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   Author  Topic: Ready for Nuremburg Yet?  (Read 3116 times)

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Ready for Nuremburg Yet?
« on: 2005-11-27 22:14:42 »
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Behind the phosphorus clouds are war crimes within war crimes

We now know the US also used thermobaric weapons in its assault on Falluja, where up to 50,000 civilians remained

Source: The Guardian
Authors: George Monbiot
Dated: 2005-11-22

The media couldn't have made a bigger pig's ear of the white phosphorus story. So, before moving on to the new revelations from Falluja, I would like to try to clear up the old ones. There is no hard evidence that white phosphorus was used against civilians. The claim was made in a documentary broadcast on the Italian network RAI, called Falluja: the Hidden Massacre. It claimed that the corpses in the pictures it ran "showed strange injuries, some burnt to the bone, others with skin hanging from their flesh ... The faces have literally melted away, just like other parts of the body. The clothes are strangely intact." These assertions were supported by a human-rights advocate who, it said, possessed "a biology degree".

I, too, possess a biology degree, and I am as well qualified to determine someone's cause of death as I am to perform open-heart surgery. So I asked Chris Milroy, professor of forensic pathology at the University of Sheffield, to watch the film. He reported that "nothing indicates to me that the bodies have been burnt". They had turned black and lost their skin "through decomposition". We don't yet know how these people died.

But there is hard evidence that white phosphorus was deployed as a weapon against combatants in Falluja. As this column revealed last Tuesday, US infantry officers confessed that they had used it to flush out insurgents. A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC that white phosphorus "was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants". He claimed "it is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal." This denial has been accepted by most of the mainstream media. UN conventions, the Times said, "ban its use on civilian but not military targets". But the word "civilian" does not occur in the chemical weapons convention. The use of the toxic properties of a chemical as a weapon is illegal, whoever the target is.

The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns people, rather than poisoning them, and is covered only by the protocol on incendiary weapons, which the US has not signed. But white phosphorus is both incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs. As Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC last week: "If ... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because ... any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons."

The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence: "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."

Last night the blogger Gabriele Zamparini found a declassified document from the US department of defence, dated April 1991, and titled "Possible use of phosphorus chemical". "During the brutal crackdown that followed the Kurdish uprising," it alleges, "Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorus (WP) chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil ... and Dohuk provinces, Iraq. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds and helicopter gunships ... These reports of possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread quickly ... hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled from these two areas." The Pentagon is in no doubt, in other words, that white phosphorus is an illegal chemical weapon.

The insurgents, of course, would be just as dead today if they were killed by other means. So does it matter if chemical weapons were mixed with other munitions? It does. Anyone who has seen those photos of the lines of blind veterans at the remembrance services for the first world war will surely understand the point of international law, and the dangers of undermining it.

But we shouldn't forget that the use of chemical weapons was a war crime within a war crime within a war crime. Both the invasion of Iraq and the assault on Falluja were illegal acts of aggression. Before attacking the city, the marines stopped men "of fighting age" from leaving. Many women and children stayed: the Guardian's correspondent estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians were left. The marines treated Falluja as if its only inhabitants were fighters. They levelled thousands of buildings, illegally denied access to the Iraqi Red Crescent and, according to the UN's special rapporteur, used "hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population".

I have been reading accounts of the assault published in the Marine Corps Gazette. The soldiers appear to have believed everything the US government told them. One article claims that "the absence of civilians meant the marines could employ blast weapons prior to entering houses that had become pillboxes, not homes". Another said that "there were less than 500 civilians remaining in the city". It continued: "The heroics [of the marines] will be the subject of many articles and books ... The real key to this tactical victory rested in the spirit of the warriors who courageously fought the battle. They deserve all of the credit for liberating Falluja."

But buried in this hogwash is a grave revelation. An assault weapon the marines were using had been armed with warheads containing "about 35% thermobaric novel explosive (NE) and 65% standard high explosive". They deployed it "to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms". It was used repeatedly: "The expenditure of explosives clearing houses was enormous."

