Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Wash. Post's Woodward's misleading, disingenuous statements on Plame investigation

A November 16 Washington Post article revealed that Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward testified before a grand jury on November 14 that in June 2003, a "senior administration official" told him that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA. Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald is investigating possible violations of the law in connection with the leak of Plame's identity and has to date obtained the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges of perjury, obstruction, and making false statements. Media Matters for America has identified numerous instances in which Woodward -- without disclosing his involvement in the Plame affair -- criticized Fitzgerald's investigation and questioned whether an actual crime had been committed. Woodward's comments, some of which are inconsistent, raise questions about his conduct.

According to the Post, Woodward learned of Plame's identity one month before Libby allegedly disclosed Plame's identity to New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Woodward reportedly failed to disclose his involvement in the Plame controversy to the Post until last month and testified under oath on November 14. The Post further reported on November 16, in an article by staff writer Howard Kurtz, that Woodward apologized to executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. "for failing to tell him for more than two years that a senior Bush administration official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame," noting that Woodward "held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald." According to the Post: "Downie said Woodward had violated the paper's guidelines in some instances by expressing his 'personal views.' " Kurtz wrote further: "Woodward said today that he 'had a lot of pent-up frustration' about watching Fitzgerald threatening reporters with jail for refusing to testify, while 'I was trying to get the information out and couldn't' because of his agreement with his administration source."

While Kurtz refers to "some instances" in which Downie said Woodward violated the Post's guidelines, there were in fact numerous appearances on television and radio in which Woodward attacked Fitzgerald's investigation, defended reporters, or downplayed the significance of the alleged conduct of administration figures. Woodward described the investigation as an assault on First Amendment protections of the press. On the July 11 edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Woodward claimed Fitzgerald's investigation was "just running like a chain saw right through the lifeline that reporters have to sources who will tell you the truth, what's really going on," and was "undermining the core function in journalism." He also warned: "We better wake up to what's going on in the seriousness on the assault on the First Amendment that's taking place right before our eyes." On the July 17 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, Woodward said, "[T]he idea of the government and special prosecutors monkeying around with the relationship that reporters have with sources is a very, very bad thing."

Woodward's criticisms of Fitzgerald's "assault on the First Amendment" were primarily in response to the jailing of Miller for contempt of court after she refused to reveal who divulged Plame's identity to her. For example, during a taped interview on the July 13 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Woodward said: "Judy Miller should not be in jail. I think the judge and the special prosecutor in this alleged CIA leak case made a mistake. It's really vital to have confidential sources. I think Judy Miller is doing the right thing. And I think she should be freed and they should reconsider this."

On the October 17 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, Woodward said of Fitzgerald: "And there's a lot of innocent actions in all of this, but what has happened this prosecutor, I mean, I used to call [Newsweek investigative correspondent] Mike Isikoff, when he worked at The Washington Post, the junkyard dog. Well, this is a junkyard-dog prosecutor, and he goes everywhere and asks every question and turns over rocks and rocks under rocks and so forth." At no point did Woodward disclose that he, too, was a "rock" he did not want Fitzgerald to turn over.

Woodward also defended syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who originally made Plame's identity public in a July 14, 2003, column but has since refused to identify his source. Woodward was quoted in a December 1, 2004, Editor & Publisher article saying that "Bob Novak has taken a stand that is supported by many in the press," adding, "He is protecting his sources. He has done nothing that is illegal or improper."

At no point in making these comments did Woodward note that he had a specific and personal interest in Fitzgerald's inquiry: Even as Fitzgerald was subpoenaing reporters, Woodward knew that his testimony, in which he too would presumably be forced to reveal his sources, would have been significant to the investigation.

On several occasions, Woodward dismissed the controversy as much ado about nothing or opined that he saw no evidence of a crime -- again, without disclosing that he had a personal interest in the course the investigation took and in an ultimate determination that it was, in fact, "much ado about nothing." On the July 7 broadcast of National Public Radio's Fresh Air, Woodward said: "There was no national security threat. There was no jeopardy to her life. There was no nothing. When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great."

On the July 17 editon of CNN's Reliable Sources, he said:

WOODWARD: Again, I'm not sure there's any crime in all of this. The special prosecutor has been working 18 months. Eighteen months into Watergate we knew about the tapes. People were in jail. People had pled guilty. In other words, there was a solid evidentiary trail. I don't see it here.


Well, it may just be politics as usual. I mean, [White House senior adviser Karl] Rove's defenders say, look, the evidence is, and the evidence is, that he was saying Joe Wilson, who was criticizing the administration on weapons of mass destruction really had an ax to grind and got his job because his wife had worked at the CIA and recommended him, so there's fuzziness to this.

As Media Matters has repeatedly documented, the assertion that Wilson "got his job because his wife had worked at the CIA and recommended him" has been disputed by senior CIA officials. More significantly, Woodward's claim that he saw no "solid evidentiary trail" was highly disingenuous, as it is now clear that he himself potentially withheld evidence by not disclosing he had discussed Plame's identity with a senior administration official. And Woodward's comment on what "Rove's defenders" claim was his motivation in disclosing Plame's identity leaves open the question: what was Woodward's source's motivation?

On the October 27 Larry King Live, he said:

WOODWARD: Now, there are a couple of things that I think are true. First of all, this began not as somebody launching a smear campaign that it actually -- when the story comes out, I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter, and that somebody learned that Joe Wilson's wife had worked at the CIA and helped him get this job going to Niger to see if there was an Iraq/Niger uranium deal.

For Woodward to say he "thinks" that Plame's identity arose through gossip is highly misleading because, as it turns out, he is in a unique position to "know" if that is in fact what happened.

