Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jeff Englehart and White Phosphorus

There has been a lot of talk about the "admission" by the pentagon that we used white phosphorus rounds in Fallujah. I want to concentrate on an exchange in an interview with Jeff Englehart (one of the soldiers interviewed in the Italian documentary.

Oh, yeah. I mean, I definitely heard it being called for. And I even talked to reconnaissance scouts after the siege, and they said they had actually called for it.

Yeah, they probably called for all sorts of rounds; smoke, illum, HE, Airburst, and cluster munitions. This isn't news. They actually called for it... no kidding.

The Pentagon spokesperson says that they use this for concealment, or some sources say they use it for illumination.
The Pentagon Spokesperson is right. They do use it for concealment. Are you implying otherwise? Some sources say it is used for illumination. Those sources are wrong. Some sources call it a chemical weapon. They too are wrong.

But, I mean, I think that's ridiculous, because we would use — just based on my training as a reconnaissance scout myself, we would use illumination separately, as it’s on exclusive ground.

His own training as a reconnaissance scout? What MOS is that? This guy was a Cav Scout? When and where was he trained as a reconnaissance scout? He's right that illumination rounds are different from what are commonly referred to as WP. More on this later.

Since my training, we were taught that white phosphorus is used for troops out in the open or to destroy equipment and that it burns and that the only way to prevent the burning is to douse it with wet mud.

Yep. I can't argue with this. He seems to think that it's up for debate whether getting hit with white phosphorus is a dangerous proposition.

To me, it's definitely a chemical weapon in the fact that it burns, and it burns indiscriminately.

Well, actually the fact that something burns ISN'T the definition of a chemical weapon. It's the definition of an incendiary device. Gasoline burns, so does diesel fuel. Are molotov cocktails chemical weapons? Also, what DOESN'T burn indiscriminately? We discriminate on what we fire the stuff AT, but the munitions, of course, don't discriminate any more than HE rounds do.

So, I mean, even if the Geneva Protocol says it's illegal, I don't see how we're able to use it and then say that it's used for our own cover or illumination, when it actually could hurt our own troops.

Well, first of all, the Geneva Protocol might say it's illegal. They can call landmines, bullets, bombs or whatever 'illegal.' Unless our nation has signed on, we aren't violating any laws. Secondly, the fact that he doesn't know how these rounds could be used for our own cover shows how little he knows about the rounds. They put off smoke. Lots of smoke. They don't put off as much as HC rounds, but they put off smoke. Just because you wouldn't fire the rounds onto your own position, doesn't mean you wouldn't use it for concealment. You might fire it between an enemy position and your own, or fire it ON an enemy position where it will hinder their view and hopefully kill some of them.

So I just think that, from the very top, the big problem with this war is that from the very top to the lowest level soldier, everyone's being lied to.

Well, now we know where he's coming from with his criticism. It's all a lie. Only HE knows the truth. Wonder which side of the political divide he's on?

And then the news gets gentrified by the mass media to make it sound like, ‘Oh, well, white phosphorus is a good weapon that we can use to help spot targets,’ when it's actually designed to burn its victims.

Money quote. This guy doesn't even understand the difference between spotting rounds and illumination. He manages to sound arrogant about how ignorant the mass media is while displaying his own ignorance. He seems to think that "spotting targets" means allowing us to see them rather than trying to mark them. He doesn't even understand that when you are spotting targets you ARE TRYING to kill them. You spot a target by putting smoke or some other marking signal upon it so that others can blast the shit out of it. "We can use it to help spot targets" shows this guy knows nothing about what he's talking.

I must admit that several things confused me about this thing. The first was the State Department, talking about things they are less knowlegable than SPC Englehart.

The State Department, in response, initially denied that U.S. troops had used white phosphorous against enemy forces. "They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."
This made absolutely no sense to me. WP rounds aren't fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions. Like Dave at Garfield Ridge wrote, "Stay in your lanes."

Second, was my own ignorance. I didn't know that illumination rounds include phosphorus. NO ONE refers to illumination rounds as WP rounds. I finally learned about this from a commenter over at Confederate Yankee, and it cleared up a lot of the technical confusion. The fact that phosphorus is used in illumination rounds does not make them a WP round.

I've been really infuriated about this whole invented episode. People are intentionally slandering our nation and our military and they are using people's lack of familiarity with weapon systems to confuse them. If a guy like Jeff Englehart, who probably has some military experience, doesn't know the difference, what are people who have no knowledge on the subject going to think? ANYONE who claims that the United States military used chemical weapons in Fallujah is either ignorant and doesn't know what he's talking about, or is deliberately lying. There is no other explanation.

But they are probably showing their "true patriotism."

Jeff Goldstein absolutely nails this:

But I suspect that somewhere deep inside, even the true believers realize, each time they repeat debunked claims as if they’re received truths, that they are lying. Unfortunately, when you believe the ends justify the means, political opportunism and lies in the service are what you insist are largers truths seems a small price to pay for a few moments of dissembling.

In fact, such behavior is downright patriotic.

Update -- INDC Journal has the science on the stuff, and Mudville Gazette has some rather revealing quotes from SPC Englehart.

Update again -- Big Lizards has a few more things that just sound off about this guy. I'm really suspicious about his credentials. He just doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. Calling Bradleys "tanks", claiming that WP doesn't burn clothing, only the skin underneath, referring to it as "Whiskey Pete" rather than "Willie Pete".... just little things that make me suspicious.