Monday, November 21, 2005

White Phosphorus, Take 2

The New York Times weighs in on the use of white phophorus in Iraq with a story by Scott Shane, "Defense of Phosphorus Use Turns into Damage Control," that is, sadly, pathetic, even by the Times' degraded standards for covering weapons use and possession in Iraq. The article spends most of its ink attacking the Italian television documentary, which at this point is the equivalent of bashing a dead cockroach, since that program's faults were exposed after its first airing, and bemoaning the subsequent "public relations" failures of the Bushies, as they first denied, then admitted (kind of), then effectively said, well, we in fact outed ourselves, but don't worry we were careful. Shane doesn't deal with the issue of civilian casualities. (For a more complete discussion, scroll down to my November 19 entry, "The Fire This Time.") Of "shake and bake" artillery bombardments, employing both white phosphorous and high explosves to flush out and kill guerilla fighters in Fallujah, Shane says nothing. Nor does he mention how white phosphorus was reserved for "lethal missions," according to an account in the Army's own Field Artillery Magazine. No, as Shane and the Times tell it the use of white phosophorus as a weapon wasn't as problematic as the subsequent bungling of the response to the Italian documentary. Shane cites an unnamed State Department official, who would not comment for the record but who "privately" dubbed the Bushies' response to the white phosphorus report "a public relations failure." (What is the Times policy on anonymous sources?")

"Public relations, indeed: The use of white phosphorus raises concerns because people can't forget the searing image of the Vietnamese girl running naked down the road, in flames....Death by fire, disfigurement by fire are terrifying to most sentient creatures, even among us fire dependent humans--and maybe that is because we are fire dependent. White phosphorus is nasty; the Times should look again.

1 comment:

faculty for workplace justice said...

and what do you think of the standard and blithe use of the "flush and kill" terminology? i am appalled. these, let us remember, are the people we were I(still are, i think. it is hard to keep track these days) meant to liberate. if they are fighting each other, flushing and killing them is taking sides, something we are not (officially) in the business of doing. if they are fighting us, then, clearly, the iraqi people we were meant to "liberate" don't want us, and we should clear the hell out of there.

with great effort, i think i can make myself accept that, in a context of war one might want to use such degrading and cold language as "flush and kill" (maybe, i tell myself, talking about human beings as if they were cockroaches helps fighting them. whatever). but these are our friends, remember? we went in to l.i.b.e.r.a.t.e. them.