Media Lies regarding the Use of White Phosphorus Bombs

Open letter to the BBC Posted by The Editors on November 16, 2005, 5:18 pm

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To: [email protected] (head of TV news) [email protected] (head of 10 O’clock news)

I hope things are fine with you. I was pleased to see the Ten leading last night with a report on the use of white phosphorus in the assault on Falluja last year.

Could you possibly provide the source of Paul Wood’s assertion that “this deadly substance [WP] was fired directly at trenches full of insurgents.” That was misleading. As you are likely aware, there is significant evidence of the use of WP in built-up areas (rather than “trenches”) that were known to house civilians (rather than simply “insurgents”).

Since the invasion took place in March 2003, there have been many substantive reports about use of depleted uranium, cluster bombs, firebombs and other atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians. Many of these reports have been picked up by BBC Worldwide Monitoring but have been given scant mention, if any, in your news bulletins. Why not?

Will you also be reporting the US use of Mk-77 firebombs: essentially an updated form of napalm? As you know, the UK was misled by the Pentagon on this issue too. It is therefore directly relevant to your story last night – but no doubt you feel you had no time to mention it.

There is much more that could be said about your report – not least the fact that the BBC has buried this story, and the bigger picture of war crimes, for the past year and more. For example, I am sure you must be aware of the reports from Dahr Jamail, an unembedded reporter who has spent more than seven months in Iraq, including Falluja. Have you ever quoted his reports or interviewed him on the Ten? Jamail has reported that:

“The military estimates that 2,000 people in Fallujah were killed, but claims that most of them were fighters. Relief personnel and locals, however, believe the vast majority of the dead were civilians.” (Jamail, ‘An Eyewitness Account of Fallujah,’ December 16, 2004,

In an article in the Guardian, Jamail noted that refugees from Fallujah told him that “civilians carrying white flags were gunned down by American soldiers. Corpses were tied to US tanks and paraded around like trophies.” (Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail, ‘This is our Guernica,’ The Guardian, April 27, 2005)

Why do you and your BBC news editor colleagues consider Dahr Jamail’s reporting unworthy of interest?

A report on Fallujah presented to the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by the Baghdad-based Studies Center of Human Rights and Democracy appealed to the international community:

“What more tragedies are the international bodies waiting for in order to raise their voices demanding to stop the massacres and mass killings of the civilians?”

The report warns that “there are mass graves in the city” and “the medical authorities and the citizens could not find the burial ground of 450 bodies of the citizens of Fallujah that the American occupation forces have photographed and buried in a place that is still unknown.” (SCHRD, ‘Report on the current situation in Fallujah,’ March 26, 2005, )

Why do you and your colleagues consider the testimony of Baghdad-based human rights groups, such as SCHRD, unworthy of being broadcast?

When will you be rectifying these omissions?

I hope that you and your BBC colleagues will pursue vigorously the copious evidence of war crimes committed by US-UK forces, and that you will refrain from whitewashing these crimes as a “public relations blow” to the Pentagon.

I hope, too, that you will feel able to respond publicly to the above points, please.

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