (and admitted) to be correct. I expect some "gee wiz we didn't know" but the "we didn't know" act is getting a little bit thin with this administration. We've had a year to come clean on this.

Remember, this was widely discussed (but not substantiated) immediately after the battle at Fallujah.

(b) Contrary to the link I provided that caused my skepticism, WP rounds apparently can be fired directly and used as an incindiary munition.

From that link:
The only way you could purposely harm anyone with this is if you direct fired at a short range. The projectile most likely wouldn't eject the flare (it has a timed fuse) and it really wouldn't matter if you fired Cheetohs at someone at that range, the concussion would kill them.

In fact I stated some skepticism about this very claim in another of my posts:

Though to put a nail in the coffin, I'd really like to see an official rebuttal. As I understand it, a WP round is on a timed fuse and lowered via parachute to the ground. If the round fuse is set differently and enough of them are used, could WP be used in the manner the documentary alleges?

(c) From the article, Col. Venable states "However it is an incendiary weapon and may be used against enemy combatants."

But we all seem to understand that while the United States is not a signer of Protocol III, direct use of an incindiary -- whether that weapon has another, primary purpose as smoke and illumination -- is in violation of widely accepted international norms.

The fact that we don't recognize this standard doesn't go too far with me and I don't suspect it'll go too far with the American people. Not ones with ethical standards. EXPECIALLY not, for example, religious folks.

If we assume that Col. Venable's account is correct, there seem to be only three defenses left for those on the U.S. side of this argument:

(1) Civilians were not killed. I'm not entirely convinced they were but there is a compelling body of witness testimony to support the claim. Or, at the very least, enough to not be discounted as a couple of now-anti-war nuts lying. We have witnesses on the ground, we have doctors, we have the victims themselves as well as the military personnel.

(2) It has been claimed that bodies were burned yet their clothes remain intact which isn't possible with WP. This one remains unresolved in my mind. I've seen arguments in both directions but nothing I'd say convinces me one way or another.

(3) The U.S. is not beholden to this standard. I've already stated where I fall on this argument and, to be blunt, I think that if this is the only credible defense mounted I would even ignore it for exactly those reasons.

The United States of America should be the standard. At least that's the America I believe in.

Regards,
bodhisoma

Well as far as WP is concer... (Below threshold)
saf:

Well as far as WP is concerned the argument is now off its official the US government has admitted to it so no point in discussing that.

Old soldier, your country should be so lucky that you are just that an old solider and not a general or anything like that, your Gun ho talk sounds good on idiotic right wing sites but it does not add much to a debate.

First of all have you considered one fact the reason America was able to invade Iraq was because of the Muslim nations who have their land and air space to be used, examples Kuwait and Qater, right now 20% of a population of iraq is causing havoc over there now with your gun hoe tactics I’m sure it would not take long before the other 80% was up in arms too how the hell do you think you would cope with that.. Right now America needs the shia in Iraq to keep their own body counts low, you really think that sending more soldiers is going to help, I think your failing to grasp and come to terms with the fact them guys are not scared of your tanks and guns and planes.

Interesting statistic for you, look at all the monthly death totals for American soldiers and then look at the troop figures for them periods and you’ll realise that the more troops you’ve had over their the higher the monthly causality figure, so the higher deaths indicate that increased troop numbers does not scare insurgents it simply encourages them, do not take my word for it research this yourself, monthly death for the last two months is approaching that of January the last time America had such large force over there.

Nicolas your right you cannot do business with evil people like Saddam but it was fine for Rummy to do business with him back in the eighties when he was gassing the Kurds and invading Iran, do you guys really think Bush is only doing this to spread democracy well you do realise that the only genuine Muslims democracy in the area which is Turkey the most liberal of Muslim countries would not allow American troops to launch attacks from its soil because its people would not allow it, I mean if a liberal Muslim Turkish democracy would do that what the hell would some of the Arab democracies produce, what kind of government do you think a Saudi Arabian democracy produce, would a Qatari democracy have allowed the basing of the headquarters for the US military on its soil…don’t think so…..no America is perfectly happy with dealing with dictators as long as they stay on side of the US, and as far as I am concerned this would not matter if it was Bush in charge or a Democrat the policy would be the same.

Yes I will agree democracies would defeat Al Quida but that would mean the defeat of US allies such as Mubarak of Egypt, and all the royal houses of the Middle East and that is something which would be an unacceptable risk to the US, because I guarantee you one think a democratic middle east would produce very Islamic leaning governments with some very extreme views on certain subjects.

This is disappointing.... (Below threshold)

This is disappointing.

Now that the sh*t has really hit the fan, everyone participating in this thread apparently has "turned tail."

You were all very enthusiastic about pointing out flaws in the claim but now that the allegation seems to be substantiated by the U.S. Gov't themselves -- in direct contradiction of previous categorical denials -- this thread isn't so popular anymore.

This, my friends, is the problem with Bush and the Republican party. The inability to admit when you're wrong.

Regards,
bodhisoma




Advertisements









rightads.gif

beltwaybloggers.gif

insiderslogo.jpg

mba_blue.gif

Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile

Contact

Send e-mail tips to us:

[email protected]

Fresh Links

Credits

Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login



Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy