USPID - Union of Scientists for Disarmament (Italy)
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INCENDIARY WEAPONS ON FALLUJAH
(November 15, 2005)
1) On November 8, 2005 the italian TV RaiNews24 broadcasted an impressive 27 minutes reportage with witnesses supporting the hypothesis that the November 2004 US attack on Fallujah has been brought on by inhuman, if not apparently criminal means. Copies of this reportage (both in italian and in english) can be downloaded from RaiNews24 web site at
2) In this reportage the american military are charged with using incendiary weapons (either White Phosphorus (WP), or Napalm) against civilians. This is a heavy charge since the use of incendiary weapons, albeit not outrightly prohibited (as for chemical weapons subjected to the 1993 CWC - Chemical Weapons Convention), is regulated by the Protocol III of the "UN 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" (1980) briefly called CCCW. The Protocol III states that incendiary weapons can be used neither against the civilian population, nor against "any military objective located within a concentration of civilians". On the other hand exactly that seems to have been done in Fallujah, and this is a very serious accusation: for less than that the political and military officials of other regimes have been brought to international penal tribunals. The text of Protocol III is joined for reference at the end of this statement. The complete text of the CCCW can be found at
3) On the other hand the US Administration mantains first of all that WP munitions have been used as "illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems", which are explicitely excluded from the incendiary weapons by the Protocol III. This is, however, a weak answer given the horrible results on the civilians documented by the RaiNews24 reportage. This line of defense, moreover, does not apply to the possible use either of Napalm, or of its more recent form used in the munitions MK77 and similar. Documentation on these last munitions is at
4) The US Administration, moreover, even without acknowledging an illegitimate use of incendiary weapons, deems herself not to be restricted by the Protocol III of the CCCW because the US are not a party to this Protocol. But this answer is - if possible - worse than the indictment itself, since it adds to the injury just the arrogant mockery of being above the rules with which the others must instead comply. Here we are not interested in determining if a treaty has been formally violated; rather we want to know if a crime against humanity has been perpetrated. From a substantial point of view a murder remains a murder even if the murderer proclaims to be above the judiciary sysem.
5) More caution should be used, instead, for the charges (diffused by the press) of a use of chemical weapons in Iraq. The use of chemical weapons is strictly prohibited and even their production and detention is not allowed by the quoted CWC. In fact, however, neither the WP munitions, nor the Napalm munitions can be described as chemical weapons. It is true that their effects are produced by chemical reactions (as for conventional explosives), but they are used on behalf of the thermal effects of their agents, not of their toxic effects. Hence the said substances are not mentioned at all in the treaties on chemical weapons. To charge the US of using chemical weapons on the basis of RaiNews24 revelations is wrong, and can have the paradoxical effect of discrediting the - already momentous - indictment of an indiscriminate use of incendiary agents against civilian populations.
6) Of course this caution will cease to make sense if we were to discover that the US used true chemical weapons. We are not in want of charges, but these seem not to be substantiated by the same kind of witnessing as that of the RaiNews24 reportage. See for example the following article
7) More information on this argument can be found on the web at:
8) American denials and liquidatory comments on RaiNews24 reportage by J.Pike can be found at:
Nicola Cufaro Petroni
USPID Secretary General
Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons
Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons.
Geneva, 10 October 1980
For the purpose of this Protocol:
1. Incendiary weapon" means 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 combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target. (a) Incendiary weapons can take the form of, for example, flame throwers, fougasses, shells, rockets, grenades, mines, bombs and other containers of incendiary substances.
(b) Incendiary weapons do not include:
(i) Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems;
(ii) Munitions designed to combine penetration, blast or fragmentation effects with an additional incendiary effect, such as armour-piercing projectiles, fragmentation shells, explosive bombs and similar combined-effects munitions in which the incendiary effect is not specifically designed to cause burn injury to persons, but to be used against military objectives, such as armoured vehicles, aircraft and installations or facilities.
2. Concentration of civilians" means any concentration of civilians, be it permanent or temporary, such as in inhabited parts of cities, or inhabited towns or villages, or as in camps or columns of refugees or evacuees, or groups of nomads.
3. Military objective" means, so far as objects are concerned, any object which by its nature, location, purpose or use makes an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
4. Civilian objects" are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph 3.
5. Feasible precautions" are those precautions which are practicable or practically possible taking into account all circumstances ruling at the time, including humanitarian and military considerations.
Protection of civilians and civilian objects
1. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects the object of attack by incendiary weapons.
2. It is prohibited in all circumstances to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by air-delivered incendiary weapons.
3. It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.
4. It is prohibited to make forests or other kinds of plant cover the object of attack by incendiary weapons except when such natural elements are used to cover, conceal or camouflage combatants or other military objectives, or are themselves military objectives.