November 16, 2005

What to do about Willy Pete (Fun with White Phosphorus)

Oh my gosh! The US is using White Phosphorus in the War on Terror. What a horror! Personally, I'd much prefer to get poked full of holes from tiny whizzing .223 projectiles or blown to bits by a thousand pound conventional with a JDAM kit than get burned to death by phosphorus. Yes sir, that phosphorus death is so much worse than any other kind, it has some folks wondering why the US military has used it since WWI. Perhaps because it works and is 'legal' to use?

Just in case you get hit with a WP round, or get too close to a WP smoker, (and still live), here's what FM 8-9: NATO Handbook on the Medical Aspects of NBC Defensive Operations AMedP-6(B): Part III - Chemical, Chapter 8: Smokes, Fuels, and Incendiary Materials says to do about it:
815. Self Aid.

a. If burning particles of phosphorus strike and stick to the clothing, contaminated clothing should be removed quickly before the phosphorus burns through to the skin.

b. If burning phosphorus strikes the skin, smother the flame with water, a wet cloth, or mud. Keep the phosphorus covered with the wet material to exclude air until the phosphorus particles can be removed.

c. Try to remove the phosphorus particles with a knife, bayonet, stick or other available object. It may be possible to remove some particles by rubbing with a wet cloth.
816. Medical Aid.

a. At the earliest opportunity all phosphorus should be removed from the skin and placed in a container so as to prevent further contamination and secondary injuries. The affected part should be bathed in a bicarbonate solution to neutralise phosphoric acid, which then allows removal of visible phosphorus. Remaining fragments will be observed in dark surroundings as luminescent spots.

b. Some nations recommend washing the skin with a 0.5-2.0% copper sulphate solution or a copper sulphate impregnated pad. Wounds may be rinsed with a 0.1%-0.2% copper sulphate solution, if available. Dark coloured deposits may be removed with forceps. Prevent prolonged contact of any copper sulphate preparations with the tissues by prompt, copious flushing with water or saline, as there is a definite danger of copper poisoning. It may be necessary to repeat the first aid measures to completely remove all phosphorus.

c. The burn should be debrided promptly, if the patient's condition will permit, to remove bits of phosphorus which might be absorbed later and possibly produce systemic poisoning. An ointment with an oily base should not be applied until it is certain that all phosphorus has been removed. Further treatment should be carried out as for thermal burn.

d. If the eyes are affected, treatment should initially be commenced by irrigation with a 1% solution of copper sulphate or sodium bicarbonate 5%, followed by repeated lavage using water or saline. The lids must be separated and a local anesthetic instilled to aid in the removal of all embedded particles. In eyes with severe ulceration once all particles have been removed, atropine should be instilled. The patient should be transferred to the care of an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
Clearly, the US has gone too far. Employing weapons that injure or kill the enemy is just unthinkable, and Chemical Weapons even more so. Why, they make us as bad as Saddam. So say the "We must lose this unjust war so a Democrat can get elected" crowd. Viet-Nam Viet-Nam Viet-Nam: a good humiliating loss will do us some good. It sure helped then.

While we are talking Chemical Weapons, we must remember that every single explosive round, bomb and grenade used by the US military uses chemical explosives! And all of our inert rounds (bullets) are propelled by military chemicals. In fact America adopted Dow Chemical's slogan, "Better Killing Through Chemistry", when they bought their first batch of Napalm from Dow. Napalm is almost as bad as WP, but about the same bad as you get by putting Ivory Soap Flakes into the gasoline to make a Molotov Cocktail.

Nuts, all this deadly weapon crap is relative. Nobody obeys the 'rules of war' too closely if they want to win. Modern armies don't use poison gas on the battlefield because it isn't effective. Poison gas is used to wipe out non-combatants en-masse in situ. On Kurdish villages, for example. We don't use poison gas. Willy Pete is not a poison gas. It is an effective incendiary, and a somewhat less effective smoke. The US military should apply as much WP to as many terrorists as possible. Nobody deserves nasty phosphorus burns, but the terrorists have certainly got some coming. Give it to 'em! Burn one for me!
I gotta take my nerve pill.

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