December 7, 2005

The Big "White" Lie

Hatched by Sachi

UPDATED: See below.

The American White-Phosphorus War Crime in Fallujah....

This story of a supposed American war atrocity -- a crime against humanity -- has circulated stealthily through the left-wing blogosphere since an Italian TV documentary Fallujah:The Hidden Massacre claimed that the US military used a banned chemical weapon, white phosphorus, to massacre civilians in Fallujah in November of 2004. The documentary aired early last month, marking the first anniversary of the second (and successful) US Fallujah offensive, Operation al-Fajr (translation, "Dawn"), but originally called Phantom Fury, which commenced November 8th last year. [We should note at this point that it is the documentary and the person discussed below that call white phosphorus a "chemical weapon," not Big Lizards. See update at the end of this post. -- BL]

The key, self-proclaimed "witness" to this extrordinary atrocity claim is a "former American soldier" named Jeff Engelhardt. He participates on a group blog, Fight to Survive, a "MilBlog" of a strange sort: the contributers are all supposedly soldiers, all bitterly opposed to the war. In Fight to Survive, "hEkLe" (Engelhardt) claims that he served in the Army in Iraq from February 2004 through February 2005. His unit, he says, was "3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Baquba, Iraq." He may well be telling the truth (though I'm skeptical; remember the Winter Soldier project and see below). But sadly, even if he is a legitimate soldier, wearing the uniform doesn't always mean loyalty to the country.

From the anti-Bush retoric in his blog -- venomous even by left-wing standards -- it is obvious that he has been a bitter enemy of the Commander in Chief and the Iraqi war from the beginning. But agenda aside, there are some curious dicrepancies between his interview in November 2005, in which he publicly accused his fellow soldiers of committing war crimes, and the contemporaneous blog account a year earlier of what he saw and did in the last two days of the offensive.

One I noticed right off: Engelhardt refers at one point to a "Bradley tank."

However, upon reaching the front lines, a safety standard was in effect stating that the urban combat was extremely intense. The lightest armored vehicles allowed in sector were Bradley tanks.

Obviously, I was never in the Army, and my husband was Navy. But isn't that thing called a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, or maybe just a Bradley? Maybe in Army slang, soldiers refer to a Bradley as a tank... can anyone who was in the Army confirm or refute this? I've just never seen that term before.

He also refers to Humvees as "trucks," and he writes that "fighter jets" flew in to make "a series of massive air strikes" "terminating whole city blocks at a time." I have no idea whether Army personnel know the difference between fighters and bombers; or maybe he meant F/A-18 Hornets. But the terms just seems a little... off. And has anyone else ever heard of Cobras and Apaches sporting "chain gun missile launchers?" I Googled the term, and the only hits I got were to various reprints of Engelhardt's own post.

A conservative blogger, Michael Moynihan of Stambord: the Stockholm Spectator blog, has pointed out some other discrepancies. However I noticed something else that might have been overlooked, by and large, by those focusing on Engelhardt's repulsive, anti-American rhetoric. (I think I may have seen a brief mention of this point on another MilBlog; unfortunately, I didn't note which one it was at the time, and now it's gone from my memory.)

While Engelhardt's bitter slanders against the United States have caused most decent Americans to discount his claims, this one discrepency is almost conclusive evidence that Engelhardt is making up the whole story: in his contemporaneous blogpost, Engelhardt does not even so much as mention the supposed "massacre" he describes so vividly a year later.

Engelhardt says he drove to Fallujah as an escort during the last couple of days of the operation. He did not participate in the combat itself but just observed from the city limits. In the Italian interview, he says he heard orders issued over the radio to drop white phosphorus, or "Whiskey Pete," on civilian areas of the city:

REPORTER: Were any chemical weapons used in Fallujah?

JEFF ENGELHARDT: 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 ENGELHARDT: Yes. It happened.

REPORTER: How can he be certain?

