Commentary and links relating to media coverage of war; both before, during, and after.

William A. Dorman is Professor of Government at California State University, Sacramento, and has taught a course in War, Peace and the Mass Media since 1970.

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War, Peace, and the Mass Media
Tuesday, November 29, 2005  
White Phosphorus, a California Embed, and 'The Times'
Our military's use of the incendiary--some say, chemical--weapon white phosphorus in Iraq against insurgents has drawn international controversy, partly fueled by an eyewitness account by reporter Darrin Mortenson. Today, in an editorial, The New York Times demanded that the U.S. stop using the substance.

By Greg Mitchell
Managing Editor
Editor & Publisher

Blog editor's note: Editor & Publisher is the "bible" of the newspaper industry. You may have to register (for free) to read this item. See also previous item to read the Times' editorial.

(November 29, 2005) -- It was good to see a New York Times editorial today taking a strong stand against our military's use of the horrific incendiary weapon, white phosphorus, in Iraq, especially since a prominent news story in the paper last week emphasized official doubts about the growing controversy. Meanwhile, Darrin Mortenson, the embedded reporter from California whose first-person account of witnessing its use against insurgents in Iraq contributed to the international outrage, tells me, “We didn't give white phosphorus a second thought out there.”

It all began with a documentary by an Italian TV network earlier this autumn charging that the U.S. was using a napalm-like incendiary, white phosphorus, against insurgents and possibly civilians in Iraq. Witnesses in Fallujah testified, and film clips allegedly showed bodies that had been burned to the bone. While shamefully ignored in America, the allegations--some of them unsubstantiated--drew massive interest in Europe and much of the rest of the world.

To read the full text, see E & P

8:34 AM

Shake and Bake

The New York Times
November 29, 2005

Blog editor's note: This Times' editorial fits into the better-late-than-never category. Reports that the U.S. military had used some sort of incendiaries in the battle of Fallujah a year ago first surfaced on Islamic web sites and in the European press. The possibility received almost no coverage or attention in the American press, perhaps because of carefully couched denials by the departments of state and defense. For example, see "Identifying Misinformation" It now surfaces that the "misinformation" was the doing of the U.S.

Let us pause and count the ways the conduct of the war in Iraq has damaged America's image and needlessly endangered the lives of those in the military. First, multilateralism was tossed aside. Then the post-invasion fiasco muddied the reputation of military planners and caused unnecessary casualties. The W.M.D. myth undermined the credibility of United States intelligence and President Bush himself, and the abuse of prisoners stole America's moral high ground.

Now the use of a ghastly weapon called white phosphorus has raised questions about how careful the military has been in avoiding civilian casualties. It has also further tarnished America's credibility on international treaties and the rules of warfare.

White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned generations ago. Packed into an artillery shell, it explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy's positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for hours inside a human body.

To read the full text, see The New York Times

8:24 AM

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