Now that the Iraqi government has been forced to investigate the US military’s criminal use of phosphorus incendiary bombs during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, it is important to note how slippery the Pentagon is being about its claim not to have used this dreadful weapon against “civilians.”
As I wrote in Counterpunch on Nov. 13, 2004, during the assault by the US military on this doomed city of 300,000:
In a grotesque and blatant war crime, the U.S. began this assault by first encircling Fallujah, and then declaring that it would allow women, children and old people to leave, but not “men and boys of fighting age” (whatever that may be). Several hundred people in a group of families trying to flee the city over the weekend were actually detained, and then, after allowing the women and children to go, U.S. troops tested the men’s hands for gunpowder traces. Finding none, they nonetheless sent them back to the doomed city to face their fate.
By trapping as many as 100,000 men and boys in the city before invading it, the U.S., acting for all the world more like a group of Bosnian Serb thugs than like the army of the Free World, has assured that it will be killing many, many civilians, but we won’t be hearing much about that. As far as the Pentagon and Centcom in Iraq go, the dead in Fallujah are and will be all rebels. If they die, they must have died fighting.
Besides the fact that denying civilians the right to flee a battlezone is in itself a war crime under the Geneva conventions, US actions before and during the assault and destruction of Fallujah mean that current assertions that white phosphorus weapons were not used against civilians are total lies. The Pentagon simply defined away all people left, or stranded, or trapped in the city as insurgents.
This grim history, so reminiscent of the way the Nazis herded jews into villages in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before leveling them, gives the lie to the latest effort to dodge a charge of war crimes in Iraq.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org