Woodward has not always been consistent in describing the seriousness -- or lack thereof -- of the Plame matter. His comments on Reliable Sources and Fresh Air dismissing the seriousness of the Plame leak, and his defense of Miller and Novak for refusing to reveal their sources, stand in stark contrast to earlier remarks in which he played up the "risk" involved in outing Plame as a reason for journalists not to protect their sources. According to an April 2005 Columbia Journalism Review article:

Bob Woodward, perhaps the preeminent investigative reporter of his time, believes in supporting journalists who are protecting sources. Yet he sees the use of confidentiality in this case -- to hide the sources who identified Valerie Plame -- as a weak reed to lean on. "I use confidential sources more than most anyone," Woodward concedes, "but it has to be worth the risk involved. I don't think outing Plame was worth the risk."

Moreover, in the same edition of Reliable Sources quoted above, Woodward acknowledged the possibility that Plame's outing was a crime: "That they were involved in what? Involved in criminal disclosure of this woman's identity or involved in this free interchange? I admit, no one knows the answer to this. I don't even think the special prosecutor knows the answer to this." Woodward's disingenuousness in asserting "no one knows" if a crime was committed is now apparent: He had evidence then that would have contributed to a determination of whether a crime had in fact been committed.

Media Matters had previously documented other false and contradictory statements by Woodward regarding the Plame matter. On the July 31 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, Woodward baselessly claimed that Wilson's 2002 report to the CIA on the purported sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq contradicted his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, in which Wilson claimed it was unlikely such a transaction occurred. On the October 27 Larry King Live, Woodward claimed that the CIA completed a "damage assessment" of Plame's outing and found that no serious harm had been done, only to be contradicted two days later by his own paper, which reported that the CIA has done no formal damage assessment.

— S.G. & S.S.M.

Posted to the web on Wednesday November 16, 2005 at 4:11 PM EST

The New World Order...No Habeas Corpus? and...TORTURE TAXI in North CAROLINA
Detainees Deserve Court Trials

By P. Sabin Willett
Monday, November 14, 2005; A21

As the Senate prepared to vote Thursday to abolish the writ of habeas corpus, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl were railing about lawyers like me. Filing lawsuits on behalf of the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Terrorists! Kyl must have said the word 30 times.

As I listened, I wished the senators could meet my client Adel.

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn't just Adel who was innocent -- it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq -- all Guantanamo "terrorists" whom the military has found innocent.

Habeas corpus is older than even our Constitution. It is the right to compel the executive to justify itself when it imprisons people. But the Senate voted to abolish it for Adel, in favor of the same "combatant status review tribunal" that has already exonerated him. That secret tribunal didn't have much impact on his life, but Graham says it is good enough.

Adel lives in a small fenced compound 8,000 miles from his home and family. The Defense Department says it is trying to arrange for a country to take him -- some country other than his native communist China, where Muslims like Adel are routinely tortured. It has been saying this for more than two years. But the rest of the world is not rushing to aid the Bush administration, and meanwhile Adel is about to pass his fourth anniversary in a U.S. prison.

He has no visitors save his lawyers. He has no news in his native language, Uighur. He cannot speak to his wife, his children, his parents. When I first met him on July 15, in a grim place they call Camp Echo, his leg was chained to the floor. I brought photographs of his children to another visit, but I had to take them away again. They were "contraband," and he was forbidden to receive them from me.

In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that "the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: 'What could the Nazis have said in their favor?' History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say. . . . The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength."

The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.

Mistakes are made: There will always be Adels. That's where courts come in. They are slow, but they are not beholden to the defense secretary, and in the end they get it right. They know the good guys from the bad guys. Take away the courts and everyone's a bad guy.

The secretary of defense chained Adel, took him to Cuba, imprisoned him and sends teams of lawyers to fight any effort to get his case heard. Now the Senate has voted to lock down his only hope, the courts, and to throw away the key forever. Before they do this, I have a last request on his behalf. I make it to the 49 senators who voted for this amendment.

I'm back in Cuba today, maybe for the last time. Come down and join me. Sen. Graham, Sen. Kyl -- come meet the sleepy-eyed young man with the shy smile and the gentle manner. Afterward, as you look up at the bright stars over Cuba, remembering what you've seen in Camp Echo, see whether the word "terrorist" comes quite so readily to your lips. See whether the urge to abolish judicial review rests easy on your mind, or whether your heart begins to ache, as mine does, for the country I thought I knew.

The writer is one of a number of lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay prisoners on a pro bono basis.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

CIA's 'Torture Taxi' in the Spotlight
By Mike Ferner
t r u t h o u t | Report

Monday 21 November 2005

Ft. Benning, Georgia - Sitting in a Georgia motel Saturday night, Kathy Kelly talked through a bad phone connection and a worse head cold to recount the previous day's activities during which she and 13 others were arrested at an airstrip outside Raleigh, North Carolina.

The tiny Johnson County Airport is home to Aero Contractors Corp., a firm described by the New York Times as "a major domestic hub of the Central Intelligence Agency's secret air service" that shuttles prisoners abroad for interrogation and suspected torture. The Times reports Aero was founded in 1979 by the chief pilot for Air America, a CIA front in Vietnam.

In addition to Kelly, those arrested Friday included residents of a Raleigh Catholic Worker house and members of Stop Torture Now, a project of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in St. Louis, Missouri. Protesters walked onto company property and lowered the flags to half-mast before being arrested.

Local supporters included members of the North Carolina Council of Churches, Amnesty International, and the War Resisters League. They participated by dressing like Guantánamo prisoners in orange jumpsuits, holding a banner that said "Aero Contractor CIA Torture Taxi," and delivering a four-count "indictment" to current and former heads of the CIA and company officials for violating US and international laws against torture.

Kelly, a leader in the movement to stop the US war on Iraq, said she got arrested to protest a growing concern over the government "becoming increasingly blatant about its role in torture. People need to stand up before it becomes more risky."

Asked what she meant by that, she replied, "At this point here in the US, we don't face any of the risks of people who stood up against the Salvadoran death squads. We are perhaps inconvenienced, but there are no massacres, our family members aren't being killed. That's why we need to stand up now."

