The VISIE Foundation
Taming The Arabs

Counterpunch February 5, 2001

DU: Cancer as a Weapon

Radioactive War

At the close of the 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.

More than 10 years later, the health consequences from this radioactive bombing campaign are beginning to come 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," says 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 been keeping silent, the Brits haven't been. 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 recently told British 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 grim one that will stay around for an eternity. CP

Taming the Arabs

                 Yamin Zakria
                 Updated on 2004-01-09 17:26:34

                 Saddam Hussein, despite all his faults, was viewed  in the Arab/Muslim world as a symbol of
                 resistance against the Israeli aggression. Being  the only Arab leader to attack Israel with Scud
                 missiles earned him that distinct reputation.
                 Nonetheless, the norm is that Arab leaders in general excel in internal repression, and Saddam
                 was no exception. Now that Saddam Hussein has been finally captured, as have most of the senior
                 members of the Bath party and government, will the US troops finally leave Iraq and the region
                 (Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) as a whole? Not just a ‘reduction’ in
                 their presence, but to leave the area completely. As the original pretext of the
                 threat posed from Saddam exists no more, nor does the threat of the mythical
                 WMD, as none have been found to date. The answer is unlikely, simply because,
                 the war was not about the threat of Saddam or disarming Saddam of his mythical
                 WMD or bringing Saddam to justice on behalf of the people of Iraq. 

                 The US government knew very well that Iraq had no WMD capability that could constitute
                 a threat even to its immediate neighbours let alone the US itself. Collin Powell and
                 Condaleza Rice openly broadcasted this on TV, well before the war. They even bragged
                 about Iraq’s significantly reduced conventional weapons, whilst defending the US policy of
                 containing Iraq for a decade through the imposition of sanctions and the no-fly zone (See
                 John Pilger’s TV documentary). The disarming of Iraq’s alleged WMD was the ONLY
                 legal ‘justification’ given by the coalition forces for invading and attacking a sovereign
                 country without any provocation. The issue of WMD has now been conveniently reduced
                 to WMD ‘programme’. Which the politicians, commentators and analysts on FOX, BBC
                 and CNN use as a fig leaf, when they are questioned on the subject. Remember the
                 45-minute threat alleged by the dossier (plagiarised PHD thesis) of Tony Blair? It must
                 have been a typo; perhaps it should have read 45 months or years. The other pretext of the
                 9/11 connections with Iraq has been dismissed by the anti-war camp, since no clear
                 evidence of such a link has been produced. However, the Bush administration is telling the
                 truth from its own point of view. One needs to read between the lines. There is a
                 connection between Iraq and the alleged 9/11 perpetrators, which is that they are both part
                 of the Islamic civilisation, or as the more crude Yanks would say, they are all rag heads.
                 Hence, Iraq war was a form of collective punishment dispensed to the Islamic world in
                 return for 9/11 (other reasons are discussed later). This needs to be inferred, as it is
                 unacceptable to use such language in the diplomatic arena. 

                 Then comes the issue of bringing Saddam to ‘justice’ on behalf of the Iraqi people, as
                 Saddam’s crimes were largely committed against his own people and its neighbours but not
                 the Americans. So, why does that automatically give the Americans right to attack Iraq? By
                 that principal, any of the Arab countries can also attack Britain as she has been oppressing
                 the Irish population for centuries? Could America itself not also be attacked for the
                 numerous genocides carried out, ever since the European colonisers moved to settle in the
                 US? The war with Iran was instigated and supported by the US. The convenient
                 explanation is, that at that time, with the cold war climate along with the threat of Islamic
                 fundamentalism from Iran, the US was ‘forced’ to pursue such a policy. When Halabja was
                 gassed in 1988, it did not even make the news headlines, nor did it arouse passion amongst
                 those in the Whitehouse, who are now constantly bragging about their lofty moral
                 principles. On the contrary, US companies with the direct support of the White House
                 continued to supply lethal chemical and biological materials, knowing that they were
                 profiting from the blood of innocent victims in Iraq. So much for their innocence! No
                 wonder, the US wants to bring JUST Saddam to ‘Justice’ and not his accomplices who
                 have sustained his supply line for decades. The SUDDEN desire of the US to bring
                 Saddam to ‘justice’ is not due to genuine love for the people of Iraq but an attempt to give
                 some sort of ‘moral justification’ for the invasion and the subsequent carnage, as it had no
                 legal basis in the first place. Why did the US not have sudden affection to remove the
                 apartheid regime in South Africa? Was it because it reminded her too much of Israel and
                 the nostalgia of her own apartheid system, that was eventually removed by the civil rights
                 movement! Why does the US not have the same affection towards the Palestinians and
                 bring Israel to ‘justice’? The few Arabs/Muslim who are applauding the US at this moment
                 ought to think away from their narrow vision, and contemplate on the US track record and
                 her intention in the region. It is certainly not benevolent. Capitalist nations are not charitable

