| A10 firing depleted uranium at Iraqs Ministry of Planning on April 4 2003 | MR Online A10 firing depleted uranium at Iraq’s Ministry of Planning on April 4, 2003. Photo: Reuters.

History notes: A scrap book of words and actions

A compilation of relevant historical notes reflecting upon the bombing of Syria on April 13, 2018 by the United States, United Kingdom, and France.

President William McKinley on April 11, 1898

The destruction of the battleship Maine in the harbor of Havana…has filled the national heart with inexpressible horror. The naval court of inquiry, which, it is needless to say, commands the unqualified confidence of the Government, was unanimous in its conclusion that the destruction of the Maine was caused by an exterior explosion—that of a submarine mine. It did not assume to place the responsibility. That remains to be fixed.…

The only hope of relief and repose from a condition which can no longer be endured is the enforced pacification of Cuba. In the name of humanity, in the name of civilization, in behalf of endangered American interests which give us the right and the duty to speak and to act, the war in Cuba must stop.

In view of these facts and of these considerations I ask the Congress to authorize and empower the President to take measures to secure a full and final termination of hostilities between the Government of Spain and the people of Cuba, and to secure in the island the establishment of a stable government, capable of maintaining order and observing its international obligations, insuring peace and tranquility and the security of its citizens as well as our own, and to use the military and naval forces of the United States as may be necessary for these purposes.

The USS Maine’s destruction was later found to be caused by the faulty storage of munitions while in Havana harbor.

What followed…

Four months of war in Cuba, four years of war in the Philippines, the seizure of the latter, Puerto Rico and Guam, rule in Guantánamo until the present.

President Lyndon B. Johnson in August 1964

My fellow Americans: As President and Commander in Chief, it is my duty to the American people to report that renewed hostile actions against United States ships on the high seas in the Gulf of Tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the United States to take action in reply…There were no U.S. losses…. Aggression by terror against the peaceful villagers of South VietNam has now been joined by open aggression on the high seas…. Yet our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting. We Americans know, although others appear to forget, the risks of spreading conflict. We still seek no wider war…. It is a solemn responsibility to have to order even limited military action by forces whose overall strength is as vast and as awesome as those of the United States of America, but it is my considered conviction…that firmness in the right is indispensable today for peace; that firmness will always be measured. Its mission is peace.

Declassified documents have confirmed that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (and others) deliberately concealed, falsified, and fabricated evidence about the incident in an effort to stoke war.

What followed…

Indiscriminate bombing and widespread chemical warfare

America dropped three times more ordnance over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than all sides did during World War II. It is estimated that at least 350,000 tons of live bombs and mines remain in Vietnam, and that at the current rate it will take 300 years to clear them away. Most common were cluster bombs with hundreds of baseball-size bomblets designed to explode near ground level, releasing metal fragments to maim and kill. Many failed to release their contents or to detonate…. Children find baseball-size metal objects and unwittingly toss the “toys” to one another until they explode… Nearly 40,000 Vietnamese have been killed since the end of the war in 1975, and 67,000 maimed, by land mines, cluster bombs and other ordnance.

The USA dropped 18 million gallons of chemical herbicide over South Vietnam from 1962 to 1972…. The best known was Agent Orange, with planes drenching an estimated 3,181 villages. ..While entire forests dried up and died within weeks of spraying… It contained dioxin, one of the deadliest substances known to humankind…. Dioxin affects not only those exposed to it, but also their children. Large numbers of Vietnamese babies continue to be born with grotesque deformities: misshapen heads, bulging tumors, underdeveloped brains and nonfunctioning limbs. (Ariel Garkinkel, “The Vietnam War Is Over. The Bombs Remain,” New York Times, March 20, 2018)


The My Lai massacre was a pivotal moment in that misbegotten war: an American contingent…known as Charlie Company, …thinking they would encounter Vietcong troops or sympathizers, discovered only a peaceful village at breakfast. Nevertheless, the soldiers of Charlie Company raped women, burned houses, and turned their M-16s on the unarmed civilians of My Lai. Among the leaders of the assault was Lieutenant William L. Calley, a junior-college dropout from Miami…. Pfc. Paul Meadlo recounted his actions in bland, appalling detail. “Once we got there we began gathering up the people… Calley told him, “Get with it. I want them dead.”… At Calley’s order, Meadlo and others had fired round after round into the ditch and tossed in a few grenades. Then came a high-pitched whining, which grew louder as a two- or three-year-old boy, covered with mud and blood, crawled his way among the bodies and scrambled toward the rice paddy. His mother had likely protected him with her body. Calley saw what was happening and, according to the witnesses, ran after the child, dragged him back to the ditch, threw him in, and shot him.

