Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Next week: the Cake Stand

Reality overtakes comedy:

Another man who had his head nailed to the floor was Stig O' Tracy.

Rogers: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.
Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.
Rogers: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.
Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that.
Rogers: Why?
Stig: Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair. I had transgressed the unwritten law.
Rogers: What had you done?
Stig: Er... well he didn't tell me that, but he gave me his word that it was the case, and that's good enough for me with old Dinsy. I mean, he didn't *want* to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off. He'd do anything for you, Dinsdale would.
Rogers: And you don't bear him a grudge?
Stig: A grudge! Old Dinsy. He was a real darling.
Rogers: I understand he also nailed your wife's head to a coffee table.
Isn't that true Mrs O' Tracy?
Mrs O' Tracy: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Stig: Well he did do that, yeah. He was a hard man. Vicious but fair.

Vince Snetterton-Lewis agreed with this judgement.

Yes, definitely he was fair. After he nailed me head to the table, I used to go round every Sunday lunchtime to his flat and apologise, and then we'd shake hands and he'd nail me head to the floor. He was very reasonable. Once, one Sunday I told him my parents were coming round to tea and would he mind very much not nailing my head that week and he agreed and just screwed my pelvis to a cake stand."
"I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor."

Italy’s state-run RAI24 all-news television aired a documentary last week alleging the United States used white phosphorous shells “in a massive and indiscriminate way” against civilians during the November 2004 offensive in Fallujah.

The United States has said it used phosphorous shells “very sparingly” in Fallujah to illuminate the night sky. It says such shells used that way are legal.
The documentary showed photos of what it said were Iraqis burned by white phosphorous, and quoted former Marines as saying the shells were used.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome issued a statement criticizing the documentary, saying any suggestion that U.S. forces used white phosphorous or any chemical weapons against human targets was “simply wrong.”
"But the police have film..." :

While military experts have supported some of these criticisms, an examination by The Independent of the available evidence suggests the following: that WP shells were fired at insurgents, that reports from the battleground suggest troops firing these WP shells did not always know who they were hitting and that there remain widespread reports of civilians suffering extensive burn injuries. While US commanders insist they always strive to avoid civilian casualties, the story of the battle of Fallujah highlights the intrinsic difficulty of such an endeavour.

It is also clear that elements within the US government have been putting out incorrect information about the battle of Fallujah, making it harder to assesses the truth. Some within the US government have previously issued disingenuous statements about the use in Iraq of another controversial incendiary weapon - napalm.
"No. Never. He was a smashing bloke."

LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN: White phosphorus has been used. I do not recall it was used as an offensive weapon. White phosphorus is used for marking targets for both air and ground forces. White phosphorus is used to destroy equipment and other types of things. It is used to destroy weapons caches. And it is used to produce a white smoke which can obscure the enemy's vision of what we are doing.
I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus. Again, I did not say white phosphorus was used for illumination. White phosphorus is used for obscuration, which white phosphorus produces a heavy thick smoke to shield us or them from view so that they cannot see what we are doing. It is used to destroy equipment, to destroy buildings. That is what white phosphorus shells are used for.
"Well he did do that, yeah."

Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah last November. But they denied an Italian television news report that the spontaneously flammable material was used against civilians.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while white phosphorous is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallujah as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

"It was not used against civilians," Venable said.
Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair."
Venable said white phosphorous shells are a standard weapon used by field artillery units and are not banned by any international weapons convention to which the U.S. is a signatory.

White phosphorous is a colorless-to-yellow translucent wax-like substance with a pungent, garlic-like smell. The form used by the military ignites once it is exposed to oxygen, producing such heat that it bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. It can cause painful burn injuries to exposed human flesh.
"I mean, he didn't *want* to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off."

Use of white phosphorous is not banned but is covered by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons. The protocol prohibits use of the substance as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.

Blair's spokesman pointed out that Britain is a signatory to the convention. The United States is not.

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