Last night, well after midnight, while tuned into Free Speech TV (Dish satellite channel #9415), I was deeply disturbed by a video clip shown from one of Dr. Helen Caldicott's speeches.
As you may know, Dr. Caldicott is a pediatrician and one of the world's most respected anti-nuclear activists. In this video clip, she discussed the effects upon the people of Iraq, in particular, on Iraqi children, of the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons by the United States during the Gulf War of 1991, and the long-term consequences that are now being witnessed because of this uranium exposure within Iraq.
Amongst the many horrors she reported, are the following facts: because of uranium exposure, thousands of Iraqi children now have various incurable cancers. Because of adult women who have been exposed, and who unknowingly transmitted genetic damage caused by uranium to their foetuses, hundreds of Iraqi children have been born with horrendous birth defects, including missing limbs, having a double head, having an incompletely formed or no head, and having portions of their bodies born mangled by genetic damage.
Many deaths have occurred, and many more are to follow, because of this lethal uranium contamination of Iraqi soil and water. TheUnited States economic embargo has additionally served to prevent Iraqis from obtaining the desperately needed medical supplies and basic food and clean water to attempt to treat these children. Many children are also dying of starvation alone, and they look like those who starved and died in Nazi concentration camps.
All of this information stunned me, despite my general awareness of the terrible damage to the Iraqi population because of the economic embargo. But the most horrifying thing of all was Dr. Caldicott's statement that the people of the United States, you and I, the ones most opportunely poised to prevent the U.S. military's use of depleted uranium and to prevent war on Iraq altogether, did not, do not, know this information. And the reason for that, Dr. Caldicott said, was because of the corporate control of the mainstream media here in the States.
Corporate control of the media per se is nothing new. But I am beyond words to express my shock and fury that we have been denied reports on this aspect of the effects of the U.S. government's war on Iraq. In light of this information, it filled me with shame and unspeakable remorse to watch a clip from 1996 of our former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, saying on camera that, despite hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, including 500,000 uranium-poisoned children, "the collateral damage" to Iraq was "a hard choice, but I think, we think, it's worth it," and that if it were up to her, she would make the same choice again.
Not only is an unconscionable genocide that you and I are paying for through our taxes, but we are not even allowed to know about it by our own government. Apparently, according to an interview by Sonali Kohathar on kpfk.org's The Morning Show (in L.A.), a nurse who has dealt extensively with Gulf war veterans (veterans who returned home to great popular support but with sarin gas and uranium poisoning in their bloodstream,) and who has publicized this Gulf War Syndrome with a video on the subject, was also silenced in this effort by our government. She was disseminating factual information that was not even given to our own military personnel when they were sent into service in 1991, and were unknowingly exposed to extensive depleted uranium contamination.
While there have been attempts since then to hold congressional hearings on the widespread contamination of depleted uranium, and its "collateral damage," the position of our government on the subject is still one of denial. The deaths and illnesses of these thousands of Iraqi children, Iraqi people, and our own service personnel is blood on our own hands. We are responsible for these deaths, and for these horrific birth defects and horrific cancers and illnesses within the Iraqi population. If we have not taken action before now, because of a blanket policy of silence by our government, promulgated by corporate-owned and controlled media, let us take action now.
Can any of us, in our hear of hearts, say that another war on Iraq is justifiable, when the full effects of the previous war have only now begun to become known to the average American citizen? Would the ordinary American citizen choose to support a new war in Iraq, knowing the full story of the past 12 years, as opposed to the whitewashed, sanitized version of events that the casual consumer of world news has been led to believe.
Would we elect legislators who represent us that support a new war in Iraq, if this information were brought to full light? Would this country, as a nation, still choose to go to war? To condone it? To acquiesce in complicit agreement to the Administration's determined drive to wage war, despite the overwhelming majority of nations throughout the world that do not support it?
How will we live with ourselves, with our consciences, if we permit this war, and its incontrovertible genocide, killing thousands outright, and millions more over time, as depleted uranium poisons the earth's natural resources, living populations, and generations of children not even born yet?
Can any one of us look at the picture of a single child whose limbs are twisted, or whose frame is bloated out of proportion by growing cancerous tumors, or whose eyes are not eyes, but are patches of genetically deformed, misshapen, miscolored unseeing globes, and say that we sanction this evil? I think not.