What worries her most, she explained, are not reports of torture coming out of US-run prisons in Iraq or secret sites around the world. "The US has always excepted itself from international norms of human decency ... but now some are starting to say, 'It's okay. We're the US. We have to do anything to make sure we're never attacked again.' It's disturbing to see how tolerant we've become."

"You hear people say, 'Well, Saddam was a lot worse than the CIA so we have to do it in order to keep people like Saddam from hurting people.' That is really faulty thinking," the Nobel Peace Prize nominee added. "We are using some of the exact same torture cells Saddam used! When we apprehend Iraqis, they might be good guys, but by the time they leave after three days, they're bad guys, is how one soldier explained it. And look at the woman bomber arrested in Jordan. She had three brothers killed in Iraq and the person she married was held three days and tortured. If we think terrifying people is a way to build security, we're misguiding ourselves in a terrible way. Real protection lies in building just and fair relationships."

While Kelly and the others were being arrested Friday morning, copies of the "indictment" were delivered to members of the Johnston County Council and the Johnston County Airport Commission asking that officials take action to revoke Aero Contractors' lease for engaging in illegal activities at the public airfield.

After her arrest at the Johnston County Airport Friday, Kelly traveled to Ft. Benning, Georgia, to join over 15,000 people gathered for the annual protest against the Army's School of the Americas, which critics say trains Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency tactics including torture. She and the 13 people arrested outside Raleigh were released on $500 bond and given dates in January to appear in court in Johnston County.


Mike Ferner is a freelance writer from Ohio.


Wag the Dog
By Michael T. Klare

Tuesday 15 November 2005

Crisis scenarios for deflecting attention from the President's woes.
In the 1998 movie Wag the Dog, White House spinmeister Conrad Brean seeks to deflect public attention from a brewing scandal over an alleged sexual encounter in the White House between the president and an all-too-young Girl Scout-type by concocting an international crisis. Advised by a Hollywood producer (played with delicious perversity by Dustin Hoffman), Brean "leaks" a fraudulent report that Albania has acquired a suitcase-sized nuclear device and is seeking to smuggle it into the United States. This obviously justifies an attention-diverting military reprisal. The press falls for the false report (sound familiar?) and all discussion of the president's sex scandal disappears from view - or, as Brean would have it, the "tail" of manufactured crisis wags the "dog" of national politics.

As Brean explains all this to the White House staff in the film, American presidents have often sought to distract attention from their political woes at home by heating up a war or crisis somewhere else. Now that the current occupant of the White House is facing roiling political scandals of his own, it stands to reason that he, too, or his embattled adviser Karl Rove (not to speak of his besieged Vice President, Dick Cheney) may be thinking along such lines. Could Rove - today's real-life version of Conrad Brean - already be cooking up a "wag the dog" scenario? Only those with access to the innermost sanctum of George Bush's White House can know for sure, but it is hardly an improbable thought, given that they have done so in the past.

It bears repeating that this administration - more than any other in recent times - has employed deception and innuendo to mold public opinion and advance its political agenda. Indeed, the very scandal now enveloping the White House - the apparent conspiracy to punish whistle-blower Joseph Wilson by revealing the covert CIA identity of his wife, Valerie Plame - is rooted in the President's drive to mobilize support for the invasion of Iraq by willfully distorting Iraqi weapons capabilities. Why then would he and his handlers shrink from exaggerating or distorting new intelligence about other hostile powers, and then using such distortions to ignite an international crisis?

Add to this the fact that a rising level of belligerence is already detectable in the statements of top administration officials regarding potential adversaries in the Middle East and Asia. Most striking perhaps was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's truculent appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 19. Under questioning from both Democratic and Republican Senators, she refused to rule out the use of military force against Syria or Iraq, nor would she acknowledge any presidential obligation to consult Congress before engaging in such an action. Asked by Senator Paul Sarbanes (Dem.-MD) whether the administration actually "entertains the possibility of using military action against Syria or against Iran" and "could undertake to do that without obtaining from Congress an authorization for such action," she replied: "What I said is that the President doesn't take any of his options off the table and that I will not say anything that constrains his authority as Commander in Chief." While insisting that the administration was still relying on diplomacy to resolve its differences with Syria and Iran, she left no doubt as to Bush's preparedness (and right) to employ force at any time or place of his choosing.

There are many who claim that Bush could not possibly contemplate military action against Iran, Syria, or any other hostile power at present. American forces, they argue, are stretched to the limit in Iraq and so lack the capacity to undertake a significant campaign in another country. At the very least, these analysts overlook the massive American air and naval capabilities hardly engaged in Iraq, and certainly available for use elsewhere. But this is not the point. As Wag the Dog suggested, war itself is not the only way to distract public attention from the President's domestic woes. An atmosphere of crisis in which rumors of war or preparations for war come to overshadow all else might well do the trick - and administration officials don't need fresh armies to accomplish this, only plausible scenarios for the escalation of existing foreign troubles. These, unfortunately, are all too easy to find.

What then are the most promising scenarios at hand for such a purpose? Many such scenarios might be envisioned, but the most credible ones - barring a major new terrorist attack on the United States - would entail a military showdown with Syria, Iran, or North Korea.

The Syria Option

Syria appears the most likely candidate for an instant stir-and-mix foreign-policy crisis. To start with, it has already been branded a pariah state - both because of its suspected involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and because the Bush administration regularly charges it with facilitating the entry of foreign jihadists into Iraq.

The issue of Syrian involvement in Hariri's assassination arose immediately following the February 14, 2005 bomb explosion that killed him (and 22 others) in downtown Beirut. Because Hariri had long campaigned for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, his supporters insisted that Damascus must have played a role in the explosion. The United States and Great Britain persuaded the UN Security Council to initiate an investigation of the explosion. A preliminary report by the international team formed to investigate, released on October 24, strongly suggested that Syrian officials had played a key role in organizing the attack. Washington and London then returned to the Security Council on October 31and pushed through a resolution that calls on the Syrian government to cooperate fully with the continuing investigation and make available for questioning any of its top officials suspected of involvement. This resolution also warns of unspecified "further action" - an obvious threat of economic sanctions - if Syria fails to comply. The ante was raised further on November 7, when UN investigators requested interviews with six top Syrian officials, including General Assef Shawkat, the powerful brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad.

