Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre
On the U.S. Use of Napalm-Like White Phosphorus Bombs
Tuesday, November 8th, 2005
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. assault on the Sunni city of Fallujah when U.S. and Iraqi military forced out the town's residents, bombed hospitals and buildings, attacked whole neighborhoods, and denied entry to relief workers. In a North American broadcast exclusive, we bring you an excerpt from a new film that accuses the U.S. of using white phosphorus as a weapon in the Fallujah attack.
10,000 buildings were destroyed, with thousands more seriously damaged. At least 100,000 residents were permanently displaced, over 70 U.S. soldiers were killed, and the Iraqi death toll is unknown. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail was a one of the few un-embedded, independent reporters in Iraq at the time. On our program, he first reported U.S. troops were using chemical weapons in Iraq.
Dahr Jamail, speaking on Democracy Now!, November 2004:
"I have interviewed many refugees over the last week coming out of Fallujah at different times from different locations within the city. The consistent stories that I have been getting have been refugees describing phosphorus weapons, horribly burned bodies, fires that burn on people when they touch these weapons, and they are unable to extinguish the fires even after dumping large amounts of water on the people. Many people are reporting cluster bombs, as well. And these are coming from the camps that I have been to, different people who have emerged from Fallujah anywhere from one week ago up to on through up toward near the very beginning of the siege."
Almost one year after these allegations came to light, a new documentary claims to provide fresh evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah. In the film, eyewitnesses and ex-US soldiers say white phosphorus bombs were used in Fallujah. Rai says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical weapons and says they were used indiscriminately against civilian populations.
"Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre," a documentary by Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta. Broadcast today on the Italian state television network RAI.
- Download the full documentary: Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre
- Rai 24 News website pictures
AMY GOODMAN: This is Dahr Jamail speaking on Democracy Now! just under a year ago.
DAHR JAMAIL: I have interviewed many refugees over the last week coming out of Fallujah, different times from different locations within the city. The consistent stories that I've been getting have been refugees describing phosphorus weapons, horribly burned bodies, fires that burn on people when they touch these weapons. And they're unable to extinguish the fires even after dumping large amounts of water on the people. Many people are reporting cluster bombs, as well. And these are coming from different camps that I've been to, different people who have emerged from Fallujah, anywhere from one week ago up to -- on through up towards near the very beginning of the siege.
AMY GOODMAN: Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, appearing on Democracy Now! November 28, 2004. Almost a year after these allegations came to light a new documentary claims to provide fresh evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah. The documentary is called Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre. It premieres today on the Italian television network, RAI . In the film, eyewitnesses and ex-U.S. soldiers say white phosphorus bombs were used in Fallujah. RAI says this amounts to the illegal use of chemical weapons and says they were used indiscriminately and against civilian populations.
In a North American broadcast exclusive, today we bring you an excerpt from the film. We'll then be joined by one of the filmmakers, one of the soldiers involved in the Fallujah siege, and we'll be joined by the Pentagon in Baghdad. The Pentagon denies the allegations it used chemical weapons in Iraq. First to the documentary, Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre. It's by Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta, broadcast today on RAI network.
JEFF ENGLEHART: I was personally involved with escorting a commander to Fallujah for Operation Phantom Fury. We were told going into Fallujah, into the combat area, that every single person that was walking, talking, breathing was an enemy combatant. As such, every single person that was walking down the street or in a house was a target.
REPORTER: Is it true that you had orders to shoot even children of ten years old?
JEFF ENGLEHART: This is actually very interesting. When we first got to Iraq, the army had a set standard for male combat ages. And I believe when we first got there, it was like 18 years old was the commonly perceived age of adulthood. So a male who was 18 years old to 65 was technically capable of being an insurgent. By the time Fallujah rolled around it was any male with an AK-47 or gun or whatever was a military target. And I think that is true to a degree. I mean, if – and it happened. There was many times where children as young as ten were fighting.
REPORTER: What will you tell your child about the battle of Fallujah?
JEFF ENGLEHART: It seemed like just a massive killing of Arabs. It looked like just a massive killing.
NARRATOR: We weren't able to see anything of this mass killing. Information coming out of Fallujah is dangerous. The few who tried to show it know something about that. Iraqi police arrested two journalists from al-Arabiya last March, and their videocassettes were confiscated. The freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni, who was killed in Iraq, was working on Fallujah in the last few weeks, just like the Il Manifesto journalist, Giuliana Sgrena, who was kidnapped carrying out an inquiry into the refugees of the city. A suspicion arises as to whether the story of exporting democracy to Fallujah was meant to be told or not.
