Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’
Posted in death, economics, foreign policy, government, history, media, military, tagged Afghanistan, Basra, Fallujah, Gulf War, Iraq, MSNBC, United States, University of Michigan School of Public Health on November 20, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Tue, 19 Nov 2013 18:47 CST
Think about what has been sown with regard to our government’s illegal invasions, occupations and mass murder campaigns post-9/11. Take Iraq as just one example, if you will.
Please read the following excerpt from: How the U.S. poisoned Iraq
MSNBC reports: Between 2002 and 2005, U.S. forces shot off 6 billion bullets in Iraq (something like 300,000 for every person killed). They also dropped 2,000 to 4,000 tons of bombs on Iraqi cities, leaving behind a witch’s brew of contaminants and toxic metals, including the neurotoxins lead and mercury. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an Iranian-born toxicologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, is studying the health impact, and her early findings are worrying.
Last year, in a study published with Iraqi colleagues, she reported staggering increases in birth defects in the heavily bombarded cities of Basrah and Fallujah. The increases started in the early 90s, after the bombings of the first Gulf War, and continued right through 2011.
So that’s 6 billion bullets in a 3 year period, which equals 300,000 for every person – just in Iraq.
Ok, presuming you’ve read the above excerpt, please ask yourselves what you think Americans might reasonably expect to ‘reap’ from what has been sown through unthinking, unquestioning mass support of the psychopath warmongers in control of the U.S. government crime syndicate and their bullshit ‘reasons’ for murdering innocent people and facilitating Israel’s genocide campaign against the Palestinians over the years?
How about from ignoring all this stuff? What do we reap when we ignore what’s going on in the world out there?
What can Americans hope to ‘reap’ after billions of seeds of hate, death and destruction have been sown around this world?
Peace? Seriously?? Do you say ‘peace’? As in, ‘we can all just agree to get along now, because well, we’ve got the ‘evildoers’ choking on the barrel of a gun, or we shoved a drone up their asses and showed’ em who’s boss?’
Have you thought at all yet about the inevitable harvest upon us, the one that’s only just begun? Yes? No?
I know I annoy the hell out of people for reminding them of stuff they don’t want to think about, or look at, or remember, but…
I remind you all again: If you support these psychopaths in power in ANY way, if you can still find it in you to vote for ‘red’ or ‘blue’ psychopaths, or salute that goddamned wretched bloody flag after what it represents TODAY to people all around the world; OR if you ignore what’s happening beyond our borders when our government is FULLY responsible for atrocities, and instead choose to live in fruity-flavored ‘bliss’, concerned solely with your own personal peace of mind, contentment, and security; if you’re telling yourself ( and everyone else on your friend list) that you ‘choose to be happy’ while the world burns around you, pretending NOTHING is going on beyond your personal zen zone and your ‘book club’, sculpting on that stuck-on smile for the web cam, no matter what happens anywhere else to anyone else; if you announce on FB that you’re ‘changing this world by teaching ‘happiness’ ( some of you are doing that) and never utter one peep about those living under military occupation, or in poverty, the ones who struggle to find dinner, let alone ‘happiness’; if you block out all the bad stuff and focus only on superficial, new-agey flake & bake bullshit, and never once stand up and speak out against this evil in which the world bathes, day in and day out , because it pisses on your personal perky parade, – then, imo, you not only support the evil, you’re a ‘speshul’ sort of evil.
If you’re supporting or ignoring it, then…
You support mass murder, the Killing Machine, ongoing drone strikes that annhilate mostly civilians, you support every evil fucking act these psychos in power commit against every single innocent person, culture, and population. You ignore or support evil, you become evil yourself.
See how that works?
That means the evildoers are not just THEM, those nameless faceless shapeless formless figments that have barely made it through your blood-brain barrier, the stuff you refuse to think about or openly oppose, because it screws with your bliss to think about it. It means YOU are one of the evildoers, Blisshead & Patriot Parrot.
‘Cuz, in my book, silence about crimes against humanity = complicity in crimes against humanity.
The Harvest is upon us, you know.
Better break out that cherry-flavored ‘bliss’ stick and ‘pray’ it’ll be enough insulation to keep your soul from chapping, ‘cuz the high wind’s blowin’.
Sometimes I wonder why people had to happen at all.
How come we don’t see the Blissheads in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine, for example, or reaching out to those folks on the internet, teaching ‘happiness’ and sharing that ‘speshul formula for ‘happy’ with the ones who need it most – as opposed to their equally blissed-out buddies on FB, who are overdosing on it?
It must be a lot harder to reach out beyond the Bliss Zone, to do something that’s meaningful in the lives of others, not just profitable and lucrative for your own life.
So much simpler to just sit around blowing bliss up your buddies’ butts, never acknowledging the world lack or any of the rest of the chaotic mess taking place on this spinning space rock – that is, beyond the dimensions of a Blisshead’s pink plastic heart and stuck-on smile.
It would cost too goddamn much , upset that precariously balanced ‘bliss’ to care, wouldn’t it.
One of them says: “I choose to be happy. That’s how I change the world.”
Oh, is it now? The world must really, really appreciate Americans who choose to be ‘happy’. I reckon your bliss is working freakin’ miracles over there in Pakistan right about now.
Posted in foreign policy, government, history, law, media, military, tagged American Type Culture Collection, Biological warfare, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, George H.W. Bush, Iraq, Iraqi biological weapons program, United States, William Blum on November 5, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
I know. History is boring. People hate it.
“What happened 25 years ago? Forget it. What’s going on with Miley Cyrus? Is she still twerking?”
Nevertheless, I’ll give it a try.
Keep two twerks in mind. In 1975, the US signed on to an international treaty banning the production, use, and stockpiling of biological weapons. Ditto for chemical weapons, in 1993. Another treaty.
Here’s a twerky quote from the Washington Post (9/4/13, “When the US looked the other way on chemical weapons”): “…The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items…including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague…”
And now, here’s a flurry of boggling twerks…
Twerk One: Between 1985 and 1989, a US 501C3 firm, American Type Culture Collection, sent Iraq up to 70 shipments of various biowar agents, including 21 strains of anthrax.
Twerk Two: Between 1984 and 1989, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) sent Iraq at least 80 different biowar agents, including botulinum toxoid, dengue virus, and West Nile antigen and antibody.
This information on the American Type Culture Collection and the CDC comes from a report, IRAQ’S BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAM, prepared by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. The report contains ample reference citations.
Twerk Three: Then we have a comprehensive article by William Blum in the April 1998 Progressive called ANTHRAX EXPORT. Blum cites a 1994 Senate report confirming that, in this 1985-1989 time period, US shipments of anthrax and other biowar agents to Iraq were licensed by…drum roll, cymbal crash…the US Dept. of Commerce.
Twerk Four: Blum quotes from the Senate report: “These biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction. It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program.” Boom.
Twerk Five: This 1994 Senate report also indicates that the US exported to Iraq the precursors for chemwar agents, actual PLANS for chemical and biowar production facilities, and chemical-warhead filling equipment. The exports continued until at least November 28, 1989.
Twerk Six: Blum lists a few other biowar agents the US shipped to Iraq. Histoplasma Capsulatum, Brucella Melitensis, Clostridium Perfringens, Clostridium tetani–as well as E. coli, various genetic materials, human and bacterial DNA.
Twerk Seven (the cover-up): Blum also points out that a 1994 Pentagon report dismissed any connection between all these biowar agents and Gulf War Illness. But the researcher who headed up that study, Joshua Lederberg, was actually a director of the US firm that had provided the most biowar material to Iraq in the 1980s: the American Type Culture Collection.
Twerk Eight (one hand washes the other): Newsday revealed that the CEO of the American Type Culture Collection was a member of the US Dept. of Commerce’s Technical Advisory Committee. See, the Dept. of Commerce had to license and approve all those exports of biowar agents carried out by the American Type Culture Collection. Get the picture?
Now, as to other US companies which dealt biowar or chemwar agents to Iraq–all such sales having been okayed by the US government–the names of these companies are contained in records of the 1992 Senate hearings, “United States export policy toward Iraq prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait”:
Twerk Nine (the names of US criminal companies): Mouse Master (Georgia), Sullaire Corp (Charlotte, North Carolina), Pure Aire (Charlotte, North Carolina), Posi Seal (Conn.), Union Carbide (Conn.), Evapco (Maryland), BDM Corp (Virginia), Spectra Physics (Calif.).
There are about a dozen more.
Twerk Ten (dept. of mind-boggling excuses): Hewlett Packard said that the recipient of its shipments, Saad 16, was some sort of school in Iraq. But in 1990, the Wall St. Journal stated that Saad 16 was a “heavily fortified, state-of-the-art [Iraqi] complex for aircraft construction, missile design, and, almost certainly, nuclear-weapons research.”
Twerk Eleven: There has been a considerable debate about whether Saddam hid some of his bio/chem weapons in Syria, to evade UN weapons inspectors. If he did, then is it possible the current situation in Syria has a few of its roots in the US? Is it possible some of Syria’s WMDs originally came from America?
One thing is certain. A US government investigation isn’t going look into that possibility.
It seems pretty twisted to me that there are those out there who think people can be ‘compensated’ for the loss of loved ones. Look at the countries the U.S. government crime syndicate has attacked.
Even IF this poser government were to offer compensation and a ‘letter of apology’ to all the families of the people they’ve murdered via drones, for example, would that be sufficient? Is that what we call justice? Does that ‘compensate’ for the brutal, senseless, needless coldblooded, systematic taking of a life, of so many lives? Does it wash away the knowledge that children have been murdered? Does that render ‘absolution’? Does the wrongdoing somehow get purged from both the record and the memory of the survivors?
What constitutes ‘compensation’? Money? Money that, in many cases, is barely worth the paper it’s printed on? Seems to me if this is the best they can do, (and they’re not even doing that in any real way for most of these countries being attacked in the fake ‘war on terror’), then their ‘best’ will never be enough, not even remotely enough.
