Is it just me, or has the white phosphorus story really gone into “Twilight Zone” mode?
I just happened to notice this on the WaPo while looking into things for my previous post: When Is a ‘Chemical’ Weapon Not a Chemical Weapon?.
The apparent answer, according to Jefferson Morely, is that it depends on who’s using it. He notes a April 1991 cable regarding Iraq’s crackdown on Kurdish rebels and writes
The DIA repeatedly describes white phosphorous as a chemical weapon. The report refers to "possible employment of phosphorous chemical weapons." It says the "WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds" and it says word of "possible WP chemical weapons attacks" prompted hundreds of thousands of Kurds to flee the area."
In Saddam Hussein’s hands, at least, WP munitions were regarded as chemical weapons.
Let’s ignore for the time being the “well, if that’s the case then Iraqi DID have weapons of mass destruction counter-argument. While I don’t think this point is groundless, at least as far as disproving the logic used by the ‘WP is WMD’ crowd, let’s leave the twisted logic to the moonbats, shall we?
As far as I can tell from reading the actual cable in question, it appears that it’s based on a phone conversation between either two Kurdish rebels or a Kurdish rebel and a DIA operative. First, note this near the beginning:
WARNING: (U) THIS IS AN INFORMATION REPORT, NOT FINALLY EVALUATED INTELLIGENCE.
So I guess this doesn’t really represent a official DIA policy, as the WaPo seems to be saying it does. Later:
APPARENTLY, THIS TIME IRAQ DID NOT USE NERVE GAS AS THEY DID IN 1988, IN HALABJA (GEOCOORD:3511N/04559E), IRAQ, BECAUSE THEY WERE AFRAID OF POSSIBLE RETALIATION FROM THE UNITED STATES (U.S.) LED COALITION.
Maybe I’m being dense, but the fact that Iraq apparently made this decision for this reason means that not only did Iraq think WP was not a chemical weapon, but that Iraq thought the Coalition thought that WP was not a chemical weapon. And, since I imagine someone read this report, we apparently didn’t think that, because we would have done something about it, or at least reported it, if our position in 1991 had been that WP was a chemical weapon.
Think about it. In all the examples we were given by the President, by the Pentagon, and by the media over the years of Iraqi use of chemical weapons, why didn’t we ever hear about this? If anyone anywhere really believed that WP was a chemical weapon we would have heard all about it. From Bill Clinton when ramping up for Desert Fox. From the UN during inspections as they uncovered hidden stores of WP artillery rounds. From George Bush before the 2003 invasion.
Or maybe, even in 1991, everyone, even the Defense Intelligence Agency, knew that WP wasn’t a chemical weapon. And trying to pretend otherwise in 2005 is really pretty lame.
UPDATE: Wait a minute. The Morely page seems to be some blog-like entry on the WaPo. It’s a Typepad page of sorts. It even has a trackback URL and comments. I don’t quite know what it is. Still, I stand by my points. And I applaud any effort by Legacy Media to join the 21st century, if that’s what they’re doing, even if I happen to disagree with this particular post. END UPDATE
Incidentally, I’d like to point out two other paragraphs of this document, which, while unrelated to the WP story, bear keeping in mind:
C. KURDISH REBELS ARE LOSING IN THEIR STRUGGLE AGAINST SADDAM HUSSEIN’S FORCES — KURDISH REBELS WHO WERE FIGHTING IN NORTHERN IRAQ WERE FORCED TO WITHDRAW INTO TURKEY BY TROOPS LOYAL TO SADDAM HUSSEIN. POOR ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND LACK OF HEAVY WEAPONS, AMMUNITION, AND SUPPLIES ARE THE PRIMARY CAUSES OF KURDISH LATEST DOWNFALL. THE ONLY GROUP CURRENTLY FIGHTING SADDAM HUSSEIN’S FORCES IN NORTHERN IRAQ IS THE “PESHMERGEH” (FRONT WARRIORS). HOWEVER, THIS GROUP IS ARMED ONLY WITH SMALL ARMS SUCH AS M-60 MACHINE-GUNS, AK-47 RIFLES AND UNKNOWN TYPES OF PISTOLS AND REVOLVERS.
D. KURDISH REBELS’ EXPECTATION OF RECEIVING HELP FROM U.S. LED COALITION FORCE — THE KURDISH RESISTANCE’S DECISION TO RISE UP AND FIGHT HUSSEIN’S FORCES WAS TRIGGERED BY THE OVERWHELMING MILITARY POWER DISPLAYED BY THE COALITION DURING “DESERT STORM” AND THE PROPAGANDA BROADCASTS OF VOICE OF AMERICA. KURDISH REBELS AND REFUGEES REALLY BELIEVED THAT EVENTUALLY THE COALITION FORCE WOULD COME TO HELP THEM IN THEIR FIGHTING AGAINST IRAQI FORCES. AFTER LEARNING OF U.S. PRESIDENT BUSH’S “STAY OUT OF IRAQ INTERNAL AFFAIRS” POLICY, KURDISH REBELS AND REFUGEES FELT AS THEY WERE SET UP AND LET DOWN BY THE COALITION FORCE (NO FURTHER INFORMATION AT THIS TIME).
If we were going to end offensive operations after 100 hours in 1991, we should have supported those that we hoped would do the dirty work. We didn’t, and a decade and a half of death, destruction, despair, and distrust followed.
Oh. And another war.