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

L.A. Times on the phosphorus case

The Los Angeles Times today fronts an excellent in-depth story on claims that U.S. forces injured and killed civilians with the flesh-burning substance white phosphorus during its assault on Fallujah last year.

Reporters John Daniszewski and Mark Mazzetti write: “In the 1990s, in fact, the U.S. condemned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for allegedly using ‘white phosphorus chemical weapons’ against Kurdish rebels and residents of Irbil and Dohuk.” So much for U.S. denials that phosphorus is a chemical weapon.

And there is this:

Abdul Qadir Sadi, an Iraqi from Fallouja in his 30s, said doctors had told him that two of his family members were killed by white phosphorus.

“They had a lot of serious skin burns,” Sadi said. “The doctor at the hospital told us that they must have been hit by these chemicals. They were being treated by the doctor, but after a while, these burned places started to dissolve.”

“We have registered the documents and exhibits of everything that happened,” said Mohammed Tariq, a human rights worker in Fallouja. “We informed the Iraqi Red Crescent, the International Red Cross and [other] international organizations, but our efforts were in vain.”

The L.A. Times dutifully reports Pentagon denials that civilians in Fallujah were targeted. But I can’t imagine that anyone to the right of Ramsey Clark thinks that’s what happened. The issue remains whether U.S. forces attacked insurgents with white phosphorus even though they knew — or should have known — that civilians were in close proximity. Since the Pentagon has already admitted to the former, it’s hardly a great leap of logic to arrive at the latter.

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  1. steve b

    It’s pretty easy to deny that civillians were targeted, but they haven’t denied that they hit any civillians, nor have they confirmed they were successful in evacuating all civillians. To my knowledge, they’ve only said they’ve done the best they could. This seems like a point where Rumsfeld would invoke the “unknown unknowns” response that is so infamous — things we don’t know that we don’t know. Hopefully, though, he is forced to admit that modern war by nature offers no way to stop the most brutal of civillian casualties from occurring en masse.

  2. Anonymous

    Nobody cares.

  3. mike_b1

    Anon 9:40 p.m.: In a vacuum, like when the Kurds were being gassed, or the genocide in Africa, you’d be right.But this is one of those events where Americans are dying everyday, and that little annoyance has a way of rising up and biting everyone in DC on the a**. And then every other disgrace (cost overruns and embezzlements, legislators’ lies and coverups, the use of deadly chemicals on innocent people) becomes a scandal in itself. Agent Orange is still talked about.Give it time, anon. Give it time…

  4. Anonymous

    “use..on innocent people.” Your credibility is shot with that line.

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