Monday, November 21, 2005

NY Times' White Phosphorous Attack

(UPDATED 11/21/05 5:00 PM)

Let me be one of the first "war critics and journalists" to condemn this Scott Shane article, Defense of Phosphorus Use Turns Into Damage Control, published in the International section of Monday's New York Times (as reported at Raw Story, it was originally proposed for the front page).

I'll leave it to the bloggers who have been following this story to get into the specifics of how this important story is reduced to a TV show review which only quotes two critics but no supporters; contains nothing of importance from even "anonymous offical sources" or former "entanglements" of Judith Miller; and ignores real newspaper reports.

Here's a real newspaper report - a British one, of course - that contains real digging and legwork, as opposed to soundbites from whomever Scott Shane (or Ian Fisher who "contributed reporting from Rome for this article") could land on the phone.

If Scott Shane has read Andrew Buncombe's "US Army rules say: 'Don't use WP against people'" published in the Independent which was online since at least late Friday evening, November 18 it sure as hell doesn't show.

Andrew Buncombe reported:

The debate over the use of white phosphorus in the battle of Fallujah took a new twist when it emerged the US Army teaches senior officers it is against the "laws of war" to fire the incendiary weapon at human targets.

A section from an instruction manual used by the US Army Command and General Staff School (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, makes clear that white phosphorus (WP) can be used to produce a smoke screen. But it adds: "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."

And unlike The New York Times the article contains both sides of the debate and includes comments by an actual-to-goodness US official.

John Pike, a weapons expert who runs, flies off the hook against the documentary makers in The Times:

"It's discredited the American military without any basis in fact."

Oddly enough, Pike was also quoted in The Guardian sticking up for the Pentagon:

But military specialists said the "laws of land warfare" taught at the CGSC are the guidelines that the US Army teaches as general principles. The GCSC generally teaches officers of senior rank such as major and colonel. John Pike, of the military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, said: "These are the general principles about proportionality, doctrine and so on and so forth."

(Disclosure...Pike once was interviewed in an article I worked at Raw Story which disagreed on some of my findings: "U.S. changed Iraq policy to begin airstrikes months before war")

The New York Times is back up to old Judy Miller tricks.


The Common Ills weighs in, too, with links to George Monbiot (aka the original Moonbat to the far right) who argues that WP is, indeed, a chemical weapon, and allusions to the Pulitzer Dexter Filkins "earned" for the Times for his Fallujah "reporting."

Think Progress also slams the Times for allowing the "White Phospourous is not a chemical weapon" MEME the Pentagon is pushing to run unchallenged. Think Progress dug up a "formerly classified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document" called "Possible Use of Phosphorous Chemical" which reveals that when Saddam Hussein used WP there was no problem calling it a WMD.

But I'll go Think Progress one better. That same document can also be found linked at John Pike's Global Security Website here, though the link appears to be dead now (Perhaps Mr. Pike can add the link that Think Process found to his Website).


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