The Truth About ThinkProgress White Phosphorus Coverage


A report earlier this week by ThinkProgress about a declassified Pentagon document that describes White Phosphorus as a “chemical weapon” has provoked outrage by the right-wing blogosphere. A blog called Balloon Juice accused ThinkProgress of “doing opposition research against our troops, digging through declassified intel, hoping to find anything they can use to portray our troops as monsters”¦” (The Pentagon has acknowledged using White Phosphorus in Fallujah as a weapon against enemy combatants.)

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about this blog, but let’s get the facts straight:

1. Balloon Juice says “no matter how many times Think Progress says it, WP is not a chemical weapon.ThinkProgress never claimed that White Phosphorus is properly categorized as a chemical weapon. The first paragraph of the orignial post states White Phosphorus rounds “aren’t technically ‘chemical weapons.’

2. Balloon Juice claims that the declassified Pentagon document is “a transcription of two Kurdish brothers speaking to each other on the phone.The Pentagon document is not a transcription of a phone conversation, it a summary of intelligence. The subject line of the cable is “POSSIBLE USE OF PHOSPHOROUS CHEMICAL WEAPONS BY IRAQ.” This a description by the author of the Pentagon cable, not Kurdish brothers.

The purpose of exposing that the Pentagon cable described White Phosphorous as a “chemical weapon” is not to dispute its technical classification. The point is to demonstrate that the debate doesn’t end there. What the Pentagon cable helps illustrate is that White Phosphorus is nasty stuff and the use of White Phosphorus as an offensive weapon has the potential to further compromise America’s moral authority.

As was noted in the original post, paraphrasing President Bush, “this isn’t a question about what is legal, it’s about what is right.

UPDATE: Balloon Juice responds to our response.