JEFF ENGELHARDT: 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.

Sounds quite definitive, doesn't it? But his contemporaneous account shows he was not so sure at the time...

And as always, the artillery—some rounds were high explosive, some were illumination rounds, some were reported as being white phosphorus (the modern day napalm) [reported? reported by whom? -- BL]. Occasionally, on the outskirts of the isolated impact area, you could hear tanks firing machine guns and blazing their cannons. It was amazing that anything could survive this deadly onslaught. Suddenly a transmition came over the radio approving the request for “bunker-busters”.

How did "reported as being white phosphorus" became "definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, a chemical weapon" one year later? Also notice he writes white phosphorus and a radio transmission in the same paragraph. And yet, he does not mention the order to drop "whisky pete." Instead he writes he heard an oder to drop "bunker-busters," which are completely different animals.

Wouldn't this have been the ideal place to mention the "Whisky Pete" radio transmission -- if he had actually heard such a thing?

Let's continue. In the interview, Engelhardt said that he had seen the evidence of chemical weapon use in Fallujah:

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.

[Yet amazingly, photos of Fallujah today show that it must have been completely rebuilt in a single year! -- BL]

JEFF ENGELHARDT: 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 ENGELHARDT: 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.

Whether he is qualified to judge the cause of death by simply observing a corpse is an interesting question, but beside the point. The reality is that he never saw those corpses he described... not in Fallujah, anyway, which is what the documentary and his interview were about.

In his blog post, he said he was not involved in the fight. He was far enough away that his superior thought they were safe. He could see a massive amount of bombs being dropped. But the closest they came to his position was about one kilometer away.

Engelhardt in 2004 never mentions he saw any person being killed or body being blown up. In fact his description of the air raid is nothing like that experienced by my father, whose village was bombed by American planes during WWII, when he was a little boy. My grandfather's house was blown to pieces in the raid; the family, including my father, only survived because their bomb shelter was built in the middle of a bamboo grove. (The next-door neighbors' shelter was built underground but in a bare field. None of them survived.)

Engelhardt's description tells me that he was close enough to see buildings being destroyed, but too far to see any individual person being killed. So when was he supposed to have seen these "burned bodies?"

Perhaps he means he saw them later, the aftermath of the bombing. Earlier in the same post, he wrote that his superior was planning on going into the city the next day to access the damage. But Engelhardt's next post is months later, on February 20th, 2005 -- and he never mentions any subsequent visit to Fallujah. Jeff "hEkLe" Engelhardt doesn't mention "Falluja" again until a post on September 14th, 2005... which, coincidentally, is also the next time he mentions the word "phosphorus." But even in this post, he says nothing about having witnessed people burned to death by white phosphorus (or "Whiskey Pete," which term he never uses even once on the Fight to Survive group blog).

Had Engelhardt accompanied the officer the next day -- and if he were telling the truth about the supposed atrocity -- he would have seen many "burned bodies." And had he seen such bodies, there simply is no question that he would have written extensivly about it right there and then in his blog. He seemed to recall in such vivid detail a year later; wouldn't the nightmare of a phosphorus-holocaust have been seared, seared in his memory a few days, not 365 days, after seeing them?

Perhaps, you might suggest, he did see it; but he was afraid to write about it because he was worried he might be arrested and court-martialed if he called his fellow soldiers war criminals or accused the president of ordering a crime against humanity. Such an extordinaly claim could create a backlash. Or maybe he just didn't want to say bad things about America; maybe he's a superpatriot who never thinks ill of his country.

Really? Just read though his blog. He clearly was not afraid to call the commander in chief obscenities and various other slurs. He was not afraid to talk about how brave the "insurgents" were. He was not afraid to write that Americans were conducting massacres in Iraq.

As Stambord quotes....