Not that they ever intend to ‘compensate’ other nations for trying to wipe out their people, or for stealing their lands and resources, or for assassinating their leaders – no, that I don’t buy for a second. How do you invade a country, mercilessly, unrelentingly attack them, and then come back later and expect good will?
What could you possibly even say? “Hey, we kicked your sorry, defenseless asses, we washed your streets with the blood of your people, but that’s blood under the bridge. We’re the ‘good guys’. We’ll rebuild and ‘peacekeep’ and you can call us ‘friend’. The world is a safer place because of ‘shock and awe’.” Yeah, RIGHT!
But to call for ‘compensation’ for the survivors of these horrific attacks, when no sincere remorse or admission of wrongdoing is being offered, when no accountability is being taken, when no back-room high level heads are rolling, when the perps are still free to continue killing with impunity, then what does any potential after-the-fact ‘compensation’ to the survivors really even mean? It’s not like anyone’s really ‘apologizing’ anyway. When it comes down to it, what it really is, is ‘blood-money’ aka an attempt at blackmail. ‘Here take this money and shut up’.
And frankly, it’s hard to imagine how I’d react if I were Afghani, Iraqi, Pakistani, Yemeni, Libyan, or Palestinian, etc.. after seeing my friends and family murdered, neighborhood and town decimated, economy obliterated, leader assassinated, government overthrown and seized, I guess I’m not a big enough person, because if all that happened to me, and then down the road, I got some bullshit insincere ‘apology’ or an offer of Monopoly money as ‘compensation’, somebody would be wearing some saliva on their face, to say the least. I suspect that kind of ‘grace’ I don’t possess lives in other humans, and I admire those people for being able to rise above their suffering and take that higher road.
But me, I’d probably be pissed.
‘Compensation’ means nothing. It’s an empty gesture arising from an empty word, too little, too late. We may tell ourselves it means something, but that’s a self-soothing lie.
Tell me,what does an offer of ‘compensation’ mean exactly to the people of Afghanistan or Iraq after all these years of post-9/11 ‘shock and awe’-death-and-destruction?
What the hell could it even mean as Afghanis and Iraqis gaze upon the rubble and ruins of their countries, and remember what life used to be like, before they became bulls-eye nations and icons of terror in the eyes of the world, before they lost the lives they once knew and the loved ones they once cherished?
How do you compensate a people for the irreversible damage and harm that’s been done to them, or put a measurement, a value, upon their suffering and what’s been ripped from them forever? What kind of arrogant heartless bastards would even ‘suggest’ the insult of ‘compensation’, when there is none?
How do you ‘compensate’ a people a) when you’re not even sorry for what you’ve done, b) when you won’t even admit to wrongdoing and continue to ‘justify’ the wrongdoing, and c) when you continue to engage in the wrongdoing?
Compensation – and the gross lack of it – is nothing but a cruel joke. We see this joke played out here on the streets of America too, day in and day out. Funny thing about that is, nobody is laughing here in the States either – and the poo hasn’t even quite hit the big fan yet.
We see the cruel joke chronicled in our history, we see it playing out in our present, and seems to me, we’ll be seeing it unfold through the closing window of tomorrow, and however many of them are even left for us as a species, is anybody’s guess.
Psychopaths care nothing about ”compensation’.
They’re about control. ‘Let the dead bury the dead’.
There is nothing we could ever offer these people who have suffered through U.S./Nato/Israeli military attacks that would ever suffice, ever be enough, ever right the terrible wrongs that have been and continue to be committed. Nothing, ever.
And the thing about that, imo, is, we’re not even offering that very least of all things that might help us to still be able to make the claim that we care about human rights, or that we respect human life, or that our leaders and much of our society possess any characteristics or semblance of ‘humanity’ within them, assuming they ever did in the first place.
The attacked nations of the world do not stand alone in the bulls-eye. America has died too. Whatever it was that gave her the illusion of ‘life’ before all this ‘war-everywhere-all the time-till-the-end-of-time’ and these ‘kill-anything-that-moves’ macabre games began, seems to have disappeared. Somebody seems to have engaged the ‘kill-switch’ on this society.
‘America’ should be counted, yes, but no longer as a ‘world superpower’.
America has become yet another casualty of ‘war’, collateral damage, Maybe one day, if the comets don’t take the rest of us out first, ‘America’ will be found listed among the names of other forgotten, fallen empires, in a book of the dead, on a high dusty shelf in some psychopath’s library.
It’s surreal, but not surprising, that an illusion this big could burst, and so few would even hear the pop, let alone the last agonal breath of ‘Lady Liberty’.
I wonder who in this big wide wounded world would rush to resuscitate her, if it were even possible, let alone ‘compensate’ her.
Posted in death, foreign policy, government, media, military, tagged Al Jazeera America, International Crisis Group, Iraq, Iraq war, MIT Center for International Studies, PLOS Medicine, Saddam Hussein, United States on October 17, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Part of American Exceptionalism is never having to admit when your government kills hundreds of thousands of people.
A new study says the U.S. invasion and subsequent war in Iraq killed an estimated 460,800, higher than most of the estimates frequently cited in the mainstream media, but lower than the controversial 2006 Lancet study that estimated between 400,000 and 655,000 excess deaths.
The authors of the study, which was published in PLOS Medicine, detail a more rigorous methodology than has ever been employed for previous Iraq War mortality estimates.
But even this may be an undercount. John Tirman, Executive Director at the MIT Center for International Studies and author of The Deaths of Others, told me in an email that the new study’s estimate of deaths of displaced people, approximately 56,000, is “likely to be more like 100,000 or even greater, but it’s almost impossible to say without more research—i.e., a survey among the displaced.”
Whatever the exact number, what’s certain is that it continues to grow. According to the International Crisis Group, the violence in Iraq is “as acute and explosive as ever.” And as Antiwar.com’s own Kelley Vlahos wrote recently, Iraqis are dying in “numbers not seen since the bloody days of 2008.”
Unfortunately, Americans dramatically under-estimate how many Iraqis died as a result of their former president’s war of choice.
“While even the most conservative estimates of mortality in Iraq,” Al Jazeera America reports, “have reached six figures, polling in the U.S. (PDF) and U.K. (PDF) have shown public perception to be that the civilian death toll from the war is in the neighborhood of 10,000.”
That is an embarrassment of enormous magnitude. But one is careful not to be surprised. Back in 2011, a University of Maryland poll found that 38 percent of Americans still believe the U.S. had “found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.”
So not only do Americans refuse to accept the reality of why the U.S. attacked Iraq, but they resist the facts about the consequences of the war. The notion that we went to war on false pretenses and that it directly led to the deaths of about 500,000 people is too much to bear for flag-waving Americans.
If their ignorance weren’t so offensive, it might be excusable. The reality is that a group of people that the American electorate twice empowered at the voting booths made decisions to act criminally and killed hundreds of thousands of people needlessly by attacking and occupying a country that posed no threat to us. They get away with this mass murder, in part, because of the mass ignorance of Americans.
A death count statistic can never truly depict the unimaginable suffering caused by the U.S. in Iraq. But the 10,000 civilians America believes were killed by the war is not an acceptable representation of the ~500,000 Iraqis that actually died and the millions that had their lives torn apart.
I shudder to think how many Americans know that more than 6,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in 2013, two years after the U.S. withdrawal.
- What we all lost in Iraq (unspokenpolitics.net)
Posted in enviroment, foreign policy, government, media, military, tagged Allies of World War II, Congenital disorder, depleted uranium, Fallujah, Head of Mission, Iraq, University of Eastern Finland, World Health Organization on October 14, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Ex-UN, WHO officials reveal political interference to suppress scientific evidence of postwar environmental health catastrophe
Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a long awaited document summarising the findings of an in-depth investigation into the prevalence of congenital birth defects (CBD) in Iraq, which many experts believe is linked to the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by Allied forces. According to the ‘summary report’:
Jaffar Hussain, WHO’s Head of Mission in Iraq, said that the report is based on survey techniques that are “renowned worldwide” and that the study was peer reviewed “extensively” by international experts.
But the conclusions contrasted dramatically from previous statements about the research findings from Iraqi Ministry of Health (MOH) officials involved in the study. Earlier this year, BBC News spoke to MOH researchers who confirmed the joint report would furnish “damning evidence” that rates of birth defects are higher in areas experiencing heavy fighting in the 2003 war. In an early press release, WHO similarly acknowledged “existing MOH statistics showing high number of CBD cases” in the “high risk” areas selected for study.
The publication of this ‘summary document’ on the World Health Organisation’s website has raised questions from independent experts and former United Nations and WHO officials, who question the validity of its findings and its anonymous authorship. They highlight the existence of abundant research demonstrating not only significant rates of congenital birth defects in many areas of Iraq, but also a plausible link to the impact of depleted uranium.
For years, medical doctors in Iraq have reported “a high level of birth defects.” Other peer-reviewed studies have documented a dramatic increase in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the aftermath of US military bombardment. In Fallujah, doctors are witnessing a “massive unprecedented number” of heart defects, and an increase in the number of nervous system defects. Analysis of pre-2003 data compared to now showed that “the rate of congenital heart defects was 95 per 1,000 births – 13 times the rate found in Europe.”
The purpose of the WHO study was to probe the data further, but some say the project is deeply flawed.
Dr. Keith Bavistock of the Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, is a retired 13-year WHO expert on radiation and health. He told me that the new ‘summary document’ was at best “disappointing.” He condemned the decision from “the very outset to preclude the possibility of looking at the extent to which the increase of birth defects is linked to the use of depleted uranium”, and further slammed the document’s lack of scientific credibility.
I asked Dr. Baverstock if, given the document’s avoidance of analysing the key evidence – clinical records compiled by Iraqi medics – there was reason to believe the research findings were compromised under political pressure. He said:
If so, it would not be the first time the WHO had reportedly quashed research on DU potentially embarrassing for the Allies. In 2001, Baverstock was on the editorial board for a WHO research project clearing the US and UK of responsibility for environmental health hazards involved in DU deployment. His detailed editorial recommendations accounting for new research proving uranium’s nature as as a genotoxin (capable of changing DNA) were ignored and overruled:
Baverstock then co-authored his own scientific paper on the subject arguing for plausibility of the link between DU and high rates of birth defects in Iraq, but said that WHO blocked publication of the study “because they didn’t like its conclusions.”