At the time Pham Thanh Cong, the director of the My Lai Museum, was eleven years old. When American helicopters landed in the village, he and his mother and four siblings huddled in a primitive bunker inside their thatch-roofed home. American soldiers ordered them out of the bunker and then pushed them back in, throwing a hand grenade in after them and firing their M-16s. Cong was wounded in three places—on his scalp, on the right side of his torso, and in the leg. He passed out. When he awoke, he found himself in a heap of corpses: his mother, his three sisters, and his six-year-old brother.…

The museum’s count, no longer in dispute, is 504 victims, from 247 families. 24 families were obliterated, three generations, with no survivors. Among the dead were 182 women, 17 of them pregnant. 173 children were executed, including 56 infants. 60 older men died… (Seymour M. Hersh, “The Scene of the Crime: A reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past,” The New Yorker, March 30, 2015)

President Ronald Reagan in October 1983

My fellow Americans:

Now, I know another part of the world is very much on our minds, a place much closer to our shores: Grenada. The island is only twice the size of the District of Columbia, with a total population of about 110,000 people…. Grenada was without a government, its only authority exercised by a self-proclaimed band of military men.

There were then about 1,000 of our citizens on Grenada, 800 of them students in St. George’s University Medical School. Concerned that they’d be harmed or held as hostages, I ordered a flotilla of ships, then on its way to Lebanon with marines, to circle south on a course that would put them somewhere in the vicinity of Grenada…. We had to assume that several hundred Cubans working on the airport could be military reserves. Well, as it turned out, the number was much larger, and they were a military force. Six hundred of them have been taken prisoner, and we have discovered a complete base with weapons and communications equipment, which makes it clear a Cuban occupation of the island had been planned…. Grenada…was a Soviet-Cuban colony, being readied as a major military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy. We got there just in time.…

Today, our national security can be threatened in faraway places. It’s up to all of us to be aware of the strategic importance of such places.

The students were never threatened, the Cubans were helping to construct an airport for tourism.

President George H.W. Bush in December 1989

Fellow citizens, last night I ordered U.S. military forces to Panama.

No President takes such action lightly…. The goals of the United States have been to safeguard the lives of Americans, to defend democracy in Panama, to combat drug trafficking and to protect the integrity of the Panama Canal Treaty…. General Noriega’s reckless threats and attacks upon Americans in Panama created an eminent danger to the 35,000 American citizens in Panama… As President, I have no higher obligation than to safeguard the lives of American citizens. And that is why I directed our armed force to protect the lives of American citizens in Panama….

The United States intends to withdraw the forces newly deployed to Panama as quickly as possible. All forces have conducted themselves courageously and selflessly…. Tragically, some Americans have lost their lives in defense of their fellow citizens, in defense of democracy, and my heart goes out to their families. We also regret and mourn the loss of innocent Panamanians.

What followed…

The launching of “Operation Just Cause,” in which thousands of troops were sent to Panama to execute an arrest warrant against Panama’s president, Manuel Noriega—a former Washington ally and CIA asset—on charges of drug trafficking.

In his December 20th address to the nation announcing the invasion, President Bush gave “democracy” as his second reason for going to war, just behind safeguarding American lives but ahead of combatting drug trafficking or protecting the Panama Canal. By the next day, at a press conference, democracy had leapt to the top of the list and so the president began his opening remarks this way: “Our efforts to support the democratic processes in Panama and to ensure continued safety of American citizens is now moving into its second day.”…

The invasion of Panama was the forgotten warm-up for the first Gulf War, which took place a little over a year later. That assault was specifically designed for all the world to see. “Smart bombs” lit up the sky over Baghdad as the TV cameras rolled. Featured were new night-vision equipment, real-time satellite communications, and cable TV (as well as former U.S. commanders ready to narrate the war in the style of football announcers, right down to instant replays). All of this allowed for public consumption of a techno-display of apparent omnipotence that, at least for a short time, helped consolidate mass approval and was meant as both a lesson and a warning for the rest of the world. “By God,” Bush said in triumph, “we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”…

As George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering said about Operation Just Cause: “Having used force in Panama… there was a propensity in Washington to think that force could provide a result more rapidly, more effectively, more surgically than diplomacy.” The easy capture of Noriega meant “the notion that the international community had to be engaged… was ignored.” (Greg Grandin, “The War to Start All Wars: The 25th Anniversary of the Forgotten Invasion of Panama,” Huffington Post, Dec 06, 2017.)