Were the full effects of our uranium weaponry known to our entire population, it would put a stop to the prospect of war right now. Who, in knowledge of this, would not make every possible effort to achieve a diplomatic solution instead to the problems posed by any country containing weapons of mass destruction? Who in good conscience would not demand a peaceful, diplomatic alternative to this new war?
I urge you all to get further information, if you are not yet certain, at any one of the websites or references listed below. And I urge you to take action.
As American citizens whose government it is that has authorized the genocide
of thousands of innocent civilian Iraqis with the use of this horrific insidious
uranium poison, we are the ones who must stop this from being allowed to take
place ever again.
Use your individual voice to repeatedly contact our legislators and the White House, to pressure our representatives into demanding an explanation for the media's very wrong silence on this subject, an acknowlegdement of, and an acceptance of responsibility for, these crimes against innocent people, service personnel, and all future humanity. We must publicize the truth about where our tax money is going, and what it is really being used for.
And most immediately, we must demand that our Senators and Representatives pass the legislation recently introduced by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio and Ron Paul of Texas that will repeal the Iraq Use of Force Resolution (Public Law 107-243) that was passed last October, and that handed the President a laissez-faire blank check to decide if, when, and how to wage a war in Iraq.
We must do ourselves the job that our mainstream media has not done, and get the facts out to the American public, into the light of day. We cannot allow our government, by our inaction or complicit silence, to wage genocide on our behalf. It is imperative that our voices be heard, and be heard now.
Very sincerely yours,
Betsy A. Bradshaw[photos and story by J.B. Russell can be viewed at www.foto8.com].
www.iacenter.org/depleted [other sources used by Betsy are no longer available on the web]
During the Gulf War in 1991, US and UK forces used a new weapon against Iraq. This new weapon, the depleted uranium (DU) projectile, is radioactive. Unlike atomic or hydrogen bombs, it involves no nuclear fusion or fission, but nine years after the end of the war, adverse health effects from DU exposure continue to manifest among military personnel and civilians in Iraq where the fighting took place, and among US and British veterans and their families. As I traveled through the US, UK, and Iraq to cover this story, I was confronted at every turn by the sad and frightening spectre of "discounted casualties,"- people exposed to depleted uranium and other toxic substances, and now tormented by leukemia and a whole array of chronic disorders.
Lives slipping away - Doctors wringing their hands - Economic sanctions - medicines scarce:
A young girl with large, clear eyes stares fixedly at a single point. A young boy anxiously submits to a doctor's daily checkup. A cherubic infant lies in his father's arms.
When one child loses the battle, another child newly seized by disease is carried in. The cancer wards in Baghdad's Saddam Central Teaching Hospital for Children and other major hospitals in the capital and southern Iraq are overflowing with children suffering from leukemia and other diseases. The doctors diligently treat the children, anguished by their powerlessness and the inability to save these young lives.
Diagnosing two or three cases of leukemia a day at one hospital is not unusual. But the hospitals lack sufficient medical supplies, instruments, and equipment to save the children. The Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in August 1990, was met with an immediate UN Security Council resolution calling for economic sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions are still in effect.
"Children with leukemia have lowered immunity, but we can't keep them in sterile, intensive-care units or give them bone-marrow transplants. All we can give them is chemotherapy to prolong their lives a little." Doctor Salma Hadad (45) at Mansour Pediatric Hospital in Baghdad, who treats such children every day, bites her lip in frustration that the children of Iraq cannot benefit from superior treatment methods widely available elsewhere.
Children's cancer rates have spiraled 300-400% since before the Gulf War in 1991. Leukemia incidence began rising dramatically around 1994 and continues at a high level. Forty percent of the cancer victims up to 15 years old have leukemia, more than double the figure for lymphoma, the second most common pediatric cancer.
Many children living in rural areas who are struck with cancer and other serious diseases die without even a diagnosis because their parents cannot pay for the transport to or the lodging in Baghdad or Basra, where the big hospitals are located.
Iraqi doctors believe that the increase in cancer patients after the Gulf War among adults as well as children is largely due to the depleted uranium munitions used by the US and British forces during the battles.
