Side by side chemical comparison

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt Col Barry Venable, confirmed to the BBC the US had used white phosphorus “as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants” – though not against civilians, he said.

Lets compare, shall we?

phosburn
mustardburns

(click the image for a larger version)

I’m sorry I couldn’t get any more recent photos… but “unfortunately” the last time these chemicals were widely used, was in WWI and by the Nazis… in experiments too horrible to imagine. (edit: I find it highly ironic? Or perhaps just poignant, that this admission comes only a few days after the 87th anniversary of the end of the Great War)

One is banned…

The other is not explicitly banned.. though there is a treaty.. that the US has not signed.

You tell me whether both are “Chemical Weapons”?

I do not usually address my anger toward the American people because I know that for the most part they are good, and caring and only want the best for themselves and the world… I am very careful to always be clear that my beef is with the current US Administration.

But today, I say this to any American reading my webpage.

How can you support a government that would inflict these types of wounds on ANY enemy combatant? If you still blindly support your government then shame on you.

…..

Here are some more Facts, from the Center for Disease Control

Sarin Gas:
Even a small drop of sarin on the skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching where sarin touched the skin.
Exposure to large doses of sarin by any route may result in the following harmful health effects:
Loss of consciousness
Convulsions
Paralysis
Respiratory failure possibly leading to death

Mustard Gas
Exposure to sulfur mustard is usually not fatal. When sulfur mustard was used during World War I, it killed fewer than 5% of the people who were exposed and got medical care. [and yet it is still a banned chemical weapon?]
People may not know right away that they have been exposed, because sulfur mustard often has no smell or has a smell that might not cause alarm.

Phosphorus, Elemental, White or Yellow
Ingestion of elemental white or yellow phosphorus typically causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, which are both described as “smoking,” “luminescent,” and having a garlic-like odor. Other signs and symptoms of severe poisoning might include dysrhythmias, coma, hypotension, and death. Contact with skin might cause severe burns within minutes to hours (1-4).

I bet “smoking” diarrhea feels just great!

Update

In the comments the predictable, if simpistic, response has come up.

“White Phosphorus is not banned.”

Which is correct… but yet… neither is dropping 10M Hydrochloric Acid from the sky… which would basically have very similar effects to people struck by it.

Update 2

From a BBC piece: (emphasis added)

The CWC is monitored by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague. Its spokesman Peter Kaiser was asked if WP was banned by the CWC and he had this to say:

“No it’s not forbidden by the CWC if it is used within the context of a military application which does not require or does not intend to use the toxic properties of white phosphorus. White phosphorus is normally used to produce smoke, to camouflage movement.

“If that is the purpose for which the white phosphorus is used, then that is considered under the Convention legitimate use.

“If on the other hand the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because the way the Convention is structured or the way it is in fact applied, any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons.”

Update 3

And actually, according to Mr Kaiser (now that’s an ironic name!) 10M** Hydrochloric Acid being dropped from the sky whether over an enemy or civilian position, would be classified as chemical warfare. And BANNED.

**Molarity is a measurement of purity (strength) of Hydrochloric acid in solution

Update 4

How to Justify yourself out of all responsibility for anything

courtesy: the US Administration….

If you want to invade a Country.
Designate them as part of an “Axis of Evil” and give them impossible conditions with which to comply and rely on dusty documents from decades gone by.

If you want to avoid being called Torturer..
Designate captives as “enemy combatants” or better… blame it on the solder from Kansas.

If you want to avoid being called War Criminal…
Give 2 days for “civilians” to leave a city… then designate the entire city a “military objective” and all remaining men of fighting age “enemy combatants”… and level the city using chemical weapons and cluster bombs.

24 thoughts on “Side by side chemical comparison”

  1. The employment of White Phosphorus in US and NATO mortar and artillery munitions does not cause or require ingestion.

    The UN Convention bans the use of incendiary weapons against civilans, not against humans. See for yourself:
    http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/515?OpenDocument

    Of course any deliberate engagement or targeting of civilians is
    already a war crime. so that the US has not signed this one is not of especial import except to say that we aren’t bound by it expressly.

    White Phosphorus is not banned.

    It also isn’t a chemical weapon. We are signtory to the Chemical Weapons Convention which defines chemical weapons. See here:
    http://www.opcw.org/html/db/cwc/eng/cwc_frameset.html

    So it isn’t a chemical weapon and it isn’t banned.

    Indiscriminate use is. The stories circulating do not support that
    contention. See here:
    http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2004/04/11/military/iraq/19_30_504_10

    Bogert received the coordinates for the targets and recorded them on a map. This is proper procedure. He’s receiving coordinates from a Forward Observer, indirect fire weapons never see their targets, the FOs do. The coordinates are plotted so that it is known what was ordered where. There is also a verification that takes place in the call for indirect fire to avoid problems with numerical transposition or other mistakes.

  2. Additionally, WP has been used extensively by the US in every conflict since WWII.

    I can provide you the Medal of Honor Citations of 6 men which expressly include the use of White Phosphorus munitions.