“The extent to which scientific principles are being bent to fit politically convenient conclusions is alarming”, said Baverstock.
Environmental contamination from the Iraq War
Other independent experts have also weighed in criticising the WHO study. The British medical journal, The Lancet, reports that despite the study’s claims, a “scientific standard of peer review… may not have been fully achieved.”
One scientist named as a peer-reviewer for the project, Simon Cousens, professor of epidemiology and statistics at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), told The Lancet that he “attended a relatively brief meeting of around one and a half hours, so just gave some comments on an early presentation of the results. I wouldn’t classify that as thorough peer review.”
Just how distant the new WHO-sponsored study is from the last decade’s scientific literature is clear from a new report released earlier this year by a Tokyo-based NGO, Human Rights Now (HRN), which conducted a review of the existing literature as well as a fact-finding mission to Fallujah.
The HRN report investigated recorded birth defects at a major hospital in Fallujah for the year 2012, confirmed first hand birth defect incidences over a one-month period in 2013, and interviewed doctors and parents of children born with birth defects. The report concluded there was:
The report criticised both the UN and the WHO for approaches that are “insufficient to meet the needs of the issues within their mandate.”
According to Hans von Sponeck, former UN assistant secretary general and UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, the gap between previous claims made by MOH researchers about the study, and the new ‘summary document’, justified public scepticism.
“The brevity of this report is unacceptable”, he told me:
Von Sponeck said that US political pressure on WHO had scuppered previous investigations into the impact of DU on Iraq:
I asked him if such political pressure on the UN body could explain the unscientific nature of the latest report. “It would not be surprising if such US pressure has continued”, he said:
The International Coalition to Ban Depleted Uranium (ICBUW) has called for WHO to release the project’s data-set so that it can be subjected to independent, transparent analysis. The UN body continues to ignore these calls and defend the integrity of the research.
- Coverup of War Crimes in Iraq: When ‘Damning Evidence’ on Congenital Birth Defects becomes ‘No Clear Evidence’: Much-Delayed WHO Report (theinternetpost.net)
- WHO Refuses to Publish Report on Cancers and Birth Defects in Iraq Caused by Depleted Uranium Ammunition (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Really? Anticipated Study Finds No Evidence of Iraqi Birth Defects (antiwar.com)
The United States of America was built on a foundation of genocide against the Indigenous peoples of North America. In fact, all successful settler colonial societies are founded in genocide. The process is one of dispossession – the erasure of one group identity and the imposition of another on the people and/or on the land. But genocide is not merely the foundation of the US nation state, it is also the foundation of the US empire. The US habit of genocide has not died, but has transformed. The US has become a serial perpetrator of genocide with the blood of many millions of innocents spilled in pursuit of imperial hegemony.
There is a fight going on for the very meaning of the term “genocide”. Western powers assert their right to accuse enemies of committing genocide using the broadest possible definitions whilst also touting a twisted undefined sense of “genocide” which can never, ever be applied to their own actions. Aotearoa (New Zealand) Prime Minister John Key, apparently taking his cue from the US, is currently pushing for reform of the UN Security Council such that the veto power would be unavailable. The UNSC is a political body and “genocide” will simply become a political term cited by powerful states to rationalise aggression against the weak. Key notoriously said that his country was “missing in action” because it did not invade Iraq in 2003, reminding Kiwis that “blood is thicker than water”. If his desired reforms existed now, the US would probably have a UN Security Council resolution authorising the use of force against Syria on the grounds of “genocide”.
All of those who oppose Western aggression justified as humanitarian intervention under the “responsibility to protect” must stop burying their heads in the sand over this matter. This is a very real fight for the future of humanity. We can either learn and propagate the understanding that US imperial interventions are, by nature, genocidal. Or we can just pretend the word has no meaning; indulge our childish moral impulses and the lazy fatuousness of our scholars and pundits and let Western mass-murderers use this Orwellian buzzword (for that is what “genocide” currently is) to commit heinous acts of horrific violence which ensure the continued domination of the world’s masses by a tiny imperialist elite.
(An aside: apparently people like a pragmatic focus to accompany a call to action. So, am I making the most obvious appeal – that US officials be tried for committing genocide? No I am not. They can be tried for war crimes if people really think that “holding people accountable” is more important than preventing suffering and protecting the vulnerable. But it has been a terrible mistake to construct genocide as being an aggravated crime against humanity, as if it were simply a vicious felony writ large. This has played completely into the hands of those propagandists for whom every new enemy of the West is the new Hitler. The means by which genocides are perpetrated are the crimes of individuals – war crimes, for example – but genocide itself is the crime of a state or para-state regime. That is the proper target of inquisition and censure. Though the attempt was tragically abortive, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal recently began hearing charges of genocide against Israel. We need this sort of process to hear charges of genocide against the US. I fully support such efforts, but my real call to action is a call for thought, for clarity, and for self-discipline. People are drawn to using woolly thinking over genocide, wishing to use it as the ultimate condemnation of mass violence without reference to any actual meaning of the term. We must not tolerate it in ourselves or others. We are a hair’s breadth away from the point where “genocide prevention” will be used by major Western powers to justify genocidal mass violence.)
US “Wars” are Actually Genocides
Every major military action by the US since World War II has first and foremost been an act of genocide. I do not state this as a moral condemnation. If I were seeking to condemn I would try to convey the enormous scale of suffering, death, loss and misery caused by US mass violence. My purpose instead is to correct a terrible misconception of US actions – their nature, their meaning and their strategic utility. This understanding which I am trying to convey is a very dangerous notion with an inescapable moral dimension because the US has always maintained that the suffering, death and destruction it causes are incidental to military purposes – they are instances of “collateral damage”. But, with all due respect to the fact that US personnel may face real dangers, these are not real wars. These are genocides and it is the military aspect that is incidental. In fact, it is straining credulity to continue believing in a string of military defeats being sustained by the most powerful military in the history of the world at the hands of impoverished Third World combatants. The US hasn’t really been defeated in any real sense. They committed genocide in Indochina, increasing the level of killing as much as possible right through to the clearly foreseen inevitable conclusion which was a cessation of direct mass violence, not a defeat. The US signed a peace agreement which they completely ignored. The Vietnamese did not occupy US territory and force the US to disarm and pay crippling reparations.
There is no question that the US has committed actions which fit the description of genocide. Genocide does not mean the successful extermination of a defined group (there is no such thing as “attempted genocide”). It was never conceived that way, but rather as any systematic attack on “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” Those who deny US genocides usually only deny that there is any intent to commit genocide. The UN definition of genocide (recognised by 142 states) is:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The US has committed these acts many times and in many different countries. Some people object that this is some watered down version of genocide that risks diluting the significance of this “ultimate crime”. However, bear in mind that the victims of US armed violence are not usually combatants and are not engaged in some sort of contested combat that gives them some ability to defend themselves or to kill or be killed. They are helpless as they die of incineration, asphyxiation, dismemberment, cancer, starvation, disease. People of all ages die in terror unable to protect themselves from the machinery of death. Make no mistake, that is what it is: a large complex co-ordinated machinery of mass killing. There is nothing watered down about the horrors of the genocides committed by the US, and their victims number many millions. The violence is mostly impersonal, implacable, arbitrary and industrial.
There are at least three specific times at which US mass violence has taken lives in the millions through direct killing: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars and sanctions against Iraq in combination with the occupation of Iraq. I refer to them as the Korea Genocide (which was against both South and North Koreans), the Indochina Genocide (against Laotians, Cambodians, and Vietnamese), and the Iraq Genocide (which took place over at least a 20 year period).
There are many ways to show that the US committed genocides in these cases. On one level the case is straightforward. For example, if the US commits acts of “strategic bombing” which systematically kills civilians by the hundreds of thousands, and it turns out that not only is there no rational proportionate military reason, but that US military and intelligence analysis is clear that these are in fact militarily counter-productive acts of gratuitous mass-murder, then by any reasonable definition these must be acts of genocide. The logic is simple and inescapable. I have written lengthy pieces showing in detail that these were large scale systematic and intentional genocides which you can read.1
For a long time I have tried to think of ways to condense this in a readable form. The problem in many respects lies with the necessity of overcoming misapprehensions. Genocide is an emotive topic; people are very reluctant to read that those who rule in their name (with whom they sometimes actively identify) are in the moral vicinity of the Nazi leaders of Germany. Permeating every level of the discourse is the constant position (whether as the unspoken assumption or as the active assertion) that the US has never acted with genocidal intent. Intentionality is a topic in its own right, but to be brief I will point out that intent does not require that “genocide” be its own motive. If I kill someone because I want their watch, I can’t turn around and say it isn’t murder because I didn’t intend to kill them because I was really just intending to take their watch. It may seem a ridiculous example, but the discourse of genocide is so twisted that it is the norm even amongst genocide scholars. Primed by our political leaders and various media, we keep looking for the people, the bloodthirsty psychopathic monsters, who kill people just for the fun of it and grab their watch afterwards as an afterthought. Unsurprisingly, most Westerners find those people among the leaders of those countries who oppose Western political power. Now our leaders are trying to persuade us that that includes Syria’s Bashar al-Assad (though many are becoming skeptical of this “Hitler-of-the-month” propaganda).
The best way of demonstrating US intentionality is to demonstrate the consistency of their approach in different times and places. However, this is a necessarily exhaustive approach, so I have decided to take a different tack here. I wish to sketch a fragment of autobiography here – an outline of the process by which I came to my current understanding of the topic. I didn’t seek these conclusions out, but had it made clear to me, by rather comfortably embedded scholars, that they think that I am being provocative out of ambition. It is a testament to the self-satisfaction of such people that they somehow think that being provocative is some advantage. Academia thrives on the journal-filling peer-reviewed “controversies” of rival schools and scholars, but they aren’t really keen on anything that might actually be of any interest to anyone else. The fact is that I didn’t seek this out and it certainly has not endeared me to anyone that I can think of. On the other hand, I have had people act as if I had smeared my own faeces all over myself for using the g-word with respect to Iraq, and I have had many metaphorical doors slammed in my face. As I hope the following will indicate, at least partially, I cannot but characterise US genocides as such and I cannot but view the subject of absolute urgent fundamental importance.