According to a survey by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), though the death rate of Iraqi children five years and younger steadily declined during the 1980s, it more than doubled to 120 or 130 persons per thousand during the 1990s after the Gulf War. In addition to depleted uranium and other environmental factors, such high death rates must be attributed to the economic sanctions applied to Iraq primarily by the US, Great Britain, Japan, and other countries, primarily those in the Western bloc.
The reason given for continuing the economic sanctions is that the Saddam Hussein administration has not observed the ban on manufacturing weapons of mass destruction and other provisions of the ceasefire agreement. However these sanctions are affecting the government, they are also definitely robbing innocent Iraqi children of their lives.
(Story and photos by Akira Tashiro)
UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS - 53rd session, Item 5 of the provisional agenda:
Human Rights and Toxics: Depleted Uranium and the Gulf War
Written statement submitted by
International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project
a non-governmental organization on the Roster
1. International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project welcomes the progress made on the issue of toxics and the innovative and necessary work of the Commission's rapporteur Fatma-Zohra Ksentini. We have submitted information to the rapporteur on the use of weapons containing depleted uranium by the United States forces in the Gulf War. We are also continuing to compile information on this subject in light of Sub-Commission resolution 1996/[ ] (U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/L.18) which requests that information on the use of weapons of mass destruction, including those containing depleted uranium, is including in a report by the Secretary-General to the Sub- Commission at its forty-ninth session.
2. During the Gulf War up to 800 tons of munitions containing depleted uranium were used by United States forces in military actions in Kuwait and Iraq. This was the first field test of these weapon in actual combat, and they proved to be exceptionally effective anti-tank projectiles due to their superior armour-piercing capacity. It is unclear how much of the discarded shell casings and other radioactive material still remains in Iraq, but several investigators who have traveled to the area reports that shell casings containing depleted uranium are scattered all over the ground in many areas, including in school yards and other similar civilian locales.
3. Depleted uranium contain about 30% less than normal of 235/U, a dangerous radioisotope of uranium used in nuclear bombs and commercial power plants. It is a byproduct of extraction of 235/U form natural uranium. Much of depleted uranium is 238/U with a half life of 4 billion years.
4. Depleted uranium vaporizes when deployed in armour-piercing bullets. Scientific studies indicate if as much as one small particle (<5 microns in diameter) enters the lungs, the lungs and surrounding tissue will be exposed to 270 times the radiation permitted for workers in the radiation industry.
5. We first raised this issue at the fifty-second session of the Commission when, in conjunction with Margarita Papandreou and Women for Mutual Security and the International Commission of Inquiry on Economic Sanctions, we addressed the serious situation of especially children in Iraq. Thousands of children in Iraq suffer from illnesses related to depleted uranium compounded in gravity by the effects of the economic sanctions. Now, children and animals in the area are being born with the serious congenital anomalies and disabilities associated with low grade radiation poisoning. At that session we presented Dr. Horst Gunther who has traveled to Iraq and who has documented, in report and by photograph, the devastating situation in Iraq.
6. Since that time, more evidence of the use of depleted uranium and the Iraqi medical catastrophe has been presented while at the same time the controversy over "Gulf War Syndrome" escalates in the United States. It now appears that key information relating to this situation has been removed from top secret files or destroyed.
7. Evidence compiled in the United States indicates as many as 50,000 veterans of the United States forces in the Gulf War and 4,000 or more from the allied countries have conditions that appear to be clear consequences of military service. There are no available statistics on the number of Iraqis showing similar symptoms, although Dr. Gunther's investigations indicate many thousands.
8. In addition to the serious problems faced by those exposed to DU during the Gulf War, there is a worldwide problem of the disposal of DU. These is an estimated billion pounds of DU tailings in the United States, and the United States Department of Energy is seeking opportunities to dispose of it. There are an estimated 30 million KGs DU tailings stored in Europe at URENCO plants. The United States Army Environmental Policy Institute (USAEPI) reports that the United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Thailand, Israel, France and other unspecified countries have developed or are developing DU weapons.
9. We urge the Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation of the use of DU in the Gulf War and its effect on human rights. We also urge the Rapporteur to monitor the situation of DU storage and transport.