  3. “The UN Convention bans the use of incendiary weapons against civilans, not against humans.”

    Then in the case of white phosporous.. it is in the wrong category and should be banned along with Mustard Gas and the rest.

    Those substances were banned because of the horror they inflicted on the battlefield… not in civilian towns.

    Using White Phosporous as an illumination device is one thing… using it as an incendiary device is very very different, especially for people on the ground, civilian or not.

  4. The same goes for Napalm… and apparently the US Ambassador to Britain felt the same way.. and thought, as I did, that the US military wouldn’t use these sorts of weapons, no matter who it’s used on.

    CBC

    “U.S. forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons,” the American ambassador to London, Robert Tuttle, wrote in a letter to the Independent newspaper.

  5. The Ambasador was wrong. We don’t have Napalm anymore, so that’s easy.

    I don’t think anyone who’s commented yet has a clear perception of WP is or does.

    I certainly doesn’t appear any of you have checked the CWC link.

  6. “I don’t think anyone who’s commented yet has a clear perception of WP is or does.”

    The CDC has a fairly good understanding of what it is and does… as i included in the post.

  7. And we all know that it is a very good lighting source… which is fine.

    But we’re not talking about using it as a lighting source.. we’re talking about using as a WEAPON.

  8. “Bogert received the coordinates for the targets and recorded them on a map. This is proper procedure. He’s receiving coordinates from a Forward Observer, indirect fire weapons never see their targets, the FOs do.”

    That’s disingenuous. You’re failing to address the question of whether the FOOs called in WP indiscriminately.

    “We don’t have Napalm anymore, so that’s easy.”

    This is even more disingenuous. The United States no longer uses “napalm,” but the Mark 77 incendiary bomb is essentially a napalm bomb. The difference is that the Mark 77 uses a different mix of chemicals to achieve the same effect — or, in fact, a greater effect.

  9. wonderdog and RTO:

    Says the spokesperson of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague

    “If on the other hand the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because the way the Convention is structured or the way it is in fact applied, any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons.”

    So the question is… as wonderdog points out on his blog… was white phosphorous intended to be used as a weapon. If it was… then it is a Chemical Weapon…

  10. WP would be a chemical weapon if used in the way he describes.

    But you miss the part where the same spokesman suggests that WP would not be considered a chemical weapon if used as it was at Fallujah, that is, as an incendiary. This is because its action does not rely on toxic properties but on the fact that it burns when exposed to oxygen — the burns are thermal, not chemical.

    Owing to the way a WP shell works, I don’t think the caustic properties of WP can actually come into play when it is used. If WP shells were designed in that way, then they would be banned chemical weapons.

    I don’t dispute your point that WP should be banned, simply the classification of WP as a chemical weapon. A niggling point from the standpoint of the person being burned, assuredly; but from the standpoint of who to hold responsible, and for what, it’s critical.

  11. As a postscript example, during WWI the Germans developed a bullet that included a mixture of red and white phosphorus, and was designed to poison its victim by leaving phosphorus in the body.

    That would be an illegal chemical weapon, without question.

  12. I agree wonderdog…

    You’re right, WP shells wounds are thermal rather than chemical and are not specifically designed to inflict wounds on soldiers.

    However, if the intent is to use these shells as a weapon rather than simply an incendiary to burn the surrounding area and “flush out” soldiers, then, according to the spokesperson. The weapon is banned.

    Or am I misunderstanding something?

  13. Well, fragments of burning white phosphorus may hit people and burn them, but those are thermal rather than chemical burns so it’s not a “chemical weapon” as defined. That is, it isn’t relying on the caustic or toxic properties of phosphorus but on burning people the good old fashioned way — just like napalm.

    The real issue, to me, is whether you can defend using a weapon like WP or napalm in a city, where you know many civilians are present. I don’t think you can, and the callous disregard for the civilian population is the “real” crime here.

    That’s the argument that cuts through the nonsense about whether the filling of a Mark 77 bomb is, technically speaking, napalm.

  14. This discussion appears to have turned into an undergraduate discussion on the legal and technical defenses for using such an appalling man-made product on fellow human beings. Step back for a minute. Develop some moral perspective. (This shouldn’t be a dry discussion on the legal definition of what constitutes a “chemical” or “thermal” weapon!) You people are sounding like Gonzales and the rest of the Bush Bunch .

    The fact is the US military uses phosphorus and other incendiary devices as a means of killing people indiscriminately and then lies about it. (And if it’s not immoral or illegal, why then the lies?)

    Phosphorus is a weapon that ignites on contact with oxygen and burns until there’s no oxygen left. The gasses produced by phosphorus caramelize – even melt skin. There are pictures available to those interested in seeing the effects on humans on the net. Look them up. You’ll see 8 and 10 year old “terrorists” and their evil parents melted onto the surfaces of their beds.

    To use such a thing as a weapon against people is a despicable and monstrous act. To hide behind sophistry in its defense is inexcusable. In any reasonable society there would be no allowing such things. In any reasonable society people would never defend such evil – they would prosecute those responsible. In any reasonable society, that is.