From the very beginning, the White House has seized on these developments to portray Syria as an outlaw state and set the stage for a diplomatic assault on the Assad regime. Condoleezza Rice has been particularly harsh. After the October 31 resolution was adopted, for instance, she declared, "With our decision today, we show that Syria has isolated itself from the international community - through its false statements, its support for terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbors, and its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East." Then came the clincher: "Now the Syrian government must make a strategic decision to fundamentally change its behavior."

What changes must the Syrian government make? What are the consequences if it fails to comply? There are no clear answers to these questions, nor are there likely to be any. The intent, so far as can be determined, is not to reach some sort of peaceful resolution of this issue but rather to keep Damascus, and the rest of the world, on edge, expecting some new crisis at any moment. This strategy - "rattling the cage," as it's known in Washington - was reportedly adopted by senior aides to President Bush at an October 1st meeting at the White House. According to the New York Times, this strategy entails putting relentless pressure on the Assad regime, forcing it to make humiliating concessions to Washington (thus weakening it domestically) or face increasingly severe reprisals from Washington and its allies

The public face of this assault is the diplomatic campaign being waged by Condoleezza Rice and her associates at the Department of State. The Department of Defense, meanwhile, is conducting the dark side of this campaign, involving nothing short of a covert, low-level military campaign against Syria, including commando raids by Iraqi-based US forces into Syrian territory. These raids - first reported by the New York Times in October - are supposedly intended to impede efforts by Iraqi insurgent forces or foreign jihadists to use Syria as a staging point for forays into Iraq. Undoubtedly, however, they constitute but another component of the "rattling the cage" strategy, designed to keep the Assad regime off balance, tempting or provoking it into clashes with American forces that would only provide a justification for further escalations of the attacks.

It is easy to see how this could lead to something closer to the outbreak of full-scale military hostilities with Syria or, more likely, escalating air and missile attacks. Indeed, military analyst William Arkin of the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon has already commenced full-scale planning for such contingencies. "US intelligence agencies and military planners [have] received instructions to prepare up-to-date target lists for Syria and to increase their preparations for potential military operations against Damascus," he observed recently. Such operations could include "cross-border operations to...destroy safe havens supporting the Iraqi insurgency" as well as "attacks on the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad." Attacks of this type could be mounted at any time, and should be considered highly likely if Damascus rebuffs UN efforts to compel testimony by its senior officials or if conditions worsen in Iraq (as is likely).

The standoff between the United States and Syria has already been ratcheted up to dangerous levels and could be intensified even further in the weeks ahead if Assad refuses to turn over his brother-in-law and other top officials for questioning (and possible arrest) by the UN investigating team. Under these circumstances, it would be all too easy for the White House to create a brink-of-war environment in Washington, possibly by stepping up commando raids on the Iraq-Syrian border or by threatening to bomb terrorist "sanctuaries" inside Syria. Even if such strikes were merely hinted at, discussion of a possible war with Syria would monopolize media coverage of the White House and so deflect attention from the President's political woes.

The Iran Option

After Syria, the ongoing imbroglio over Iran's nuclear activities represents the most promising option for a "wag the dog" scenario. This dispute has approached moments of acute crisis before, only to subside following a concession by one side or another - and this could certainly happen again. At present, however, a very serious confrontation appears to be in the offing. While long in the making, the current standoff with Iran hasn't been eased any by that country's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who seems to be prone to making inflammatory statements. (Israel, he said recently, "must be wiped off the map.") Nonetheless, the primary issue is Iran's apparent determination to engage in nuclear activities viewed in Washington as indicative of a covert Iranian drive to manufacture nuclear weapons. Here, a bit of background is useful.

Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and, in accordance with the treaty, has asserted its right to build nuclear power plants and to construct the infrastructure needed to "enrich" natural uranium - that is, increase the proportion of the fissionable isotope U-235 - for use in its reactors. Over the years, however, Iran has violated its NPT obligations by building uranium enrichment facilities out of sight of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These facilities include a plant to convert uranium ore into a gas, uranium hexaflouride (UF6), that can be introduced into high-speed centrifuges which separate U-238 from the lighter U-235, allowing for the gradual accumulation of "enriched" uranium - the raw material for both power reactors and, in highly enriched form, nuclear weapons. The Iranians insist that they want the enriched material for peaceful purposes only; but their concealment of these efforts in the past leads easily to speculation that they ultimately seek to accumulate highly-enriched uranium for a future Iranian bomb.

The Bush administration has already made up its mind on this subject: "Iran [has] concealed a large-scale, covert nuclear weapons program for over eighteen years," then Undersecretary of State (and now UN Ambassador) John R. Bolton asserted on August 17, 2004. "The costly infrastructure to perform all of these [enrichment] activities goes well beyond any conceivable peaceful nuclear program," he added. "No comparable oil-rich nation has ever engaged, or would be engaged, in this set of activities - or would pursue them for nearly two decades behind a continuing cloud of secrecy and lies to IAEA inspectors and the international community - unless it was dead set on building nuclear weapons."

Despite such American assertions, the IAEA and the international community have not reached a consensus on Iran's ultimate intentions. The IAEA has, however, repeatedly stated that Iran is in violation of its obligations to fully disclose all nuclear-related activities and to abstain from actions that could lead to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. In 2003, a "trio" of European Union nations - Britain, France, and Germany - secured an agreement from Teheran to temporarily suspend uranium enrichment activities while negotiations were under way for a permanent suspension in exchange for a package of EU economic benefits. But neither these negotiations, nor repeated IAEA warnings, have fully halted Iranian enrichment programs. Now, the Bush administration is calling for an IAEA resolution that would find Iran in full breach of its NPT obligations and refer the matter to the UN Security Council for possible actions which could include the imposition of economic and other sanctions.