I was in Iraq to photograph the effects of the embargo, but more importantly to investigate and photograph the effects of depleted uranium on the Iraqi people ten years after the Gulf War. Depleted uranium is a mildly radioactive byproduct of enriched nuclear fuel production. Its high density makes it particularly effective for use in weapons designed to pierce armored vehicles and military installations in a theater of war.
When DU weapons explode however they become super heated, vaporizing into microscopic particles that can be inhaled, absorbed into the skin and dispersed in the environment. In this state they are believed to be highly toxic. There have been many reports of sharp increases in cancers, birth defects and mysterious illnesses amongst the Iraqi people since the war.
With recent credible reports* that the US is mooting the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Iraq, Dr. Helen Caldicott and the experts at the Nuclear Policy Research Institute can discuss all aspects of nuclear war, weapons and politics, including:
The possible use of nuclear weapons in Iraq by the US would expose hundreds
of thousands of people to very high levels of fall-out and radiation. Ironically,
smaller nuclear weapons, such as "bunker busters" that explode underground,
produce far higher levels of fall-out than a nuclear weapon exploding over a
city. The medical consequences would be vast.
This "normalization" of nuclear weapons by the United States legitimizes their use by smaller nuclear nations, such as India, Pakistan, or Israel.
Depleted Uranium (DU) is used by the Pentagon to make weapons that penetrate tank armor. When this happens, the DU is aerosolized and radioactivity is spread through the air. While there has been great controversy about the use of DU by the US in the Gulf War, its use by the US in a new Iraqi war is almost certain.
THE NEW NUCLEAR DANGER - George Bush's Military-Industrial Complex
by Helen Caldicott, M.D.
Publisher: New Press; ISBN: 1565847407 (pub. date early 2002)
On September 18, one week after the World Trade disaster, Lockheed Martin, the country's leading manufacturer of conventional weaponry, nuclear delivery systems, and national missile defense, took a full page ad in the New York Times echoing JFK's famous call to "pay any price to assure the survival and the success of liberty." The ad offered an unusually public display of what is typically the invisible hand and muscle of the arms industry guiding American sentiment and government.
In her uncannily timely new book, Dr. Helen Caldicott looks at the indebtedness of the Bush Administration to the arms industry and warns of the incredible dangers inherent in allowing weapons manufacturers to dictate foreign policy. Recounting the history of government collusion with industry, Caldicott shows how the merging of weapons firms in the 1980s created hugely powerful "death merchants," including Lockheed and others, ready to lobby politicians and manipulate public opinion on behalf of their corporate interests.
Now, with unprecedented acts of terrorism fueling the American public's willingness to grant its government broad power to wage war, the constant pressure from weapons makers to use military force - and by extension, buy more of their weapons - poses the very real threat of nuclear war. Enumerating, as a physician, the medical consequences of such a war, Caldicott demonstrates conclusively that the notion of nuclear survival is a complete fantasy, and that nuclear victory is an oxymoron.
In the same way that a generation embraced Caldicott's hugely influential Nuclear Madness and Missile Envy, The New Nuclear Danger stands to educate, alert, and mobilize millions of young people and concerned citizens, who must understand the planetary threat posed by overly-aggressive nuclear scientific establishments and weapons industries in a volatile world.
"At this critical juncture in history, the media are determining the fate
of the earth."
--Dr. Helen Caldicott
book: METAL OF DISHONOR
- Selected Authors
Publisher: International Action Center; ISBN: 0965691608
Did the Pentagon poison Iraq's people and U.S. Soldiers with radioactive weapons? Learn about the criminal use of depleted uranium. Scientists, Gulf War veterans, leaders of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-military and community movements discuss: a new generation of radioactive conventional weapons; the connections of Depleted Uranium to Gulf War Syndrome; the Pentagon recycling of nuclear waste--a new global threat; and an international movement to BAN all DU weapons.
The Spoils Of War
By Helen Caldicott
Originally published October 6, 2002
NEW YORK -- As the Bush administration prepares to make war on the Iraqi people -- for it is the civilian population of that country and not Saddam Hussein who will bear the brunt of the hostilities -- it is important that we recall the medical consequences of the last Persian Gulf war. It was, in effect, a nuclear war.