REPORTER: Did you gather any particular information about Fallujah?
GIULIANA SGRENA: [translated from Italian] Not only in Fallujah. I had heard stories from the inhabitants about the use of certain weapons like napalm in Baghdad during the battle at the airport in April 2003. And then I had collected just before going to interview the city refugees testimonies from other inhabitants from Fallujah about the use of guns and white phosphorus. In particular, some women had tried to enter their homes, and they had found a certain dust spread all over the house. The Americans themselves had told them to clean the houses with detergents, because that dust was very dangerous. In fact, they had some effect on their bodies, leading some very strange things. I would have liked to interview those persons, but unfortunately my kidnappers, who were said to be part of Fallujah's resistance, had forbidden me to tell what I have known about Fallujah by kidnapping me.
This world cannot have witnessed this. It cannot have witnessed it, because it’s based on lies. The Americans have permitted only to embedded journalists to go to Fallujah. Despite that, for example, the image of the Marine that shoots the wounded and unarmed warrior inside the Fallujah mosque has gone out. But exactly because this image has gone out, we do not know how, and because it has circulated all over the world, the embassy journalist that has reported it has been immediately expelled from the embedded body.
AMY GOODMAN: Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. Sgrena drew international headlines when she was kidnapped in Iraq only to have U.S. soldiers fire on her vehicle after she was released, injuring her and killing the Italian intelligence agent who had saved her. We are now going to go to the excerpt of the RAI documentary where Specialist Jeff Englehart speaks. We want to warn our TV viewers that some of the scenes you are about to see are extremely graphic.
REPORTER: Were any chemical weapons used in Fallujah?
JEFF ENGLEHART: From the U.S. military, yeah, absolutely. White phosphorus. Possibly napalm may or may not have been used; I do not know. I do know that white phosphorus was used, which is definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, a chemical weapon.
REPORTER: Is he sure of it?
JEFF ENGLEHART: Yes. It happened.
REPORTER: How can he be certain?
JEFF ENGLEHART: Well, it comes across radio as a general transmission. When it happens like that, you hear it on the radio through -- we have speakers in our trucks -- speakers and then the transmission goes to the speakers, so it's audible. And as they'd say, “In five [inaudible], we're going drop some Whiskey Pete.” “Roger. Commence bombing.” I mean, it just comes across the radio, and like, when you hear “Whiskey Pete,” that's the military slang.
NARRATOR: Contrary to what was said by the U.S. State Department, white phosphorus was not used in the open field to illuminate enemy troops. For this, tracer was used. A rain of fire shot from U.S. helicopters on the city of Fallujah on the night of the 8th of November. [inaudible] will show you in this exceptional documentary, which proves that a chemical agent was used in a massive and indiscriminate way in districts of Fallujah. In the days that followed, U.S. satellite images showed Fallujah burned out and razed to the ground.
JEFF ENGLEHART: The gases from the warhead of the white phosphorus will disperse in a cloud. And when it makes contact with skin, then it's absolutely irreversible damage, burning of flesh to the bone. It doesn't necessarily burn clothes, but it will burn the skin underneath clothes. And this is why protective masks do not help, because it will burn right through the mask, the rubber of the mask. It will manage to get inside your face. If you breathe it, it will blister your throat and your lungs until you suffocate, and then it will burn you from the inside. It basically reacts to skin, oxygen and water. The only way to stop the burning is with wet mud. But at that point, it's just impossible to stop.
REPORTER: Have you seen the effects of these weapons?
JEFF ENGLEHART: Yes. Burned. Burned bodies. I mean, it burned children, and it burned women. White phosphorus kills indiscriminately. It's a cloud that will within, in most cases, 150 meters of impact will disperse, and it will burn every human being or animal.
REPORTER: Some footage has shown violations inside mosques, black crosses painted on the walls and on the Koran. Do you know anything about this?
