The United States is facing fresh allegations that it used chemical weapons against civilians during the fight for control of the Iraqi town of Fallujah. A documentary screened on Italian state television last night accuses the US military of dropping white phosphorous bombs on the insurgent-held city. It was a year ago today when US troops launched a fierce offensive to take over Fallujah.
Washington has not signed an international treaty restricting the use of white phosphorous. It readily admits using the weapon to illuminate battlefields but officials deny using it in built-up areas. However Jeff Englehart and Garrett Reppenhagen, former soldiers who served in Iraq, say white phosphorous was used indiscriminately. “I do know that white phosphorus was used, which is definitely without a shadow of a doubt a chemical weapon.”
“The white phosphorus will spread in a cloud and when it makes contact with skin its absolutely irreversible damage, burning flesh to the bone,” he said. Englehart says he witnessed the results. “Yes burned, burned bodies…and burned children and burned women. White phosphorus kills indiscriminately, it’s a cloud that within, in most cases in 150 meters of impact will disperse and will burn any human being or animal.”
The filmmakers say Washington has tried to destroy any filmed evidence of the attack. Graphic images of the aftermath were captured by a medical team charged with identifying and burying the bodies after the attack. Italian public opinion has consistently been against the war and the Rai documentary may put the government under more pressure to withdraw the country’s peacekeeping force.