Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | George Monbiot: Behind the phosphorus clouds are war crimes within war crimes: “The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence: ‘It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.’

Last night the blogger Gabriele Zamparini found a declassified document from the US department of defence, dated April 1991, and titled ‘Possible use of phosphorus chemical’. ‘During the brutal crackdown that followed the Kurdish uprising,’ it alleges, ‘Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorus (WP) chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil … and Dohuk provinces, Iraq. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds and helicopter gunships … These reports of possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread quickly … hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled from these two areas.’ The Pentagon is in no doubt, in other words, that white phosphorus is an illegal chemical weapon.

The insurgents, of course, would be just as dead today if they were killed by other means. So does it matter if chemical weapons were mixed with other munitions? It does. Anyone who has seen those photos of the lines of blind veterans at the remembrance services for the first world war will surely understand the point of international law, and the dangers of undermining it.”

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