By the end of that 1991 conflict, the United States left between 300 and 800 tons of depleted uranium 238 in anti-tank shells and other explosives on the battlefields of Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The term "depleted" refers to the removal of the fissionable element uranium 235 through a process that ironically is called "enrichment." What remains, uranium 238, is 1.7 times more dense than lead. When incorporated into an anti-tank shell and fired, it achieves great momentum, cutting through tank armor like a hot knife through butter.
What other properties does uranium 238 possess? First, it is pyrophoric. When it hits a tank at high speed, it bursts into flames, producing aerosolized particles less than 5 microns in diameter, making them easy to inhale into the terminal air passages of the lung. Second, it is a potent radioactive carcinogen, emitting a relatively heavy alpha particle composed of two protons and two neutrons. Once inside the body -- either in the lung if it has been inhaled, in a wound if it penetrates flesh, or ingested since it concentrates in the food chain and contaminates water -- it can produce cancer in the lungs, bones, blood or kidneys. Third, it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, meaning the areas in which this ammunition was used in Iraq and Kuwait will remain effectively radioactive for the rest of time.
Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to the effects of radiation than adults. My fellow pediatricians in the Iraqi city of Basra, for example, report an increase of six to 12 times in the incidence of childhood leukemia and cancer. Yet because of the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Nations, they have no access to antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs or effective radiation machines to treat their patients. The incidence of congenital malformations has doubled in the exposed populations in Iraq where these weapons were used. Among them are babies being born with only one eye and with an encephaly -- the absence of a brain.
However, the medical consequences of the use of uranium 238 almost certainly did not affect only Iraqis. Some American veterans exposed to it are reported, by at least one medical researcher, to be excreting uranium in their urine a decade later. Other reports indicate it is being excreted in their semen.
That nearly one-third of the American tanks used in Desert Storm were made of uranium 238 is another story, for their crews were exposed to whole body gamma radiation. What might be the long-term consequences of such exposure has not, apparently, been studied.
Would these effects have surprised U.S. authorities? No, for incredible as it may seem, the American military's own studies prior to Desert Storm warned that aerosol uranium exposure under battlefield conditions could lead to cancers of the lung and bone, kidney damage, non-malignant lung disease, neurocognitive disorders, chromosomal damage and birth defects.
Do President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld understand the medical consequences of the 1991 war and the likely health effects of the next one they are planning? If they don't, their ignorance is breathtaking. Even more incredible, though, and much more likely, is that they do understand but don't care.
Helen Caldicott, founder and president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, has devoted 25 years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age. Her most recent book is The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex (The New Press, 2002). Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun
information from www.endthewar.org:
Medical Consequences of Attacking Iraq - by Helen Caldicott
October 8, 2002
Published on Thursday, October 10, 2002 by the San Francisco Chronicle
As the Bush administration prepares to make war on the Iraqi people -- and make no mistake, it is the civilian population of that country and not Saddam Hussein who will bear the brunt of the hostilities -- it is important that we recall the medical consequences of the last Gulf War. That conflict was, in effect, a nuclear war.
During the 1991 Gulf War, the United States deployed hundreds of tons of weapons, many of them anti-tank shells made of depleted uranium 238. This material is 1.7 times more dense than lead, and hence when incorporated into an anti-tank shell and fired, it achieves great momentum, cutting through tank armor like a hot knife through butter.
What other properties does uranium 238 possess? First, it is pyrophoric: When it hits a tank at high speed it bursts into flames, producing tiny aerosolized particles less than 5 microns in diameter that are easily inhalable into the terminal air passages of the lung. Second, it is a potent radioactive carcinogen, emitting a relatively heavy alpha particle composed of 2 protons and 2 neutrons. Once inside the body -- either in the lung if it has been inhaled, or in a wound if it penetrates flesh, or ingested since it concentrates in the food chain and contaminates water -- it can produce cancer in the lungs, bones, blood, or kidneys. Third, it has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, meaning the areas in which this ammunition was used in Iraq and Kuwait during Gulf War will remain effectively radioactive for the rest of time.
Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to the effects of radiation than adults. My fellow pediatricians in the Iraqi town of Basra, for example, are reporting an increase of 6 to 12 times in the incidence of childhood leukemia and cancer. Yet because of the sanctions imposed upon Iraq by the United States and United Nations, they have no access to drugs or effective radiation machines to treat their patients.