That veteran—the star witness—is one Jeff Englehart [sic], identified only as a “former soldier” that can “absolutely” confirm that such weapons were deployed in Fallujah. On his blog, written during his time in Iraq, Englehart [sic] quotes Che Guevara (he pompously urges his commanders to read him, to learn the true nature of an insurgency), beseeches his readers to “remove a lying fascist crook from office”, a “lowly criminal scumbag” who is the reincarnation “of John Wayne/Adolph Hitler (sic), the man “responsible for “Operation Iraqi Oppression,” which made use of “’final solution’ type missiles.” On the other hand the “resistance” (Englehart’s [sic] description) in Fallujah was “boldly fighting” his comrades. “What determination!” While some call the “resistors”—who constructed roadside and car bombs and suicide belts from within the city of Fallujah—cowards, Engelhart [sic] “call[s] them brave.” In other words, an unimpeachable witness with no political axe to grind. (After returning from his tour of duty, Engelhart [sic] has signed up with the Cindy Sheehan circus)

In fact, in the very same "hEkLe" post quoted above, Engelhardt writes the following:

Every time an atrocity is revealed through our news outlets, our grasp on this once secular nation slips away. As America grows increasingly disturbed by the images of carnage and violent death of her own sons in arms, its government loses the justification to continue the bloody debacle. Since all these traits are the conventional power’s unavoidable mistakes, the guerrilla campaign will surely succeed. In Iraq’s case, complete destruction of the United States military is impossible, but through perseverance the insurgency will drive us out. This will prove to be the inevitable outcome of the war.

This is not a man afraid to accuse his government and his comrades of committing "atrocities." If Engelhardt had actually seen then what he claimed a year later he saw, he would have written about it on November 19th, 2004. If he had tried to hold it in, he would have exploded like one of those “'final solution' type missiles." He would have cited it as Exhibit A of American war crimes. He would have crowed about it. He would have found an appropriate Che Guevera quote.

Besides, if the US actually used a banned chemical weapon, shouldn't it be investigated? Why didn't Engelhardt report this to the authorities, instead of waiting a year, and telling it to an Italian TV interviewer? (As usual, Leftists wait until they're abroad before bearing false witness against their own country and comrades.)

This entire story is a crock of baloney. I'm pretty sure Engelhardt never even set foot in Fallujah. In fact, he parses his words so carefully, he can honestly claim that he never actually said he personally witnessed an atrocity in Fallujah; he can even claim he never technically said he saw those "burned bodies" in person. Maybe he saw them on television while watching Point of View!

Engelhardt never saw burnt bodies in Fallujah; he never heard any radio transmission ordering white phosphorus to be dropped (commit a war crime -- over an open radio channel?). He is a fraud and a liar.

Even if it turns out he is a soldier, as well.

UPDATE 11:22 by Dafydd:

Commenter Tony B notes that:

It wouldn't be investigated because using willie pete ISN'T a war crime. I'm quite certain we did use it. There are so many things that point to this guy simply not knowing what he's talking about that I am suspicious whether he was even a soldier at all. If he was, he had very little experience with combat equipment.

Tony B turns out to be absolutely correct -- as I suspected when I was editing Sachi's post (we both read all posts that appear on Big Lizards). I checked carefully to make sure that we never made the statement ourselves that WP was a chemical weapon... we simply let Mr. Engelhardt and the Italian interviewer speak for themselves.

Here is GlobalSecurity.Org speaking to the subject:

White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory. Smokes and obscurants comprise a category of materials that are not used militarily as direct chemical agents. The United States retains its ability to employ incendiaries to hold high-priority military targets at risk in a manner consistent with the principle of proportionality that governs the use of all weapons under existing law. The use of white phosphorus or fuel air explosives are not prohibited or restricted by Protocol II of the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention (CCWC), the 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.

