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CNN LIVE TODAY 10:00 ET November 17, 2005

The Fight For Iraq

WHITFIELD: Mr. Bush made his comments while in South Korea, the second stop of an eight-day visit to Asia. Our Suzanne Malveaux is traveling with the president and we'll hear from her later on in this newscast.

Now "The Fight For Iraq."

The U.S.-led offensive, Operation Steel Curtain, gros deadlier. U.S. military officials say yesterday's fight for the third city in the mission, Ubaydi, has been among the costliest. Five U.S. Marines were killed yesterday. The military says U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 16 suspected insurgents. More than 200 people are being detained as the sweep continues. Also today, the U.S. military announced the death of another Marine. The roadside bomb attack took place yesterday near the western Iraqi city of Haditha. The Marine was taking part in combat operations with the 2nd division.

The Pentagon is facing questions over an anti-insurgent offensive it launched last year. U.S. military officials now concede that American troops did use controversial, white phosphorous weapons in Fallujah, but they dispute an Italian report of a horrific toll. CNN's Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre explains.

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JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The Italian TV documentary alleges that during the siege of Fallujah a year ago, the U.S. military used white phosphorous artillery shells in a massive and indiscriminate way against civilians. And the result was that noncombatants, including Iraqi women and children, were burned to the bone. The U.S. military was quick to deny the report and said it did not know how these people died.

BRIG. GEN. DONALD ALSTON, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IRAQ SPOKESMAN: We have not change our position that, in fact, we did not use white phosphorous against civilians in Fallujah during Operation (INAUDIBLE).

MCINTYRE: But while strongly denying civilians were deliberately targeted, the Pentagon has belatedly admitted the phosphorous shells, which burn extremely hot and produce thick smoke, were used against enemy positions in Fallujah. An initial State Department response had claimed indirectly, the incendiary shells were only "fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters." Unlike Napalm, which is designed to set large areas a blaze and which the U.S. no longer uses, white phosphorous is usually employed to mark a target or produce a smoke screen to hide troop movements. But the U.S. troops attacking Fallujah in November of 2004 had another use for the super hot burning munition which they call "shake and bake" missions.

According to an after action report published in "Field Artillery" magazine, U.S. troops used white phosphorous "as a potent psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and spider holes," firing the incendiary rounds against enemy positions "to flush them out," then using high explosives to "take them out." The United States never signed an international ban against using incendiary weapons, but experts say that doesn't matter because the ban didn't apply to legitimate military targets.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: There's a Geneva protocol against using it against civilian, the way we used firebombs against cities in World War II. It's legitimate under that Geneva protocol to use it against military targets like in Fallujah.

MCINTYRE: Any munition can inflict unintended civilian casualties, but the Pentagon argues it works very hard to avoid the loss of innocent life. In Fallujah, the military says civilians were urged for weeks to leave. By the time the siege took place, most of the people left were either insurgents or their sympathizers.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

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