The incidence of congenital malformations has doubled in the exposed populations in Iraq where these weapons were used. Among them are babies born with only one eye or missing all or part of their brain.
The medical consequences of the use of uranium 238 almost certainly did not affect only Iraqis. Some U.S. veterans exposed to it are reported, by at least one medical researcher, to be excreting uranium in their urine a decade later. Other reports indicate it is being excreted in their semen. (The fact that almost one-third of the American tanks used in Desert Storm were themselves made of uranium 238 is another story, for their crews were thereby exposed to whole-body gamma radiation.)
Would these effects have surprised the U.S. authorities? No, for incredible as it may seem, the American military's own studies prior to Desert Storm warned that aerosol uranium exposure under battlefield conditions could lead to cancers of the lung and bone, kidney damage, non-malignant lung disease, neurocognitive disorders, chromosomal damage and birth defects.
Do George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld understand the medical consequences of the 1991 war and the likely health effects of the next one they are now planning? If they do not, their ignorance is breathtaking; even more incredible though -- and alas, much more likely -- is that they do understand, but do not care.
Helen Caldicott has devoted the last 25 years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age. She spoke in San Francisco recently in a benefit for the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, which she founded.
Information from www.hiddenwars.org:
A Letter from the Producers of "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm":
With a massive propaganda blitz the Bush administration wants to replace Osama Bin Laden with Saddam Hussein as the world public-enemy-number-one. But what realistic threat does Iraq pose after 12 years of a devastating embargo that has destroyed this once prosperous country? Who aremed Saddam Hussein in the first place? What impact would an attack on Iraq have on its civilian population and on the Middle East? How would the world react to such an unprovoked attack that the international community has almost unanimously rejected?
"Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" helps answer these questions by providing an easy-to-understand background on the relationship between Washington and Baghdad as well as on the origins, developments, and aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. Featuring such key players as then Desert Storm Commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, UNSCOM team-leader Scott Ritter, and UN-Iraq Program Director Denis Halliday, this documentary has been broadcast all over the world but has had little if any exposure in the mainstream U.S. media.
Along with the Internet, we ourselves are rapidly becoming the mainstream media. We invite you to explore our website and tell others about it. "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" can be seen in various locations throughout the world so we've recently added a "Showings" button ... which tells you when and where you can see it.
And for those of you who have asked how you can volunteer your time to help us out, we've included a "What Can I Do" button offering ideas that will immediately help our ability to reach others. Together, we will get the word out. Thank you for your support.
Producers, Free-Will Productions
"Hidden Wars of Desert Storm"
A 60 min. video-documentary on the Gulf War & embargo over Iraq:
On August 2nd, 1990, Saddam Hussein launched his troops against Kuwait, triggering the first major international crisis of the post-Soviet Union era. But was this invasion a surprise in the first place? Were all diplomatic means really utilized to try to resolve the issue peacefully? Was there any threat from the part of Iraq against Saudi Arabia or against any of the other Gulf states? Why wasn't Washington's rhetoric against Saddam ever matched by any real support to the Iraqi opposition groups? What purpose can the embargo over Iraq serve if it is not to weaken Saddam Hussein, a result it has evidently failed to achieve to this day? What is true behind this mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome" that goes on affecting hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans and local populations and more and more of them every day?
A two-year investigation, "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" brings answers to all of these questions, basing itself on documents never seen before on television and backed by interviews of such prominent personalities as Desert Storm Commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former UN Iraq Program Director Denis Halliday, former UNSCOM team-leader Scott Ritter and many others. A large selection of archival footage, moving images recently brought back from Iraq, an original soundtrack scored by acclaimed composer Fritz Heede and the narration by two-time British Academy Award-winner, actor John Hurt, all contribute to making "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" a fast-paced, informative documentary while resolutely accessible to a general audience.