Coming to Understand
The Vietnam War loomed large in my childhood. I was five when it ended. I watched the critical documentary series Vietnam: The 10,000 Day War when I was ten or eleven years old. During the 1980s Vietnam War movie craze I was sucked into that powerful quagmire of pathos and adrenaline – not to mention the evocative music. But even then, as a teen, I could not abide the apologism and the way in which American lives and American suffering were privileged. The US personnel were portrayed as the victims, even in films which showed US atrocities. I knew far too much about things such as the nature of the atrocities carried out by the Contras to find that sort of propaganda palatable. For one thing, I had read William Blum’s The CIA: A Forgotten History. This book (now titled Killing Hope) doesn’t leave the reader much room for illusions about the US role in international politics. Perhaps if I had been a little older I might have been “educated” enough to be blind to the obvious, but I wasn’t. While most people managed to avoid facing the facts, I knew from this book and others like it that although the atrocities of the Soviet Bloc were substantial, they were dwarfed by those of the US and its closest clients. If Cuba, for example, has been repressive, then what words remain to describe the US installed regimes in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, or Chile?
How could one characterise a state that backed and created death squad regimes that massacred entire villages, that tortured children to death in front of parents? How does one describe a militarised country whose meticulously planned and executed bombing raids systematically visited untold death and suffering on innocents as an intended purpose. Any informed person who had an objective proportionate viewpoint could only conclude, as Martin Luther King Jr. had already concluded, that the US government and the wider US corporate state were “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Fred Branfman, who saw the results of US bombing first-hand in Laos, has more recently concluded that the executive branch of the US government is “the world’s most evil and lawless institution.”
On moral terms I could not have been more condemnatory of the US government. I considered the US government and military-corporate-intelligence complex to be the worst thing in the world since the demise of the Third Reich. I believed this on the basis that they had demonstrably brought about more suffering, death and destruction than anyone else. If someone had tried to claim that it was for “freedom,” I would have laughed bitterly, thinking of the brutally crushed democracies and popular movements that were victims of the US. But if someone had said to me that the US had committed genocide in Korea and Indochina I would have most likely dismissed the claim as emotive overstatement. I didn’t actually know what the word genocide meant precisely, but I would still have seen its use as being a form of exaggeration. Implicitly, I took the word “genocide” to be a form of subjective moral condemnation, as if it were an inchoate scream rather than a word that might have a consistent meaning. (You can’t exaggerate by calling something “arson,” for example. It is either a lie or it is the truth. Genocide is the same). However, “genocide,” as a word, has been subjected to the ideological processes (described so well by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four) which destroy the meaning of words. Here is how I put it in an academicpiece:
Certain words are so highly politicised in their usage that, in Orwellian fashion, they are stripped of all meaning and become merely signals designed to provoke in impassioned unreasoning involuntary response. In this fashion ‘democracy’means ‘double-plus good’ and the Party members2 respond with cheers and tears of joy. Equally, ‘terrorism’ means ‘double-plus bad’ provoking among Party members, ‘[a] hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, totorture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer….’3 Genocide plays a starring role in an entire discourse shaped in such a way as to not only excuse but to facilitate the perpetration of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Stripped of any actual meaning but given the significance of being the ‘ultimate crime’ it becomes a tool by which powerful Western states are able to threaten or carry out attacks against weaker states – attacks which are in themselves criminal andwhich in some instances are actually genocidal. The emotive misuse of the term genocide has become a powerful political tool. As Jeremy Scahill reveals after accusations of genocide by Arabs against black Africans, “even at antiwar rallies, scores of protesters held signs reading, ‘Out of Iraq, into Darfur.’” Scahill adds that, ‘[a] quick survey of Sudan’s vast natural resources dispels any notion that U.S./corporate desires to move into Sudan derive from purely humanitarian motives.’4
What brought me around to using the term genocide was realising that there was no other word to describe what the US did in South Viet Nam. I had been aware that the vast majority of victims of the US military were civilians. It was commonplace to say that 90% of casualties were civilian. (Tellingly Western commentators, including those in the peace movement, would vouch that the figure of 90% civilian casualties was proof of how cruel and deadly “modern war” had become – as if US practices were some sort of universal standard and as if the fact that other belligerents did not produce such high rates of civilian death was not of any interest whatsoever.)
So, US violence mostly caused civilian deaths and the vast majority of those civilians were, in fact, subjects of the US installed puppet [sic] regime in Saigon. They were killing their own supposed allies. I have read all of the rationalisations for why the US thought it was a good idea to kill the civilians of their own client state, and they are all completely insane. I don’t even believe that killing the civilian populations of enemy countries is militarily effective, and in that belief I am supported by the strategic analyses of the US itself going back to 1944. Killing the civilian population of an allied state makes no military sense whatsoever. Often killing civilians was rationalised in terms of counterinsurgency (usually crudely reversing Maoist doctrine about the relationship between the guerrilla and the rural population) despite the fact that it was recognised from very early on that the civilian deaths were recruiting and strengthening the enemy.
That was the other striking thing about US activities in Indochina – they were systematically killing civilians without apparent purpose, but they were also undermining their own political and military efforts. This happened at all levels. As I was reading and coming to grips with this aspect of history, it seemed that exactly the same thing was playing out in Iraq. In 2003, as invasion loomed, I had initially expected that the US would conduct a fast vicious campaign particularly aimed at inflicting maximum damage to economic infrastructure. They would then leave, crowing about their surgical use of force and minuscule US fatalities. The US would continue to enhance the perceived legitimacy of its acts of aggression and would be able to use economic blackmail to exert neocolonial control. However, I was woefully naïve for believing that. In contrast, Paul Wolfowitz was absolutely clear on this point – you cannot use normal neocolonial power on Iraq: “…[W]e just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.” Instead, the US invaded, occupied and then acted repeatedly and systematically in ways which would very predictably cause armed resistance, just as they had in Indochina. But without that resistance they could not have justified a major military presence and the proconsular rule of the occupation imposed on Iraq.
In 2006 I was able to devote quite a lot of time to the subject of genocide in Indochina as it was the topic of my Honours research paper. My initial understanding of genocide was pretty thin and one-dimensional, but it was sound in the given context. The most important aspect for me was that genocide matched means with ends. War is always a matter of uncertain outcome. To wage war is to wager (the words are cognates). Indeed that is why we use such terms as “wage” and “adventure” for military action. Carl von Clausewitz wrote that a belligerent will never be able to attain their intended war aims because the war they pursue will itself change matters and impose its own realities. In that sense, war is a gamble which will always be lost. Genocide is not a gamble.
Genocide was an attack on the peoples of Indochina which avoided the uncertainties of waging military war. The maximal aim of the genocide was the eventual neocolonial domination of Indochina. It worked. In Viet Nam the war and subsequent US economic sanctions were devastating. By 1990 the per capita GDP was only $114.5 Under doi moi liberalisation, Viet Nam has achieved much greater formal economic activity (GDP), but only by submitting to the Washington Consensus, which means no price supports for staples such as rice, which in turn means that the real income of the poorest urban dwellers has dropped.6 Genocide doesn’t need an end goal such as such as submitting to neoliberal WTO regulations and IMF conditions. Chomsky called Vietnamese poverty “a vivid refutation of the claim that the US lost.”7Similar stories could be related with regard to Laos and Cambodia. Whether these nation states are considered enemies or vanquished vassals or friends is of no relevance, the weakness of their populations is a gain in relative power for the US empire, and empires intrinsically function on relative gains.
This is what I wrote in 2006:
…[A]clever strategist, where possible, matches means and ends, thus making results more predictable. In a situation where there is a stated end and a given means are employed and continue to be employed despite continued demonstrable “failure” and are then employed elsewhere under the same rationale with the same results – in such a situation it is possibly worth considering that the “means” are themselves the end. In the case of the Second Indochina War, I will argue the means were widespread general destruction, employed on as many of the people and as much of the societal fabric or infrastructure as was physically and politically feasible. If those were the means, I will suggest, they were also the end. The results are predictable. The dead stay dead.
When Raphäel Lemkin first coined the word “genocide,” he wrote “genocide is a new technique of occupation aimed at winning the peace even though the war itself is lost.” He also wrote: “Genocide is the antithesis of the … doctrine [which] holds that war is directed against sovereigns and armies, not against subjects and civilians. In its modern application in civilized society, the doctrine means that war is conducted against states and armed forces and not against populations. … [T]he Germans prepared, waged, and continued a war not merely against states and their armies but against peoples. For the German occupying authorities war thus appears to offer the most appropriate occasion for carrying out their policy of genocide.”
(At this point I would like to urge people to read what Lemkin actually wrote when trying to describe genocide. It is not a time consuming task. You can find the chapter here.)
The US was maintaining the “war.” It helped to recruit its enemies, to arm them, finance them, and to supply them. Just as I was researching this,Endless War? by David Keen was published about the War on Terror which claimed that it was a self-perpetuating endless “war system”. It focused on clearly “counterproductive” actions undertaken by the US, belying its stated aims:
When it comes to war in other words, winning is not everything; it may be the taking part that counts. Indeed, as Orwell saw in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, certain kinds of regimes may thrive off energies and perpetual war. The irrationality of counterproductive tactics, in short, may be more apparent than real, and even an endless war may not be endless in the sense of lacking aims or functions.8
Keen never mentioned Indochina. The precedents he cited of were civil wars in Africa. However it was as if the idea of a war system was, in a sense, on the tip of people’s tongues towards the end of the US involevment in Indochina, as if they knew deep-down that the US was not trying to win the war. It seems almost the implicit subtext of Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths’ book, Vietnam Inc., which by its title alone suggests an enterprise quite differently conceived than war. Even the orthodox political discourse (with talk of quagmires and a “stab in the back” story of brave soldiers hamstrung by politicians) hints at a war system. What the US did in Indochina was an absolute textbook example of what Keen was describing.