At a meeting on Sept 24, the IAEA Board of Governors formally held Iran in breach of its NPT obligations, but did not immediately refer the matter to the Security Council, presumably to leave more room for negotiations. President Ahmadinejad, however, has since rejected the IAEA resolution, and Iran subsequently announced the resumption of UF6 production in a strong rebuke to the EU trio. Meanwhile, Washington has stepped up its efforts to persuade other states that Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons. A showdown is likely in late November or early December, when the IAEA Board next convenes.

Were this matter to be sent to the United Nations, it is unlikely that harsh sanctions would be imposed as Russia and China, both allied to Iran, sit on the Security Council and possess veto power over any vote. What then might the White House do if Iran announces the full-scale resumption of nuclear enrichment activities? Under such circumstances, a military strike against nuclear facilities in Iran has to be considered a genuine possibility. After all, President Bush has already declared that the United States will not "tolerate" the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran, a clear expression of his willingness to employ military force. In addition, as early as last January, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker magazine that US Special Operations Forces units were already conducting secret forays into Iranian territory to pinpoint the location of hidden nuclear installations in preparation for any future decision to launch an attack.

Here again, the kindling exists for a full-blown international crisis. Although the European trio along with Russia and China are determined to avoid a military confrontation with Iran, the Bush administration clearly feels no such inhibitions. It has already laid the groundwork for air and missile strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities and has refused - in Condoleezza Rice's phrase - to take any "options off the table." Even the strong hint of an impending assault on Iran would probably push crude oil prices to stratospheric levels and invite anger and concern around the world, but this may not be enough to deter Bush and his advisers from initiating such a crisis if they saw no other way to boost the President's approval ratings.

The North Korean Option

Although less appealing than the Syrian or Iranian options, a scenario entailing possible conflict with North Korea is also likely to be on any White House list of future provocations. This scenario is less appealing than the others because everyone knows that an all-out conflict with North Korea would probably produce a horrendous bloodbath and might even trigger first an Asian economic, and then a global, economic meltdown. Any move to crank up such a crisis to dangerous levels would also meet with fierce resistance from China, Russia, South Korea, and the rest of the international community. At the same time, however, North Korea has long been branded an outlaw state and its nuclear-weapons activities are far more advanced than anything conceivably under way in Iran. The Defense Department also possesses a very robust air, ground, and naval presence in the region, so a confrontation on the Korean Peninsula need not even require the redeployment of American forces from Iraq - as would presumably be the case in a war scenario involving Syria or Iran.

North Korea is believed to have begun a secret nuclear weapons program after the end of the Korean War. However, under the so-called Agreed Framework of 1994, it pledged to cease all such activities in return for a basket of economic and political incentives from the United States and its allies. Both sides complied with some aspects of the agreement but balked at others. The Clinton administration was well on its way toward resolving these inconsistencies when George W. Bush assumed the presidency in early 2001.

Soon after taking office, Bush foreclosed any serious diplomatic contact with the North Koreans and froze many of America's obligations under the Agreed Framework. In his 2002 State of the Union address, he included North Korea in his famed "axis of evil." In response, the North Koreans announced that they were no longer bound by the Agreed Framework and had resumed their work on the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Rather than deal with Pyongyang directly on such critical nuclear-proliferation matters, the White House insisted than any future negotiations had to be conducted on a multilateral basis. China subsequently agreed to convene "six-party" talks - involving the United States, Japan, Russia, the two Koreas, and itself - for this purpose.

At a September meeting of the six-party group, the North Koreans finally agreed to abandon their nuclear-weapons activities but only in return for significant economic benefits from the other parties and non-aggression assurances about an American attack. In subsequent statements, Pyongyang indicated that any such step would be predicated as well on a promise by the other participants to supply them with a light-water nuclear reactor (that could only be used for generating electricity). The United States has since ruled out any commitment of this sort, but has suggested that various incentives might be provided once North Korea commenced the irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear-weapons program.

At this point, there is reason to believe that a peaceful resolution of the dispute is within reach. China and South Korea have worked hard to promote a constructive stance on Pyongyang's part, but it is a situation that could turn sour again in a diplomatic instant. As if to highlight that possibility, the United States has recently bolstered its military capabilities in the area - sending fifteen F-117 "stealth" bombers and other advanced weapons to South Korea and announcing other efforts aimed at isolating North Korea.

The Bush administration has many levers it could pull should a decision be made to provoke a fresh confrontation with North Korea. No doubt this would prove unpopular with China and South Korea, along with most of the rest of the world, but it would be guaranteed to produce a crisis atmosphere in Washington and so distract attention from escalating Presidential problems at home. As a result, it cannot be excluded as a potential wag-the-dog scenario.

Minus a microphone (or a leaker) in the Oval Office, it is impossible for outsiders to determine what attention-grabbing scenarios President Bush, his Vice President, and his closest advisers might be discussing at the moment. To some extent, the state of play will be shaped as well by the unpredictable actions of foreign leaders, especially the leaders and chief aides of Syria, Iran, and North Korea. But if past White House behavior is any indication, we can safely assume that the President's men are considering every option for turning these foreign crises into a compelling distraction from the administration's current political malaise. They have already shown by their decisions in Iraq that they are prepared to spill a lot of blood in pursuit of political advantage, and so the possibility that a contrived crisis with Syria, Iran, or North Korea might erupt into something much greater - even a full-scale war or economic meltdown - may be unlikely to deter them from a wag-the-dog maneuver.

Michael T. Klare is the Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum (Owl Books) as well as Resource Wars, The New Landscape of Global Conflict.