Commonly referred to as "Gulf War" in the West, actually "2nd Gulf War" after the 1st Gulf War opposed Iraq to Iran from 1980 to 1988 at the cost of about half a million dead on both side, the Gulf War happened from January 17, 1991 till February 28, 1991. It opposed a 29 nation-coalition led by the United States against Saddam Hussein's Iraq after the invasion by Saddam's forces of neighboring Kuwait. Main allies of the US in this war were Great Britain, France and Saudi Arabia, for a total of over 700,000 troops deployed, 99.5 % American. Stalling negotiations at the United Nations headquarters in New York following Saddam's illegal invasion of Kuwait led to a US-inspired ultimatum issued by the United Nations Security Council and then to the start on January 17, 1991 of a massive bombing campaign against both Iraqi troops present in Kuwait and Iraqi cities when Saddam Hussein refused to withdraw his troops from Kuwait.
A US Department of Defense controlled, CNN exclusive media coverage then displayed the image of a clean, sanitized, "surgically accurate" campaign of bombing from the part of the allies against Saddam Hussein's forces. The evidence on the ground as well as bombing raid reports suggest instead the use of massive carpet-bombing alleged to have dropped 85,000 tons of bombs, or the equivalent of seven and-a-half Hiroshimas, primarily on civilian infrastructures and at the cost of about 200,000 civilian lives according to former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
A massive ground offensive started on February 24, sending hundreds of thousands of US-led troops across Kuwait. Almost no resistance was met according to the own account of veterans having taken part in the offensive. Only a few thousands Iraqi POWs were rounded up while hundreds of fleeing Iraqi soldiers as well as civilians from various nations were pounded along the infamous "Highway of Death". The allied coalition secured Kuwait on February 26 as US troops pushed inside the Iraqi territory. Two days later, on February 28, 1991, Washington was declaring cease-fire unilaterally as rebellions against Saddam Hussein's regime were starting to spread all across Iraq. Despite an armistice signed by the Iraqis in early March 1991, bombings of Iraqi cities and desert outposts have been going on ever since on a weekly basis and till this day, carried out by US and British air forces against supposedly offensive Iraqi anti- aircraft positions and without any mandate from the United Nations.
The origins of the crisis that led to the Gulf War, the reality about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein against other Persian Gulf nations besides Kuwait, the suppliers of Saddam's arsenal as well as the West's strategical war goals and achievements as a result of this war have been the matter of a deep controversy for now over a decade. "Hidden Wars" raised all of these questions and more basing itself on never seen before documents recently released under the US "Freedom of Information Act", rarely seen war footage and testimonies by many different players in this modern and complex crisis, including in particular a very enlightening interview of former Desert-Storm Commander, General Norman Schwarzkopf.
Under "sanction", the Cambridge Encyclopedia reads "penalties imposed by one state against another to force compliance with international law or the fulfillment of treaty obligations. Retorsion is a lawful act designed to injure another state, such as the withdrawal of economic aid. Reprisals are acts ordinarily illegal." Embargoes and sanctions have been used by powerful states throughout history usually to cripple other weaker nations but their use has become systematic from the part of the US Government ever since Castro took over Cuba in 1959. From then on, the US Government has imposed unilateral embargoes and sanctions against well over a dozen countries and threatened as well a countless number of other nations that might have sought to trade nonetheless with these US-targeted countries.
In Iraq's case, sanctions were imposed on August 6, 1990 by the United Nations Security Council in order to try to force Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. An air and naval blockade had actually already been imposed by the US Air Force and Navy barely a few hours after Saddam's forces crossed into Kuwait. However, despite Saddam's forceful eviction from Kuwait and a cease-fire on February 28, 1991, the sanctions against Iraq have never been lifted.
Their purpose has evolved though, from evicting Saddam from Kuwait to forcing him to comply with a UN-sanctioned disarmament policy. Now that most weapon-analysts and UN inspection team members agree that Iraq doesn't pose any immediate threat anymore (as opposed to other aggressive nations in the world that keeps building up offensive stockpile of mass-destruction weapons with the clear intent of using them some day), the sanctions against Iraq remain in effect by the sole will of the only government in the world that has ever used nuclear bombs against civilian populations. (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
Traveling throughout Iraq gives a first-hand idea of how the sanctions work. Non-stop convoys of thousands of trucks keep bringing all sort of goods that benefit the Iraqi elite supporting Saddam Hussein's regime, the latest Mercedes and BMW cars can be seen in Baghdad while 99 % of the Iraqi population live now in obscenely miserable conditions deprived of the essential staples of modern life in a country that used to be the wealthiest and the best organized of the region prior to 1990.