The marines can scarcely deny that they know what these weapons do. An article published in the Gazette in 2000 details the effects of their use by the Russians in Grozny. Thermobaric, or "fuel-air" weapons, it says, form a cloud of volatile gases or finely powdered explosives. "This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure ... Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 metres per second ... As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation ... Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal haemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets." It is hard to see how you could use these weapons in Falluja without killing civilians.

This looks to me like a convincing explanation of the damage done to Falluja, a city in which between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians might have been taking refuge. It could also explain the civilian casualties shown in the film. So the question has now widened: is there any crime the coalition forces have not committed in Iraq?

[Hermit] This issue is fraught with interpretationary issues, but I suggest that the principle area to explore for "war crimes" hinges on the US' responsibility to protect civilians and civil infrastructure from harm. This is exactly why the USAF (like the IDF) keeps lying through misdirection about "precision munitions" and "selective targeting".  The reality is that artillery barrages and FAEs are far from precision devices and thus are probably illegal under these circumstances. The fact that the USAF does not talk about this issue may suggest that their interpretation is the same as mine. Of course, nuking Iran will be far worse. But I suspect that when we do, we will claim that Iran threatened our troops in Iraq with “WMDs”.

[Hermit] An additional issue, under Clinton, the US protested Russian use of FAEs as they are two component (binary) weapons, and thus banned under the protocol for chemical weapons. However it seems that now we are using them, it must be legal after all. After all, we are the good guy? Right? Right? Right! And besides, Putin is the Shrub's friend....
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999

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Re:Ready for Nuremburg Yet?
« Reply #1 on: 2005-11-28 00:51:37 »
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[Blunderov] Nuremburg 2? Bring it on! I can hardly wait.

It's hard to imagine any weapon less precise than DU which, furthermore, does not distinguish between friend or foe.

"In conclusion," Dr. Rokke urged, "the president of the United States, George W. Bush, and the prime minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, must acknowledge and accept responsibility for willful use of illegal uranium munitions - their own "dirty bombs" - resulting in adverse health and environmental effects."

Some Canadians have decided to move ahead on their own.

"By MWC.News Network
Lawyers Against the War Charge George Bush of aiding, abetting and counselling the commission of torture.
A Vancouver Lawyer has won a procedural victory in her attempt to prosecute U.S. President George W. Bush under the Criminal Code.
Gail Davisson, cofounder of an international group of jurists called "Lawyers Against the War", expressed her delight on October 18 following the lifting of a publication ban on court proceedings against the U.S. president.
The lawyer got the ball rolling against Bush as soon as he set foot on Canadian soil for his November 30, 2004, visit. As a private citizen, she charged him with seven counts of counselling, aiding, and abetting torture as Abu Gharib prison in Iraq and at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay naval base. She had her charges accepted by a justice of the peace in Vancouver Provincial Court."

The perpetrators should not imagine that they will, in time, be forgotten or forgiven:


"Chile's Augusto Pinochet marks his 90th birthday under house arrest on charges of repressing dissidents."

I think Guantanemo should be confiscated and turned into a prison for war criminals. Cuba can be chargedwith it's administration and payed a stipend by the UN for this purpose.


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Re:Ready for Nuremburg Yet?
« Reply #2 on: 2005-12-01 01:39:02 »
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[Blunderov] An overview of the law of war by Larry Beinhart. A philosophical overview is to be found at:


"Jus in bello refers to justice in war, to right conduct in the midst of battle. Responsibility for state adherence to jus in bello norms falls primarily on the shoulders of those military commanders, officers and soldiers who formulate and execute the war policy of a particular state. They are to be held responsible for any breach of the principles which follow below. Such accountability may involve being put on trial for war crimes, whether by one's own national military justice system or perhaps by the newly-formed International Criminal Court (created by the 1998 Treaty of Rome).

