Game “journalist” Nathan Bernhardt took to Twitter to whine about the inclusion of white phosphorous as a reward for a killstreak in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare announced the return of killstreaks via Twitter and revealed that one of the rewards for a killstreak will be white phosphorous.

Following the announcement, like clockwork, Bernhardt decried the inclusion of white phosphorous. He wrote that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare rewards players “for doing actual factual war crimes, like using intentionally using white phosphorous against infantry in an urban environment.”

Bernhardt would continue in a lengthy Twitter thread decrying the inclusion of white phosphorous.

Bernhardt would not be alone in decrying the inclusion of white phosphorous.

What is White Phosphorous?

However, these hot takes are completely off the mark. White phosphorous or “Willie Pete” as it’s called is an incendiary weapon that can ignite skin, cloth, fuel, ammunition, and other combustibles. Not only does it burn fiercely, but it also is highly efficient at producing smoke. In fact, the substance is commonly used as smoke grenades. It can be used to create cover for troop movements and block infrared signatures. Not only can it be used  to create cover for friendly forces, but it can also be used to take down fortified positions. During the Vietnam War, it was used to attack Viet Cong tunnels and suffocate the occupants because it would burn up all of the oxygen.

White phosphorous was used extensively in Korea and Vietnam and would be deployed in 2004 during the First Battle of Fallujah by the United States Marines. US Department of Defense spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable described how white phosphorous was used in Iraq, “When you have enemy forces that are in covered positions that your high explosive artillery rounds are not having an impact on and you wish to get them out of those positions, one technique is to fire a white phosphorus round into the position because the combined effects of the fire and smoke – and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground – will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives.” Venable noted that “white phosphorous is a conventional munition. It is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal.”

While a number of countries have banned the use of the munitions in combat via Protocol 3 of the UN’s Convention on the Prohibition on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, the United States has not signed onto the treaty and is thus not bound by it.

The field manual the Rule of Land Warfare also states, “The use of weapons which employ fire, such as tracer ammunition, flamethrowers, napalm and other incendiary agents, against targets requiring their use is not violative of international law.”

White Phosphorous No Stranger to Video Games

White phosphorous is no stranger to video games. As Polygon’s Charlie Hall points out it was used in Spec Ops: The Line where players had “to target civilians with incendiary mortar rounds in order to complete the game. The intention was to show the true horrors of war.”

Gamespot’s Oscar Dayus even notes “white phosphorous was previously used as a tactical grenade in the Black Ops series–where it caused ‘a small amount of damage on detonation'”

In fact, white phosphorous is not even the most painful way a player can die in the Call of Duty series. As Sophia Narwitz points out Call of Duty “previously let you drop a nuke and automatically win if you had a 25 kill streak.”

What do you make of Bernhardt’s comments about Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare? Do you think the inclusion of white phosphorous as a killstreak reward is controversial?

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