Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

U.S. Chemical Warfare: Where Are the Media?

The U.S. media is ignoring a story making worldwide headlines: that the U.S. used flesh-burning white phosphorus in its assault last year in Fallujah.

While the documentary broadcast by Italian network RAI earlier this week had American soldier Jeff Englehart on the record as saying that the next-generation napalm was used in civilian areas, the only U.S. newspaper to pick this story up, based on a Google News search, was the Boston Globe, which ran the Reuters dispatch. (Read this story.)

Contrast the tone of the story with that of Andrew Buncombe's report in the London Independent:

The Pentagon has always admitted it used phosphorus during last year's assault on the city, which US commanders said was an insurgent stronghold. But they claimed they used the brightly burning shells "very sparingly" and only to illuminate combat areas.

But the documentary Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, broadcast yesterday by the Italian state broadcaster, RAI, suggested the shells were commonly used and killed an unspecified number of civilians. Photographs obtained by RAI from the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, show the bodies of dozens of Fallujah residents whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised by the effects of the phosphorus shells. (Read the entire article.)
In his dispatch in the Belfast Telegraph, reporter Peter Popham notes that the allegations that the Americans used the chemical weapon were widely disseminated during the assault, but the story never "got legs" with the U.S. media then either:
Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.

On 10 November last year, the Islam Online website wrote: "US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein's alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988."

The website quoted insurgent sources as saying: "The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally banned chemical weapons."

In December the US government formally denied the reports, describing them as "widespread myths". (Read the entire article.)
As of this morning, the story still had not been distributed widely in the U.S. media. The documentary (in Italian) is available for viewing on RAI's website. Democracy Now! is offering what it calls a "rush transcript" on its website.

Is RAI TV news credible? Is the documentary credible? Is U.S. soldier Jeff Englehart credible? Here in the wilderness we have no idea. But we also know that we aren't being allowed to judge for ourselves because the lapdog media have declined to air the story.

Of course they didn't decline to widely air the allegations that John Kerry ginned up his swift-boat exploits in Vietnam -- allegations that were denied vigorously at the time and since have been found totally without base. And they didn't decline to air the silly and similarly baseless contentions of the Republican camp in 2000 that Al Gore said he'd discovered Love Canal and created the Internet.

Did the U.S. military use chemical weapons on civilians in Fallujah? Isn't this a charge that the U.S. press deserves to investigate?