In 1981, the U.S. accused the Soviets of supplying chemical weapons to Communist states in Vietnam and Laos for use in counterinsurgency warfare. It turned out that the “yellow rain” which the U.S. became hysterical about was actually honeybee feces.
The U.S. bombed a chemical weapons factory in Sudan in 1998. It turned out that it only made pharmaceutical drugs.
The U.S. accused Iraq of possessing chemical weapons … even though everyone knew that it didn’t.
Government officials confirm that the white House tried to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq as a justification for regime change in that country, even though it was obvious that there was no connection to Iraq.
And the U.S. accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons a couple of months ago … but the evidence points away from such a claim.
Given the history, shouldn’t we be cautious about chemical weapons claims … especially when experts are skeptical?
We condemn all use of chemical weapons.
Israeli also used white phosphorous in 2009 during “Operation Cast Lead” (and perhaps subsequently). Israel ratified Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (“Protocol III”) – which outlaws the use of incendiary devices in war – in 2007. So this was a war crime.
Moreover, the 1925 Geneva Protocol (which is different from Protocol III) prohibits “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases”.
The use of White phosphorus (“WP”) may also be a war crime under other international treaties and domestic U.S. laws. For example, the Battle Book, published by the U.S. Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, contains the following sentence: “It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets.”
The U.S. National Safety Council states that “White phosphorus is a poison . . . If its combustion occurs in a confined space, white phosphorus will remove the oxygen from the air and render the air unfit to support life . . . It is considered a dangerous disaster hazard because it emits highly toxic fumes. The EPA has listed white phosphorus as a Hazardous Air Pollutant.
Indeed, it is interesting to note that the U.S. previously called white phosphorous a chemical weapon when Saddam used it against the Kurds. Interestingly, it has just come out that the U.S. encouraged Saddam’s use of chemical weapons.
University of California at Irvine professor of Middle Eastern history Mark LeVine writes:
Not only did the US aid the use of chemical weapons by the former Iraqi government, it also used chemical weapons on a large scale during its 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq, in the form of depleted-uranium (DU) ammunition.
As Dahr Jamail’s reporting for Al Jazeera has shown, the use of DU by the US and UK has very likely been the cause not only of many cases of Gulf War Syndrome suffered by Iraq war veterans, but also of thousands of instances of birth defects, cancer and other diseases – causing a “large-scale public health disaster” and the “highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied” – suffered by Iraqis in areas subjected to frequent and intense attacks by US and allied occupation forces.
And Israel has been accused of using depleted uranium in Syria.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. But it is hypocritical for the U.S., Britain and Israel to say that we should bomb Syria because the government allegedly used chemical weapons.