Patrick Cockburn reports for Counterpunch (July 19th): American troops leave behind a country that is a barely floating wreck. Baghdad feels like a city under military occupation, with horrendous traffic jams caused by the 1,500 checkpoints and streets blocked off by miles of concrete blast walls that strangle communications within the city. The situation in Iraq is in many ways "better" than it was, but it could hardly be anything else, given that killings at their peak in 2006-2007 were running at about 3,000 a month. That said, Baghdad remains one of the most dangerous cities in the world, riskier to walk around than Kabul or Kandahar.
Violence may be down, but few of the 2 million Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria think it safe enough to go home. A further 1.5 million people are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), forced out of their homes by sectarian pogroms in 2006 and 2007 and too frightened to return. Of these, some half a million people try to survive in squatter camps which Refugees International describes as lacking "basic services, including water, sanitation and electricity, and built on precarious places – under bridges, alongside railroad tracks and amongst garbage dumps". A worrying fact about these camps is that the number of people in them should be shrinking as sectarian warfare ebbs, but in fact the IDP population is growing.
The Independent reports (July 24th): Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.
Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.
Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s.
BBC reports (July 21st): Cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality are all increasing in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, which saw fierce fighting between US forces and Sunni insurgents, a new survey says. Still one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, doctors have been reporting a large number of birth defects since the 2004 offensive.
Press TV reports (July 23rd): The UK defence secretary says American and British forces used depleted uranium (DU) ammunition during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003," UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in a written reply to the House of Commons on Thursday, the Kuwait News Agency reported. The use of depleted uranium ammunition is widely controversial because of potential long-term health effects.
Iraqi doctors say they have been struggling to cope with the rise in the number of cancer cases, especially in cities subjected to heavy US and British bombardment.
IRIN reports (July 12th): The city of Fallujah, about 60km west of Baghdad, still has no functioning sewage system: Waste pours onto the streets and seeps into drinking water supplies.
The city’s infrastructure was in ruins after two fierce battles between US forces and Sunni militants in 2004. In a bid to garner local support for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, US officials pledged to build a sewage treatment plant at a cost of US $35 million.Work began in July 2004 and was supposed to be completed in 18 months, but continuing violence, design changes and the replacement of incompetent contractors delayed the project and costs ballooned to over $100 million.
Six years on and with US forces preparing to withdraw from Iraq next month, not a single house is connected to the system.
There is much debate as to when we should leave Afghanistan. I feel there are key markers that will show when we have won and have “civilised” the Afghan population. Let’s look into our McCrystal ball and see what we should look out for.
1. A countrywide chain of McDonalds open for business.
2. Walmart, Tesco and Marks and Spencer trading in all the major cities.
3. The younger population overweight and becoming obese.
4. The elders put into old peoples’ homes and left in urine-soaked sheets for days.
5. Families broken up with the younger ones leaving home to work in new industrial parks for foreign companies on low wages.
6. Credit cards universal and personal debt crippling.
7. The banks charging high interest on personal loans.
8. Family agricultural units broken down, large-scale GM crops introduced and food crops exported.
9. Ready-meals replacing traditional cooking and family meals eaten in front of the TV set.
No doubt there are many more “indicators of readiness” that will show that Afghanistan is fit to take its place among the nations of the world.
Thanks to Derek Hanlin, Porth
At the August meeting of KPC it was decided that each of the two stalls in the Market Place in September should have a special focus: Trident on the 4th and the International Day of Peace on the 18th. It is hoped that in addition to the usual two members per hour on the stall, other members will join in for whatever time they can spare so as to make more of a splash.
Our Chairman, Noel, a man of great ingenuity and skill, has kindly offered to produce an eye-catching model for the occasion – worth visiting the stall for that alone!
As usual this stall will aim to appeal to children with activities and the time-honoured Peace Tree.
Please let Ed Evans know when you will be able to join these special events (see under Hilary Evans on the Contacts page).
Let Kingston Peace Council be seen in Kingston Market Place and let us get our message of PEACE across.
In spite of dull weather and rain threatened, about 50 people gathered at Canbury Gardens on August 6th. Noel read the following poem and Deputy-Mayor Ken Smith gave an excellent speech, which was followed by a minute’s silence, after which we launched our lighted boats and white flowers into the river. We appreciated the presence of several Japanese residents and their friends who have now attended regularly for several years.
Holiday reading? Hardly! For 300 pages Sue Rabbitt Roff dissects the story of the hypotheses and dubious research studies of radiation effects on people which became the gold standard for assessment of risk of radiation-induced sickness for generations of scientists and the military.
Should we express concern about leukaemia clusters around nuclear power plants or the effects of the dust cloud discharged by depleted uranium weapons, the official reply is always that there is “no known connection between low-level radiation exposure and sickness”. But, we ask, how does this square with the statistics of reported illnesses after exposure to low-level radiation? The oblique answers blame other influences, lack of research information, or worse, refer to a ‘safe’ level of exposure. A ‘safe’ level of exposure is a hypothesis – a guess.
From the outset, the ‘authorities’ firmly believed that radiation was not a problem. It was assumed air-borne explosions ensured that fallout was effectively dispersed in the atmosphere and anyone on the ground affected by radiation would be killed by blast and debris; and anyone 2 – 3km from the hypocenter of an atomic explosion would not be irradiated. They were to become the control group. Fallout and black rain were unimportant. Spontaneous deaths of unscathed survivors, bleeding gums, red spots, falling hair, unhealing wounds, sickness and diarrhoea, weakness, etc, amongst those both inside and outside the 2km radius, on 6 August, shed doubt on the official line quite early on; but if they didn’t fit they were designated as anomalies.