From this way of understanding the past, I was also viewing events in Iraq with the same apprehension. What was occurring on a daily basis was very clearly indicating a parallel process. Captured weapons were dumped unsecured in the countryside. Efforts to secure borders (to at least impede the flow of weapons, resistance fighters and money) were systematically undermined. Just as in Viet Nam, diverted cash sloshed through networks of corruption and was available to resistance groups. People were driven into the arms of the resistance by the random brutality of US personnel, the murderous use of indiscriminate ordnance, and the systematic degradation of the civilian economic sphere. On top of this, the US fomented a civil war.
It is a pity that Keen did not know of the Indochina precedent because what we know of it goes much deeper and reaches much higher than the what we know of the “War on Terror” (which Keen takes to include Iraq and Afghanistan interventions). Keen discusses various tactics and policies which are counterproductive. But it is not just the counterproductive things which sustain US enemies, it is the ways in which US leaders ensure that they cannot ever achieve a victory. This is what I wrote:
Numerous people, including Jeffrey Record9 and Harry Summers10 have in effect suggested that the US lacked any winning strategy. In fact, what they had were three no-win strategies – strategies which did not, even in theory, have an end point at which a military victory would be obtained. These were the fire-power/attrition, the graduated response and the enclave strategies. The only strategy by which the US could have attained its stated objective was the pacification strategy, but this too was no threat because the pacification strategy was only weakly implemented while being misapplied, subverted, sabotaged and contravened – not least by the more vigorous application of the fire-power/attrition and graduated response strategies.
You can read all about that stuff in detail if you want, otherwise you’ll just have to take my word for it. The US systematically ensured that it could never achieve “victory” in Indochina. Perhaps the most blatant example was the brutal genocide unleashed on Cambodia from 1970 until 1975. Not the “genocide” or “autogenocide” of the Khmer Rouge, but the genocide before that, without which there would never have been a Khmer Rouge takeover. Here’s a long excerpt from my Honours piece:
When the the US generated a war in Cambodia they had already had a great deal of experience in Viet Nam and Laos, and what occurred in Cambodia is, in many ways, a naked exposure of the logic behind the genocidal war system, less obfuscated because, ironically, Cambodia was a “sideshow” where it was not the details but the whole war which was kept obscure from the public.
Within a year of Lon Nol’s coup, as mentioned, the economy of Cambodia was virtually destroyed, not only by bombing, but also by US aid. Aid was channelled to the import of commodities and surplus US agricultural goods. It also underwrote the Cambodian government and armed forces: “By the end of 1970, the government was spending five times its revenue and earning nothing abroad.”11 Most of the population became reliant on US aid to eat, and rice supplies were kept at the minimum level needed to prevent food riots. By 1975, malnutrition was widespread and many children starved to death.12
Less than two months after the coup that brought Lon Nol to power, the US invaded Cambodia, along with ARVN forces. They did not bother to forewarn Lon Nol who found out after Richard Nixon had announced the invasion publicly.13 This invasion along US and RVN bombing and the civil war made refugees of around half of the Cambodian population.14 Lon Nol was outraged by the invasion and when later briefed by Alexander Haig (then military assistant to Kissinger) about US intentions he wept with frustration. According to Shawcross, “He wished that the Americans had blocked the communists’ escape route before attacking, instead of spreading them across Cambodia. … The Cambodian leader told Haig that there was no way his small force could stop them. … [Haig] informed Lon Nol that President Nixon intended to limit the involvement of American forces…. They would be withdrawn at the end of June. The the President hoped to introduce a program of restricted military and economic aid. As the implications of Haig’s words for the future of Cambodia became clear to Lon Nol, he began to weep. Cambodia, he said, could never defend itself.”15
As has been detailed, US actions, particularly in bombing, were directly responsible for creating the communist enemy which overthrew Lon Nol. The bombing between 1969 and 1973 took up to 150,000 lives.16 If averaged out, over 33 tons of ordnance were used to kill each Khmer Rouge insurgent.17 Despite the fact that Vietnamese pilots bombed any Cambodian they could, which aided only the Khmer Rouge, Lon Nol acceded to a US demand that he request an increase in VNAF bombing in 1971.18
By May 1972, the Lon Nol regime had control of perhaps 10 per cent of the country and continued to lose territory which was thereafter fragmented into ever smaller enclaves.19 The result was by that stage foregone, and yet the war dragged on for three years with the greater part of the 1 million casualties occurring after that point.
In 1970, when Henry Kissinger briefed Jonathan “Fred” Ladd, who was slated to conduct the war in Cambodia, he told him: “Don’t even think of victory; just keep it alive.”20
When the US Congress finally blocked aid to Cambodia and South Viet Nam, it was with the belated realisation that such aid would not give any hope of victory or improve a bargaining position. Senator Mike Mansfield spoke out, “Ultimately Cambodia cannot survive…. Additional aid means more killing, more fighting. This has got to stop sometime.”21
It was pretty clear that the US was maintaining the situation of armed conflict in order to commit genocide. This was a comprehensive act of genocide which did not merely involve the systematic killing of the target populations, it also involved every other “technique of genocide” described by Lemkin. There was systematic economic, social, cultural, political, and religious destruction. There was the systematic and deliberate ecocidal poisoning of the land and people with defoliants. There was very raw brutality. People were slaughtered by bombs, but there was also murder, rape and torture on a scale beyond imagining. In one book co-written by Nick Turse he finds that when he sets out to find the site of a massacre in Vietnam it becomes like trying to find a needle in a haystack of massacre sites.22 In his next book Kill Anything that Moves Turse tries to show that haystack for what it is. The results would be hard to believe if they were not so well documented. I cannot reduce its contents here, I can only recommend that people acquire and read the book. It is a litany of slaughter that seems almost endless and through it all the command structure and the political structure provide the framework for the personnel to commit atrocities.
This is not just about the choice of tactics – it is also about “grand tactics”, strategy, doctrine, and indoctrination. Psychiatrist and author Robert Jay Lifton famously discussed “atrocity producing situations” as a driving factor behind US war crimes, and I believe we can now conclude these situations were deliberately created, not just because we have other evidence that atrocities were tacitly encouraged, but because the US went to great lengths to replicate these these “atrocity producing situations” in Iraq.
Why Genocide and Not War?
By the end of my honours thesis I was convinced that both the second Indochina War and the “Iraq War” were “genocidal war systems”. Since then I have learnt a great deal more, and my thinking has developed a great deal more. I won’t bore you with the detail, but I came to realise the the “war system” appellation was largely redundant. Genocides are “war systems” by nature. Almost every perpetrator of genocide explains their violence as fighting war.
Genocide was a key means by which the US secured global hegemony in the post-WWII era. I learnt that Korea was also a case of US genocide. US actions there were as shocking, as deadly and as militarily nonsensical as they were in Indochina. Hundreds of thousands were massacred and hundreds of thousands incinerated. 25% of the entire population of North Korea was killed and we should not forget that many hundreds of thousands of the ostensibly allied South Koreans died at US hands or those of US commanded troops. The whole war became widely recognised as a pointless killing machine (described as “the meatgrinder”) while the US needlessly sabotaged and prolonged armistice negotiations.
I can’t explain in this space why Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq posed such great threats to US imperial hegemony, but they did, and the US successfully dealt with those dangers by committing genocide. These are successful uses of genocide to establish, deepen, and maintain imperialist hegemony, but we have wilfully blinded ourselves to their nature. Critics of US interventions have evidently been scared to entertain the notion that there was some successfully applied rationale to US behaviour. They have joined with the lovers of war, the nationalists, the racists and the fanatics in declaring over and over and over again the wrong-headedness and failures of US military endeavours. The victims of US genocide quite understandably prefer to see themselves as the plucky Davids that beat the Pentagon Goliath. These are all lies.
US forces storm into one house after another, claiming to be trying to kill flies with sledgehammers. Given that they have entirely demolished several houses and severely damaged many others; and given that they have been caught red-handed releasing flies into targeted houses; and given that they forcibly try to make people buy very expensive fly “insurance”; maybe it is time we consider that neither they, nor their sledgehammers, are concerned in any way with flies (except as a pretext).
Where people might once have been terrified that to suggest any cogent purpose to US actions for fear of giving credit to warmongers, we need not be so worried now. It is very clear that the US does not exert imperialist hegemony for the sake of peace and stability or even for the sake of the enrichment of the US and its people. They never protected us from the nefarious existential evil threat of communism and they don’t protect us from the nefarious existential evil threat of Islam. A very narrow group of imperialists who share a cohesive long-term hegemonic programme have successfully concentrated power and wealth levels of disparity akin to those in slavery-based economies. They have also created a neofeudal framework of privatised regnal rights. No doubt many of these people have noble intentions, believing that only by such ruthless action can they exert enough control to save humanity from its self-destructive impulses. Many elitists will openly express such opinions and we can certainly understand having concern over the future of the planet. But such people are, in fact, completely insane and they should be taken out of circulation and treated exactly like any other dangerous megalomaniac who believes that they are the new Napoleon. It is not the masses that are threatening the planet. It is not the masses who bring about wars. And though communal violence seems almost the epitome of the mob in action, I know of no genocide that did not result from the actions of a narrow elite.
The reason that we must view US genocides as being genocides and not wars is that we cannot ever understand the logic of their actions in any other way. People shy away from the term genocide and people react violently to what they perceive as its misuse. That indicates just how important it is. I mentioned Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves which is an entire book devoted primarily to the systematic killing of non-combatants. He never uses the term “genocide”. In a work based on veteran testimony, Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian explain that the very nature of the Iraq occupation is that of an atrocity producing situation and that US personnel have gone “from killing – the shooting of someone who [can] harm you – to murder. The war in Iraq is primarily about murder. There is very little killing.”23 They are talking about the systematic murder of civilians in small increments multiplied many times over, but they never use the term “genocide”. This despite the fact that US actions in Indochina have widely been adjudged genocidal and despite the fact that it was very strongly argued that the US and UK controlled sanctions against Iraq were genocidal. Ask yourself this: if someone was documenting the same thing being perpetrated by Sudan, or by Zimbabwe do you think the word “genocide” would be left out of such works?
