By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Phosphorus brownout continues

Another day of virtual silence from the American mainstream media on the use of white phosphorus by U.S. forces in the battle for Fallujah last year.

If you’re just tuning in, the Pentagon admitted to the BBC earlier this week that it had indeed used the flesh-melting substance, but denied having targeted civilians. The problem is that Fallujah was teeming with civilians, and an Italian television documentary recently reported that many of them were among the victims.

This morning’s Google News search reveals that the foreign press, especially in the U.K., continues to follow the story closely. Alternative news sources are as well.

Among the mainstream media, though, the two most interesting things I found were an editorial in the Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer (“In a guerrilla war … firing a munition like WP [white phosphorus] into a city full of civilians is irresponsible”) and a column by Palm Beach Post ombudsman C.N. Hanif responding to a reader complaint on that paper’s silence.

Hanif quotes Post managing editor Bill Rose, who says his paper does not subscribe to Reuters, the only widely available wire service that carried the story.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Monty Python’s favorite food


Kicking Sidekick


  1. Anonymous

    Um, could it be that others find this less compelling, given the actions of those targeted in Fallujah?

  2. Bill Baar

    “Used when contact is made in a house and the enemy must be burned out.”We coud have just leveled the Town with a couple of Daisy Cutter Bombs instead of going door-to-door to flush these fellows out.Maybe the MSM doesn’t report it because the reaction you’d get from many is just level the place. Why risk my kid going door-to-door.

  3. Bill Baar

    Here’s John Pike on the topic.Give people a debate about going door-to-door using improvised White Phosperphus bombs (another piece of equipement not standard issue), or some other kind of bomb vs a B52 “breakfast raids” a lot of people are going to ask why we didn’t use the B52s.Many Americans opposed to the War who would favor quick pullout, would also favor quick flattening of Iraq. It’s the odd convergence of the isolationist left and right and is why when isolationists take hold, and we wait and only fight a War of Last resort, it becomes a War of Anniliation. Especially if the foe not European as the Japanese found out. It’s an ugley side of American isolationism.

  4. mike_b1

    The irony: using chemical bombs on people we (wrongly) accused of making … chemical bombs.

  5. neil

    >Many Americans opposed to the War who would favor quick pullout, would also favor quick flattening of Iraq.Huh–any evidence to back up this assertion? For the sake of balance:Many Americans in favor of the War who would be against a quick pullout, would also favor quick flattening of Iraq.These many Americans are straw men.Being opposed to this war, or to the specifics of the conduct of this war, does not make you an isolationist. “Many Americans” for example think that our intervention in Afghanistan was justified, but our invasion of and continued presence in Iraq is not justified.A long-term strategy to succeed will take a level of commitment that the American public simply does not have. We were told US troops would be treated as liberators. Since security and order in Iraq cannot be improved without more resources, and more resources cannot be applied because it is politically impossible, we might as well leave now as later, goes the reasoning.We are really stuck now. We can’t leave (with “honor”, anyway–whatever that means) and we can’t stay. James Fallows made the point in the cover article in this month’s Atlantic Monthly, Why Iraq has no Army:The crucial need to improve security and order in Iraq puts the United States in an impossible position. It can’t honorably leave Iraq—as opposed to simply evacuating Saigon-style—so long as its military must provide most of the manpower, weaponry, intelligence systems, and strategies being used against the insurgency. But it can’t sensibly stay when the very presence of its troops is a worsening irritant to the Iraqi public and a rallying point for nationalist opponents—to say nothing of the growing pressure in the United States for withdrawal.

  6. Anonymous

    Dan,I sense a bit of activism here. Not that it is pejorative, but this is the sort of activism that could be used to drag liberal and media circles in the mud and have them labeled as anti-military with a thirst to slander servicemen and the military. The stuff that Rove and Sean Vannity loves to use for political points.So it could backfire.Do I think that the US as a policy is using Chemical weapons and trying to cover it. Definitely NOT.Are they being sloppy with a tech that is unusual. Maybe. I just don’t want to ascribe any ulterior motives to it and will take it at its face value. There are more prescient issues to go after.This is like the depleted Aluminum effect that some ammunition has. It is a serious effect but it is no way a systematic policy for our military to use chemically hazardous weapons.This is no Napalm gas repeat. The Press and Dems would love for that to be the case. But they have to cool their jets a bit, quite a bit, on this one.And who is this Bill Baar guy??? Flattening??? Are you recycling Jay Severin stuff so much or you’ve been listening to Savage a lot lately to make up for Jay??Flattening is is music to the ear of many unfortunately. They think it would solve the problem while it really it would make it worse. But such people wouldn’t comprehend how since they’r ethe same who were wearing pink glasses so often before, looking at Iraq pre-invasion, looking at the economy, looking at weather disasters, seriousness of leaks and possibility of prosecutions…on and on…Isn’t ironic that we spend about 2 billion a week on the country, with hundreds already spent, but in the end we just flatenit and leave.What an idiot! (insert’s jingle here)N.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    N. –I have no idea what the truth is about the white-phosphorus story. What I think is objectively true is that this is important. The whole world is in an uproar over this, but American citizens are not being informed about it by their media.Despite some terrible anomalies such as Abu Ghraib, I have a high regard for the U.S. military, if not for the people who order them around. Personally, I would be thrilled if the phosphorus story were debunked in some way, as unlikely as that seems given the facts we know so far.More than anything, though, I want to know the truth. Don’t you?