                 Where is ‘free’ Iraq now? Her economy has been opened up by the US (rather then the
                 ‘free’ Iraqis) to the foreign companies (including Israel), in a manner that even ‘free’
                 America would not do to its own economy. Where are the ‘free Iraqis’ that are authorising
                 the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel to make use of Iraq’s oil and other resources? What
                 happened to the billions of dollars worth of oil revenues, that is unaccounted for? Bush and
                 Blair are constantly announcing their agenda on behalf of the ‘free’ Iraqis but yet they are
                 unwilling to give them a voice by holding free elections. It is amazing how a foreign nation
                 can speak on behalf of another nation without legal or moral authority. Iraq is not ready to
                 be ‘free’, simply because the climate is not yet suitable for preserving US interests.
                 Grooming a suitable puppet can take a while. A cursory glance at the small numbers in the
                 demonstrations being held in Iraq reflects what the Iraqis truly think about the capture of
                 Saddam Hussein. Not that they love him, but many realise that the US has ulterior motives.
                 Just like when Saddam’s statute was symbolically toppled, rather than giving an aerial view
                 that clearly showed how few the actual number of people present were, a close-up was
                 telecasted, which presented a misleading impression of that events. In fact, the mass
                 demonstrations held in the Sunni area in support of Saddam after his arrest may not be
                 awesome but certainly larger then the support for any of the US appointed members, within
                 the Iraqi governing council. Now, the other figure that continues to rise is of the victims in
                 the mass graves. Perhaps the numbers will reach six million, when it becomes an
                 indisputable fact that gets televised constantly. Sounds familiar? What about the victims of
                 the US and its coalition forces as a result of this illegal war? Who will bring them to justice
                 for their heinous crimes? What about the cluster bombs and the depleted uranium that
                 continues to kill and poison Iraq? The ordinary Arabs/Muslims and most of the world
                 know who are the real war criminals. 

                 For those who are already clear about the hypocrisy and the lies of this illegal war, they will
                 shout “oil” as being the reason for this invasion and occupation, and most certainly it is a
                 factor. The US (not ‘free’ Iraqis) had no qualm in prohibiting the war opponents (Germany,
                 France and Russia) from bidding for the war booty. Which left no doubt about “oil” rather
                 then “liberation” as being one of the primary factors for the invasion. Remember, the oil
                 ministries were never hit unlike every other building in Iraq, and it was the first thing that
                 was secured well before other less significant places like hospitals, water plants, electricity

                 Apart from oil there is another reason for this occupation, something that many of the
                 simplistic minded Arabs/Muslims are failing to comprehend due to their short-term vision of
                 the situation, as well as being seduced by the propaganda that constantly emanates from the
                 Whitehouse. In the mean time some are knowingly lining up with the US, hoping to get a
                 slice of the cake from the victor. Of course they will also continue the tradition like previous
                 and other Arab regimes, of using their positions to inflate their back accounts, build
                 palaces, torture chambers and buy endless amounts of weapons to ‘defend’ themselves
                 against their own population. Lets face it; Iraq is not the only place in the world or the
                 Middle East where the torture chamber existed. Try looking into Saudi Arabia or Turkey
                 or Egypt but of course, that is inconvenient at the moment, as they are all good US allies.
                 As for the US the war is not about Saddam, billions of pounds are not spent with the loss
                 of lives just for the sake of one tin pot dictator. They have a clear vision. As Condoleezza
                 Rice and Bush, stated many times, democratising Iraq would be an example for the rest of
                 the region. The implication is that its fate has already been decided by the US rather then
                 being left to the Iraqis, who may not aspire for such a model as the early signs clearly
                 indicated. No wonder the US is reluctant to hold free elections at this moment even though
                 it brags about ‘free’ Iraq. 

                 Then comes the interesting issue of Saddam’s trial. The US as usual is using Hobsons logic.
                 If Saddam states what the US wants to hear then he is telling the truth, otherwise it is a lie.
                 The US is already very apprehensive about the Hague, as it is a European institution and
                 may not be able to control what Saddam spills out. Therefore, he most likely will either be
                 tortured by the US, or by proxy the CPA will do an excellent job. Eventually a show trial
                 will commence, where only selected information is likely to be leaked to the public or he
                 may commit ‘suicide’ like that of Dr David Kelly! What everyone also expects is the
                 possibility of some sort of deal with Saddam, whereby he acknowledges the possession of
                 WMD and then its transfer to Syria and/or Iran. That would be really magic, as it would
                 vindicate Bush and Blair for going to war and also gives the green light to the Neo-Cons,
                 chicken Hawks to prepare their tanks to roll into Damascus and/or Tehran. 

                 The End.
© Copyright 2002 PakNews 

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