President George W. Bush in October 2001

Good afternoon. On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.

We are joined in this operation by our staunch friend, Great Britain. Other close friends, including Canada, Australia, Germany and France, have pledged forces as the operation unfolds….

More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands…. None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price….

At the same time, the oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets, we’ll also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan. The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people …

We’re a peaceful nation. Yet, as we have learned, so suddenly and so tragically, there can be no peace in a world of sudden terror. In the face of today’s new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it…A Commander-in-Chief sends America’s sons and daughters into a battle in a foreign land only after the greatest care and a lot of prayer….

I recently received a touching letter that says a lot about the state of America…a letter from a 4th-grade girl, with a father in the military: “As much as I don’t want my Dad to fight,” she wrote, “I’m willing to give him to you.” …This young girl knows what America is all about….

We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it. The name of today’s military operation is Enduring Freedom. We defend not only our precious freedoms, but also the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children free from fear.

We will not waver; we will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. Peace and freedom will prevail….May God continue to bless America.

What followed…

On July 6, 2008, a large number of Afghan civilians were walking in an area called Kamala in Haska Meyna district…. When the group stopped for a rest, it was hit in succession by three bombs from U.S. military aircraft. The first bomb hit a group of children who were ahead of the main procession, killing them instantly. A few minutes later, the aircraft returned and dropped a second bomb in the center of the group, killing a large number of women. The bride and two girls survived the second bomb, but were killed by a third bomb while trying to escape from the area. Hajj Khan, one of four elderly men who were escorting the party, stated that his grandson was killed and that there were body parts everywhere. Relatives from the groom’s village stated it was not possible to identify the remains….

A nine-man commission of the senate found that 47 civilians including the bride had been killed…. a member of the commission told the BBC that there were 39 women and children among those killed, and that eight of those who died were between the ages of 14 and 18. Another nine people were wounded in the attack.

U.S. forces stated they had been targeting an insurgent force, labeled a “target of opportunity,” that was evidently targeting a nearby base with mortars…. The U.S. Government denied that civilians were killed in the incident. (Amir Shah, “47 Afghan Civilians Killed by US Bombs, Group Says,” Associated Press, July 11, 2008.)

President George W. Bush in October 2002

Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace and America’s determination to lead the world in confronting that threat. The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the Iraqi regime’s own actions, its history of aggression and its drive toward an arsenal of terror.

The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror against its own people….

Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has …tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other nations without warning and holds an unrelenting hostility toward the United States….

We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, Sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas.…

Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud… Saddam Hussein must disarm himself or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.…

As Americans, we want peace. We work and sacrifice for peace. But there can be no peace if our security depends on the will and whims of a ruthless and aggressive dictator. I’m not willing to stake one American life on trusting Saddam Hussein.…

This nation, in world war and in cold war, has never permitted the brutal and lawless to set history’s course. Now, as before, we will secure our nation, protect our freedom and help others to find freedom of their own…

The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin, using murder as a tool of terror and control, within his own cabinet, within his own army and even within his own family….If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq, at peace with its neighbors…

May God bless America.

What followed…

The invasion of Iraq

Credible estimates of Iraq War casualties range from 150,000 to 460,000. Other highly disputed estimates, such as the 2006 Lancet study, and the 2007 Opinion Research Business survey, put the numbers as high as 650,000 and 1.2 million respectively, with 1-3 million displaced from their homes and 2 million fleeing the country.