There was a delayed start to investigations but a critical problem, there were many, was that the research study of the Hibakusha (survivors) shared the same budget as Los Alamos in the USA which was forging ahead with nuclear bombs and the arms race. Guess where priority lay and, what chance for independent enquiry? The result was a poorly designed study based on untested hypotheses, incomplete analysis, inadequate study samples, and curtailment by economic and practical expediency. Studies looked at births, deaths, deformities and illness. It was concluded that there was a slightly higher incidence of illness which was ascribed to people being close to the hypocenter, exposed to higher levels of radiation (an estimate) and most at risk. A conclusion was that low- level exposure is possibly unlikely to be measurably harmful. Results were unreliable but scientists, politicians and the military used them to reassure us all for generations that low-level radiation exposure poses no proven risk to health. Job done!
Longer term studies showed a propensity for leukaemia, premature ageing, other cancers and birth defects with a presumption that these are attributable to higher exposure levels. Increasingly, 20 years after the bombs, simplistic ideas underpinning the studies were questioned. Radiation in Hiroshima was different from Nagasaki. Distance was one factor but others included the type of radioactivity, weather, airborne particles, ingestion by mouth, nose and lesion, length of exposure, and environmental contamination. 30 years afterward some residual environmental contamination was confirmed. The Hibakusha meanwhile were constantly discriminated against, particularly in employment and marriage, because of a propensity for sickness, hospitalization and premature death. So much for science!
From 1962 to 1971 Agent Orange was liberally sprayed on Vietnam which officials said that scientists ‘inside and outside government’ judged to pose no risk to human health. Following first reports of radiation poisoning in Hiroshima military scientists denied that possibility, and early investigations were conducted by military scientists and researchers, some from the Manhattan Project. Scientists pedaled the myth that radioactive dust, blasted into the stratosphere which acts like ‘a kind of isolation ward’, poses no threat. In the 1950s atmospheric atom bomb testing was in vogue and, for many of those involved, symptoms emerged that appeared to contradict the Hiroshima investigation findings. Investigations of childhood leukaemia clusters near nuclear power plants have been thought to be possibly related to fathers’ occupational exposure. Based on dodgy Hiroshima data this is dismissed as too low an exposure. The highest ever recorded radiation dose in UK was of William Neilson, a weld radiographer in the oil pipeline industry, which has become increasingly suspect as a source of radiation exposure and second generation childhood leukaemia. Undoubtedly the cumulative effect of regular low-level exposure is of critical importance but assumptions, partly inherited from the Hiroshima studies, are that low levels of radiation exposure are inconsequential. No doubt this also informs the official line on Depleted Uranium weapons. Extensively used in the assault on Fulluja, the fallout is believed responsible for the extensive foetus deformities – official advice: “don’t have children”.
My advice: beware of official advice, it could seriously damage your health.
Noel Hamel, Aug 2010
Part3. Concluding the review of Thoreau’s essay.
(Continued from Part 2)
In the final section of Civil Disobedience Thoreau describes his short stay in prison. He had refused to pay his tax, on the ground that the (his) government was misusing his money to support slavery, and to wage a war in Mexico. His stay was very short – just overnight. To Thoreau’s displeasure an unknown friend paid his tax, and he was released the next morning. How long he would have remained in prison, had his tax not been paid, is an open question. If the authorities decided to wait until Thoreau had changed his mind, their wait would have been very long. However his minimal stay behind bars gave him a new perspective from which to view the workings of government, and his fellow townsfolk.
It was like travelling to a far country, such as I had never expected to behold, to lie there [in gaol] for one night.
When I came out of prison . . . I saw yet more distinctly the State in which I lived.
I saw to what extent the people among whom I lived could be trusted as good neighbours and friends; that their friendship was for summer weather only; that they did not greatly propose to do right . . . that in their sacrifices to humanity, they ran no risks, not even to their property . . . and hoped, by a certain outward observance and a few prayers, to save their souls.
[He analyses why he refused to pay his tax bill] I have never declined paying the highway tax, because I am as desirous of being a good neighbour as I am of being a bad subject . . . It is for no particular item in the tax-bill that I refuse to pay it. I simply wish to refuse allegiance to the State . . . I do not care to trace the course of my dollar, if I could, till it buys a man or a musket to shoot one with – the dollar is innocent – but I am concerned to trace the effects of my allegiance.
If others pay the tax which is demanded of me, from a sympathy with the State, they do but what they have already done in their own case . . . if they pay the tax from a mistaken interest in the individual taxed, to save his property, or prevent his going to jail, it is because they have not considered wisely how far they let their private feelings interfere with the public good.
Statesmen and legislators, standing completely within the institution, never distinctly and nakedly behold it.
No man with a genius for legislation has appeared in America. They are rare in the history of the world. There are orators, politicians, and eloquent men, by the thousand; but the speaker has not yet opened his mouth to speak who is capable of settling the much-vexed questions of the day. We love eloquence for its own sake, and not for any truth which it may utter . . .
The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is progress toward a true respect for the individual. There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognise the individual as a higher and independent power from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.
Newsletter Editor for this issue was Rosemary Addington.
Disclaimer: It is the nature of a newsletter like KPN that views cannot be sought on everything that appears herein, so views expressed are almost never the agreed opinion of the group.