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.