The plight of of 12-year-old Ali Ismail Abbas, who lost 15 relatives and both his arms when a U.S. missile hit his home in the suburbs of Baghdad three weeks ago, has become the human-interest story of the war. “The despairing face of Ali has become a symbol around the world of the casualties of the Iraq war,” wrote Bronwen Maddox in the Times. Reporters and photographers did not spare readers and viewers the horrific extent of Ali’s injuries. “The child’s legs were smooth, but his entire torso was black, and his arms were horribly burnt,” said Jon Lee Anderson, a correspondent for the New Yorker. “At about the biceps, the flesh of both arms became charred, black grotesqueries. One of his hands was a twisted, melted claw. His other arm had apparently been burned off at the elbow, and two long bones were sticking out of it. It looked like something that might be found in a barbecue pit.”…

“I wanted to be an army officer when I grow up but not any more,” he told journalists. “Now I want to be a doctor—but how can I?”

According to Joan Walsh of the online magazine Salon, her colleagues, after weeks of ignoring the civilian cost of the war, were now circling the wounded like vultures. “CNN hit rock bottom on Wednesday morning, when anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed Ali’s doctor in Kuwait,” said Walsh. “Dr Imad al-Najada explained that, although Ali told reporters he was grateful for his treatment, he also hopes no other ‘children in the war will suffer like what he suffered’. Phillips seemed shocked by Ali’s apparent inability to understand we were only trying to help him. ‘Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning. Does he understand it?’ (“‘Does he understand why war took place?’: The Iraqi boy cast as the human face of war,” The Guardian, April 18, 2003)

Widespread use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by U.S. Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing…a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s…. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. The report says that the types of cancer are “similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout”.

Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed… 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females…. A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor from the University of Ulster… added that “to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened….”

After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. U.S. forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions… British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties…. Dr Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form. He said: “My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside.” (Patrick Cockburn, “Toxic legacy of U.S. assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’,” Independent, July 23, 2010; also see, “In a State of Uncertainty: Impact and implications of the use of depleted uranium in Iraq” [PDF download], Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 2013.)

| A10 firing depleted uranium at Iraq | MR Online's Ministry of Planning on April 4, 2003

A10 firing depleted uranium at Iraq’s Ministry of Planning on April 4, 2003. Photo: Reuters.

President Barack Obama in March 2011

Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya…. I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism….

For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake, we have a responsibility to act. That’s what happened in Libya over the course of these last six weeks.…

For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant—Muammar Qaddafi…. Confronted by this brutal repression and a looming humanitarian crisis, I ordered warships into the Mediterranean….

Ten days ago…. We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi…could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.

It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing…we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies—… And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people…

When people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days…. So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: The United States of America has done what we said we would do…

Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action…

But let us also remember that for generations, we have done the hard work of protecting our own people, as well as millions around the globe. We have done so because we know that our own future is safer, our own future is brighter, if more of mankind can live with the bright light of freedom and dignity.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

What followed…

Fox News published an article titled “U.S. Drone Involved in Final Qaddafi Strike, as Obama Heralds Regime’s ‘End’,” noting that a U.S. Predator drone was involved in the airstrike on Gaddafi’s convoy in the moments before his death.… A graphic video of his last moments show rebel fighters beating him and one of them sodomizing him with a bayonet before he was shot several times as he shouted for his life.”We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary Clinton joked when told of news reports of Qaddafi’s death by an aide in between formal interviews. “I’m sure it did” have something to do with her very own visit to Libya just days earlier, she continued.

In March 2013, Sadiq Ghariani, the Grand Mufti, issued a fatwa against the UN Report on Violence Against Women and Girls. He condemned the UN report for “advocating immorality and indecency in addition to rebelliousness against religion and clear objections to the laws contained in the Quran and Sunnah.Later in 2013, lawyer Hamida Al-Hadi Al-Asfar, advocate of women’s rights, was abducted, tortured and killed. It is alleged she was targeted for criticizing the Grand Mufti’s declaration. No arrests were made…. During Nouri Abusahmain’s presidency of the General National Congress and subsequent to its decision to enforce sharia law in December 2013, gender segregation and compulsory hijab were being imposed in Libyan universities from early 2014, provoking strong criticism from Women’s Rights groups.…

As of February 2015, damage and disorder from the war has been considerable. There are frequent electric outages, little business activity, and a loss in revenues from oil by 90%. Over 4,000 people have died from the fighting, and some sources claim nearly a third of the country’s population has fled to Tunisia as refugees.…

