Fallujah, the Guernica of Our Times Part 8: Willy Pete Does Fallujah By Mac McKinney
"I was on the point of crying at her, 'Don't you hear them?' The dusk was repeating them in a persistent whisper all around us, in a whisper that seemed to swell menacingly like the first whisper of the rising wind. 'The horror! The horror!' - Marlow from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
On March 3, 2005, Dr Khalid ash Shaykhli, an Iraqi health ministry official, made a shocking announcement at a Baghdad press conference, stating that his medical team had discovered that the US military had employed chemical weapons in their November, 2004 assault that all but leveled the city of Fallujah, weapons that included mustard gas, nerve gas and burning agents. The Australian Journal, Green Left Weekly, March 16, 2005 issue quoted from Al Jazeera satellite news that "Shaykhli said that during the US assault, fleeing residents described 'seeing corpses that had melted, which suggests that US troops used napalm gas, a poisonous compound of polystyrene and aircraft fuel which melts bodies'. He also said that his researchers had found evidence of the use of mustard gas and nerve gas. 'We found dozens, not to say hundreds, of stray dogs, cats, and birds that had perished as a result of those gasses', he told the press conference, which was held in the health ministry's Baghdad building." (http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2005/619/619p15b.htm ) Although there were several prominent American media representatives there, only the Christian Scientist Monitor carried this story, and only on its website. Once again the American media was ignoring a report of a major American breach of international conventions. Even so, the Pentagon was already getting defensive as early as December of 2004, made nervous perhaps by Islamic website charges as well as GI blogs and "after-action reports" on the Internet that were touting the use of Willy Pete (white phosphorus), propane bombs and napalm against Fallujah. Official Pentagon spokesmen began claiming that white phosphorus was only used as an illumination device:
"In December the US Government formally denied the reports (based on insurgent claims-parentheses mine), describing them as 'widespread myths'. 'Some news accounts have claimed that US forces have used outlawed phosphorus shells in Fallujah,' the USinfo website said. 'Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes.' (Peter Popham, the Independent UK) (http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/printer_110805Z.shtml ) But the charges persisted throughout 2005, strengthened by bloggers who had started looking back at reports issued by embedded reporters in Fallujah during the November, 2004 siege, bloggers such as Mike Whitney: "The US also used napalm in the siege of Falluja as was reported in the UK Mirror ('Falluja Napalmed', 11-28-04) The Mirror said, '[that] President George Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet-fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun the world. Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh. Since the American assault on Falluja there have been reports of 'melted' corpses, which appeared to have napalm injuries." ("Incinerating Iraqis; The Napalm Cover Up" by Mike Whitney) (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article9307.htm ) Finally, the official Pentagon story-line began to unravel after several revelations surfaced toward the end of 2005, the most powerful being an Italian documentary by Sigfrido Ranucci of RAINews24 entitled "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre." (http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/en/body.asp ) To again quote from Peter Popham of The Independent UK, Tuesday, November 8, 2005 regarding this film: "But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon. "In a documentary to be broadcast by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, this morning, a former American soldier [Jeff Englehart] who fought at Fallujah says: 'I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete.' 'Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for.' "Photographs on the website of RaiTG24, the broadcaster's 24-hours news channel, www.rainews24.it, show exactly what the former soldier means. Provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, dozens of high-quality, colour close-ups show bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised or turned the consistency of leather by the shells. "A biologist in Fallujah, Mohamad Tareq, interviewed for the film, says: 'A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact.' "The documentary, entitled 'Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre,' also provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was (sic) used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets." (http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/printer_110805Z.shtml ) At the same time, corroborating evidence now surfaced about the use of Willy Pete as a weapon. To quote Chris Floyd of the Moscow Times in his article, "The White Death of Fallujah": "A Daily Kos diarist, Stephen D., dug up one of the U.S. military's own publications, Field Artillery Magazine, which eagerly related the use of white phosphorous, which 'proved to be an effective and versatile munition,' the article said. '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 [High Explosives]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out." (http://www.counterpunch.org/floyd12172005.html )
The Pentagon, no longer able to deny its usage of white phosphorus against humans, was now reduced to various sophisms to justify its onerous use. Danny Mayer of ZNet Magazine explores this in his article, "Willy Peter": "Because the U.S. is not a signatory to the 1980 Geneva Convention and has challenged the legal definition of chemical weapons, the Pentagon now claims that white phosphorus is 'not a chemical weapon' and therefore 'not outlawed or illegal.' "For the Pentagon, at least, the 'shake and bake' missions are a 'potent psychological weapon' that will drive the enemy 'out of their holes.' The use of white phosphorus has a particularly brutal history. During the war in Vietnam, the U.S. used white phosphorous as an improved form of napalm, terrorizing enemies. Then, as now, it was touted as a psychological tool of warfare necessary to subdue enemy hamlets. "Unlike napalm, which in Vietnam left villagers and enemies alike with massive burns all over their bodies, white phosphorus burns down to the bone. "Le The Thrung, a Vietnamese doctor studying white phosphorus burns in 1969, describes its effects on the skin: 'burning phosphorus produces 800-1,000 degrees centigrade heat. Scattered phosphorus particles go on consuming themselves and deepen burn wounds.' Next, chemical compounds 'create a chemical burn, like an acid, drawing water from the cells. This process generates great pain in the nervous system.' Finally, white phosphorus compounds oxygenate and penetrate 'the blood stream and white blood cells in the dermis, subdermis, and deeper skin layers.' This creates what he calls an 'organic toxicity [that] blocks off all blood circulation with the burn area.'......... "This is what our military and political leaders currently define as a 'potent psychological weapon?' These are the actions that citizens of empire are to support and legitimize, even if tacitly, in the name of spreading democracy and securing our own nebulous borders? "No, this is not about our national feelings of moral fortitude. This is about civilians and 'enemies' alike having chemicals dropped on them like rain and their skin bubbling, melting, wasting away with no way to scrape off the pain of oxidizing phosphorus and no way to cauterize the slow, painful melting into the nervous system and bloodstream. No, for those getting 'smoked out of their holes,' there is very little, if anything, psychological about Willy Peter." (http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/010206C.shtml ) How many Fallujans suffered this final indignity of being chemically burned to death in the most agonizing manner imaginable? Dozens, hundreds, several thousand? It is hard to say. Partial American military DD1079 records on the RAI website list 60 bodies destined for Fallujah City Cemetery alone, as well as absolutely macabre photographs of some of the victims. We will likely never know just how many suffered this garish fate. For those readers with strong stomachs who feel compelled to see the photographic proof of the effects of Willy Pete on individual Fallujans, as well as to study the cemetery records, please see: http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/en/records.asp This then was the final twist of the knife to Fallujah during the second assault on that hapless city during Operation Phantom Fury in November, 2004, a rain of fiery, excruciating pain and death upon civilians and combatants, ordered by well-groomed and well-educated US commanders with all the moral angst, apparently, of teenagers whacking pixel images at a video game in the Mall. But on some unconscious level at least, those GIs having to load Willy Pete artillery shells certainly knew that those on the receiving end were flesh and blood beings like themselves who were about to be caramelized. Some of them will inevitably have to deal with the ghosts rising from their subconscious in the middle of the night and hope that military or VA shrinks, booze or drugs can make them go away.
