Monday, November 21, 2005
"Shake and Bake" in Iraq - Who Will Cry For Us ?
"Propaganda nightmare of chemical hypocrisy" by Bronwen Maddox, Timesonline November 17th edition: "HOW damaged is the US by the row over its use of white phosphorus in Fallujah last year? On the facts available now, it is within the letter of the law, even though it has not signed the most relevant protocol on the use of the weapon." Excerpts:
- But even if it considers itself on firm legal ground, it has created a nightmare of public relations at the point when it is trying to court support in Europe and the Middle East.
- Allegations of unusual weapons have been around since the assault. The US denied them, until internet bloggers unearthed personal accounts by the US military. On Tuesday Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Venable said that the substance had been used as an “incendiary weapon against enemy combatants”, contradicting earlier statements by the London and Rome ambassadors, and the State Department website.
- If there was anything that could make perceptions worse, it was the military slang of “shake and bake” attacks, phosphorus being the “bake” part.
- It will take a lot of work by Karen Hughes, the President’s emissary, to improve the American image abroad, to make up for the incendiary effect on hearts and minds.
- The Pentagon's admission - despite earlier denials - that US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year is more than a public relations issue - it has opened up a debate about the use of this weapon in modern warfare.
- The admission contradicted a statement this week from the new and clearly under-briefed US ambassador in London Robert Holmes Tuttle that US forces "do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons".
- The official line to that point had been that WP, or Willie Pete to use its old name from Vietnam, was used only to illuminate the battlefield and to provide smoke for camouflage.
- This line however crumbled when bloggers (whose influence must not be under-estimated these days) ferreted out an article published by the US Army's Field Artillery Magazine in its issue of March/April this year.
- The article, written by a captain, a first lieutenant and a sergeant, was a review of the attack on Falluja in November 2004 and in particular of the use of indirect fire, mainly mortars.
- It makes quite clear that WP was used as a weapon not just as illumination or camouflage."WP 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 where we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive]. We fired "shake and bake" missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out," the article said.
"Why did Americans go sour on the Iraq war so quickly, and what can Bush do about it? John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion at Ohio State University, links today's lower tolerance of casualties to a weaker public commitment to the cause than was felt during the two previous, cold war-era conflicts. The discounting of the main justifications for the Iraq war - alleged weapons of mass destruction and support for international terrorism - has left many Americans skeptical of the entire enterprise."
And the November 18th post "Baghdad Burning", the Riverbendblog, by a young Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, reads:
House of Horrors...
The talk of the town is the torture house they recently found in Jadriya.
"The whole world heard about the one in Jadriya, recently raided by the Americans. Jadriya was once one of the best areas in Baghdad. It's an area on the river and is special in that it's greener, and cleaner, than most areas. Baghdads largest university, Baghdad University, is located in Jadriya (with a campus in another area). Jadriya had some of the best shops and restaurants- not to mention some of Baghdad's most elegant homes... and apparently, now, a torture house."