Friday, December 02, 2005

Whiskey Pete

“’Willy Peter,’ make you a believer.”

In the passage above, war correspondent Michael Herr was quoting a soldier in Vietnam. Today, soldiers call it Whiskey Pete; but it still means the same thing. “W.P.” White phosphorus. And it will make you a believer.

Below are stills from the Italian documentary, Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre. showing white phosphorus fired from helicopters over Fallujah on November 8, 2004:

White phosphorus is a white or yellowish waxy solid which reacts strongly with water and oxygen. It may land on your clothes with little effect; but if it lands on your skin, it will ignite and burn at a ferociously high temperature. It can char your flesh; it can burn you down to the bone. You can extinguish it by plunging the affected area under water. But take the affected area out of the water and the phosphorus will relight. If you inhale it, it will burn inside you.

Photos of the victims are horrific. Men, women, and children, often with their clothes largely intact, are turned into hideous masks of scorched leather. Others look as though they have melted. By comparison, the dead dogs in the street look peaceful. Dogs don’t have sweat glands, so their skin is naturally drier than human skin; and dogs are also protected by fur. But they can still inhale Whiskey Pete, and it will make them believers.

The U.S. initially claimed that white phosphorus was used only for illumination or camouflage. But the video of those helicopters over Fallujah is hard to argue away, and the U.S. has now admitted using white phosphorus against “enemy combatants.”

Whiskey Pete, unfortunately, doesn’t appreciate the subtle differences between an enemy combatant and a bird or a baby.

In Vietnam, we used napalm — jellied gasoline. In Iraq, we use MK 77 — jellied aviation fuel with added oxidizers for enhanced combustion. Clearly, aviation fuel is not gasoline; so reports of napalm in Iraq are obviously unfounded. Besides, we only use MK 77 against enemy combatants.

We have abandoned whatever moral high ground we might have held years ago. We took over Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers and made them ours. We have murdered prisoners in our custody, in violation of international conventions which we ignore anyway and in violation of U.S. law. Four contract mercenaries were killed in Fallujah, and the U.S. took revenge on the entire city. We have irradiated Iraq with depleted uranium as surely as if we had used dirty bombs. And now, we have found chemical weapons in Iraq. They are located in U.S. munitions, and we are using them to save the Iraqis from the threat of chemical weapons.


St. Augustine on Empire

from: The City of God

Book IV, chapter 4:

And so if justice is left out, what are empires except great robber bands?

For what are robber bands except little kingdoms? The band also is a group of men governed by the orders of a leader, bound by a social compact, and its booty is divided according to a law agreed upon.

If by repeatedly adding desperate men, this plague grows to a point where it holds territory and establishes centers of power, seizes cities and subdues peoples, then it more conspicuously assumes the title of kingdom, and this title in now openly granted to it, not because it has given up on greed but because it does all this with impunity.

A certain pirate whom Alexander the Great had captured gave him an elegant and true reply. When the emperor asked him by what right he molested the seas, he answered with definite independence: “The same right as you when you molest the world. Because I do this with a small ship, I am called a pirate. You do it with a large fleet and are called an emperor.”

Book III, chapter 14:

This lust for domination brings many evils down upon the human race and grinds it down.

Book V, chapter 12:

First it was their love for liberty, later their love for domination as well.

Once they had freedom, the greed for riches that followed became so great that freedom seemed too little by itself unless they were also seeking domination over other peoples.