Monday, April 29, 2013

Willie Pete? "We never used it, and now we are giving it up"


HOW very timely. In the same week that President Obama warns of the "red line" that will have been crossed if the Assad regime is shown to have used chemical weapons (the accusation is that sarin nerve gas has been used against civilian areas and rebels), it is reported that the Israeli military is giving up the use of white phosphorus.

But hang on. Didn't the Israeli government and its mouthpieces all deny the accusation that Israel was using white phosphorus in the first place? Even when photographs were appearing of Israeli forces scattering white phosphorus over Gaza during Operation Cast Lead?

I hesitate to trust my memory these days, when statesmen's lies are so preposterous (Did they really say that ?), but sure enough others better informed than me have confirmed this recollection. Among them is Idan Landau, an Israeli academic from Ben Gurion University, whose comments in his blog have been translated and published in .972 mag.

Israel gives up white phosphorus, because 'it doesn't photograph well'

By Idan Landau
A certain air of nostalgia dominated Maarivs headline last Thursday: “Due to criticism in the world, IDF parts ways with white phosphorus”: just like the old Galil assault rifle and the old two-way radios that generations of soldiers grew familiar with. A couple of years ago we learned the IDF was giving up its cans of preserved meat (the kosher version of SPAM). Now, it’s white phosphorus that we say goodbye to.
[Twilight. The IDF and white phosphorus exchange a final gaze. A sad violin tune is heard. Curtain down.]
So the IDF is looking for a replacement for the white phosphorus bombs. A senior officer in the ground forces explained: “As we learned during Cast Lead, it [white phosphorus] doesn’t photograph well, so we are reducing the supply and we will not purchase beyond what we already have.”

“It doesn’t photograph well.” In all honesty, the man is right.

This item caught me by surprise. The IDF is giving up white phosphorus? Wait a minute; the IDF never used white phosphorus during Cast Lead. So how exactly do you give up something you we never had? Chemical weapons are something the Syrians use, no?
Okay, after a while the army did remember that it had been confused, and it did use white phosphorus, but only in open territories and not against people.

Okay, then the IDF remembered that it got it wrong again and that it did use white phosphorus in urban areas. Two hundred bombs, actually. But this was only in order to create a “smoke screen,” and there is nothing wrong with that. And if there was something wrong, it’s insignificant and unintentional, and it would be thoroughly investigated, so that no stone is left unturned.

That’s all nice and well, except that at least 12 Gazans met their horrific death this way, burned to death by white phosphorus. Among them were three women, six children and a 15-month-old baby girl. Dozens more suffered burns from the material which continues to burn through flesh and tissue until it reaches the bone. Doctors in Gaza were helpless in treating the unfamiliar burns. Israel didn’t give them time to prepare themselves; white phosphorus shells hit Al-Quds Hospital and completely burned the top two floors.

These facts were already known in the first days of Cast Lead. Human Rights Watch published a thorough investigation – one of the most thorough I have read – of Israel’s use of white phosphorus and its devastating effects. IDF soldiers who took part in the Gaza campaign also testified on the extensive use of white phosphorus, including direct fire on houses suspected of being booby-trapped (and not for “masking” purposes as the IDF later claimed).

Ghada Abu Halima, 21, who was gravely injured by IDF white phosphorus in Gaza. Abu Halima later died of her wounds (photo: Muhammad Sabah / B’tzelem)
Indeed, the outcome “didn’t photograph well,” and that’s the reason the IDF is parting ways with white phosphorous. Not, god forbid, the hell that Ghada Abu Halima went through from the moment she was burned by white phosphorous and lost five family members, up until her death two and a half agonizing months later. Ghada managed to give her testimony and to have her photo taken, which “didn’t look good,” and “burdened Israeli hasbara [propaganda],” as the Maariv reporter put it.

White Phosphorus does not photograph well
Even so, after this announcement from Israel, perhaps now President Obama and David Cameron can be persuaded to issue a statement pledging that American and British forces will abandon the use of white phosphorus, such as they of course never used against the Iraqi town of Faluja.

Faluja -The_Hidden_Massacre

White Phosphorus in Iraq

Apparently US service personnel were so familiar with white phosphorus in munitions they gave it the nickname Willie Pete, from their pre-NATO phonetic alphabet. So charming, sounds like a cartoon character.  They're just kids at heart.
"Willie Pete is Standard" - an American report.



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