Why is NZ supporting US use of white phosphorus weapons?


New Zealand’s good name is being tarnished by comments in Iraq by Kiwi Brigadier, Hugh McAslan. In his role as deputy commander of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, McAslan is supporting the use of white phosphorus weapons, which have been widely condemned, including by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The US was criticised for its use the highly flammable napalm in the Vietnam war. White phosphorus has some similar effects when dropped on populated areas. The Independent newspaper explains that “if particles of ignited white phosphorus land on a person’s body, they can continue to burn through flesh to the bone. Toxic phosphoric acid can also be released into wounds, risking phosphorus poisoning. Inhaling the smoke can cause damage to the heart, liver and kidneys.”

Brigadier McAslan justifies the use of white phosporus in Mosul, saying it provides a smokescreen for civilians to escape ISIS territory.

However, when you watch video of it spraying down on densely populated zones in Mosul and Raqqa it’s hard to see how it is not burning people.

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In any case, the reasons for banning incendiary weapons in civilian areas under the Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons were that they would cause fires and burn people. The law rightly doesn’t discriminate between the use of such weapons by the “good” people and the “bad” people or for “good” reasons and “bad” reasons.

A final question needs to be asked. Is it in New Zealand’s interests to have one of our soldiers in such a prominent command position in the US-led coalition, charged with defending an indefensible US policy – the use of white phosphorus in urban areas? How does that sit with our supposedly “independent foreign policy”?


  1. Thank you Keith for quoting the Independent at “if particles of ignited white phosphorus land on a person’s body, they can continue to burn through flesh to the bone. ” Why is there no outrage? Why aren’t our ties with the US military ever questioned? Especially by politicians with an election coming up.

    Surely the use of white phosphorus on civilian populations is a war crime .

    Israel has used white phosphorus in Gaza causing horrific harm to ‘beautiful babies’. Our NZ Superfund invests in Israel Chemicals, maker of white phosphorus. I asked MPs to request Superfund Guardians to divest the fund from Israel Chemicals but the MPs showed no interest.

    • Our media seems to be in protective mode of the military
      Both you and I brought up the question of white phosphorus use in civilian areas some days ago, with very little response.
      New Zealand’s human rights record is starting to look very shabby indeed.
      Our mission of “training” and “advising” in Iraq seems to have shifted to one of active participation, once more we’re in very murky waters , this time admitting to the use of what amounts to chemical weapons
      As long as we’re a defacto member of NATO, an ally of the US and hence Israel, we’re deeply compromised
      One day it’ll come back to bite us in the bum, hard.

    • I asked David Shearer to have a second go about Superfund’s investment in White Phosphorus but he didn’t. I wrote to the SuperFund pointing out their website says they only invest in ‘ethical’ investments and received a ‘fob off’ letter. Next time I sent them a letter I see the website has changed ‘ethical’ to ‘responsible’ a much watered down ethic. No reply received. Now I can find no mention of the Israeli company which they invested in so they’re either hiding this investment or they have actually divested, but if the latter why not include this with the other dodgy investments they have divested themselve of.

  2. As Lois Griffiths “where is the outrage?”
    We seem to have no independent morality . Our clear objection would mean something internationally.
    Thanks Keith Locke
    D J S

  3. When you consort regularly with neo-fascists you inevitably become contaminated by their casual attitude to committing war crimes.War crimes becomes the new normal. As long as we continue the habit of slobbering over the jackboots of the U.S. Empire state sponsors of terrorism we can expect the moral decay of our Armed Forces to continue!

      • IDK. You might find tracers, phosphorus/illumination rounds ect in pre deployment training but the vast majority of rounds purchased are NATO rounds which means the comply with NATO regulations ie no phosphorus. You’ll find M793 training rounds (phosphorus) on the LAVs but again for training purposes. If there is one thing brass appreciates it’s cheap ammo. I could be wrong. NZDF do source ammo from irregular channels ie from auctions ect but on small scales. Same with Navy and Airforce. All that is being achieved with tracer rounds ect is show recruits how close one can stand next to live fire.

        It’s one thing to point the finger at the yanks and they deserve every bit of criticism coming to them. How ever NZDF has suffered austerity on a level comparable with state housing cause you know a pollie likes there property speculation so your more likely to find Meth stains than phosphorus ect.

        I hate to get all keyboard warrior but Andrews analysis of the situation just proves people are far to worried about cheap short term thrills with no critical thinking or logic. It’s like oh look, my ammo knowledge extends this* far.

  4. ” Why is NZ supporting US use of white phosphorus weapons?”

    Is it because we’ve turned our backs on the Crown and now we’re the U$A Corporate War Machine’s bitch, or else?

    little pete thiel walked right on in and the U$A’s ambassador’s saying we should give trump a chance. I tried but I kept vomiting? Am I allergic to bullshit?

  5. You are very naive if you believe that. In your scenario, the civilian population will already be grievously harmed before the incoming missile hits

  6. Did we learn nothing from the Vietnam War and the napalming of Vietnamese Villages?!

    God almighty, we’ve gone from opposing atomic bomb testing at Mururoa, to using banned phosphorus weapons?

    This is obscene.

    • ‘War crimes’ are considered a perfectly normal and acceptable component of warfare by the money-lender industrial empire, and have been since the beginning.

      In the Boer War women and children were herded into concentration camps and starved to death [by the British].

      In the First World War the Germans ‘invented’ the wide-scale bombing of civilians by airships, and then gas attacks that killed everything and everyone. The British retaliated with their own versions. High explosives were hurled across battle zones and into civilian-occupied areas for 4 years.

      The first documented use of gas dropped from aircraft against civilians was by the British, in what is now Iraq, in the 1920s.

      In the Second World War German cities were fire-bombed in such a manner as to destroy buildings and then set them afire so that nothing lived: tens of thousands of civilian died overnight. And when rescue services arrived on the scene they were deliberately bombed, and straffed by low-flying fighter…..on Churchill’s instructions.

      When German soldiers surrendered in the early months of 1945 they expected to be treated with respect, according to the signed conventions: about 1 million were herded into open-air concentration camps, and were starved, shot at, and driven over by machinery when they attempted to dig primitive holes to protect themselves from the bitterly cold conditions. When civilians attempted to feed their starving men they were shot…..on Eisenhower’s instructions.

      Shortly after that bit of nastiness, the Americans vaporised tens of thousands of Japanese who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the experimental use of atomic weapons, which also had the agenda of demonstrating to the Russians what they could expect if they resisted American imperialism.

      As you note, Vietnam. But also Laos, Cambodia, and Korea.

      Depleted uranium (which is still highly radioactive and not really depleted at all) has been used extensively in numerous war zones in recent times, causing birth defects and a general poisoning of the landscape. And DU will continue to be used because it gives the military-industrial complex the results it wants.

      To expect a military-industrial complex, driven by war profits and the need to control energy supplies, to behave in anything other than an immoral and diabolical manner and to lie to its citizenry is to be deluded.

  7. Shocking, as is our apparent military’s support of it, and our superfund investment in it.

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