Today, the UNICEF estimates that about 5,000 Iraqis die every month as a direct result of the sanctions, primarily the very young and the elderly who bare the harshest brunt of the food and medicine restrictions. It has been proven by facts time and time again, elite can always circumvent sanctions because they have the power, the contacts, the influence and the means to do so. An economic embargo such as the one still strangling Iraq only affects the men and women in the streets. Under the pretext of preventing Iraq from rearming, the Iraqi population is being deprived by supposedly civilized nations of new schoolbooks for students, of even the most basic medicine, of imported staple-food, of imported clothes, even toilet paper doesn't make it to Iraq.
"Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" depicts with no concession and sometimes gruesome images the day-to-day reality of living in Iraq and weighs the reality of this silent, distant and monstrously hypocritical war waged on a civilian population against the strategic and economic gains of a handful of individuals living comfortably thousands of miles away.
From the accounts of veterans who served in the Gulf War, it was a non-stop "toxic soup," exposing the various armies and local civilian populations both in Kuwait and in Iraq to an unprecedented array of chemical, biological and radioactive pollutants. For the US GIs, exposure to pollution started at home with the injection of non-tested anti-anthrax vaccines. It went on with daily exposure to hundreds of oil-well fires (set primarily by the Iraqis) that were left to burn for months, causing one of the worst atmospheric disasters of the 20th century. It continued with exposure to toxic clouds after the US Army detonated captured stockpiles of some of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, making it unclear to this day whether Iraq actually used such weapons in the conflict.
But the most shocking pollution factor arises from the secret use by the Pentagon -- and to a much lesser extent by some Western allies of the US -- of high-perforation shells made of the hardest metal available: uranium 238, commonly called depleted uranium or DU. U–238 is a by-product of uranium enrichment, a process by which the most radioactive part of uranium ore is isolated to create weapons grade Uranium 234 and power plant grade Uranium 235, leaving behind 99% of the original ore -- not radioactive enough to be used for nuclear bombs or power plants, but radioactive enough to be deadly.
This radioactive waste had been stored and isolated since it was first generated in the 1930s and 1940s, until some arms-making genius -- the kind that invent chemical and biological weapons, mines, cluster-bombs and similar goodies -- discovered in the 1970s the pyrophoric properties of U-238. This metal is 1.5 times denser than lead, and becomes white-hot and sharpens itself on impact with another metal. To this day, no armored plate can resist such an impact. Tanks burn inside-out like cotton-balls when the dart of fire penetrates and exits them.
The downside of these magical anti-tank bullets? At impact, between a quarter and a third of the shell vaporizes into fine dust and gas that causes both heavy-metal poisoning and irradiation to anyone nearby for thousands of years. Three hundred tons of U-238 were spread over Kuwait and Southern Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. According to a US Department of Defense survey, more than 436,000 US troops have entered contaminated battlefields. The troops received no prior warning or handling instructions, most certainly because the Pentagon feared triggering outrage and panic.
Today, almost a third of the 700,000 US military personnel who served in the Gulf have filed for disability and 10,000 have already died. Of course, all these cases cannot be solely attributed to exposure to radioactive dust, nor can every individual case of the tens of thousands of people in Southern Iraq afflicted with cancer and leukemia be attributed solely to low-level radiation exposure. But in the face of such a monstrous risk factor, the aggregate effects are frightful.
"Hidden Wars" looks at both the sick US veterans' condition and at the health crisis situation in Southern Iraq. Many interviews of scientists, doctors and veterans paint a bleak picture of the health prospects for both groups, and explain the nature of DU munitions and the environmental risks they pose.
Additional Information Sources:
National Gulf War Resource Center
Center for Defense Information
World Policy Institute
Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
Institute for Policy Studies
From the Wilderness Publications
Iraq Action Coalition
Military Toxic Project
Fellowship of Reconciliation
National Network to end the War against Iraq
The American Gulf War Veterans Association
The Mariam Appeal
Voices in the Wilderness
The Canadian Network to end the Sanctions on Iraq
United Nations Association Film Festival at Stanford University, Palo Alto
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