US intelligence classified white phosphorus as 'chemical weapon'

By Peter Popham and Anne Penketh
Published: 23 November 2005

The Italian journalist who launched the controversy
over the American use of white phosphorus (WP) as a
weapon of war in the Fallujah siege has accused the
Americans of hypocrisy.

Sigfrido Ranucci, who made the documentary for the RAI
television channel aired two weeks ago, said that a US
intelligence assessment had characterised WP after the
first Gulf War as a "chemical weapon".

The assessment was published in a declassified report
on the American Department of Defence website. The
file was headed: "Possible use of phosphorous chemical
weapons by Iraq in Kurdish areas along the
Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian borders."

In late February 1991, an intelligence source
reported, during the Iraqi crackdown on the Kurdish
uprising that followed the coalition victory against
Iraq, "Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam may have
possibly used white phosphorous chemical weapons
against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil and
Dohuk. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery
rounds and helicopter gunships."

According to the intelligence report, the "reports of
possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread quickly
among the populace in Erbil and Dohuk. As a result,
hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled from these two
areas" across the border into Turkey.

"When Saddam used WP it was a chemical weapon," said
Mr Ranucci, "but when the Americans use it, it's a
conventional weapon. The injuries it inflicts,
however, are just as terrible however you describe

In the television documentary, eyewitnesses inside
Fallujah during the bombardment in November last year
described the terror and agony suffered by victims of
the shells . Two former American soldiers who fought
at Fallujah told how they had been ordered to prepare
for the use of the weapons. The film and still
photographs posted on the website of the channel that
made the film - - show the strange
corpses found after the city's destruction, many with
their skin apparently melted or caramelised so their
features were indistinguishable. Mr Ranucci said he
had seen photographs of "more than 100" of what he
described as "anomalous corpses" in the city.

The US State Department and the Pentagon have shifted
their position repeatedly in the aftermath of the
film's showing. After initially saying that US forces
do not use white phosphorus as a weapon, the Pentagon
now says that WP had been used against insurgents in
Fallujah. The use of WP against civilians as a weapon
is prohibited.

Military analysts said that there remain questions
about the official US position regarding its
observance of the 1980 conventional weapons treaty
which governs the use of WP as an incendiary weapon
and sets out clear guidelines about the protection of

Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control
Association in Washington, called for an independent
investigation of the use of WP during the Fallujah
siege. "If it was used as an incendiary weapon, clear
restrictions apply," he said.

"Given that the US and UK went into Iraq on the ground
that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against
his own people, we need to make sure that we are not
violating the laws that we have subscribed to," he

Yesterday Adam Mynott, a BBC correspondent in
Nassiriya in April 2003, told Rai News 24 that he had
seen WP apparently used as a weapon against insurgents
in that city.


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