  15. I’m not defending the use of white phosphorus. I have never defended it.

    I have two objections to calling WP a chemical weapon, and neither is “sophistry”:.

    1) it isn’t true, and as a result those who call it a chemical weapon provide the means for their opponents to undermine their credibility. Consider, if you will, Rathergate: the story was substantially true, but is now ignored because one report relied on false evidence. This WP story may well go the same way. What, then, will have been achieved by characterising WP as a chemical weapon? Precisely the opposite of what was intended.

    2) cranking up the moral outrage by calling this a chemical weapon achieves nothing. The important questions are what crime was committed, and who was responsible. Those are factual questions, and they need factual answers, not manufactured outrage. People are prosecuted on facts.

    Unfortunately, prosecuting those responsible will not be possible in your version of a reasonable society, Arthur, because you substitute moral outrage for the facts. You can’t decide what crime was committed, what the evidence is, or who is responsible because you’re too busy sputtering away at how indefensible everything is.

    So busy sputtering that you don’t bother getting the facts. The gases produced by burning phosphorus don’t melt skin. You won’t find the victims of WP lying in their beds, where the gases killed them. That’s the invention of propagandists — because no matter how you’d like to deny it, there are propagandists on both sides of this war.

    Outrage is the propagandist’s tool. Outrage encourages people to shout down anyone who looks for the facts behind the story. That’s how I start here by criticizing the half truths of a war supporter, and end up being lambasted for defending war crimes.

    Well, spare me. Outrage is for politicians. If you believe in prosecuting criminals, you look for facts.

  16. arthurdecco,

    I agree with you completely… I’m just engaging in the talking points that wonderdog brings up… because they are valid, even though they shouldn’t be necessary.

  17. “The gases produced by burning phosphorus don’t melt skin.”

    No, the elemental phosphorus itself melts the skin if it comes into contact with it as it is burning in an oxygenated environment (which is presumably anywhere outside of its’ original munition casing)

  18. Right, there’s no dispute there. Once the shell bursts it throws bits of burning WP everywhere, and not only do they burn into your skin but they stick to you. Unless you know how to deal with it, which of course an untrained person does not, you’re essentially fucked. You will suffer terrible burns that, without prompt and proper medical treatment (and here refer to what the US did to Fallujah’s hospitals) will likely lead to your death.

    So there is no way to minimize how horrible this stuff is.

    I think you’re right to suggest that there is really no difference between WP and mustard gas, at least when it comes to the types of injuries they cause.

    My complaint is with people who pretend that this is some kind of gas weapon, and that the gas killed people as they slept in their beds, i.e. (with my italics):
    “The gasses produced by phosphorus caramelize – even melt skin … You’ll see 8 and 10 year old “terrorists” and their evil parents melted onto the surfaces of their beds.”

    This is misinformation, plain and simple.

  19. Absolutely. I agree 100% and there is no doubt that this sort of misinformation is what hurts the legitimate case for the use of this stuff as a “weapon” (not qualified by the “incendiary” moniker) to be considered a criminal offence.

  20. Let me see if I can address several points at once:

    WP is both toxic and caustic. But not toxic or caustic enough to be weaponized to cause death by those properties.

    The property of WP that can cause death is that it is incendiary. It ignites on contact with oxygen.

    Chlorine and Phosgene are chemical weapons because they are caustic–they burn (not by ignition) by direct chemical action, the lungs and exposed tissues of the victims.

    Mustard Gas is a chemical weapon because it is toxic. Breathing it in will poison the victim.

    For a weapon to be banned under the CWC, it must be a weapon that causes death primarily by its toxicity or causticity. Hence, WP is not banned under the CWC.

    Since I was last here I’ve viewed the Italian documentary. There is not one photo of a body presented in it that bears marks that I could classify as WP burns. I’m not an expert on this, and I might be wrong, but the training we get for treating such wounds describes them as, usually small wounds, perhaps several of them, that appear to be punctures, that will not bleed much and the edges will have a light gray or white ashy charing.

    As to indiscriminate use of WP, in the absense of evidence that they were used indiscriminately, I have to conclude they were not. Every anecdote on the subject I’ve seen and heard has related the actors following established doctrine, which is designed to prevent indiscriminate use.

    I do, of course, keep an open mind on this. If there is an allegation that might turn out to be true, this is the one. So, if anyone has evidence of it, I’d like to hear it.

  21. Incidentally, 10M HCl is highly caustic. As such, using it as a weapon is prohibited by the CWC.

    A final point for arthurdecco, as it appears the commenting has run dry, it is a dry discussion and it is leagalistic. We are discussing how the government, the military in particular must deal with the world around it. All we can do is set rules and procedures and follow those. Otherwise you’ll have Soldiers in a combat situation constantly second-guessing themselves. That costs lives. A rule makes it simple.

    You may disagree with where the boundaries are set. I respect that even if I disagree. Its an honest opinon. I think there are a lot of opinions on related points, however, masquerading as certainty on this matter.

  22. Pingback: www experian

Comments are closed.