I left my San the Coit Tower

Let Us Blow Up Bill O'Reilly
Of course the PR-sucking Fox News blowhard is off his nut. Again. Question is, Should you care?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It's almost too easy. He's too easy a target, really, Bill O'Reilly of the casually toxic Fox News, too bloviated and too silly and too undercooked, and no one whose opinion you truly value or with an IQ higher than their waist size actually watches him with anything resembling intellectual honesty or takes anything he says the slightest bit seriously. You hope.

Especially when he, like Pat Robertson ranting about how gays caused Sept. 11 or that Dover, Pa., is now a doomed and godless hell pit, given how the town fired every single one the imbecilic, intelligent design-supporting Repubs from the school board, especially when Billy goes off his nut once again and essentially wishes al Qaeda would attack San Francisco, well, it is up to us to merely look at him like Shiva looks at a sea slug -- i.e., a moment of compassion for his regrettable incarnation -- and then laugh and shake our heads and move the hell on.

I mean, what else do you want to do? Allow him credence? Give his infantile words any sort of weight and import? Let him slither into your heart like a worm and fester and burn? O'Reilly is, after all, the Right's most self-aggrandizing blowhard, one who still vilifies France like a child who hates broccoli, one who has, next to Rush Limbaugh, perhaps the worst spin in all of media.

And he is one who now suggests that because San Francisco dared to ban aggressive military recruiting in our high schools so disadvantaged 18-year-olds won't be unwittingly sucked into the brutish military vortex so they can be shipped off to Iraq to die for appalling and indefensible reasons, al Qaeda should blow up Coit Tower.

What do you do with that? You laugh. Sure, file a formal complaint with the Fox network. Sure, demand that Billy be fired, which is a bit like demanding Ronald McDonald be canned from the McDonald's corporation for poisoning our children. Yes, you have to do it, even if such complaints come from someone like San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, not exactly the poster child for tact and grace when it comes to political maneuvering.

But of course, it won't make one bit of difference. BOR is still Fox's cash cow. He draws big ratings, even here in the Bay Area. And even if O'Reilly's cultural relevance is tanking right along with the bad ship BushCo, he's still getting PR for miles out of the childish comment. Hell, you're reading a column about it right now, which means all those extremist right-wing inbreeding sites get to squeal "San Francisco in Uproar Over O'Reilly Comments," and grunt and revel in our displeasure. Ah well. It matters not.

Here's the takeaway, the only thing you need to know: Bill O'Reilly is a walking, snorting cautionary tale. For those of us who occasionally tread similar terrain of barbed political commentary (tempered, I hope, with satire and hope and sex and humor and fire hoses of divine juice), he is the Grand Pariah, the threshold, the Place You Do Not Want To Go as an intellectually curious human soul. He is the guy you can always look to, no matter how bad it gets, and say, Wow, at least I'm not him.

In a way, we should be grateful for O'Reilly and Robertson and Limbaugh and Coulter and their slime-slinging ilk. They live in those black and nasty psycho-emotional places, so we don't have to. They show us how ugly we can be, how poisonous and ill, so we may recoil and say, Whoa, you know what? I think I need to be more gentle and less judgmental and kinder to those I love. BOR works an inverse effect on anyone with a vibrant and active soul -- he makes us better by sucking all the grossness into himself and blowing it out via a TV channel no one of any spiritual acumen really respects anyway.

Hell, this very column has been known to wallow in political extremes too, often and regularly wishing fiery karmic pain upon Rove and Cheney and Dubya et al. for the humanitarian and environmental and moral hells they have unleashed upon our once-prosperous, gorgeous, diverse nation, and for the wars and the homophobia and the misogyny and the rampant lies and the unchecked ignorance of the workings of the human spirit.

But I would never go so far as to wish terrorists would blow up, say, Washington, D.C. Or Bill O'Reilly's personal fetish dungeon at Fox HQ in New York. I would never take a similar BOR tack and suggest that every red state that openly supports Bush and his miserable wars (and by extension, O'Reilly and his miserable worldview) should offer up their kid as a blood sacrifice to the Iraq War.

Check that: Maybe I would. Of course I would. But I would recognize the inherent silliness of it all, and the futility, and push it so far into satire that I'd suggest we also send in the NRA, and the Bush daughters, and Ashlee Simpson, and moreover I'd suggest they string up Karl Rove as bait because you know what Islamic extremists think of creatures both godless and porcine.

Conversely, BOR, of course, takes himself quite seriously, the inflation of his ego and speed of his rapid-fire fury matched only by the obvious deterioration of his heart.

But maybe that's not quite true. It has been rumored, somewhere, that Bill O'Reilly has a soul, that he was personally hurt and wronged by that sex scandal last year, that he's reasonably intelligent and that his almost comical lack of nuanced comprehension on the air and in his public persona, like Bush's mumbling incoherence or Condi Rice's apparent lack of the slightest hint of femininity, is a bit of a stage act, a dumb ruse that masks a keener intelligence, all designed to milk his bloviation for his bloody, mealy slice of fleeting fame. You may believe this as you wish.

It does not matter. What is clear is that BOR has made a Faustian bargain of the ugliest kind, taken on a worldview where there is no room for humor and light and sex and joy and grace, whereby he gets to unleash streams of rather appalling ignorance upon the progressive segments of the nation -- like, you know, cities that dare to encourage peace and nonviolence and a measured, respectful response to the world -- and he gets paid enormous sums and lives like an angry, sneering king, while the gods of karma can only sigh, and shake their heads, and wait.

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every


Pentagon Used White Phosphorus in Iraq
The Associated Press

Wednesday 16 November 2005

Washington - Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah last November. But they denied an Italian television news report that the spontaneously flammable material was used against civilians.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while white phosphorous is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallujah as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

"It was not used against civilians," Venable said.

The spokesman referred reporters to an article in the March-April 2005 edition of the Army's Field Artillery magazine, an official publication, in which veterans of the Fallujah fight spelled out their use of white phosphorous and other weapons. The authors used the shorthand "WP" in referring to white phosphorous.

"WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition," the authors wrote. "We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE (high explosive)" munitions.

"We fired `shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

The authors added, in citing lessons for future urban battles, that fire-support teams should have used another type of smoke bomb for screening missions in Fallujah "and saved our WP for lethal missions."

The battle for Fallujah was the most intense and deadly fight of the war, after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. The city, about 35 miles west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River, was a key insurgent stronghold. The authors of the "after action" report said they encountered few civilians in their area of operations.

Italian communists held a sit-in Monday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Rome to protest the reported use by American troops of white phosphorous. Italy's state-run RAI24 news television aired a documentary last week alleging the U.S. used white phosphorous shells in a "massive and indiscriminate way" against civilians during the Fallujah offensive.

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."

The department later said its statement had been incorrect.

"There is a great deal of misinformation feeding on itself about U.S. forces allegedly using `outlawed' weapons in Fallujah," the department said. "The facts are that U.S. forces are not using any illegal weapons in Fallujah or anywhere else in Iraq."

Venable said white phosphorous shells are a standard weapon used by field artillery units and are not banned by any international weapons convention to which the U.S. is a signatory.

White phosphorous is a colorless-to-yellow translucent wax-like substance with a pungent, garlic-like smell. The form used by the military ignites once it is exposed to oxygen, producing such heat that it bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. It can cause painful burn injuries to exposed human flesh.

Tim Collins trained troops to fight with white phosphorus
By Sean Rayment Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 20/11/2005)

Col Tim Collins, the controversial Iraq war commander, trained his soldiers to use white phosphorus, which burns through flesh to the bone, in combat against enemy troops.

The admission by the former Special Air Service officer, revealed in his autobiography Rules of Engagement, contradicts claims by the Ministry of Defence that the chemical was only ever used to create a smokescreen.

British troops also used white phosphorus to kill Argentinian troops during the Falklands conflict.

In his book, Col Collins describes how he trained 1bn Royal Irish Regiment for an attack codenamed Operation Fury planned for April 2003.

The colonel, who left the Army last year, said that he "directed" the men to "perfect" house-to-house fighting skills in preparation for the battle.

Discussing the weapons to be used in the operation in the Basra area, he wrote: "The star of the show was the new grenade which had only been on issue since the previous summer. It absolutely trashed the inside of the room it was put into.

"I directed the men to use them where possible with white phosphorus, as the noxious smoke and heat had the effect of drawing out any enemy from cover, while the fragmentation grenade would shred them."

Col Collins' tactics mirror the United States army "shake and bake" technique which involves forcing troops out of cover with white phosphorus and then killing them with artillery rounds.

The furore surrounding the weapon emerged last week after Lt Col Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, used almost identical phraseology to Col Collins, when he confirmed that "shake and bake" was a recognised American tactic.

In an interview with the BBC, Col Venable said: "When you have enemy forces in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on, one technique is to fire white phosphorus into the position because the combined effects of the fire and smoke will drive them out so that you can kill them with high explosives."

He confirmed: "It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants."

White phosphorus has been used by the British Army for decades to create instantaneous smokescreens during battle. In contact with skin, however, it burns to the bone and the gas it produces, phosphorus pentoxide, is poisonous.

Article two of Protocol Three of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons bans the use of the weapon against civilians and also military targets located within civilian areas. Although the US is not a signatory of the convention, Britain is.

But there is now increasing debate as to whether the use of the weapon should instead fall under the United Nations Convention on Chemical Weapons.

Last week John Reid, the Defence Secretary, maintained the British troops had only ever used white phosphorus as a battlefield smokescreen. His department continued to stress that troops had never used it as "an incendiary weapon, against either civilians or even enemy combatants".

Although Operation Fury was cancelled, it remains unclear whether British troops went on to use white phosphorus against Iraqi forces, putting Col Collins' style of attack into action.

Prof Paul Rogers, of Bradford University's peace studies department, said he believed that most soldiers would use all weapons at their disposal.

He said: "There is a presumption among certain members of the population that wars are clean. They are not."Pentagon spokesman,0,1951628,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Use of Chemical in Iraq Ignites Debate
Critics say civilians died in incendiary attacks. U.S. asserts white phosphorus was only used on insurgents.
By John Daniszewski and Mark Mazzetti
Times Staff Writers

November 28, 2005

BAGHDAD — Omar Ibrahim Abdullah went for a walk to get away from the heavy fighting in Fallouja a little over a year ago and, by his account, came across such a grotesque sight that he's been unable to banish it from his memory.

The United States had mounted a full-scale offensive to pacify the rebel-controlled Iraqi city, and Abdullah said he was eager to escape the Askari district, where he lived. He walked south toward the Euphrates River and stumbled on dozens of burned bodies that he said were colored black and red.

"They must have been affected by chemicals," he said, "because I had never seen anything like that before."

The corpses, he said, had suffered burns from the U.S. military's use of an incendiary chemical known as white phosphorus.

The Pentagon and other U.S. officials at first denied, and later admitted, that troops had used white phosphorus as a weapon against insurgents in Fallouja during that fiercely fought campaign. Its use became public because of questions raised by an Italian television documentary Nov. 8, which alleged that civilians had been targeted "indiscriminately" and that hundreds had died.

But even though U.S. officials have admitted using the substance against enemy fighters, they have denied the allegations of Fallouja residents such as Abdullah that its use was widespread and civilians were among those killed.

"We don't use munitions of any kind against innocent civilians," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said during a news conference. "In accordance with all established conventions, [white phosphorus] can be used against enemy combatants."

Nicknamed "Willie Pete" by troops, white phosphorus is a dangerous chemical that combusts on contact with oxygen. The military employs it mainly to illuminate battlefields and provide smoke screens. But its use is highly controversial because the only way it can be extinguished is by shutting off its air supply. When it comes in contact with humans, the chemical will burn through to the bone.

