November 10, 2005

White Phosphorus Not Deadly Enough; We'll Just Have to Do Better

Paraphrase of Joe's argument refuting the contention that the use of white phosphorus was an employment of chemical weapons:
If we really wanted to kill us some civilians, we'd have showered real shit on those towelheads potential terrorists non-combatants. White phosphorus can't kill very many people at one time; therefore it's just dandy to use against living human beings that are not actively engaged in military activities.

2 points:
a) A chemical weapon is not necessarily a weapon of mass destruction. It is a weapon that employs chemical processes to "kill, injure or incapacitate the enemy." Lethalness is not the only criterion for classifying something a chemical weapon; there are significant moral reasons to avoid the use of things that cause non-lethal harm but are nevertheless physically and psychologically harmful. The army bragged about the psychological effects of this weapon and likely employed it partially for this purpose.

b) Joe is correct in saying that WP is not strong enough in most cases to kill and that with proper medical treatment will likely have no serious long-term effects. But proper medical treatment was extremely unlikely in this situation. Joe is also correct in saying that the United States is not party to any agreement that has expressly banned the use of WP. But that hardly makes it advisable or its use necessary.

The point is, the United States military used a chemical weapon that is on the borderline of legality when it didn't need to. The extent of the actual damage done is secondary to the fact that the United States is taking morally questionable actions repeatedly and without regard to international standards. That is not leadership. War is hell, but hell is not a destination we as a nation should be heading toward nor a locale we should be comfortable in.

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