The United States has been active in post-2011 Libya with the military carrying out sporadic airstrikes and raids in the country, predominantly against Islamist groups. In 2014, U.S. commandos seized an oil tanker bound for anti-government militias and returned it to the Libyan national government. Two months later, the U.S. embassy in Tripoli was evacuated due to a heavy militia presence in the capital. In 2015, U.S. warplanes killed the head of the Islamic State in Libya in a strike. In 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama stated that not preparing for a post-Gaddafi Libya was the “worst mistake” of his presidency. On 19 January 2017, the day before President Obama left office, the United States bombed two IS camps in Libya, reportedly killing 80 militants. These types of operations have continued under the Trump administration with a September 2017 airstrike killing an estimated 17 IS militants. (“Libyan Civil War (2014–present),” Wikipedia.)

What had gone on before…

In a TV interview in 2007 General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000, revealed the following:

About ten days after 9/11 I went through the Pentagon and one of the generals called me in. He said… ‘We’ve made the decision, we’re going to war with Iraq.’ This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, ‘We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?’ He said, ‘I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments… I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.’

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, ‘Are we still going to war with Iraq?’ And he said, ‘Oh, it’s worse than that.’ He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, ‘I just got this down from upstairs today’—meaning Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office—‘And he said, ‘This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran…’” (Democracy Now!, March 2 2007.)

Depleted uranium, again

Officials have confirmed that the U.S. military, despite vowing not to use depleted uranium weapons on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, fired thousands of rounds of the munitions during two high-profile raids on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled Syria in late 2015. The air assaults mark the first confirmed use of this armament since the 2003 Iraq invasion, when it was used hundreds of thousands of times, setting off outrage among local communities, which alleged that its toxic material caused cancer and birth defects…

The use of the ammunition, a 30mm depleted-uranium bullet called PGU-14, was first reported by a joint Air Wars-Foreign Policy investigation on Tuesday. The roughly 5,265 rounds of the munition were fired from multiple A-10 ground attack aircraft on Nov 16, 2015, and Nov. 22, 2015, in airstrikes in Syria’s eastern desert that targeted the Islamic State’s oil supply during Operation Tidal Wave II, said Maj. Josh Jacques, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

Before the November strikes, the Pentagon said it would not use depleted-uranium munitions in the campaign against the Islamic State.

Whether exposure to depleted uranium causes adverse health effects has been debated. When it was used during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, the United Nations advised that children stay away from the impact zones. The Iraqi government has also routinely stressed the danger the munitions pose to its people, soil and air.

Jacques did not rule out the possibility that the U.S.-led coalition might use depleted-uranium rounds again… (Samuel Oakford, “The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria,” Foreign Policy February 14, 2017)

White phosphorus, again

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria appears to have used white phosphorus-loaded munitions on at least two occasions in densely populated areas of Mosul and in the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, according to videos posted online and human rights groups.

The often-controversial munitions are common in western militaries and are used primarily to create smoke screens, though they can also be dropped as an incendiary weapon. When a white phosphorus shell explodes, the chemical inside reacts with the air, creating a thick white cloud. When it comes in contact with flesh, it can maim and kill by burning to the bone.

While international humanitarian law stipulates that civilians must be protected from all military operations, it also says that countries must take even more care when using white phosphorus. Additionally, because of the weapon’s ability to cause grievous and inhumane injuries, rights groups caution against using white phosphorus to kill enemy troops if other weapons are available.

On Thursday, footage posted by the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently showed the signature spread of airburst white phosphorus munitions…exploding over eastern Raqqa, the same area where U.S.-backed Syrian fighters made advances earlier this week. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “U.S.-led forces appear to be using white phosphorus in populated areas in Iraq and Syria,” Washington Post, June 9, 2017)

President Trump on April 13, 2018

My fellow Americans. A short time ago, I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both.

Tonight, I want to speak with you about why we have taken this action. One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian air force.

Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians, this time in the town of Douma near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons used by that very terrible regime.

The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.

The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.

The combined American, British and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power: military, economic and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.

I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime.

To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.

No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators…

The United States has also rebuilt our friendships across the Middle East. We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment and all of the anti-ISIS effort.

Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and others, can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of ISIS. America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria, under no circumstances.

As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home — and great warriors they are…

Tonight I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions. We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria.

We pray that God will guide the whole region toward a future of dignity and of peace. And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.

What follows?

That depends, in part, on us.