Above all we must end the continuing fatuous nonsense spouted by security geeks (including high ranking military and civilian personnel) who seem to believe every exaggerated claim about threats from the Cubans, the Iranians, the Soviets, Al Qaeda in the Falklands (AQIF) or whomever. The morons with their clichés about “fighting the last war” will never ever tire of telling us how the US just doesn’t know how to do counterinsurgency. Really? The question must be, then how did they manage to remain so bad at counterinsurgency when they have spent more person hours on counterinsurgency and counter-guerilla warfare that all other states throughout the entirety of humanity added together? (I could list a few examples here starting with the “Indian” Wars, mentioning 200 years of interventions in the Western hemisphere, Cuba, Philippines, Pacific War, Korea and Indochina. Then there is also the institutional knowledge built and disseminated by “security co-operation”. Moreover, the US is trains many of the rest of the world’s military leaders to conduct counterinsurgency at Fort Benning.)
The point is that you can’t understand what the US does through the lens of war. It is very satisfying, no doubt, for young liberal reporters to outsmart generals (who clearly have no idea how to fight wars because they are just stupid Republicans), but it is seriously delusional. There is an instant exculpation given when these genocides are misrepresented as wars. It is very, very important for perpetrators of aggression or genocide (or both) to conceal their intentionality. The UK government and Tony Blair, in particular, showed far more concern with convincing people that they themselves believed in their fictitious casus belli, than with convincing people that Iraq really did have pose a threat. All of the British media seemed to echo the mantra that you might not agree with Blair but, “no one can doubt his sincerity”. So for moral reasons, in order to end the impunity of the worlds worst war criminals, as well as for intellectual reasons we must grasp the nettle and begin using the term genocide.
There are many problematic areas in the subject of genocide. Sometimes it is hard to tell when war ends and genocide begins. It can be hard to tell where state repression becomes persecution and when persecution becomes genocide. Were not the Nuremburg Laws an epitome of what we now call apartheid? Is apartheid a form of slow genocide? Is there structural genocide? Should something only be called genocide if there are mass fatalities?
These are all important considerations and questions, but none of them are relevant here. The genocides I have referenced are absolute textbook cases of genocide. It is impossible to create a coherent and rational definition of the term “genocide” which does not include these genocides.
These genocides were more demonstrably genocidal in nature than the Armenian Holocaust. We should always remember that for the Turkish government, and for most Turks, there was no such thing as a genocide of Armenians. In their own eyes they were fighting a war against Armenian insurgents. Sound familiar?
Mother Agnes Mariam de la Croix, author of the controversial ISTEAMS Report
The chemical attacks which took place in East Ghouta on August 21, 2013 could be the most horrific false flag operation in history.
To date, available evidence indicates that numerous children were killed by “opposition rebels”, their bodies manipulated and filmed with a view to blaming the Syrian government for the attacks, thus sparking outrage and galvanizing worldwide public opinion in favor of another bloody, imperial US-led war.
While confirming the use of chemical weapons against civilians, the UN report has failed to identify the authors of the attacks:
Instead of a non-politicized investigation and lab analysis, the UN investigation of alleged nerve-gas attacks inside Syria was led by Professor Ake Sellstrom, a man of mystery who keeps a veil of secrecy around his research and political-military relationships…
This cosmetic veneer of Swedish neutrality has been deftly exploited by Israel and NATO to perpetrate falsehoods throughout Sellstrom’s work for the UN, including denial of the chemical-and-biological causes for “Gulf War Syndrome” and the shipments of U.S. chemical weapons to the Saddam Hussein regime…
What is publicly known about Sellstrom is that the biochemist heads the European CBRNE Center [Center for advanced Studies of Societal Security and Vulnerability, in particular major incidents with (C)hemical, (B)iological, (R)adiological, (N)uclear and (E)xplosive substances], at Umea University in northern Sweden, which is sponsored by the Swedish Defense Ministry (FOI)…
Umea University is deeply involved in joint research with Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), the Haifa-based university that provides state-of-art technology to the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and its intelligence agencies. Several departments, which are involved in joint Israeli research, participate in multidisciplinary studies at Sellstrom’s CBRNE center…
American ambassador to the UN Samantha Power made emphatically clear that the “nerve gas used in Syria was more concentrated than the nerve gas in Iraq.” Her statement should be rephrased as: “Saddam may have trans-shipped U.S.-supplied nerve gas into Syria, but it wasn’t our nerve gas used against Syrian civilians.”
That is the essential point of the Sellstrom report: To take Washington off the hook for being the major supplier of nerve gas precursors, formulations, delivery technology and storage systems to the Middle East, including Israel, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and very possibly Syria (during the Clinton era of good will).
The UN report of chemical weapons on Syria lacks basic credibility due to the duplicitous record of its chief inspector, Ake Sellstrom, who is politically and financially compromised at every level. (Yoichi Shimatsu, The Sellstrom Report: The United Nations’ Syria Inspector Shills for NATO and Israel)
Col. Ted Westhusing, a military ethicist who volunteered to go to Iraq, was upset by what he saw. His apparent suicide raises questions.
27 Nov 2005 Col. Westhusing’s task was to oversee a private security company, Virginia-based USIS, which had contracts worth $79 million to train a corps of Iraqi police to conduct special operations. In May 2005, Westhusing received an anonymous four-page letter that contained detailed allegations of wrongdoing by USIS. The writer accused USIS of deliberately shorting the government on the number of trainers to increase its profit margin. More seriously, the writer detailed two incidents in which USIS contractors allegedly had witnessed or participated in the killing of Iraqis. A USIS contractor accompanied Iraqi police trainees during the assault on Falluja last November and later boasted about the number of insurgents he had killed, the letter says.
Posted in economics, foreign policy, government, military, tagged Afghanistan, Harvard University, Iraq, Iraq war, Lawrence B. Lindsey, United States, Wall Street Journal, War in Afghanistan (2001–present) on September 23, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
19 Sep 2013 The decade-long American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would end up costing as much as $6 trillion, the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household, calculates Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. When President [sic] George Bush’s National Economic Council Director, Lawrence Lindsey, had told the The Wall Street Journal that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion, he found himself under intense fire from his colleagues in the administration which claimed that this was a gross overestimation. Consequently, Lindsey was forced to resign. The Bush administration had claimed at the outset that the Iraq war would be financed via Iraqi oil revenues, but Washington D.C. instead borrowed $2 trillion to finance the two wars, the bulk of it from foreign lenders. [See that? When it comes to financing US wars for oil and opium, the ‘debt ceiling’ matters about as much as a June bug in July.
Coverup of War Crimes in Iraq: When ‘Damning Evidence’ on Congenital Birth Defects becomes ‘No Clear Evidence’: Much-Delayed WHO Report
Posted in death, foreign policy, government, law, media, military, tagged Basra, BBC, depleted uranium, Fallujah, Iraq, United States, World Health Organization, Yalda Hakim on September 20, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
In a 2010 alert, ‘Beyond Hiroshima – The Non-Reporting Of Fallujah’s Cancer Catastrophe’, we noted the almost non-existent media response to the publication of a new study that had found high rates of infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city. The dramatic increases in these rates exceeded even those found in survivors of the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn was a lone exception in reporting these awful findings.
As many readers will recall, Fallujah was subjected to US military attacks in March 2004 and an even larger assault in November 2004 which also involved UK forces. Our media alerts at the time highlighted the abysmal lack of media coverage of Western war crimes in Fallujah, including the use of chemical weapons and depleted uranium. Media Lens paid particular attention to the appalling performance of BBC News (‘Doubt Cast on BBC Claims Regarding Fallujah’, ‘BBC Silent On Fallujah’, ‘BBC Still Ignoring Evidence Of War Crimes’).
And it is not just Fallujah that has suffered appallingly. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and author of the book Pollution and Reproductive Damage, notes that increasing numbers of birth defects have also been seen in Mosul, Najaf, Basra, Hawijah, Nineveh and Baghdad. In some provinces, adds Dr Savabieasfahani, the rate of cancers is also increasing. She says:
‘Sterility, repeated miscarriages, stillbirths and severe birth defects – some never described in any medical books – are weighing heavily on Iraqi families.’
In Basra, attacked and occupied by UK troops, childhood leukaemia rates more than doubled between 1993 and 2007, the year that UK troops withdrew from the city.
Dr Savabieasfahani describes ‘an epidemic of birth defects in Iraq’ and says that what is ‘most urgently needed’ is:
‘comprehensive large-scale environmental testing of the cities where cancer and birth defects are rising. Food, water, air, and soil must be tested to isolate sources of public exposure to war contaminants. This is a necessity to discover the source, extent, and types of contaminants in the area followed by appropriate remediation projects to prevent further public exposure to toxic war contaminants.’
In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO), after being pressured by public health experts for a decade, belatedly instigated a study in conjunction with the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MOH) to investigate ‘prevalence and factors associated with congenital birth defects’ in Iraq. But although the study is extensive in scale, with 10,800 Iraq households selected as the sample size, Dr Savabieasfahani describes the scope of the research as ‘severely handicapped’. Why? Because of the controversial decision not to investigate the possible causes of birth defects and cancer; in particular, depleted uranium (DU), white phosphorus and other dangerous residues of the war, notably lead and mercury.
DU is a by-product of the process of enriching uranium. Because of its very high density, it is often used in weapons designed to penetrate buildings and armoured tanks. Dr Keith Baverstock, a former health and radiation adviser to WHO, says that:
‘There is absolutely no doubt that DU is toxic if it becomes systemic and gets into the bloodstream.’
The decision by WHO and MOH not to consider uranium in their study ‘is an important omission’, says Dr Baverstock, and he ‘believes that WHO has miserably failed to assess risks posed by DU… There is no doubt in my mind that the upper management of WHO failed to fulfil their obligations to examine the public health implications of DU.’