Incendiaries are considered particularly inhumane weapons under international treaty, and a 1980 United Nations convention limits their use. The U.S. has not signed the part of the convention that deals with incendiary weapons. Nevertheless, it largely has avoided using incendiary weapons since the Vietnam War and destroyed the last of its napalm arsenal four years ago.

In the 1990s, in fact, the U.S. condemned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for allegedly using "white phosphorus chemical weapons" against Kurdish rebels and residents of Irbil and Dohuk.

In regard to a war the U.S. said it fought partly because of fears that Hussein would employ chemical or other nonconventional weapons, some critics say the use of white phosphorus is contrary to the spirit of American aims.

"An incendiary weapon cannot be thought of just like any conventional weapon," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Assn. in Washington. "There are rules that apply, and we have to make sure that they are being followed for various reasons."

He went on to explain that for the last century and a half, the U.S. has led international efforts to establish humane conduct standards in war, in part because American troops or civilians could be harmed.

"There is an important principle at stake here. The United States should be very interested in making sure that we are following the rules and other people understand we are following the rules," Kimball said.

But Pentagon officials say the use of white phosphorus, even as an incendiary weapon, is not proscribed by any treaty as long as it is directed solely against military targets.

The question is whether its use in November 2004 against insurgents fighting in a city that most, but not all, civilian inhabitants had fled violates the Inhumane Weapons Convention, to which the United States is a party.

Another issue is whether the United States is obliged to follow the convention's rules on incendiary weapons, given that the U.S. Senate has not ratified that protocol.

The rule bans the use of incendiary weapons against civilian targets or military targets not clearly separated from "concentrations" of civilians.

On the streets of Fallouja, the common allegation is that the U.S. used incendiary bombs against civilians. Iraqi doctors and the local human rights organization have pointed to scores of burned corpses as evidence.

But there's been no independent verification. U.S. officials have accused doctors in Fallouja of lying about such issues because, the officials say, the physicians are loyal to or intimidated by insurgents. The blackened corpses seen in the Italian documentary, for instance, may have been burned by conventional explosives or resulted from decomposition, some viewers have argued.

Abdul Qadir Sadi, an Iraqi from Fallouja in his 30s, said doctors had told him that two of his family members were killed by white phosphorus.

"They had a lot of serious skin burns," Sadi said. "The doctor at the hospital told us that they must have been hit by these chemicals. They were being treated by the doctor, but after a while, these burned places started to dissolve."

"We have registered the documents and exhibits of everything that happened," said Mohammed Tariq, a human rights worker in Fallouja. "We informed the Iraqi Red Crescent, the International Red Cross and [other] international organizations, but our efforts were in vain."

Pentagon officials say troops used white phosphorus in the Fallouja offensive for several reasons.

"It was used to mask and obscure U.S. troop movements and to flush out dug-in insurgents from spider holes and trenches," said Maj. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman. "It was lawfully used against legitimate military targets."

When stories surfaced last year that the U.S. had used white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon in Fallouja, the State Department flatly denied the allegations. Such denials from Pentagon and diplomatic officials continued until only weeks ago.

According to talking points issued by the State Department in December, "U.S. forces have used [white phosphorus rounds] very sparingly in Fallouja, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

Vician said he could not explain the denials.

Elsewhere, soldiers and Marines had publicly praised the weapon's effectiveness against insurgents during the battle. A group of artillery officers who fought in Fallouja wrote in a military journal this year that white phosphorus, typically referred to as WP, "proved to be an effective and versatile weapon."

"We used it for screening missions … and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents … when we could not get effects on them with [high explosives]," the officers wrote in the March-April issue of Field Artillery magazine.

"We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and [high explosives] to take them out."

The U.S. began using white phosphorus extensively during World War II, when soldiers found the chemical useful for smoke screens, marking enemy positions and attacking military targets. For more than half a century, white phosphorus has been a staple of the U.S. arsenal.

John E. Pike of, a Washington-based military affairs think tank, doubts the claims made in the Italian television report that the U.S. military was aiming such munitions at civilians.

"What purpose could possibly be served by targeting civilians in Iraq?" he asked. "It would accomplish nothing, it would be counterproductive, and it would be a waste of ammo."

To journalists who saw white phosphorus used during the campaign, it appeared that it was meant for illuminating, not killing, insurgents.

Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick J. McDonnell, who accompanied Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, as it fought its way into Fallouja, recalls seeing night virtually turn to day as white phosphorus shells burst in the air.

"We only saw 'Willie Pete' being used for illumination purposes," McDonnell said. But he also remembers how the proximity of the fiery blasts concerned the Marines.

"The guys in my company were somewhat annoyed for two reasons: It illuminated our positions at night, not a nice thing, and occasionally the bursts came quite close to us. There didn't seem to be a lot of coordination," he said by e-mail.

At the time, most civilians had fled town, and U.S. troops seemed to be fighting in a city devoid of almost everyone but insurgents, McDonnell noted.

"We had rounds of white phosphorus burst in the air quite close to us, and the Marines were quite concerned, since they knew of its impact — that it burns through flesh and is impossible to extinguish," he said.

"Many Marines on the ground cursed the 'Willie Pete' every time it went off."


Daniszewski reported from Baghdad and Mazzetti from Washington. Special correspondent Asmaa Waguih contributed to this report.



White heat

White phosphorus, a highly flammable substance that ignites on contact with oxygen, is a longtime staple of the U.S. military arsenal. Some uses:

{bull} Can be loaded into a mortar shell, howitzer round or other projectile and fired at a target.

{bull} When delivered by an exploding shell, white phosphorus in contact with oxygen produces a smoke screen on the ground that can last up to 15 minutes. It can also illuminate battlefield targets.

{bull} Can be used as a weapon. Human contact with white phosphorus results in severe burns. The fire can only be extinguished by eliminating the oxygen supply.

Sources: Integrated Publishing,