One soldier who eye-witnessed the massive destruction of Fallujah and who goes by the blogger name of hEkLe, wrote a tour de force letter in December of 2004 on what he had just experienced, from which I quote: "We reduced Falluja to rubble. We claimed victory and told the world we held Falluja under total and complete control. Our military claimed very few civilian casualties and listed thousands of insurgents dead. CNN and Fox News harped and cheered on the television that the battle of Falluja would go down in history as a complete success, and a testament to the United States' supremacy on the modern battlefield. "However, after the dust settled, and generals sat in cozy offices smoking their victory cigars, the front lines in Falluja exploded again with indomitable mortar, rocket, and small-arm attacks on U.S. and coalition forces." (http://www.socialistworker.org/2004-2/522/522_07_FromFalluja.shtml ) Ironically, today, two years later, the entire Anbar province, of which the remaining shell of a city that was Fallujah is a part, is swarming with insurgents, with continuing guerrilla activity even in wreathlike Fallujah. The Pentagon has largely kissed off trying to control the province and finds itself in quandary after quandary throughout Iraq. Right after Operation Phantom Fury flattened Fallujah, one of those generals that hEkLe was referring to above also invoked history: "It ought to go down in the history books", Major General Richard Natonski of the Marines told the New York Times, proud of America's handiwork in conquering Fallujah. Indeed it will, General, right alongside the Warsaw Ghetto, Grozny and Guernica as testimonies to modern man's ongoing, savage inhumanity to his fellow man. The only thing that remains to be done is for another artist to express the story on canvas for posterity.
Postscript to This Series:
This is from a WWII article entitled "British in Africa Lack Killer Urge", by James Aldridge writing in the New York Times on June 24, 1942: "The German Africa Corps defeated the Eighth Army because it had speed, anger, virility and toughness....They (the Germans) are practical men, taken from a most practical and hard life to fight practically: Nazis trained to kill. The German commanders are scientists, who are continually experimenting with and improving the hard, mathematical formula of killing. They are trained as mathematicians, engineers and chemists facing complicated problems....War is pure physics to them. The German soldier is trained with a psychology of a daredevil track rider. He is a professional killer, with no distractions. He believes he is the toughest man on earth....The British soldier is the most heroic on earth, but do not confuse that with military toughness. He has the toughness of determination but he has not the toughness to kill his enemy." This article prompted these comments by Wilhelm Reich, the famous psychiatrist, sociologist and writer, in his classic work, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1942-Third Edition): "This is the best description of mechanical militarism that I have ever read. It discloses in one blow the complete identity of mechanistic natural science, mechanical human structure, and sadistic murder. This identity found its highest and most consummate expression in the totalitarian dictatorship-ideology of German imperialism. This mechanical trinity is set in relief against the view of life that regards man not as a machine, the machine not the master of man, and militarism not as his greatest asset. This living functional view has found its last refuge in the Western democracies. It remains to be seen whether it will survive the chaos." (page 332) Reich goes on to excoriate Aldridge for entreating the British to abandon their appreciation for human live in favor of imitating the Fascists. Again quoting Reich, "Those who attempt to beat the mechanical automations with their own methods will only jump out of the frying pan into the fire, i.e., in their efforts to become more efficient killers, they will transform themselves into mechanical automations and perpetuate the process their opponents have set in motion.... "Our conception of the anti-fascist fight is different. It is a clear, relentless recognition of the historical and biological causes that lead to such murders. The deracination of the fascist plague will come solely from such a recognition and not by imitating it. One cannot vanquish fascism by imitating and subduing it with its own methods, without becoming a fascist oneself. The way of fascism is the way of the automation, death, rigidity, hopelessness. The way of the living is fundamentally different...." (page 333) Unfortunately, the American Establishment, with its fledgling new CIA, couldn't wait to embrace the research of captured Nazi scientists at the end of WWII and utterly failed to heed this advice. Instead, America has, over time, journeyed into the heart of darkness, succumbing to the fascist plague, and no matter how much various demagogic American politicians project this dark shadow onto those they hypocritically call "Islamo-Fascists" and countless other terms of demonization, this is but deep denial compounding brutal militarism and imperialism, with no end in sight to the ongoing carnage, unless those Americans not infected with this plague can find the will to confront and defeat them.