The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Simple enough, right? Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. 174 nations ratified the agreement which went into effect in April 1997.
Guess what? White phosphorus is not one of the substances - or weapons - listed anywhere in the CWC. So how do parties come to their conclusion? Really. Aren't they working overtime trying to stretch facts for their own cynical purposes?
OK, so how about the claim that its use violates the United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects? It's part of the famous Geneva Conventions. The United States has never agreed to to this. The treaty's "Protocol III" reads as follows:
Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons prohibits, in all circumstances, making the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects, the object of attack by any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat or a combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target.
So where does this white phosphorus stuff fit in?
Alright, I'll admit. White phosphorus is bad news.
White phosphorus is a colorless, white, or yellow waxy solid with a garlic-like odor. It does not occur naturally, but is manufactured from phosphate rocks. White phosphorus reacts rapidly with oxygen, easily catching fire at temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above room temperature. White phosphorus is used by the military in various types of ammunition, and to produce smoke for concealing troop movements and identifying targets. White phosphorus has been used commonly by the military as an incendiary agent or as an igniter for munitions. It commonly is found in hand grenades, mortar and artillery rounds, and smoke bombs. It's military slang name is "Willy Pete." How romantic.
Munitions-quality white phosphorus commonly is found in solid form. When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and is oxidized rapidly to phosphorus pentoxide. Such heat is produced by this reaction that the element bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. Phosphorus also becomes luminous in the dark, and this property is conveyed to "tracer bullets." This chemical reaction continues until either all the material is consumed or the element is deprived of oxygen. (Source: eMedicine)
It is also used by industry to produce phosphoric acid and other chemicals for use in fertilizers, food additives, and cleaning compounds. Small amounts of white phosphorus were used in the past in pesticides and fireworks. (source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
But just how bad is this stuff? It burns like hell - literally. The burning particles imbed in the skin. Burning white phosphorus cannot be extinguished simply by flushing it with water, either. It creates second- and third-degree burns right down to bone and melts skin. To simply breath it in can be severely harmful if not fatal. It is bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But hey! The United States has not agreed to its ban, no way, shape, or form. So what's the harm eh? It's just another weapon. Albeit a really really deadly one. Now some folks have confused Willy Pete with napalm. That IS a banned weapon according to the Chemical Weapons Convention. And while the effects of Willy Pete might be confused with napalm, well it's just NOT napalm. So the U.S. military cannot be accused of violating any international treaties to which it is a party.
The United States does not torture. The United States does not violate international weapons treaties either. Hey we're the good guys, remember?
Trust me. After all, I am George W. Bush, that good-hearted Evangelical Christian guy that you all elected, not once, but twice. Well sort of. Hehehehehehe.