The Christian Science Monitor yesterday published a characteristically clear and concise analysis of reports — confirmed by the Pentagon — that U.S. forces used white phosphorus as a weapon in its battle against insurgents in Fallujah. The issue, of course, is whether the skin-burning substance inadvertently harmed the civilian population as well.

The Monitor’s Mark Sappenfield writes:

[T]he claims made by an Italian television station — that women and children were found with melted skin despite the fact that their clothes were unharmed — are consistent with the action of white phosphorous, scientists say.

In an offensive that involved targeting insurgents who were hidden in a city of 500,000 inhabitants, the allegations — if true — do not prove or disprove military malfeasance.

But they do raise the issue of the military’s judgment. Because fires can burn out of control during a battle, the Convention on Conventional Weapons in 1980 banned the use of incendiary devices, like white phosphorous, in heavily populated areas. America, however, did not sign the agreement.

Is this not a story? Incredibly, if you search Google News this morning for “phosphorus Iraq,” you will get a long list of stories — and nearly every one of them is from the foreign press.

Will the New York Times and/or the Washington Post come through in their Sunday editions? Stay tuned.

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