We need to distinguish between external and internal jus in bello. External, or traditional, jus in bello concerns the rules a state should observe regarding the enemy and its armed forces. Internal jus in bello concerns the rules a state must follow in connection with its own people as it fights war against an external enemy."


Larry Beinhart
Judgment at Nuremberg: Part II -- Making War Illegal (6 comments )
READ MORE: Iraq, Afghanistan, George W. Bush
The Law

The “law” of war deals with wars between nations.

Wars between nations used to be the norm. Many people considered warfare to be fine and noble, the highest type of human endeavor. "Is not peace an element of civil corruption and war a purification, a liberation, an enormous hope?" (Thomas Mann)

Those ideas wore themselves out in the trenches of the First World War.

The nations of the world, including the United States, renounced war as an instrument of policy in 1928 by signing the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Germany and Japan also signed.

Law – even something so apparently distant and abstract as international law – is always, at its birth, an attempt to deal with real situations: here’s a problem, it keeps coming up, let’s set a rule on how to deal with it. The machine made slaughter of the Second World War was even worse than the machine gun slaughter of the First. The response was - in effect – “didn’t you learn anything the first time? You signed off on it. Going to war was a violation of that treaty. That’s one of the legal foundations of putting you on trial.”

There were thirteen sets of trials at Nuremberg. The first was of twenty-one of the Nazi leaders. All of them were indicted for planning and/or waging an aggressive war. Twelve were convicted of those charges. Seven of those twelve were sentenced to death by hanging.

If Kellogg-Briand was binding on Germany and Japan in the middle of the 20th Century, it must be argued that it is binding on America at the start of the 21st.

Furthermore, the United States was the leader in setting up the war crimes tribunals. We supplied several of the prosecutors and we supplied several of the judges who hung the Nazis convicted of committing the “supreme international crime,” a “war of aggression.” The United States was also the chief architect of the United Nations. The UN charter, which renounces war, has treaty status, and the US is a signatory.

Legal Wars

1) Self-Defense:
The right to self-defense is complete.
Nothing limits a nation’s right to defend itself. If it is attacked.

2) Civil Wars:

All the rules dealt with wars between nations.

It did not deal with wars within nations or empires.

In order to make wars between countries illegal it was necessary to give sovereignty and territorial integrity almost sacred status. The first commandment and the commandment that overruled all others, was: do not enter another country.

It was impossible to deal with someone else’s civil war or internal genocide or a war for independence without crossing a border, so those wars were left out of the equation. They were internal matters, neither legal nor illegal in international terms.

Those kinds of wars are going on constantly. Most years we can find between twenty and thirty ethnic conflicts, tribal wars, internal political conflicts or full blown civil wars going on around the globe.

3) War by Invitation:
If a government in a civil war or under attack calls for help, a foreign power can come in by invitation. That was the legal circumstance under which the US was in Vietnam. The Russians claimed they were invited into Hungry in 1956.

4) UN Wars:
The United Nations may also authorize a war in order to keep or restore the peace. The Korean War was a UN police action. The war to drive Iraq out of Kuwait was authorized by the UN.


We constantly hear that international law is worthless and never stops anyone from doing anything. We constantly hear how ineffectual the United Nations is.
It may come as a surprise, then, to discover how very, very few wars there have been of the type outlawed by the UN Charter since 1945.

Those exceptions include: Iraq’s invasion of Iran; Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait; China’s 20 day invasion of Vietnam in 1979, Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia to suppress the Khmer Rouge in 1979; the invasion of Israeli territory by six Arab states in 1947; the invasion of Egypt by Great Britain, France and Israel in 1956; the invasion of Israel by Egypt and Syria in 1973; US troops sent to the Dominican Republic in 1965; US attacks in Cambodia during the 70’s.

That’s about it.

I have not included a host of minor clashes. Not state sponsored or assisted terrorist attacks like Lockerbie, nor the US taking shots from the air at Libya. Not the Intifada, not shots fired along the border in Kashmir.

I have not included the US invasions of Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel’s Six Day War and the raid on Osirek because they have all been claimed to be “preemptive war.”