  8. Anonymous

    I do want the truth.What I am just saying that if you disagree with a lot of policy aspects or you are on the losing side of elections like the Dems have been for a while, you have to pick your battles and this is not one, IN MY OPINION, that is worth raising fuss about.There is enough misconduct out there to warrant impeachment and prosecutions. Yet, the Dems are not able/gutsy/numerous enough on the Hill and in Wash to fully bring out the Truth and carry out Justice.So in light of THAT handicap, why trot out a subject that is not clearly demonstrably proof of ill-will by the Brass and risk having it blow in your face in a PR nightmare. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.I do not believe they used it to harm civilians in a premeditated way. I don’t think it is a policy to use this stuff and then try to hide it from the press or the world. They are just simply so sloppy. There are soooooo many issues that should warrant coverage but don’t. Too many to enumerate. Ones we know about already and ones we don’t.I just think digging in this phosphorous one is not good for the image of any side involved.It could unfairly trigger a misconception that the US Military is using Chemical means and it is just not accurate enough in my belief that we should help that perception continue.The top echelons are not the open type. They won’t tell you the truth on anything unless you have some leaked document, disgruntled employee or Senator/congressman on your side.So good luck prying any information from them. You can’t even get names of soldiers dead on time or reasons of death or how budget is spent or any other info that should be part of public domain. Or even why non-evangelicals are not welcome anymore in the ranks. We all know how effectively Rush has trivialized Gitmo and Abu Ghraid into a fynny tee-shirt and joke campaign as a ‘sunny resort’Now you are asking about propietary info about weapons on a battlefield? They’re going to cite National reasons not to give details.You are losing this battle before you start. If I start to hear that soldiers themsleves are getting affected by this since they are exposed to it too, then that’d be a more serious sign of worry. I just don’t see a mountain yet of this ‘growing’ mole.We all know how ‘open’ and informative the Pent has been and is about the fisrt Gulf War syndrom and the claims of soldiers until this day.Nothing has been clearled completely as of yet, what makes you think you extricate anything on this one??That’s why I am saying, choose your battles more wisely.N.

  9. neil

    I agree with N. that now is not the time to focus on the particulars of a specific skirmish. Not because the wrongdoing if any is excusable, but because it is missing the greater point. We are at the “tipping point” in terms of support for the war. This seems to have happened in just the last few weeks and is the far greater story I think. Not tactics, not even strategy, but how we will withdraw from this disaster.H.D.S. Greenway who was a journalist in Vietnam during that war has just returned from Iraq and has added his voice to those recommending getting out. From today’s Globe:I used to believe that, no matter what one thought of the war, Americans had to stay to keep Iraq from disintegration and civil war. If I thought the United States could prevent either, I would say stay the course. But I believe now that we no longer control events in Iraq and that in the end we cannot hold the country together.To me the story that matters now, in terms of a media watch, is the sudden shift in opinion, after so long, in this direction. And that this opinion is being stated in public not just by the granola “war is bad” crowd, but by seasoned pros like Fallows and Greenway. What caused this sudden shift? What has caused this conclusion to become so patently obvious to so many more people now?

  10. Anonymous

    Getting out is NOT an option and is NOT the wise thing to do.I thought the whole affair is a misguided thing, but anyone who is saying get out now is either oblivious to the real solutions or is simply contrarian because they are forced to come up with a ‘solution’ that is ‘different’And by contrarian, I mean dems who are just clueless or too scared to really say what is in their mind. Or Republican hopefuls seeking to distance themselves from a disaster and salvage their chances with centre voters.I am too tired to get into why at this late hour, but it is utterly ignorant and clueless to advocate getting out now or two years from now.Too late to get out. You are in, you have to make it work. Getting out will make much worse.This is not a personal critique of yourself, anonymous, but of the prevailig line. Please don’t take it personally. I am sure you have been convinced like many since it looks like an impasse to you as well.HDS is again wrong and taking the easy road out like he usually does. I rarely like what he writes and I disagree that he is seasoned enough. Service experience is not an automatic qualifier. (ugh too tired to say more..)CheersN.

  11. Bill Baar

    Flattening… I get it from people non-political people I talk to about the war. They’re not straw. They’re my neigbors and they vote.I’m struck how people can swing from being opposed to any kind of intervention, to well, if we’re involved, let’s flatten the place.I remember the same attitude towards Vietnam: either pullout or nuke them. It wasn’t an unusual attitude then. I think it’s saddly very American. Give Americans a choice of American kids going door-to-door, and pull-out or bomb-em out; they’ll avoid the door-to-door business and pick bomb or leave. Just the way we avoided going door-to-door in Japan in 1945 and bombed instead.That’s just what this “who’s Bill Baar guy” hears.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén