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On Target Britain
THE "LIBERATION" OF IRAQ HOW (NOT) TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
Published in Two Parts - Part
BRUTE FORCE AND CULTURAL INDIFFERENCE
Was it about oil?
As the hunt for Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction seems increasingly on the back burner and the smash and grab raid for oil on the front one, letters passed to the Sunday Herald cast further doubts on any serious efforts to resolve the pre war crisis diplomatically. On 6th December, Iraq provided an 11,500 page dossier to the United Nations Security Council purportedly listing, as requested all weapons destroyed and retained. In an incident Secretary General Kofi Annan described as "unfortunate", United States representatives at the United Nations persuaded the Columbian representative, then Chairing the non permanent members of the Security Council to hand over the dossier "for photocopying". Copies returned had over eight thousand pages deleted including the companies which sold Iraq weapons. All five Permanent Members of the Security Council and Germany were amongst the countries who had supplied Iraq with weapons and expertise. A senior United Nations Diplomat told the Sunday Herald that: "Columbia's Representatives had been humiliated into agreeing to parting with the dossier, their arms twisted, aid and trade deals were threatened with cancellation."
A spokesman for the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the removal of an item of such importance from the United Nations, was "highly unusual." It now transpires that since 1991, documents submitted by Iraq relating to their weapons status have been routinely "edited" by the International Atomic Energy Commission (I.A.E.A.), the United Nations weapons Inspection Team until 1998,UNSCOM, and its successor UNMOVIC thus none of the United Nations's 187 Member countries, for thirteen years have been in full possession of the facts regarding Iraq's status, a situation to which they had, astonishly "no objection", according to UNMOVIC Head, Hans Blix.
In a May 2nd 2002 letter to former MEP (Member of the European Parliament), Professor Ken Coates, Chairman of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Blix states: " . . . declarations . . . have been treated as confidential because they contained (public and private suppliers.) . . . general disclosure could have a negative effect on non proliferation efforts of the international community. . . . Consequently these declarations were not made available to the Security Council in toto, although summaries of pertinent parts were contained in periodic Reports. This procedure from 1991 onwards met with no objection from members of the Council."
It presumably wouldn't from those in the embarrassing position (like the United States) of having sold just about every chemical and biological weapon known to man to Iraq, even after the Gulf war but did not one United Nations Member country not involved, query this practise on which hung Iraq's very existence?
Relating to the December dossier, Blix states illuminatingly: " . . . out. of the original text of approximately three thousand pages falling within UNMOVIC's madate, four hundred and fifty pages were omitted from the working version. Further, five thousand pages . . . (of ) supporting material to enhance the verification of the declaration, were also not included." As a tool to make informed judgement on Iraq's weapons status, was it worth the paper it was written on?
The International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) too removed a further swathe: " . . . relating to weapons technology . . . information which described what had tried and failed and what was tried and suceeded" (surely vital for status assessment) and "information which would provide a 'shopping list' of . . . equipment and where to purchase it." Something a ten year old could find on the net in minutes. Alternatively they could put in a call to a number of the Bush Administration who have seats on arms related giants. Or to the Deputy Viceroy of Iraq, General Jay Garner who is President of Sy Coleman which makes Patriot missiles, a subsiduary of Level 3 Communications which manufactures the JDAM precision guided missiles which fell on Iraq's cities and has just landed a $1,000,000,000 contract for logistic support for United States Forces.
"In preparing the edited version of the Iraq declaration, the I.A.E.A. provided as much information as possible (to enable judgement) concerning the nature of the declaration," ends the letter to Professor Coates from Vilmos Cserveny of the I.A.E.A.. Democracy it seems, has a long way to go at the United Nations. Oh! and was Mesapotamia trashed for nothing but oil, after all?
The Conduct Of War American Style
Double Standards Again - Gulf War Atrocities, 1991
In mid-February, missiles accounted for at least 200 reported civilian deaths and 500 more injured in the town of Fallujah. The actual death toll is certainly higher. These deaths were the result of two separate attacks, allegedly on bridges. Eye witness reports have corroborated these attacks, one of which the British Royal Air Force has claimed resulted from precision-guided bombs missing their targets. However, eye witnesses disagree, calling the bomb placement intentional. Hamid Mehsan, a Fallujah merchant, who lost his son, brother and nephew in one of the attacks, saw the bombs from one attack hit a market. He said, "This pilot said he had come to hit the bridge, on television, and it was a mistake. But we're a distance of one and a half kilometres from the bridge. In our minds, we are convinced that the attack was to the market, to kill our people."
Palestinian truck drivers later confirmed that a nearby Egyptian hotel was also levelled in the attack. Two hundred people died. . . . The nature of the United States bombing campaign against the Iraqi infrastructure makes the term "collateral damage" inapplicable. The Pentagon has admitted it targeted civilian structures both to demoralize the populace and exacerbate the effects of sanctions. . . . The devastating six-week bombing and the destructive long-term sanctions have killed tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Commission research shows that probably more than 150,000 civilians have died as a result of the U.S. assault on Iraq. This includes at least 100,000 post war deaths, a figure used by many who have direct knowledge of the situation - Iraq's health minister, Dr Umaid Midhat Mubarak, and Catholic Relief services, to name two. . . .
On my trip to Iraq during the bombing, what I saw and the numbers of deaths I was able to verify directly due to the bombing led me to estimate that there had been 15,000 civilian deaths by that time. The heaviest bombing occurred during the last three week, including the tragedies at Fallujah and Amariyah.
Ramsey Clark gives a graphic account of the infamous "Turkey Shoot" towards the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians who were fleeing in disarray and ought to have been taken prisoner were slaughtered(46). Here is but one example:
* . . . hundreds, possibly thousands, of Iraqi soldiers began walking toward the U.S. position unarmed, with their arms raised in an attempt to surrender. However, the orders for this unit were not to take any prisoners. . . . The commander of the unit began the firing by shooting an anti-tank missile through one of the Iraqi soldiers. This is a missile designed to destroy tanks, but it was used against one man. At this point everybody in the unit began shooting. Quite simply, it was a slaughter.
United States Troops Anguish: Killing outmatched
Like blinding orange and white stars, United States rockets and missiles filled with deadly cluster bombs arced skyward, lending the evening clouds an unnatural glow. Moments later, the munitions exploded on targets around Baghdad, wiping out Iraqi artillery and killing scores of Iraqi soldiers. So lethal was the past week's barrage of artillery using rockets and missiles designed to demolish everything within a "grid square" (one square kilometre) that it left Lieutenant John Harrell of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1 39 Artillery Battalion with virtually nothing else to attack. "We don't have many targets left," said the lieutenant, whose multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) battery is positioned near Baghdad's southern edge. His battalion has shot 350 rockets, including 72 in a single onslaught on Baghdad International Airport a week ago. Yet even as United States commanders cite dramatic success in the three week old war, many look upon the wholesale destruction of Iraq's military and the killing of thousands of Iraqis with a sense of regret. They voice frustration at the number of Iraqis who stood their ground against overwhelming United States firepower, wasting their lives and equipment rather than capitulating as expected. "They have no command and control, no organization. They're just dying," says Brigadier General Louis Weber, an assistant commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.
This week, the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team killed at least 1,000 Iraqis by direct fire alone on a single raid into Baghdad, he said. The decimation of the Iraqi military once among the Middle East's most formidable armed forces exacerbates the power void that occupying troops must fill to stabilize the nation, Army officers say. The combat strength of most regular Iraqi Army and elite Republican Guard units has dwindled to below 20 per cent, according to United States military estimates. Some 70 per cent of Iraq's artillery has been knocked out, along with hundreds of tanks and other armoured vehicles. "We've destroyed a large majority of their military and they still need to secure their country," says Lieutenant Colonel Woody Radcliffe, who heads a 3rd Infantry Division operations centre. "it's an absolute shame. We didn't want to do this. Even a brain dead moron can understand we are so vastly superior militarily that there is no hope. You would think they would see that and give up."
Again and again, as battles raged in recent days and weeks, United States officers expressed puzzlement over Iraqi fighters' tactical ineptitude and seemingly reckless disregard for their own lives. "What are these guys thinking? It's suicide!" said Captain David Roberts, a military intelligence officer, monitoring a massing of Iraqi forces outside Baghdad while the 3rd Infantry's combat brigades rolled in to cordon off the city. "The sad thing is these guys are being led by people who don't know what they are doing." For example, Iraqis repeatedly attempted to block roads using vehicles buttressed with loose sand. United States forces either blew up the vehicles or drove around them.
"They're getting spanked again and it seems like they haven't learned anything," says Captain Kathy Cage, a signals officer with the 3rd Infantry. As the 3rd Infantry quickly advanced north along the Euphrates and west toward the capital, some soldiers began to describe the battles as almost disturbingly unfair. "At the Karbala Gap the Iraqis put up a good fight, but to no avail because we had the firepower. It was way too easy," says Staff Sergeant lra Mack, who serves at the headquarters of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. United States commanders had expected heavier fighting and the possible use of Iraqi chemical weapons as the 3rd Infantry traversed the narrow gap, a stretch of land between the Euphrates River and the Razzaza Lake.
Earlier, in a battle to isolate Najaf, United States commanders called for air strikes partly out of an aversion to mowing down Iraqis with direct fire. "There were waves and waves of people coming at them, with AK 47s, out of this factory, and they were killing everyone," says Lieutenant Colonel Radcliffe. "The commander called and said, 'This is not right. This is insane. Let's hit the factory with close air support and take them out all at once.'" For some soldiers, trauma is already sinking in. "For lack of a better word, 1 feel almost guilty about the massacre," says one soldier privately. "We wasted a lot of people. It makes you wonder how many were innocent. It takes away some of the pride. We won, but at what cost?"
Adding to the potential for post war trauma, some officers suggest, is the fact that many of the 3rd Infantry Division's troops are barely 20 years old. "The average soldier now is 19 to 21 years old," says Sergeant Mack. "You have 2l year old sergeants. They're not experienced enough to maintain control over themselves or their soldiers in the heat of the battle. They're just two years off the streets. We have WAs [Wounded In Action] wearing Purple Hearts who are 20 years old."
As the longest deployed Army division in the region and the one that provided the bulk of the Army's combat power, the 3rd Infantry Division is not likely to serve as an occupying force in Iraq. Instead, it should be one of the first arriving home. But before that, officers stress, the soldiers must have time to decompress. "The reality is, we've got a bunch of steely eyed killers that have destroyed all the enemy forces they've come into contact with," worries Radeliffe. "The switch is on right now, and you can't just turn it off."
Iraq Grenade Attack Hurts seven United States
Soldiers In Fallujah
Attackers lobbed two grenades into a United States Army compound Thursday, wounding seven soldiers just hours after the Americans had fired on Iraqi protesters in the street outside, a United States Intelligence officer reported. The incident the latest in a series of clashes and deadly shootings involving United States troops in Fallujah came as President Bush prepared to address to the American public from a homeward bound aircraft carrier, declaring that major combat in Iraq is finished. None of the injuries to soldiers of the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment in Fallujah was life threatening, said Captain Frank Rosenblatt. The troops inside the walled compound a former police station opened fire on men fleeing the area, but no one was captured or believed hit, said Rosenblatt, whose 82nd Airborne Division is handing over control of Fallujah to the Armoured Cavalry. Officers said the attackers' identities were unknown.
The attack, at 1am. Thursday, came after soldiers in the compound and in a passing Army convoy opened fire on Wednesday on anti American demonstrators massed outside. Local hospital officials said two Iraqis were killed and 18 wounded. American officers said that barrage was provoked when someone fired on the convoy from the crowd. Wednesday's march was to protest earlier bloodshed Monday night, when 16 demonstrators and bystanders were killed and more than 50 wounded, according to hospital counts. In that clash, an 82nd Airborne Company, whose members said they were being shot at, fired on a protest outside a school occupied by United States soldiers. Some Fallujah residents said they had heard relatives of victims vow to avenge Wednesday's shootings and many in the city have declared they want the American troops to leave.
Brigadier General Dan Hahn, the Army V Corps Chief of Staff, said United States forces had solid intelligence that the "bad actors" in Fallujah were members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party who were using crowds as cover during demonstrations. "The people in the city want to get rid of this problem. We have people in the city coming up to tell us who the bad actors are," Hahn said. "In every instance, our soldiers have shown discipline and restraint." In the future, he said, tear gas and other riot control measure might be used to quash violent demonstrations.
Fallujah, a city of 200,000 people 30 miles west of Baghdad, benefited more than most Iraqi towns from Saddam's regime. The regime built chemical and other factories that generated jobs for Fallujah's workers and wealth for its businessmen. Many of its young men joined elite regime forces such as the Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard. United States military officials met Wednesday with local religious and clan leaders on the security situation. "We asked the commanding officers for an investigation and for compensation for the families of the dead and injured," said Taha Bedaiwi al Alwani, the new, United States recognized mayor of Fallujah. Residents told reporters they were troubled by soldiers looking at Fallujah women, and some believed the Americans' goggles or binoculars could "see" through curtains or clothing.
Despite the clashes in Fallujah, United States military commanders in Baghdad said the overall situation in Iraq is improving. "If you look at the country as a whole, it is stable," said Hahn. However, he said the massive amount of arms and ammunition being uncovered daily across Iraq posed a major problem. "The entire country is almost like an ammunitions and weapons dump. And they've placed them in places you would not expect," he said. "There are weapons here from every country in the world that makes weapons." In the northern city of Mosul, 153 arms caches had already been found, one containing 1,200,000 mortar rounds and 65,000 artillery shells. Some 150 arms and ammunition sites have been discovered in Baghdad, officials said.
In a radio broadcast Thursday, the commander of United States ground forces in Iraq urged citizens to help move the country forward by going back to work, stopping looting and cooperating to improve postwar security. Lieutenant General David McKiernan made the statement through Information Radio, the United States led coalition's station, which is being broadcast across Iraq. "I call for putting an end to all acts of sabotage and criminal acts including plundering, looting and attacking coalition forces," he said in remarks read by an announcer in Arabic. Information Radio has been running frequent announcements exhorting Iraqis to accept United States forces, and warning any foreign fighters in Iraq to leave or face arrest. McKiernan also said that any checkpoints not supervised by coalition forces are unauthorised.
Fallujah A Shooting Too Far?
The shooting of protesters outside a school at Fallujah, approximately 30 miles west of Baghdad where United States troops were apparently billeted by United States troops reportedly from the 1st Battalion of 325th Airborne Infantry Division of the 82nd Airborne Division, may be an outrage too far and return to haunt the United States and United Kingdom troops. Iraq is a country where historical memory is immediate and like Ireland, perceived or actual injustices never fade.
Fallujah was seized by the British under General
Stanley Maude on 19th March 1917. He is buried in Baghdad's Rashid Cemetery.
More recently Fallujah was provided by the United Kingdom, in the 1980's
with a £14,000,000 chemical factory to produce chlorine and phenol,
named the Tariq plant. The deal was allegedly concealed from Parliament
by the then Trade Minister, Sir Paul Channon. When the Gulf war disrupted
production at the Fallujah plant, Iraq successfully claimed three hundred
thousand pounds compensation from the United Kingdom government's Export
Credit Guarantee Department.
Fallujah is seared into Iraq's collective psyche
as completely as the attack on the Ameriyah civilian air raid shelter,
bombed by United States' planes during the Gulf war. Also in 1991, the
market in Falluja was bombed, reportedly by United States planes flying
very low. Other reports say the United Kingdom planes were also involved.
When residents ran to help the injured and seek the dead, in a familiar
pattern, the planes returned and bombed the rescuers. Former United
States Attorney General Ramsey Clark visited shortly after and reported
at least two hundred civilian deaths and a stunning five hundred injured(1).
The attacks also levelled an Egyptian owned hotel and a row of modern,
concrete five and six story apartments with a further (estimated at
the time) two hundred dead. Military spokespersons later said they were
aiming for a bridge, but Human Rights Watch reported that: "All buildings
for four hundred metres on either side of the street houses and market,
He states that attacks on civilians were stated by the military (then as now) were to "demoralise".. To visit Fallujah is to be shamed and stoned. The only place in Iraq I have ever experienced hostility. It is a hostility easy to understand. A tour of the re established market or anywhere else, reveals traders with amputated limbs who survived the attack and not a person, seemingly, who has not lost one or more of their family. The Tariq plant at Fallujah was one of the stated reasons for the slaughter and invasion of Gulf War Two. "Iraq had embedded key portions of its chemical weapons infrastructure" Colin Powell is reported as saying, with Prime Minister Blair faithfully repeating the allegation last Autumn. (How they love that "embedded" word, does the Pentagon-State Department not have a Thesaurus?) I visited the plant in 1999 and another cited chemical weapon plant at Al Doura in a suburb of Baghdad. Both had been completely trashed by UNSCOM.
Days before Colin Powell and Tony Blair made their allegation, Count Hans von Sponeck, a former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and United Nations Co ordintor in Iraq, visited both plants with a crew from German state television. He told this writer: "They are in the same trashed state as when you and I visited in 1999. There is one difference: the undergrowth is higher."
"Hearts and minds" are being lost in Iraq with stunning speed. This further slaughter by an unwelcome, invading force, of a "liberated" crowd, may, I predict, mark the beginning of the end for the "coalition." "They stole out oil, now they are killing our people", said one grieving relative. Writing this, I remembered the word on the street in Iraq, when I was there little over a month ago. It was encapsulated by a western educated Iraqi graduate of the Sorbonne, an intellectual who speaks numerous languages, a true international. "Let them come", she said "we have been burying invaders for centuries and we have plenty of spaces next to General Maude."
I Saw Marines Kill Civilians
"Everything began at the Kuwait-Iraq border. I forced my way into the country and arrived at Safwan. American soldiers had seized the opportunity to tear up portraits of Saddam Hussein on the main street. They were doing this right in front of the local inhabitants, whose elation quickly vanished. The soldiers obviously didn't imagine that it was up to the Iraqis to be doing this, or that it was humiliating for them. These were the same soldiers who would topple down Saddam's statue in Baghdad three weeks later . . . I understood that the Marines' general strategy was to not waste any time. In the cities they crossed, the Marines had to make a show of force. Then they would resume their advance by going as fast as possible up by the east through the desert, and avoid any contact with the population. It takes an effort to picture what an army looks like as it advances through the sands. It's an anthill. It's more than a city on the march. It's a world whose extremities are never seen. It's a cutting edge, mechanical version of Julius Caesar's army.
During the first few days, with colleagues from the New York Times and Newsweek, I tried to follow the convoys in a SUV by playing hide and seek. We were spending a lot of time then with the 1,500 Marines of the 3/4, commanded by Colonel Bryan P. McCoy. His troops gave us water, gas and food. In exchange for their tolerance, we respected the rules to not pass the convoy and to camp at such and such a place. We were just barely tolerated. The colonel could see that the "few jokers were behaving well". He knew we had experienced more wars than his own troops. For McCoy, we were obviously interesting right from the start. We were the ones who could tell his story. Trust settled in between us. He let us drive at the head of the convoy. The Marines are generally less privileged than the army. They're trained to do the dirty work, the less honorary jobs. They have the oldest tanks, and the least up to date M16 rifles. They themselves translate "U.S.M.C." (United States Marine Corps) by United States Misgodded Children, that is,. the U.S.' forgotten children, forgotten by God. Their motto is "Search and Kill". The "Kilo" unit is nicknamed "Killer Kilo". The words "Carnivore" or "Blind Killer" are painted on their tanks. McCoy could snap with a "Shame on You" a smile flashing across his face to the sniper who had just finished telling him: "I've got eight, Sir, but only five". Literally meaning: I've shot eight, but only five of them are dead.
I've never seen a war with so few "returns". The Iraqi army was like a ghost. It barely existed. Over the three weeks, I only saw the adversary fire a few short range rockets and a few shots. I saw deserted trenches, a dead Iraqi soldier lying next to a piece of bread and some old equipment. Nothing that really made you feel that there was a real confrontation going on, nothing comparable to the massiveness of the means at the Americans' disposal.
On April 6, we were at the outskirts of Baghdad, facing a strategic bridge the Americans called "the Baghdad Highway Bridge". Residential zones were now much greater in number. American snipers got the order to kill anything coming in their direction. That night a teenager who was crossing the bridge was killed. On the morning of April 7, the Marines decided to cross the bridge. A shell fell onto an armoured personnel carrier. Two marines were killed. The crossing took on a tragic aspect. The soldiers were stressed, febrile. They were shouting. The risk didn't appear to be that great, so I followed their advance. They were howling, shouting orders and positions to each other. It sounded like something in between a phantasm, mythology and conditioning. The operation was transformed into crossing the bridge over the River Kwai. Later, there was some open terrain. The Marines were advancing and taking up position, hiding behind mounds of earth. They were still really tense.
A small blue van was moving towards the convoy. Three not-very-accurate warning shots were fired. The shots were supposed to make the van stop. The van kept on driving, made a U turn, took shelter and then returned slowly. The Marines opened fire. All hell broke loose. They were firing all over the place. You could hear "Stop firing" being shouted. The silence that set in was overwhelming. Two men and a woman had just been riddled with bullets. So this was the enemy, the threat. A second vehicle drove up. The same scenario was repeated. Its passengers were killed on the spot. A grandfather was walking slowly with a cane on the sidewalk. They killed him too (See photo in Le Monde). As with the old man, the Marines fired on a SUV driving along the river bank that was getting too close to them. Riddled with bullets, the vehicle rolled over. Two women and a child got out, miraculously still alive. They sought refuge in the wreckage. A few seconds later, it flew into bits as a tank lobbed a terse shot into it.
Marines are conditioned to reach their target at any cost, by staying alive and facing any type of enemy. They abusively make use of disproportionate firepower. These hardened troops, followed by tons of equipment, supported by extraordinary artillery power, protected by fighter jets and cutting edge helicopters, were shooting on local inhabitants who understood absolutely nothing of what was going on. With my own eyes I saw about fifteen civilians killed in two days. I've gone through enough wars to know that it's always dirty, that civilians are always the first victims. But the way it was happening here, it was insane. At the roughest moment, the most humane of the troops was called Doug. He gave real warning shots. From 800 yards he could hit a tire and, if that wasn't enough, then the motor. He saved ten lives in two hours by driving back civilians who were coming towards us. Distraught soldiers were saying: "I ain't prepared for this, I didn't come here to shoot civilians." The colonel countered that the Iraqis were using inhabitants to kill marines, that "soldiers were being disguised as civilians, and that ambulances were perpetrating terrorist attacks."
I drove away a girl who had had her humerus pierced by a bullet. Enrico was holding her in his arms. In the rear, the girl's father was protecting his young son, wounded in the torso and losing consciousness. The man spoke in gestures to the doctor at the back of the lines, pleading: "I don't understand, I was walking and holding my children's hands. Why didn't you shoot in the air? Or at least shoot me?"
In Baghdad, McCoy sped up the march. He stopped
taking the time to search houses one by one. He wanted to get to Paradise
Place as soon as possible. The Marines were not firing on the thickening
population. The course ended with Saddam's statue being toppled. There
were more journalists at the scene than Baghdadis. Its five million
inhabitants stayed at home.
Baghdad's banks stripped as US soldiers stand
A wave of brazen bank robberies has swept through the centre of Baghdad in the past few days in full view of the occupying American forces, and the astonishing dimensions are only now becoming clear. A tour of 20 banks in the city by The Independent yesterday found 15 wrecked, torched and looted. Even the front doors are missing from a few. US dollars, Iraqi dinars, toilet bowls and dirt cheap light fittings have been stolen, leaving some Iraqis, whose average earnings are less than ## a year, facing the loss of their life savings. Aia al Nasir, professional translator aged 50, is among those desperate to know whether they will ever see their money again. He had the equivalent of ## [the transmission did not include the correct figure - Ed.] in a branch of the state owned Rasheed Bank, which was stripped bare. "it was the harvest of my life's work," he said. "There are plenty others in my neighbourhood like me."
A United States Abrams tank, several [other] armoured fighting vehicles and a company of Marines have finally been stationed at the Iraqi Central Bank, unsubtly marking their presence by flying the United States flag in front of the towering, fortress style building. But they were deployed only on Thursday afternoon, eight days after the United States troops arrived in the city centre. For at least two days, the bank, and two others that adjoin it the headquarters of the Rasheed and Rafidian banks had been looted by men armed with rocket propelled grenades, AK 47s, knives and welding torches. The attackers reduced the Central Bank, a modern, nine storey building rumoured to hold great wealth, to a total wreck, floors strewn with charred Iraqi dinar bank notes, shattered glass and prised open cupboards and safes. Within hours of the Marines' deployment at the bank, they shot dead three Iraqi men on the street with their tank's 7.62mm machine guns. No one knows how many civilians have been shot by American soldiers in Baghdad in similar circumstances. The dead men were not connected with the people raiding the bank.
"Unfortunately, we killed the good guys," said Lieutenant Patrick Spencer, 35, of the United States Marines 13/4 company, "We found that out later by looking at their ID. The marines on the guns are not at all happy about what happened." He said the Iraqis arrived from out of town unaware of a night curfew and had misunderstood instructions to leave the area. Warning shots were fired at their tyres, he said. The Americans have also been astounded by the ferocity of the attacks on banks. They say the raiders have been shooting and killing one another in the rush to grab the booty.
The failure of the Americans to do anything to stop the robberies is fuelling the unfolding anti American sentiment. It also means that the business of unravelling compensation and insurance claims, and creating a banking system in the aftermath of the war, will be an immense undertaking. Rumours abound that the bank raids were organised, a view also widely held about the burning of buildings containing ministries and antiquities. Many sceptical Iraqis say the Americans moved swiftly to protect the oil and interior ministries but allowed other buildings to go up in smoke and hospitals to be looted.
United States Troops "Encouraged" Iraqi Looters
General Tommy Franks is threatened with a Belgian
war crimes trial alleging United States troops failed to prevent looting
in Iraq. BBC News Online uncovers evidence suggesting his soldiers even
egged on some looters.
"Green light" To Looters
Ali Thowani, 27, a pharmacist and former student of the institute, also tried reasoning with the Americans in English. "I spoke to the Americans and they refused to protect the institution. 'We're not police and that's not our job,' they said." More worrying still are the accounts of two eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the Americans encouraging the looters.
Troops "Waved" Looters On
Before the war, Nasiriya's technical institute had 2,500 students and taught community health, mechanical and electrical engineering and computing, among other subjects. Every bit of hard work that went into building up the college, which opened in the early 1980s, was swiftly destroyed. About 100 air conditioning units and 100 computers were stolen. Rooms were torched; the science laboratories wrecked; the main lecture hall looks like a hurricane has passed through it.
A Campus Wrecked
"Iraqis need to protect their own cities; Coalition Forces will help the Iraqi people police themselves. For example, in AI Kut where people are cooperating with Coalition Forces they have stood up a city police force. The coalition has even provided arms for the local police force. Iraqis will run Iraq and they will govern themselves."
Looters At Key Iraqi Nuclear Site Terrify
Looters rifling through one of Iraq's main nuclear sites here at AI Tuwaitha and carting off whatever they can carry are making local residents terrified of the danger. "Why did the Americans let people inside?" said Bilal Abdallah, a 31 year old who used to work at AI Tuwaitha, a site which received regular visits by United Nations arms inspectors trying to find Saddam Hussein's banned weapons. The complex, believed to have held natural or low grade uranium, was extensively pillaged several days ago but the looting is still going on. Groups of young boys wandered the site, digging out hoses, iron plates and generators.
An ageing shepherd grazed his flock next to a giant freshly dug mound, apparently not knowing what could be buried underneath. An Agence France Presse [A.F.P.] reporter saw a United States soldier in a passing armoured vehicle who started to drive by but stopped to coax the shepherd away. The soldier refused to comment on whether the site contained radioactive material. Ali Ghanem, a driver, said three people died last week in the town, just southeast of Baghdad, after being contaminated by something stolen from the AI Tuwaitha site. "They were buried with the material in the village of Wardieh," he said. It was not immediately possible to verify his claim but the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [I.A.E.A.], has expressed concern over the potential hazards.
"We don't consider it necessarily a problem of nuclear proliferation but it could be a problem of health and safety and environmental contamination," spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said Monday. The agency has asked the United States for access to the site to verify what may have been looted but so far it has not been granted.
"Coalition forces have secured the facilities that housed the natural and low enriched uranium that was at those sites," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday. The Washingon Post reported Sunday that a Pentagon team sent to examine a radioactive waste dump in Iraq found it so heavily looted they could not tell whether dangerous materials had been taken. Pentagon experts have so far visited seven sites associated with Iraq's nuclear programme since major combat ended last month. None of them are intact and two had been plundered extensively, it said.
The I.A.E.A.'s Melissa Fleming said "tonne" of natural uranium were at the AI Tuwaitha site but that the material, known as yellowcake, was not suitable for so called dirty bombs. She said the I.A.E.A. had removed or destroyed highly enriched uranium, fissile material that can be used in a nuclear bomb, from Iraq before its inspectors left in 1998. She said the current concern was over so called "radioactive sources" and that there were over 1,000 of them in Iraq, "including large numbers that were stored in Tuwaitha."
Residents told A.F.P. that a local Sheikh had summoned looters to return the stolen goods, but amid the top secrecy that reigned under Saddam, few here appeared to be fully aware of the potential dangers. "An expert came to tell us it was very dangerous to take anything from the site. She said people had stolen containers with chemical agents and dug inside nuclear waste," said a resident who was too afraid to give his name. He said he believed the expert was Rihab Taha, the head of Iraq's secret biological weapons programme. Known as "Dr Ger"," she has disappeared.
Nuclear Sites Breached
Seven Nuclear Sites Looted, Iraqi Scientific
Files, Some Containers Missing
Seven nuclear facilities in Iraq have been damaged or effectively destroyed by the looting that began in the first days of April, when United States ground forces thrust into Baghdad, according to United States investigators and others with detailed knowledge of their work. The Bush administration fears that technical documents, sensitive equipment and possibly radiation sources have been scattered. If so, there are potentially significant consequences for public health and the spread of materials to build a nuclear or radiological bomb. President Bush had said the war was fought to prevent the spread of "the world's most dangerous weapons." Iraq's nuclear research headquarters at Al Tuwaitha. Looters are carting off whatever they can carry from the nuclear site. It is still not clear what has been lost in the sacking of Iraq's nuclear establishment. But it is well documented that looters roamed unrestrained among stores of chemical elements and scientific files that would speed development, in the wrong hands, of a nuclear or radiological bomb. Many of the files, and some of the containers that held radioactive sources, are missing.
Previous reports have described damage at two of the facilities, the Tuwaitha Yellowcake Storage Facility and the adjacent Baghdad Nuclear Research Center. Now, the identity of three more damaged sites has been learned: the Ash Shaykhili Nuclear Facility, the Baghdad New Nuclear Design Center and the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment. All of them have attracted close scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.), and from United States analysts who suspected that Iraq, despite I.A.E.A. inspections, was working to develop a bomb. The identities of two other sites, also said to have been looted, could not be learned.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Charles Allison, who led the United States survey team at Ash Shaykhili, said in an interview that its "warehouses were completely destroyed" by ransacking and fire. A Special Forces soldier, part of another team that reached Ash Shaykhili before Allison, said "they were supposed to store all their enrichment processing machinery there, but it was all gone or badly burned." Alarmed by similar reports about the two Tuwaitha area sites, I.A.E.A.'s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, sent a letter Monday pressing earlier demands that the United States grant the agency access to Iraq's nuclear sites. He has previously asserted that the I.A.E.A. has sole legal authority over the sites under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and United Nations resolutions. But an adviser to ElBaradei said late Thursday that "we have got no official reply" from the United States.
Ash Shaykhili, 10 miles southeast of Baghdad, was the legally designated repository of heavy equipment used in Iraq's former nuclear weapons program. Some of the equipment was destroyed when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in 1981 and when the United States bombed a Russian research reactor there 10 years later. Other gear had been seized and rendered useless by I.A.E.A. inspectors between 1991 and 1998. Subject to regular inspection by the nuclear watchdog agency, Ash Shaykhili held destroyed centrifuges once used to enrich uranium, disks and machinery used in an alternate enrichment process called electromagnetic isotope separation, key components of the bomb damaged reactors, vacuum pumps and valves. Experts said it may have held small radiation sources, but not in significant quantities. Allison's United States survey team sought evidence that the site concealed other, forbidden activities, particularly in an underground space that United States intelligence thought suspicious. But when Allison arrived on April 24th, he found it "so looted that it was just basically warehouses with all kinds of crap all over the floor," he said. "If there was something there it's long since gone."
Another site known to have been damaged is the
Baghdad New Nuclear Design Center. A prominent yellow building, the
center housed the key personnel responsible for the crash program that
nearly succeeded in building a nuclear bomb in 1991. That program, known
by the code name Petrochemical Three, or PC 3, demonstrated Iraqi mastery
of three different nuclear enrichment technologies: fabrication of finely
milled uranium or plutonium spheres for the core of a fission bomb and
the makings of a sophisticated implosion device to detonate the weapon.
Many of the principal scientists and technicians of PC 3 moved to jobs
at the new nuclear design center. They formed an umbrella organization
for electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering research, all potentially
useful for a nuclear weapon. But I.A.E.A. inspectors watched the work
carefully, and an expert with detailed knowledge of the results said
the agency "didn't find anything that indicated ongoing prohibited activities
regarding nuclear weapons."
The third site that was badly damaged is the Tahadi Nuclear Establishment. Jacques Baute, who heads the I.A.E.A.'s Iraq Action Team, made that site his first stop when I.A.E.A. inspections resumed Nov. 27th, according to press accounts. Tahadi was thought to be a potential location of renewed weapons activity because, like the Baghdad center, it employed some of Iraq's leading weapons scientists. Unlike the Baghdad centre, it housed substantial dual use equipment, capable of both permitted and prohibited work. Tahadi hosted magnetic research and development of high voltage power supplies. Those can be used as components of a programme to enrich uranium to weapons grade. An expert on Iraq's weapons programme with close ties to the I.A.E.A. said in an interview that the site was "at the top of the list" of sites that might be involved in prohibited centrifuge work.
The Bush Administration accused Iraq of attempting to import specialized aluminum tubes for such a centrifuge cascade, but the I.A.E.A. said they were not suitable. The administration sought evidence at Tahadi, but the Direct Support Team found little left. At the Baghdad site and Tahadi, experts said there might have been small radiation sources to calibrate instruments, but nothing in quantity. At two other looted sites, Tuwaitha's Location C and the Baghdad Nuclear Research Centre nearby, there were significant quantities of partially enriched uranium, cesium, strontium and cobalt. United States survey teams have been unable to say whether any of those radiation sources were stolen. According to witnesses, Allison's survey team reached both of these sites on April 10th, the same day that ElBaradei cited them as the two most important for United States forces to protect. But because of continuing debate within the Bush administration over whether to enter without I.A.E.A. inspectors present, Allison received a hasty order to withdraw.
When Allison was told to evacuate all United States personnel, including troops providing security at the perimeter, he grew agitated, witnesses said. "Whoever gave that order better check his retirement plan, because if we leave this place open somebody is going to lose their job," he told an officer at the ground forces operations center of Central Command, according to two witnesses. Allison confirmed the gist of the conversation. Eventually Central Command relented and ordered a company of the 3rd Infantry Division to guard both Tuwaitha area sites. But the twin complexes, about a square mile each and half a mile apart, were far too big for the force left in place. Soldiers posted there permitted Iraqi civilians who said they were employees to enter freely. Looting at both places continued last Saturday, when a Washington Post reporter spent four hours at the site.
Daoud Awad, who ran the electrical design department at Tuwaitha, said in a brief interview that he "saw with my own eyes people carrying the containers we used to put radioactive materials in." The containers slightly resemble jugs commonly used for milk, he said, "and they didn't know what was inside." "I saw some papers on an experiment, and the people threw the papers on the floor and took the table," he said. "If they knew how valuable the papers were, they would have kept the papers, not the table." "How could they leave a place like this without protection?" he asked. "It's not an ordinary place. It's too dangerous."
Staff researcher Robert Thomason in Washington
contributed to this report.
United States arms control officials yesterday rejected an International Atomic Energy Agency [I.A.E.A.] request for access to Iraq nuclear facilities at Tuwaitha, believed to be the main site in Iraq's former nuclear weapons programme. Agency officials are seeking to return there to determine what materials may have been stolen during looting, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. I.A.E.A. officials criticized the United States decision, demanding access to conduct an "immediate inspection." "If this happened anywhere else in the world, we would demand an immediate inspection," said Agency spoke Mark Gwozdecky. "We want an immediate inspection to determine what has been taken. We also must place safeguards over the material still remaining," he said. Gwozdecky warned that radioactive materials looted from the site could pose both environmental and security risks. "We are concerned about environmental contamination, people who could have been exposed to the radioactive material, and whether nuclear security has been compromised," Gwozdecky said. "We do not want this material to end up with terrorists," he added.
Nonproliferation experts also agreed that the possible looting of the Tuwaitha complex was a cause for concern. "If you wanted to blow the entire operation in Iraq, a good way to do that would be to have haphazard security-known facilities where Weapons of Mass Destruction were developed," said Michael Barietta of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "It's one thing to see people looting antiquities from museums. It's another to learn that radiological sources may have been taken out of Tuwaitha, the best known atomic weapons site in the entire country," he said. The United States still has not determined if I.A.E.A. inspectors will be granted access to Iraqi nuclear sites, United States State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday: "We have been in touch with the I.A.E.A.. We're in touch with them on various issues all the time," Boucher said. "There is no decision at this point about what role they may or may not play in terms of evaluating and monitor at this point," he said.
Depleted Uranium Will Be Used Says Minitry
If uranium is used in large, explosive "hard target" warheads (up to 1,500 kilograms) there would be levels of radioactive contamination 100 times higher and more widespread than the D.U. anti tank "penetrators" used in 1991. In the United Kingdom the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced: "'D.U. will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect themselves and succeed in conflict." The MoD also claimed that "there is no scientific or medical evidence to link D.U. with ill health".
What They Don't Want You To Know
Discounted Casualties - The Human Cost Of depleted Uranium
In the current context, Discounted Casualties: The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium is not only relevant and timely but urgent. Written by Akira Tashiro, an investigative reporter for the Hiroshima daily The Chugoku Shimbun and focusing on the history and diffusion of Depleted Uranium (D.U.) munitions, the book takes us on a global odyssey from the United States to the United Kingdom, through Iraq, Kosovo, and Okinawa. Written for the general public, it begins with an overview.
Crude uranium ore undergoes an "enrichment" process to extract highly radioactive Uranium 235, used for nuclear weapons and reactors. The by product of this process is Uranium 238 metal, or D.U., of which more than half a million tonnes have been produced since the 1940s. In the 1960s, the United States military noted that certain properties of D.U. namely, its high density and flammability might make it useful for projectiles. It could also be acquired free of charge from the Department of Energy. In the 1970s, production of D.U. munitions began. They were first used in combat during the Gulf War, and some 950,000 D.U. rounds were fired from tanks and aircraft during Operation Desert Storm. Because the projectiles burn on impact, some of the mass vapourises and diffuses into the air as uranium oxide particles, small enough to be inhaled into the throat and lungs. Although the Pentagon apparently knew about the potential hazards of D.U. as early as the 1970s, no information or training was given to Gulf War soldiers. The result? Out of nearly 700,000 participating United States troops, approximately 436,000 entered areas contaminated by D.U. shells. Thousands of veterans died in the years following the war, and many others fell ill to leukaemia, lung cancer, kidney and liver disorders, joint pain, and congenital birth defects.
In a series of harrowing chapters, Tashiro presents a drama played out on various stages. "On the Wrong Side of a Superpower" tells the story of individual Gulf War veterans and their illnesses. One young veteran from New Mexico describes how 25 chunks of radioactive shrapnel were removed from his body (the result of so called "friendly fire") and how he later developed a bone tumour. A female veteran from California, exposed days after United States forces destroyed thousands of vehicles on the "Highway of Death" between Kuwait City and Basra (in southern Iraq), began suffering from headaches, sore joints, and extremely heavy menstrual bleeding in mid 1991. Yet another veteran, a native Oklahoman, apparently transmitted D.U. particles to his young wife through sexual contact. She now suffers from abdominal pains, miscarriages, and severe menstrual pains.
During the 1970s and 1980s, D.U. munitions were produced in a number of places in the United States. "The Threat in Our Backyards" examines the effects of D.U. production in suburban Concord, Massachusetts, a town in upstate New York, and a factory in northeastern Tennessee. By weaving together the experiences of residents and workers exposed to D.U. and the work of environmental analysts, epidemiologists, and nuclear scientists, Tashiro invites readers to draw links between the sites of D.U. munitions production and increased rates of cancer, tumours, and birth defects.
"Heavy Burden for an Ally" examines the human costs borne by exposed British Gulf War veterans. Of the 53,000 British soldiers sent to the Middle East in 1991, approximately 30,000 were stationed on the front lines. Since then, nearly 500 veterans have died and 6,000 more complain of physical problems similar to those of their counterparts in the United States. But perhaps the most graphic chapter in the book is the penultimate, "The Scars of War", set in post war Iraq. The statistics presented by local health officials are staggering. Cancer rates have skyrocketed. In Basra, the number of people who have died of cancer in hospitals has increased more than ten fold since the late 1980s. leukaemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, and birth defects, once rare, are now common in the south of the country. Cancer cases and congenital birth defects have increased from three to four times since the end of the Gulf War. Not only veterans, but women, children, and other civilians in Basra and Safan were exposed.
There are reports that 20 per cent of the women in Safan between the ages of 25 and 40 have lumps in their breasts, in an area where nearly all residents have inhaled D.U. particles. The chapter ends with a heartbreaking collection of photos of Iraqi children who were exposed to D.U. and have fallen ill with lymphoma, leukaemia, and other cancers. Their situation is made even more difficult as the result of economic sanctions.
Radiation therapy, chemotherapy drugs, and other treatments are in short supply. And since contamination has settled in the soil, water, and plants of the region, it is likely that the effects will be long lasting. The book concludes with a chapter that analyses the environmental and legal implications of D.U., and the growing global movement to ban it, with the final pages drawing our attention to the ongoing use of D.U. in recent military operations in the former Yugoslavia and firing ranges in Okinawa prefecture.
Discounted Casualties is a sophisticated and successful exploration of the biological and social impacts of D.U., an artifact as essential to the "New World Order" as the derringer was to the Wild West. It is sure to provoke indignation and outrage among its readers and hopefully inspiration in these most calamitous of times.
BRIEFING: Cluster Bombs: The Indiscriminate Killer.
Introduction The war on Iraq has indeed seen the use of weapons of mass destruction: the unleashing of cluster bombs by the United States and British forces upon the Iraqi population, massacring and terrorizing the very people whom they purport to liberate. The American and British government leaders and military commanders finally admitted that they are using cluster bombs dropped by high flying bomber squadrons, although there is ample evidence they have also been fired from jet fighters, tanks, artillery and off shore missile launchers. The use of cluster bombs have been reported in Basra, Najaf, Karbala, Hilia and Baghdad itself. The worst incident to date has been the attack last week on Hilia, a region 80 kilometers south of Baghdad. It left at least 61 Iraqi civilians dead and more than 450 seriously injured, mainly children.
Extensively used by United States forces in Vietnam, the 1991 Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan, and by Israel in the 1982 siege of West Beirut, cluster bombs have received severe condemnation from human rights and humanitarian organisations. There is consensus in the international community that these weapons are unacceptable and in breach of international humanitarian law, with many calling for a moratorium on their use. The effects of cluster bombs are comparable to those of anti personnel mines, which are outlawed by the 1999 Ottawa Treaty. Despite this they remain a firm favourite in the United States weapons arsenal and Britain engages in its use in defiance of the Resolution of December 13th, 2001, by the European Parliament, calling for an immediate global moratorium on their use to be followed by an outright ban.
"What are cluster bombs? Cluster bombs may be delivered by aircraft, rocket. or by artillery projectiles. Each cluster bomb is composed of 200 to 700 of sub-munitions called bomblets or grenades, depending on the method of delivery. They are carried in a large cannister that break open in mid air, dispersing the sub-munitions over a large area. The higher the altitude at which the bornblets are released, the wider the target zone. Each exploding bomblet fragments into about hundreds of pieces of jagged steel, in effect creating a blizzard of shrapnel.
Different Types of cluster bombs and their Effects
The C.B.U. (Cluster Bomb Unit) 41 carries napaim
filled bomblets and the Honest John carries 368 Sarin nerve gas filled
bomblets, both having lethal effects. In Indochina the use of the WDU
4 cluster bomb, meant that the overhead release of 6,000 barbed metal
darts, literally had the effect of nailing people to the ground. The
CBU 87, one of the United States favourites and widely used by them
in the first Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan, consists of a triple
action killing device: anti personnel (for people), anti armour (for
tanks), and incendiary (setting the target area on fire). The CBU 26,
widely used in Laos between 1964 to 1973, is an anti personnel fragmentation
bomb that consists of a large bombshell holding 670 tennis ball sized
bomblets, each of which contain 300 metal fragments. The detonations
of all the bomblets creates a deadly killing zone, propelling 200,000
steel fragments over an area the size of several football fields. It
is estimated that some 90,000,000 CBU 26 bomblets were dropped on Laos
(and the CBU 26 is just one of 12 different kinds of cluster bombs that
have been recovered there to date).
Failure rates and their long term effects
The Use of Cluster Bombs in Past Conflicts
The United Nations' Mine Action Co ordination Centre (M.A.C.C.), estimates that 7- 11 per cent of bomblets about 20,000 failed to blow up during NATO's air campaign in Kosovo. According to the Red Gross, children in Kosovo are five times more likely to be killed or injured by a NATO dropped unexploded cluster bomb than by a Serbian landmine.
According to Human Rights Watch, the United States dropped around 1,230 cluster bombs containing around 248,056 deadly bomblets on Afghanistan between October 2001 and March 2002. They estimate that when taking a conservative estimate of a 5 per cent failure rate, it is likely that there are 12,400 explosive duds that threaten civilians and require clearance.
Conclusion: Are they permitted under international
law? The wide dispersal of cluster bombs and their failure to target
precisely means that they have particularly lethal results when used
in or near civilian areas. Although not specifically prohibited under
international law, the Geneva Conventions prohibit indiscriminate strikes
whereby civilian and military targets are attacked without distinction.
They, like antipersonnel landmines are by their nature indiscriminate
weapons which do not draw a distinction between combatants and non-combatants.
Cluster Bombs - Ecologist
The debris that normally concerns the ecologically
aware is the ever growing mountain of rubbish produced by our throwaway
society. But there's another, more immediately lethal kind of litter
that also speaks volumes about our lack of responsibility towards the
Earth and its inhabitants. That's the litter produced by war the munitions
left behind post conflict that continue to damage the land and its people
long after the fighting is over. Nothing has sounded more hollow than
the so called reassurances given by the United Kingdom and United States
governments as they began the Iraq war that their argument was not with
the country of Iraq or its people but with its leader, and that reconstruction
not devastation was their objective. If that was the case then how could
they condone the use of cluster bombs weapons that, like landmines,
have a devastating long term effect on communities and go on killing
innocent civilians for decades.
Because they are meant to be combat weapons they evade United Nations treaties against the use of weapons like landmines that target civilians. But this evasion is sophistry. Cluster bombs are vast containers that after exploding send out a huge number of what the military playfully call "bomblets". These bomblets scatter across areas the size of eight football pitches. Most bomblets are designed to explode on impact or contain devices that trigger on touch. Many do just that, inflicting horrific damage on armies and civilians in war situations. But many fail to explode immediately. In spite of the fact that modern military technology is meant to be so sophisticated that it could extinguish Saddam Hussein's cigar as he sits in his bunker, even official estimates admit a cluster bomb failure rate of 5-10 per cent. Unofficially, the estimated failure rate is much higher.
In the last Gulf War, roughly 47,000 cluster bombs were dropped containing 13,000,000 bomblets. Since the end of the war there have been 1,924 recorded deaths from "unexploded remnants of war". In Kosovo, it is estimated that 3,000,000 were dropped, of which 30,000 failed to explode on impact, causing hundreds of deaths. In Afghanistan 14,000 unexploded devices were left behind and there have already been 150 deaths since the war ended there. In many ways cluster bombs are even more devastating than landmines. Most victims are killed outright. Those who survive are horrifically injured. The force of the shrapnel from these weapons is such that bodies sometimes explode totally. Like landmines, children are most often the victims. The usually bright colours of bomblets are attractive to children and to people in devastated post war societies hunting for valuable scrap metal.
Like landmines, too, their legacy is enduring. it's shocking to think that while Vietnam is a remote cultural memory for United States kids, children in Laos are still being injured by cluster bombs and large areas of land are still unusable. The way cluster bombs blight land often goes overlooked. Large areas become no-go areas that can't be farmed. This hinders attempts of societies to reconstruct and become self sufficient. The problem is not confined to a few unlucky nations; at least 80 countries are currently affected by landmines and cluster bombs. But while after the death of Princess Diana 146 countries rapidly signed the Ottawa Treaty banning the use of anti personnel weapons, cluster bombs are not covered by any convention. Countries that use them are under no obligation to clear land when hostilities cease.
In the run up to the current war Landmine Action and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund tried to persuade the United Kingdom Government not to use cluster bombs and to support new international conventions forcing combatants to "clear" areas after military action. Two United Kingdom ministers refused to rule out the use of cluster bombs in Iraq: Tony Blair and Defence Minister Geoff Hoon. Not only does the government refuse to rule out their use, but INSYS the world's largest producer of the bombs is a United Kingdom based firm. When tackled by Landmine Action, INSYS replied that it was not responsible for the weapons' devastating effects, claiming: "It's not the company that uses them."
As this equivocation shows, the logic of war dehumanises and desensitises even the most supposedly decent people. These weapons are the deadliest kind of debris and last for decades. They leave behind no man's land and intimidated communities long after the soldiers have gone and governments have changed. In these communities children will not be able to play, it will be impossible to resettle the land and there will be no agriculture. If attempts are made to clear these areas, there will be many deaths. All this happens in poor countries with no resources. And use of these weapons is increasing globally. No longer confined to the big military powers, cluster bombs are increasingly likely to be used in smaller scale conflicts. If we needed more evidence of mankind's disregard for the future it is this readiness to use weapons that inflict damage for decades to come. It is evidence of cowardice and bullying, too. When the armies have gone, it's the innocent members of society those trying to work and play on the land who continue to be targets.
REFERENCES Note: Prices are shown where available from Bloomfield Books, and represent only a selection relevant to the theme of this edition of On Target. A wide range of reading may be found in the Stock Price List (S.P.L.), which may be obtained post free on request from the address on the last page. Books temporarily out of stock are annotated*. Out of print, or older works, may be obtained through the Book Search Service, or the Second-Hand Book Service, both of which are operated by Mr. T.G. Turner, for which details are available as for the S.P.L.
(1) Clark, Ramsey. Fire This Time - U.S.. War Crimes in the Gulf. Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994.
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