Preemptive War

The number one, iron clad justification for war is self-defense.

But what if a violent enemy, which has sworn your country’s destruction, is massing on your borders. Moreover, you have “intelligence” that tells you they plan to attack. Do you have to wait for the attack before you defend yourself? Does self-defense mean that a country has to let the enemy strike first as the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor?

Or can you “preempt” them and attack first?

TO BE CONTINUED: We are currently engaged in two wars based on an extension of the idea of preemptive war. It is written down as the National Security Strategy and referred to as the Bush Doctrine. It is worth understanding what the legal tradition has been and why it has been that way. How the NSS/Bush Doctrine departs from it, and if it is legal. Or illegal. And why that matters.
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Re:Ready for Nuremburg Yet?
« Reply #3 on: 2005-12-31 04:13:22 »
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Quote from: Hermit on 2005-11-27 22:14:42   

Behind the phosphorus clouds are war crimes within war crimes

[Blunderov] The Downing Street memo has been confirmed in detail by John Conyer.


Many who should know better say that this is old news and I suppose it is in a sense. It is however, also, and much more importantly, evidence. Evidence of that that gravest of all war crimes; waging aggressive war. Evidence which is now in the public record. It will not go away. No statute of limitations here. Murder is forever.


"Last Resort: force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted."

[Bl.] Moyers' blow by blow accounting can be found at:


Impeaching Bush alone will not be sufficient. The neocons must be purged until no trace remains in the body politic. Guantanemo may come in handy - I like my justice poetic, don't you?

Here is a post at http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/6187
that attracted my attention.

Best Regards.

Meanwhile, back at Neocon Central, ...
Submitted by Arvy on Fri, 2005-12-30 19:36.
... as congressmen, bloggers and Americans in general struggle to assimilate all the facts and revelations about a war that is now more than three years old (its actual initiation having preceeded congessional authorization) the plotters are doing their very best to ensure that the 2006 elections occur in the context of an even wider and more dangerous Middle East conflagration.

In a recent Counterpunch article, two former CIA analysts, Bill and Kathleen Christison, warn us that "The peace movements of the entire world should be in crisis mode right now, working non-stop to prevent the U.S. and Israel from starting a war against Iran."

I have to admit that I too have overlooked some important aspects of the war pimps' recent exertions, despite my own best efforts to keep up with them. As Gary Leupp (Professor of History at Tufts University) points out today in a another Counterpunch article, Turkey seems to be the latest "beneficiary" of their war mongering disinformation campaigns.

The Turkish press reports that in a December trip to Turkey, CIA Director Porter Goss "asked Ankara to be ready for a possible US air operation against Iran and Syria." Coming hot on the heels of FBI Director Robert Mueller, he brought with him a large delegation and three dossiers laying out the case against Iran. The first purportedly documents the existence of Iranian nuclear weapons, the second of Iranian ties to al-Qaeda and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), and the third depicts Iran as a mortal enemy of the secular Turkish state. Apparently the PKK issue was central to the discussions.

This account follows Philip Giraldi's report in the American Conservative last July that Vice President Cheney has asked the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to draw up concrete, short term contingency plans for an attack on Iran, to involve "a large-scale air assault employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons." This would occur in the aftermath of a terror attack on the U.S. which, whatever its origins, would be politically used to justify an attack on Iran, just as the al-Qaeda attack was used to justify the attack on Iraq. Cheney has also declared matter-of-factly that if the U.S. doesn't attack Iran, Israel might do so. James Petras persuasively documents Israeli intentions.

Just think about it: a tripartite Iraq, a desparate Syria, a fundamentalist Shiite Iran, a fearful anti-Kurd Turkey, all engaged in one way or another in an expanded Middle East war, where Israel will undoubtedly do its best to keep the pot boiling furiously for its own reasons. Does anyone foresee a "normal" U.S. election process occuring in that 2006 environment.

Happy New Year, everyone.</snip>

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