Several commenters have confirmed what Sachi and I thought: terms like "Bradley tank" and "chain gun missile launcher" are not terms that an infantryman would use. Both of us have experience only with the Navy, so we were a little uncertain what the Army terms were... but those just sounded weird. I'm still curious myself whether soldiers refer to their Humvees as "trucks," or whether the word truck is exclusively used to refer to the Army trucks that haul things, those 2-ton or 5-ton things that actually look like real trucks. But again, although I've never heard a soldier refer to a Humvee as a truck, I'm not familiar with Army slang, and maybe it's more common than I thought. Anybody?

Note also that Engelhardt is the only person associated with Fight to Survive who used the phrase "whiskey pete" to refer to white phosphorus, and he only did so in the Italian documentary -- not on the blog itself (as Sachi noted). There is at least one reference from some other FTS author to "willie pete," which a couple of commenters noted is the correct slang.

I wonder if the other blog-authors on FTS have ever actually met Jeff Engelhardt, or if he is just another poster to them? Do they know anything about him other than what he, himself has written?

The more I read, the more suspicious I get about Mr. Engelhardt.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, December 7, 2005, at the time of 4:06 AM

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The following hissed in response by: VObserver

With regard to Engelhardts references to Bradley Fighting Vehicles as "tanks":

My son recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq as a Bradley commander. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle is never referred to by its crewmen as a "tank"; it is a "Bradley". In point of fact, Bradley crewmembers make a clear distinction between themselves and crewmen on Abrams Tanks. Abrams crews are "tankers"; Bradley crewmen consider themselves infantry, and are classified as such by the Army. Bradley crews are eligible for Combat Infantry Badges, tankers are not.

The above hissed in response by: VObserver [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 7:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: VObserver

I might also add that Apaches have missle launchers and a 30mm Vulcan canon [which some may refer to as a 'chain gun', though that is technically not correct]. There is no such thing as a "chain gun missle launcher".

These are NOT the type of errors of terminology that an infantry soldier would make.

The above hissed in response by: VObserver [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 7:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tony B

It wouldn't be investigated because using willie pete ISN'T a war crime. I'm quite certain we did use it. There are so many things that point to this guy simply not knowing what he's talking about that I am suspicious whether he was even a soldier at all. If he was, he had very little experience with combat equipment.

He did a radio interview that made it seem like he didn't know the difference between WP rounds and illumination rounds any more than that State Department official does. He claims that WP doesn't burn clothing... utter nonsense.

The above hissed in response by: Tony B [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 7:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tony B

Also, Apaches do not have the Vulcan. They do sport a 30mm chain gun, not the Gatling gun. But you're absolutely right, I couldn't possibly imagine what a "chain gun missle launcher" is.

The above hissed in response by: Tony B [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 7:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: Eg

With the shear volume of stories, as in the Plame case, the Wille-P story, now the secret prison's(geesh there are just too many to name)...but especially after the number and type of contrived stories associated with The Storm Over Katrina, Congress should be holding full investigations into the media.

Our media stinks to high-heavens... It carries the smell of death and corruption.

Unfortunately it won't happen until the damage has been reeked; we're being lead down a path by our enemies who, in this one case, I think may successfully breach a divide.

The above hissed in response by: Eg [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 9:12 AM

The following hissed in response by: Teafran

Nobody else seems to have picked up on this, but WP, at least in my era, was always referred to as "willie pete" not "whiskey pete".

This so smacks of Winter Soldier all over again.

Sad really.

The above hissed in response by: Teafran [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 9:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tony B

Teafran, yeah, I've NEVER heard it referred to as "Whiskey Pete." This guy really doesn't know what he's talking about. It's plausible that he was a soldier of some sort, but he definitely doesn't have any experience with combat equipment.

The above hissed in response by: Tony B [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 9:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: RIZMNSTR

This guy is so full of crap, I don't even know where to begin.

I spent 4 years in a LRS unit (LRSD 107th MI Bn, 7th Inf) and 6 years as a Cav scout(Det 1, 1/221 Armor, 11th ACR).

No one calls a Bradley a "tank" that has ever spent time in a combat unit.

White phosphorus has been called "willie pete" since Vietnam. Neither I nor anyone I know has ever heard it called "whiskey pete".

A WP round is not a gas weapon. It is a fragmentation weapon. As such, when a target is hit there are not generalized burns, but you are peppered with "shrapnel". It is these pieces that do the burning (which require smothering to extinguish; putting under water will not work as the O2 in water will fuel the chemical reaction).

Just my 2 cents.

The above hissed in response by: RIZMNSTR [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 11:18 AM

The following hissed in response by: Tony B

One more thing. This guy gave a radio interview that I linked on my site (I can't figure out the trackback for some reason.). He doesn't even seem to understand the difference between illumination rounds and WP rounds. He talks about how we claim to use WP rounds to help "spot" targets but they result in killing people.

He doesn't understand that "spotting" targets means MARKING targets. It's apparent he thinks it means helping us see them. If we are spotting a target it means we ARE TRYING TO KILL IT. For instance, you might spot a target with WP smoke to help designate it to aircraft that are going to blow the hell out of it.

The above hissed in response by: Tony B [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 12:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: kimsch

In the Army a 2 and a half ton truck is known as a deuce and a half or just a deuce. Others are known by their army nomenclature M80, etc.

The above hissed in response by: kimsch [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 12:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: vnjagvet

In the WWII army phonetic alphabet, the letters W and P were "William" often shortened to "Willie" and "Peter" often shortened to "Pete".

In 1961 and continuing to the present, in NATO's standardized phonetic alphabet the letters W and P are "Whiskey" and "Papa".

When I was an officer in the Armor branch in 1966, we fired white phosphorus shells in M-60 tank firing practice. We called those shells WP or Whiskey Papa.

Such shells were part of the ordinary tactical arsenal, were not classified as chemical weapons, and were used routinely in artillery and armor operations during WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

The inference I draw from my army experience is that this individual is purveying anti-US propaganda for one purpose or another.

To put it more pungently, in my opinion he is full of sh**.

The above hissed in response by: vnjagvet [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 7, 2005 3:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: daddyx

As a Cav Scout on board a CFV Bradley in an Mechanized Infantry Brigade and Armor Brigade(3rd ID) and in an Armored Cav Regiment (2nd ACR), I can't remember anyone ever refering to a Bradley as a "Bradley tank", or hearing anyone refering to the gun on a Cobra or an Apache as a "chain gun missle launcher", perhaps a chain gun or even a gatling gun, but never a, "chain gun missle launcher".

We'd always refer to a Humvee as a Humvee, or even a Hummer; but that was rare, and likely to earn you an ass chewing by a Sergeant.

"Trucks" were always 5 ton trucks, and there were 2 1/2 ton trucks we referred to as "Deuce 'n halfs" or even the "Hemmits".

Even the actual vehicles civilians would normally refer to as pick-up trucks were always called "CuttVees"...

I'm skeptical about this guy at best.

The above hissed in response by: daddyx [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2005 2:09 AM

The following hissed in response by: ltwass

At first I thought maybe he was a rear echelon guy, maybe an admin type, who wouldn't necessarily know the right "lingo." But he says on his blog that he was a 19D cav scout, a grunt.

The Bradley tank thing is wrong. But I've heard Humvees called trucks all over the place, usually "gun trucks" for a Humvee mounting a weapon, but alot of people called them trucks.

Chain gun missle launchers and whiskey pete? I don't know, smells kind of fishy, but lingo is one of those things that can take on a life of its own. I'd say it's inconclusive.

The above hissed in response by: ltwass [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2005 8:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: TBinSTL

His errors are enough to convince me that he is not and has never been an American Soldier, Sailor, or Marine. His use of language gives me the impression that he is not even an American. Certain word choices and such remind me of ESL types I've known.

The above hissed in response by: TBinSTL [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 8, 2005 2:34 PM

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