White phosphorous is not an illegal weapon. Face that fact. It is incendiary, in fact will burn in water. WP reacts with oxygen. For more information go here.
Lets look at the original RAI Television footage of those civilian deaths. Their clothes are still intact, WP will burn clothes along with body parts. So that is a big glaring reliability problem with this program. Failure to fact check.
Here is what former Army Specialist[ a specialist is an E-4 in a non-command slot] Jeff Englhart had to say on this since he says he was there when interviewed by RAI Television.
"The gases from the warhead of the white phosphorus will disperse in a cloud. And when it makes contact with skin, then it's absolutely irreversible damage, burning of flesh to the bone. It doesn't necessarily burn clothes, but it will burn the skin underneath clothes. And this is why protective masks do not help, because it will burn right through the mask, the rubber of the mask. It will manage to get inside your face. If you breathe it, it will blister your throat and your lungs until you suffocate, and then it will burn you from the inside. It basically reacts to skin, oxygen and water. The only way to stop the burning is with wet mud. But at that point, it's just impossible to stop."
Jeff contradicts himself in the last two sentences. First he says it can be stopped by the use of wet mud but then states it is impossible to stop. So I doubt his veracity in this matter.
Now, to further muddle the situation, the US military has admitted the use of artillery delivered WP against the terrorists occupying Falluja. Our intrepid Washington Post blogger links this to a collapse of American discipline and oh my gosh Abu Ghraib. Right, only in his little world view would ill-trained and poorly supervised MPs in a prison be linked with a vicious fight to retake a town by highly trained soldiers. As for the bumbling of the American response, all I can offer as a possible explanation is the people higher up did not know all the facts before talking with the equally unknowing press which excitedly accused the US military of targeting journalists.
As for those cannon-cockers firing that WP to flush out the bad guys. Good call by the on-scene commander. To second guess the commander as the pundits are doing while calling for prosecution; the other option for this stalemate is clear. If the bad guys refuse to come out, send in American soldiers inside the enemy prepared positions to take them out, hence risking American casualties. That is what the pundits are arguing should have been the answer instead of the 'inhumane' WP artillery. Though if the commander had squandered American lives to take out this position, I have no doubts the pampered talking heads of media would have then been calling on the commander to be relieved of command for needlessly hazarding American lives within minutes of the casualties happening.
When it comes to a very partisan media, there is no winning answer since they bear no responsibility for the results. All one can do is what is best to accomplish the mission without needlessly hazarding the soldiers under one's command. And I think the commander on the spot did the correct thing.