In 2004, Dr Baverstock was the lead author of a WHO report linking the US and UK use of depleted uranium in Iraq with long-term health risks. But the report was declared ‘secret’ and never published. Dr Baverstock said that the report was ‘deliberately suppressed’, pointing the finger of suspicion at the powerful pro-nuclear UN body, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The War Is Responsible – ‘No Other Explanation’
The new WHO/MOH report was originally due to be published in November 2012, but it was indefinitely postponed with no satisfactory reason given. Months passed. Meanwhile, in March 2013, the BBC included a report on its World News channel about birth defects and cancer in Iraq. BBC reporter Yalda Hakim interviewed Dr Mushin Sabbak at Basra Maternity Hospital. He told her that he believed that ‘mercury, lead, uranium’ from the war were responsible for a 60 per cent increase in birth defects there since 2003. ‘We have no other explanation than this,’ he added. (An edited version of the World News segment appeared here on BBC News.)
Dr Chaseb Ali, a senior MOH official in Baghdad, told Hakim that:
‘All studies done by the Ministry of Health prove with damning evidence that there has been a rise in birth defects and cancer, since the substances in question cause birth defects if the mother was exposed to them, or cancer, or in some cases, both.’ (English subtitles)
The BBC journalist said in the report’s voiceover:
‘Dr Chaseb says there could be many factors, including the use of depleted uranium, and the looting and destruction of Saddam Hussein’s laboratories.’
Tellingly, when the journalist asked the senior Iraqi health official whether, given the extensive findings of increased birth defects and cancer, the Iraq government would call for action, he smiled uncomfortably and said:
‘I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.’
Switching to English, he stated directly:
‘I have no answer. I know the fact, but I cannot say anything.’
Hakim then spoke with two Iraqi Ministry of Health doctors working on the WHO/MOH study. These researchers discussed the increase in Iraqi birth defects, and blamed the increase on the war. The BBC reporter was told that the report had been repeatedly delayed but that:
‘They confirm that the report will show a rise in birth defects in areas which show heavy fighting.’
There is no shortage of damning testimony of the awful Western legacy suffered by the people of Iraq. Donna Mulhearn is an Australian antiwar activist who has travelled repeatedly to Fallujah, talking with Iraqi doctors as well as affected families. She told journalist Kelley Vlahos:
‘I believe the Iraqi government is responding to pressure from the US to keep the issue under the radar.’
The physical horrors reported by Mulhearn and others include:
‘babies born with parts of their skulls missing, various tumors, missing genitalia, limbs and eyes, severe brain damage, unusual rates of paralyzing spina bifida (marked by the gruesome holes found in the tiny infants’ backs), Encephalocele (a neural tube defect marked by swollen sac-like protrusions from the head), and more.’
‘When I was in Iraq earlier this year there was a definite feeling of fear and intimidation among doctors who felt pressure from the Government to stay quiet about increasing levels of cancer and birth defects.’
‘One cancer specialist in Basra was removed from his senior position in a hospital because he has been outspoken on the issue of radiation caused by depleted uranium pollution and what he believes is its terrible impact of the health of Iraqis in the Basra region. He was nervous about giving us an on-camera interview because of possible ramifications.’
‘We Worry That This Is Now Politics, Not Science’
In May 2013, with still no sign of the joint WHO/MOH report, a call was issued by a number of public health and medical experts, together with around 50 others including Noam Chomsky, asking for the immediate release of the report. A petition on Change.org, initiated by Dr Samira Alaani, a pediatrician working in Fallujah General Hospital, attracted almost 50,000 signatures. Dr Alaani wrote:
‘I have worked in Fallujah as a Pediatrician since 1997 but began to notice something was wrong in 2006 and began logging the cases; we have determined that 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. We believe it has to be related to contamination caused by the fighting in our city, even now, nearly 10 years later. It is not unique to Fallujah; hospitals throughout the Anbar Governorate and many other regions of Iraq are recording increases. Every day I see the strain this fear puts on expectant mothers and their families. The first question I am asked when a child is born is not “is it a boy or a girl?” but “is my child healthy?“‘ (Emphasis in original.)
‘The research is now complete and we were promised that it would be published at the beginning of 2013, yet six months later the WHO has announced more delays. We worry that this is now politics, not science. We have already waited years for the truth and my patients cannot wait any longer. [...] My patients need to know the truth, they need to know why they miscarried, they need to know why their babies are so ill but, most importantly, they need to know that something is being done about it.’
When UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, the British oncologist Karol Sikora, who was then chief of WHO’s cancer programme, wrote that:
‘Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics [were] consistently blocked by United States and British advisers [to the Iraq sanctions committee].
Dr Sikora told John Pilger:
‘We were specifically told [by the WHO] not to talk about the whole Iraq business. The WHO is not an Organization that likes to get involved in politics.’
But it’s even worse than that. WHO is an organization that seemingly bends to the will of powerful Western governments. Hans von Sponeck was the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq before he resigned in 2000 in protest at the appalling level of deaths caused by the sanctions (his predecessor, Denis Halliday, resigned in 1998 for the same reason). Von Sponeck noted that:
‘The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where depleted uranium had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers.’
‘The World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorically refused in defiance of its own mandate to share evidence uncovered in Iraq that US military use of Depleted Uranium and other weapons have not only killed many civilians, but continue to result in the birth of deformed babies.’
In July 2013, around 50 medical experts and other concerned people, wrote a second time to WHO:
‘The joint WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health Report on cancers and birth defect in Iraq was originally due to be released in November 2012. It has been delayed repeatedly and now has no release date whatsoever. [...] we are baffled and alarmed at the WHO’s inability to release any of its findings, despite our urgent request of May 2013, for the WHO to release its report.
‘The Iraqi birth defects epidemic, by itself, would outrage anyone with the simplest understanding of population health and disease. Who could justify blocking the release of information from a long-completed investigation of that epidemic?
’Why have our inquiries failed to break the WHO’s apparent filibuster against releasing that data? WHO has a staff of thousands, including medical doctors, public health specialists, scientists, and sophisticated epidemiologists. They are certainly capable of presenting that data to the public by now.’ (Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, via email, July 26, 2013)
’A Total Reversal’
On September 11, 2013, Iraq’s Ministry of Health finally published a ‘summary report’. The World Health Organization was credited with assistance but, oddly, was not a signatory of the report (the study had previously been presented as a ‘collaborative’ study and ‘co-financed’ by WHO and Iraq’s MOH). But even more bizarrely, the report claimed that:
‘The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq.’
Incredulous, Dr Savabieasfahani noted:
‘This is a total reversal compared to previous statements from the same Ministry of Health, as broadcast worldwide in March 2013.’ (Email, September 12, 2013)
This was the item on BBC World News in which Iraqi Ministry of Health researchers confirmed that the high rates of cancers and birth defects constituted a ‘big crisis’ for the ‘next generation’ of Iraqi children. There was ‘damning evidence’, a senior Iraqi MOH official had said, of a rise in Iraq birth defects.
Dr Savabieasfahani said that it was ‘shocking to see this report declare “no clear evidence” for any abnormality in rates of “spontaneous abortions”, “stillbirths”, or “congenital birth defects” anywhere in Iraq.’ She added bluntly:
‘What happened to the data between March and September? Even though data analysis is prone to variations in output, which can lead to potential changes in conclusions, for a change of this magnitude – from “damning evidence” to “no clear evidence” – extensive data manipulation must have taken place. [...] this new report must be viewed with extreme caution if not with suspicion and disbelief.’
Dr Amy Hagopian, a public health researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Media Lens that, along with others, she would be ‘pressing for the timely release of all remaining data and reports to ensure effective public health interventions can be developed and implemented.’ (Email, September 14, 2013).
Dr Keith Baverstock, the former WHO adviser on radiation and public health mentioned earlier, told us:
‘I have not had time to study this report in detail so I will not comment on the scientific aspects. However, there are aspects which cause me very considerable concern. Firstly, this is not the independent academic analysis that is required – it certainly would not find a place in a reputable scientific journal. So it is strange to my mind that apparently reputable scientists have, through what is purported to be a peer review process, endorsed this study. I would have several questions for these people, none of whom I know. For example, how did they ensure that there was no selection bias: why was such a simplistic approach taken to the statistical analysis of the results. The implication is that these people were appointed by WHO although WHO does not appear to be a co-author, or in other ways connected with the report. If this peer review group have had access to information not in the report where and when will this information be made public?’ (Email, September 17, 2013).
Dr Baverstock continued:
‘From the WHO perspective I think the appointment of peer reviewers (if indeed WHO did appoint them) was extraordinarily inept. Five of the six reviewers were either from the UK or the USA, both countries which contributed to the environmental contamination in Iraq and therefore have a strong conflict of interest in this matter. The sixth reviewer from Norway may well have less of a conflict of interest but it is not clear that he is even qualified to review a study of this kind as his website says he is a social anthropologist and apparently he has no publications in the area of pregnancy outcome. It is the case that WHO suppressed a paper on the genotoxicity of uranium in 2001/2 at the time that Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former Prime Minister of Norway, was the WHO DG [Director-General].’
‘The issue of the health consequences for the civilian populations of the Iraq wars is a very serious matter and nothing short of an independently conducted study prepared for a scientific journal will provide satisfactory answers.’
We also asked Noam Chomsky to comment. He told us:
‘Extensive evidence had appeared about sharp increases in birth defects in regions of Iraq subjected to intense US assault, particularly Fallujah, where the crimes of November 2004 bear comparison to Srebrenica. Coverage has been slight and hopelessly inadequate. By now there are serious questions about analysis and perhaps withholding of data and reports. The time has surely come for careful inquiry and full disclosure.’ (Email, September 16, 2013)
Denis Halliday said:
‘This tragedy in Iraq reminds one of US Chemical Weapons used in Vietnam. And that the US has failed to acknowledge or pay compensation or provide medical assistance to thousands of deformed children born and still being born due to American military use of Agent Orange throughout the country. The millions of gallons of this chemical dumped on rural Vietnam were eagerly manufactured and sold to the Pentagon by companies Dupont, Monsanto and others greedy for huge profits.’
