Wednesday, November 30, 2005

On White Phosphorus


Thank you. You have very effectively demonstrated my original point.

As a refresher, my point was this: Anyone who claims to support the troops but not what the troops are doing ends up performing intellectual gymnastics of such complexity as to boggle the mind.

You drew a moral equivalence between our soldier’s actions and those of Sadam’s soldiers, saying you “see no moral difference.” And then in the very next paragraph you claim “I am not protesting “what our troops are doing.””

But really you are. You just ease your conscious by thinking that if you are devaluing the troops, it is not that bad. Because after all Bush devalued them too by sending them to war in the first place. Therefore you feel that your devaluation is not a big thing and you should go ahead and do it with your protest.

This is the type of thinking that I was talking about, heavy on emotions and light on logic. I really didn’t expect to see it so clearly from you.

I did some quick research on this WP issue that has you so upset. I started by googling “fallujah white phosphorus civilian” on the various news network sites. Here’s what I found:

ABC & Fox – No Matches.
CBS – 2 stories from 2002, pre-invasion, speculating about Sadam’s weapons stash.
CNN – Reports that Iraq is investigating allegations that the US intentionally targeted civilians.
MSNBC – 2 stories from the Reuters wire basically summarizing the allegations made by some Italian film makers in a documentary they did about the recent fighting in Fallujah.

I didn’t see any pictures of burned bodies which you said are all over the news. Admittedly I don’t watch very much broadcast news so I would have missed it there anyway. I get the vast majority of my news from the internet. That way I can quickly look at much of the raw data behind the stories and come to my own conclusions.

On this one it seemed to me that the hubbub all pointed to a film made by an Italian crew called “Fallujah – The Hidden Massacre.” So I downloaded it and watched all 27 minutes and 8 seconds of it to see for myself what the reporters were talking about.

I could write pages tearing apart the ridiculous lies and false implications made in the film but it is not worth my time. They use lots of second hand info and hearsay to try to back up their positions and they show a lot of gruesome dead bodies for shock value, but they present remarkably few facts. Therefore, let’s just stick to the WP issue.

As a star witness, they bring on an ex-soldier who says he was in on the Fallujah fighting. He claims unequivocally that WP is a chemical weapon. His assertion is patently wrong.

White Phosphorus is NOT poison gas. It is an incendiary material. Upon exposure to air, it will burst into flames and is difficult if not impossible to put out. While burning it creates a cloud of phosphorus oxide. Phosphorus oxide reacts with the humidity in the air to form phosphoric acid, the additive that gives Pepsi, Coke and soda pop its tangy taste and makes it so that Coke will clean rust really well. This stuff isn't poisonous, but it is irritating; it is in fact edible if it isn't in a concentrated form. If you got it in your eyes it would sting like lemon juice or vinegar, but it's not going to kill you.

WP is used as by the military because it burns well and gives off lots of light and smoke. Therefore it makes a good marker for targeting weapons systems because it is easy to see from a long way off. When a WP round is landed on the battle field, artillery spotters and forward air controllers use it as a reference point to direct other shooters to the specific target.

Fighters on the battle field know this. Therefore it also happens to be an effective tool to flush the enemy out of prepared defensive positions. If a WP round lands nearby, they know they are about to be blown up by something heavy so often they flee their position. When they are in the open, they are easier to kill with lighter weapons thereby reducing the amount of collateral damage inflicted by our troops.

It’s a good tactic that saves the lives of innocents.

Now if burning WP comes in physical contact with human flesh the results can be horrific. I know of an evangelist who had a WP grenade that he was throwing detonate from an enemy round right beside his head, blowing him from his boat and horribly disfiguring his face in Viet Nam. His survival story is a very compelling picture of God’s grace.

But my point is that to intentionally target civilians by using WP as a weapon instead of a marker (like Sadam’s troops did) is morally reprehensible. Using it as a tool on the battlefield to mark targets (like our troops did) is a whole different deal and can actually reduce the number of innocents killed. It takes incredible mental gymnastics to claim otherwise.

It is interesting to note that the guy never actually claims that we used WP as a weapon. In fact, he apparently never actually saw the stuff being used on the battlefield at all because his proof consists of hearing radio traffic about its use. I have no doubt that we did use WP on the battle field. I just don’t believe we used it to inflict mass casualties on civilians.

If we had we would be hearing it from many more sources. And they would be much more credible that this Italian group.

Now I’d like to address your assertion that our military has been decimated. That’s a pretty silly emotional statement devoid of fact. To have lost 10% of our approximately 2 million uniformed members (what decimated means) we would have lost upwards of 200,000 dead. We’ve lost about 1% of that. Give me a break!

It is unfortunate that a grandfather of 52 has been activated. However it has nothing to do with our combat losses. No, it results from the changes in our force structure that have happened over the years. Back when I was in uniform our “don’t ask, don’t tell” Commander in Chief and the Congress decided that with the fall of the Soviet Union we should take a “peace dividend” and draw down our active duty forces. As a result of that idea, which has some merit by the way, we are now much more heavily reliant on reserves.

Now this grandfather made it his choice to draw a pay check from our government for many years with the understanding that if he was ever needed, the government could activate him and send him to war. There were several points during his reserve career that he could have chosen to stop getting that check. He took the money. Now he is being called on to serve. Choices have consequences.

The last thing I want to point out is that, to support your decimated comment you mention one soldier killed that comes quickly to mind from the whole state of Wisconsin. To you this is evidence of mass butchery of our troops in a modern war?

I gave you twice the number of casualties from my limited experience in uniform of people I actually knew (not just read about) that were killed during peace time. Your evidence is still lacking.

And just FYI, the re-enlistment rates have been remarkably high over the last couple of years. If things were as bad as you claim, our troops would be getting out in droves. Also, last year the military significantly raised their recruiting goals and nearly hit those much higher targets. This year they well exceeded their recruiting goals.

So the call up of reservists has nothing to do with running out of soldiers because they are being killed in huge numbers. It has to do with a force structure that is designed to rely heavily on reservists.

Again Respectfully,



I only have time right now to answer one question that you have asked me. The rest of your story can be seen on Fox News.

I see no moral difference between Saddam's use of white phosphorous (WP) and ours. The published photos of our WP use clearly show toasted civilians. And you did not address the terminology of Saddam’s "Chemical Weapon" WP, and our benign tool of war WP.

One other point I would like to clarify. I am not protesting “what our troops are doing”. I am protesting what our crooked lying government is doing. My actions do not “devalue our troops” as you say. The Bush administration already has that covered. If you will notice, our voluntary military is currently decimated to the point where they are calling out of retirement a 52 year old grandfather from Mosinee WI, and current troops are being stop loss back door drafted for up to 30 years.

Yesterday they buried 19 year old Pfc. Alex Gaunky from Sparta WI. Remember, this was to install an Islamic Republic government, where women have no rights.


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