Wednesday, June 04, 2003

In Iraq:

  1. Adam Ingram, the British Armed Forces minister, wrote a letter on March 25 on behalf of Tony Blair to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund stating that the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets would "not be legal." After initially denying it, he has now admitted that cluster bombs were dropped on 'built-up areas' in Iraq "in specific circumstances where there is a threat to our troops." Cluster bombs were in fact so heavily used that millions of Iraqi civilians are now at risk from them. The Humanitarian Operations Centre based in Kuwait, which is staffed by military personnel from the U. S., Britain and Kuwait, produced a map showing sites which are at danger from live munitions. Richard Lloyd, director of Landmine Action, said:

    "This shows an appalling level of contamination. It also confirms that American and British forces attacked built up areas in cities with cluster bombs. The coalition forces have a responsibility to protect those Iraqi civilians who now live with this lethal legacy all around them. It has to be highly questionable whether the use of such weapons in built-up areas is legal under international law."

    More than 240,000 cluster bombs were dropped on Iraq in the course of the attack.

  2. It is estimated that the 'coalition' dropped 1,000 to 2,000 tons of depleted uranium (assorted articles on DU here and here and here and here) on Iraq (or perhaps only 500 tons). An investigation (or here; see also here) by The Christian Science Monitor found high levels of radioactive contamination in Baghdad. The investigators saw only one site where American troops had put up handwritten warnings in Arabic for Iraqis to stay away, a site where a tank shell was producing radiation at more than 1,300 times background levels. Regardless of what the U. S. government may say for official purposes, there appears to be recognition of the danger from their troops. A sergeant from New York, assigned to a Bradley tank, said:

    "After we shoot something with DU, we're not supposed to go around it, due to the fact that it could cause cancer. We don't know the effects of what it could do. If one of our vehicles burnt with a DU round inside, or an ammo truck, we wouldn't go near it, even if it had important documents inside. We play it safe."

    Fire indicates a particular danger of contamination, and he went on to say, referring to burning vehicles:

    "We were buttoned up when we drove by that - all our hatches were closed. If we saw anything on fire, we wouldn't stop anywhere near it. We would just keep on driving."

    In the Gulf War, six American vehicles struck with DU 'friendly fire' were buried in Saudi Arabia as they were deemed to be too contaminated to take back to the United States, and six of the vehicles which were returned to South Carolina had to be buried in a low-level radioactive waste dump. It is fairly clear that the Americans do recognize the danger of DU - they just don't acknowledge the danger as it applies to Iraqis (in fact, for Iraqis the Americans seem to think that DU is practically health food). The Pentagon was concerned enough about the potential problems of DU that they had to be embarrassed into performing the legally required pre- and post-deployment medical exams to establish baseline medical records for troops sent overseas. The United Nations wants the 'coalition' to supply precise details of contaminated sites in Iraq. Britain has agreed to help clean up sites contaminated with DU. Needless to say, the United States has refused to provide any assistance.

  3. The raid on the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Baghdad was ordered by U. S. military officials without informing senior American civilians in Iraq. Therefore, the State Department was unaware for at least 24 hours that a military operation had been conducted against a diplomatic compound. Eleven people were arrested in the raid including the chargé d'affaires, Najah Abdul Rahman, and two other diplomats, all of whom had been accredited to the former government of Iraq. Palestinian officials said that the contents of a safe containing $15,000-$20,000 in cash was confiscated, together with jewelry belonging to the wife of one of the diplomats. For good measure, they also ransacked the mission. A U. S. official said:

    "Marines don't get paid to worry about any other flags other than the Stars and Stripes, and this unit carried out its disarmament mission with relish and a hearty Semper Fi."

    Do you have to take an IQ test and fail in order to be allowed into the Marines? Do the Marines now work directly for the Israeli government?

  4. Two British soldiers have been sent back to barracks after being accused of beating (or here) an Iraqi prisoner of war in Basra. British soldiers are also being investigated after two Iraqi POW's died in their custody. The investigation of Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins for war crimes continues, with the British trying to spin him out of trouble. If we include the torture of POW's photographed by the British soldier who was caught when he attempted to have his trophy photos developed, British war crimes investigators appear to have much to do.