‘Given the US record of failing to acknowledge its atrocities in warfare, I fear those mothers in Najaf and other Iraqi cities and towns advised not to attempt the birth of more children will never receive solace or help.’
Halliday concluded that what is needed is a ‘United Nations that is no longer corrupted by the five Permanent Members of the Security Council.’
So far, Lexis database searches yield not a single British newspaper mention of the publication of the study into Iraq birth defects, far less the report’s ‘shocking’ shortcomings. But this is standard performance for the corporate media which have an established history of looking the other way when it comes to the crimes of the West.
We do not expect a media investigation anytime soon into why the study’s methodology and findings appear to have been twisted by major political interests – presumably to avoid embarrassing the US and its allies who bombarded Iraq, resulting in the deaths of around one million people, littering the country with contaminants, and leaving a toxic legacy of cancer and birth defects.
In the middle of the night a provision to close the Iraq audit office is added to a military funding bill.
At the close of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was denounced as a ferocious villain for ordering his retreating troops to destroy Kuwaiti oil fields, clotting the air with poisonous clouds of black smoke and saturating the ground with swamps of crude. It was justly called an environmental war crime.
But months of bombing of Iraq by US and British planes and cruise missiles has left behind an even more deadly and insidious legacy: tons of shell casings, bullets and bomb fragments laced with depleted uranium. In all, the US hit Iraqi targets with more than 970 radioactive bombs and missiles.
It took less than a decade for the health consequences from this radioactive bombing campaign to begin to coming into focus. And they are dire, indeed. Iraqi physicians call it “the white death”-leukemia. Since 1990, the incident rate of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent. The situation is compounded by Iraq’s forced isolations and the sadistic sanctions regime, recently described by UN secretary general Kofi Annan as “a humanitarian crisis”, that makes detection and treatment of the cancers all the more difficult.
“We have proof of traces of DU in samples taken for analysis and that is really bad for those who assert that cancer cases have grown for other reasons,” said Dr. Umid Mubarak, Iraq’s health minister.
Mubarak contends that the US’s fear of facing the health and environmental consequences of its DU bombing campaign is partly behind its failure to follow through on its commitments under a deal allowing Iraq to sell some of its vast oil reserves in return for food and medical supplies.
“The desert dust carries death,” said Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, an oncologist and member England’s Royal Society of Physicians. “Our studies indicate that more than forty percent of the population around Basra will get cancer. We are living through another Hiroshima.”
Most of the leukemia and cancer victims aren’t soldiers. They are civilians. And many of them are children. The US-dominated Iraqi Sanctions Committee in New York has denied Iraq’s repeated requests for cancer treatment equipment and drugs, even painkillers such as morphine. As a result, the overflowing hospitals in towns such as Basra are left to treat the cancer-stricken with aspirin.
This is part of a larger horror inflicted on Iraq that sees as many as 180 children dying every day, according to mortality figures compiled by UNICEF, from a catalogue of diseases from the 19th century: cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, e. coli, mumps, measles, influenza.
Iraqis and Kuwaitis aren’t the only ones showing signs of uranium contamination and sickness. Gulf War veterans, plagued by a variety of illnesses, have been found to have traces of uranium in their blood, feces, urine and semen.
Depleted uranium is a rather benign sounding name for uranium-238, the trace elements left behind when the fissionable material is extracted from uranium-235 for use in nuclear reactors and weapons. For decades, this waste was a radioactive nuisance, piling up at plutonium processing plants across the country. By the late 1980s there was nearly a billion tons of the material.
Then weapons designers at the Pentagon came up with a use for the tailings: they could be molded into bullets and bombs. The material was free and there was plenty at hand. Also uranium is a heavy metal, denser than lead. This makes it perfect for use in armor-penetrating weapons, designed to destroy tanks, armored-personnel carriers and bunkers.
When the tank-busting bombs explode, the depleted uranium oxidizes into microscopic fragments that float through the air like carcinogenic dust, carried on the desert winds for decades. The lethal dust is inhaled, sticks to the fibers of the lungs, and eventually begins to wreck havoc on the body: tumors, hemorrhages, ravaged immune systems, leukemias.
In 1943, the doomsday men associated with the Manhattan Project speculated that uranium and other radioactive materials could be spread across wide swaths of land to contain opposing armies. Gen. Leslie Grove, head of the project, asserted that uranium weapons could be expected to cause “permanent lung damage.” In the late, 1950s Al Gore’s father, the senator from Tennessee, proposed dousing the demilitarized zone in Korea with uranium as a cheap failsafe against an attack from the North Koreans.
After the Gulf War, Pentagon war planners were so delighted with the performance of their radioactive weapons that ordered a new arsenal and under Bill Clinton’s orders fired them at Serb positions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. More than a 100 of the DU bombs have been used in the Balkans over the last six years.
Already medical teams in the region have detected cancer clusters near the bomb sites. The leukemia rate in Sarajevo, pummeled by American bombs in 1996, has tripled in the last five years. But it’s not just the Serbs who are ill and dying. NATO and UN peacekeepers in the region are also coming down with cancer. As of January 23, eight Italian soldiers who served in the region have died of leukemia.
The Pentagon has shuffled through a variety of rationales and excuses. First, the Defense Department shrugged off concerns about Depleted Uranium as wild conspiracy theories by peace activists, environmentalists and Iraqi propagandists. When the US’s NATO allies demanded that the US disclose the chemical and metallic properties of its munitions, the Pentagon refused. It has also refused to order testing of US soldiers stationed in the Gulf and the Balkans.
If the US has kept silent, the Brits haven’t. A 1991 study by the UK Atomic Energy Authority predicted that if less than 10 percent of the particles released by depleted uranium weapons used in Iraq and Kuwait were inhaled it could result in as many as “300,000 probable deaths.”
The British estimate assumed that the only radioactive ingredient in the bombs dropped on Iraq was depleted uranium. It wasn’t. A new study of the materials inside these weapons describes them as a “nuclear cocktail,” containing a mix of radioactive elements, including plutonium and the highly radioactive isotope uranium-236. These elements are 100,000 times more dangerous than depleted uranium.
Typically, the Pentagon has tried to dump the blame on the Department of Energy’s sloppy handling of its weapons production plants. This is how Pentagon spokesman Craig Quigley described the situation in chop-logic worthy of the pen of Joseph Heller.: “The source of the contamination as best we can understand it now was the plants themselves that produced the Depleted uranium during the 20 some year time frame when the DU was produced.”
Indeed, the problems at DoE nuclear sites and the contamination of its workers and contractors have been well-known since the 1980s. A 1991 Energy Department memo reports: “during the process of making fuel for nuclear reactors and elements for nuclear weapons, the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant… created depleted uranium potentially containing neptunium and plutonium”
But such excuses in the absence of any action to address the situation are growing very thin indeed. Doug Rokke, the health physicist for the US Army who oversaw the partial clean up of depleted uranium bomb fragments in Kuwait, is now sick. His body registers 5,000 times the level of radiation considered “safe”. He knows where to place the blame. “There can be no reasonable doubt about this,” Rokke told Australian journalist John Pilger. “As a result of heavy metal and radiological poison of DU, people in southern Iraq are experiencing respiratory problems, kidney problems, cancers. Members of my own team have died or are dying from cancer.”
Depleted uranium has a half-life of more than 4 billion years, approximately the age of the Earth. Thousand of acres of land in the Balkans, Kuwait and southern Iraq have been contaminated forever. If George Bush Sr., Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Bill Clinton are still casting about for a legacy, there’s a grim one that will stay around for an eternity.
JEFFREY ST. CLAIR is the editor of CounterPunch and the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature, Grand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. His latest book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This essay is adapted from a chapter in Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature.
Posted in foreign policy, government, history, media, military, politics, tagged Barack Obama, George W Bush, Iraq, Iraq war, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Nuremberg Trial, Syria, United Nations, War crime on September 15, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
President Barack Obama, long seen as an anti-war foil to the lunacy of the belligerent George W. Bush administration, has now almost completed his morphing into Bush III.
With his war talk calling for the bombing of Syria, he has relied upon international law as the rationale, at the same time deprecating the role of the United Nations (UN). This, to say the least, is a contradiction.
With the old reliable Britain jumping ship, Obama has opted for a congressional cover, to share the glory or the blame of the latest imperial adventure, should it, like Iraq, result in disaster.
In any event, international law being violated isn’t something that is new to the U.S. Torture is a violation of international law, yet Guantanamo Bay’s Naval brig practices it daily, not to mention U.S. black sites operated by the CIA around the globe.
Yet this president, so exercised over international law violations, issued a clean slate to the CIA for it torture chamber, (not to mention its destruction of evidence) saying essentially, ‘let the past be the past.’
Similarly, the supreme war crime, under international law, specifically the Nuremberg Tribunal (which tried and condemned Nazis), is aggression against a nation that did not attack the aggressor.
For this is a violation of the UN Charter, which, like Nuremberg, considered the initiation of war “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”.
Witness the Iraq War, not only a blunder, but a crime.
Yet the war criminals who waged an illegal, unjust war –are immune, for they did so in furtherance of empire (or perhaps more importantly, global businesses).
Why are they not on trial for violating international law?
That treatment, it seems is reserved for African or maybe Asian leaders – not Europeans or Americans.
International law is but a fig leaf, for it covers very little, especially if there is very little to cover.
Syria is embroiled in an ugly, vicious civil war, and fighting for its very survival as presently constituted.
The U.S., after Iraq, should have no say in the matter, having reduced Iraq into a smoking cinder, struggling to rise from an invasion that made it a charnel house of the region.
This, so-called humanitarian imperialism, is but imperialism by other means.
Meanwhile, the U.S. can’t educate its kids, it can’t provide health care to millions, its prisons are the most populated on earth, and its Wall St. elite are the biggest thieves on the block – as immune as are the invaders of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Congress, meanwhile, is about as popular as herpes; they are but the highly-paid employees of Wall Street – and the defense industries.
And the Nation embarks on a new war!?!