JEFF ENGLEHART: I don't doubt that American soldiers who are frustrated after being involved in combat for a year would have any problems with doing any kind of vandalism. I mean, it's very common. Indiscriminate vandalism was found – I mean, there was carvings in the walls at Babylon, an ancient structure, a historical monument. It was common for soldiers to carve, you know, “Hello, mom, I'm from Texas,” on these walls. I just think there's a certain lack of respect within the American military ranks, especially when dealing with soldiers who are frustrated. I personally did not witness any mosque vandalism. Our brigade was good about keeping that very controlled. But I did hear stories. Places such as Samarra, Baghdad, Mosul, mosques being attacked, mosques being vandalized, the Koran being damaged. I think it's very common.
REPORTER: Is it true that you waited for the results of elections, confirmation of victory for Bush, before bombing Fallujah?
JEFF ENGLEHART: I’m glad you brought this question up. That was definitely the case. Even in the ranks, in the military ranks, we knew it was going on. They told us that we were going to wait after the election, the American election, before going into Fallujah. And we had already set up the whole operation, like it was ready to go. And we were waiting for two or three days for the election to be over with. And then when the election was so close between Kerry and Bush, it was always pissing off a lot of the high command, because they wanted to hurry up and get in there and get it going. And they didn't want what happened in 2000 with Gore and Bush, the long drawn-out process that lasted almost a week to find out who won. When Kerry conceded, though, it was like within a matter of a day, it was going, it was happening. That was definitely the case. We waited until after the election. We were told directly from the Pentagon to wait until after the election before going into Fallujah, and that's exactly what we did.
NARRATOR: Alice Mahon was a Labour parliamentarian from 1987 until a few months ago, until she decided to walk out on Westminster. Mrs. Mahon had, since 2003, put forward several Parliamentary inquiries demanding information from the Defense Ministry as to whether the United States had used chemical weapons. And the ministry, after several attempts to deny any knowledge, wrote back on the 13th of June, 2005, with the following: “I regret to tell you that I am sincerely sorry that this is not the truth, and that now we must correct it. The U.S.A. destroyed their arsenal of napalm used in Vietnam in 2001, but emerging from military reports from Marines in service in 2003, it shows that MK-77 was used. The incendiary bomb MK-77 does not have the same composition as napalm, but it has the same destructive effect. The Pentagon has informed us that these devices are not generally used in areas where civilians are present.”
ALICE MAHON: I didn’t lose my seat. I deliberately stood down, because I didn't want to be part of a government that was conducting an illegal and bloody war against people who had done us no harm whatsoever. Well, I heard from the American military at the beginning of the war, at the beginning of the bombardments of Iraq, there was an admission by the American military that they had used a substance similar to napalm when they first went into Iraq. I put the question down. And as you can see, the reply was “No, they hadn't.” My government were not aware of it. Now, I'm afraid some of us do not believe everything we're told at the moment, and so I did pursue it, even when I stood down from Parliament. And months later, we did get an admission from the Ministry of Defense, from the minister himself, that a similar substance to napalm had been used in the bombardments of Iraq.
REPORTER: The U.N. convention signed by the U.S. had banned napalm. Is MK-77 very different?
ALICE MAHON: No, it isn't. It has exactly the same effect when it's fired at people. It burns them. It destroys things. It melts bodies. It’s exactly the same effect. And what, of course – what is in a name if it does this to people? I think the Americans are wrong to use it. I think my government are wrong to help in the cover up of it being used. But, of course, in this war we've seen the United Nations Charter broken and defied over and over again.
REPORTER: Why didn’t the United States ever sign the convention abolishing these weapons?
ALICE MAHON: Well, the United States, of course, do that. They go around lecturing the rest of the world on their rights and responsibilities and have taken note of what the U.N. said. Of course, they had a lot to say to the Iraqi government about obeying United Nations resolutions. They, themselves, think they are above it.
REPORTER: This war started with the intention to look for weapons of mass destruction. Is it not paradoxical that chemical weapons were in the end used by the United States?
ALICE MAHON: Absolutely. The hypocrisy is absolutely stinking. There were no weapons of mass destruction. This was a broken-back dictator who was a threat to no one. In my view, the Americans wanted to control the oil in the region. I'm afraid there is no hiding place from America and Britain in this war. The facts will come out, and Bush and my prime minister will be exposed.
AMY GOODMAN: Scenes from Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre from RAI TV in Italy, the state broadcaster. Here to discuss the chemical weapons allegations, we will be joined by the Pentagon, by the U.S. former soldier who was making the allegations of white phosphorus used in Fallujah. And we'll also be joined by the Italian television producer of the broadcast.