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Year 2001 Number 19, February 1, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Condemn the Continued Bombing of Iraq

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Condemn the Continued Bombing of Iraq

Use of DU Weapons is a War Crime

For Your Information:
"The new order that splits the world"

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Condemn the Continued Bombing of Iraq

According to Baghdad radio on January 31, British and US aircraft again bombed Iraqi farmland. The report says that the Al-Shallalat region in Ninawa was bombed with seven missiles, which exploded inside the Al-Shallalat area. Further bombs exploded causing damage to the village of Tall Yabis. There were no human losses.

The establishment of the so-called no-flight zones over Iraq has absolutely no legitimacy in international law. Britain and US planes have been regularly bombing Iraq, ignoring not only other countries' positions, but also official resolutions of the UN and its Security Council, despite being members themselves. Yet the British and US aircraft have continually targeted civilian and service facilities in northern and southern Iraq, despite international condemnation.

This emphasises the urgent need for the democratisation of international relations and for the British working class and people to intensify their stand against the intervention of the British government abroad, however it may be presented in terms of moral duty.

Article Index



Use of DU Weapons is a War Crime

Alice Mahon MP held a news conference on Tuesday, January 30, calling on the government to fund an independent scientific enquiry into the health effects of DU.

Meanwhile, there must be a moratorium on the production and use of depleted uranium weapons by Britain.

Dr Doug Rokke and Dr Catherine Euler participated in the conference. Dr Rokke is a health physicist who led the United States Department of Defence depleted uranium assessment team in the Gulf, responsible for implementing a clean up and advising on medical care for exposed US personnel. Dr Catherine Euler is from the International Depleted Uranium Study Team. The IDUST is a non-governmental organisation studying the effects of DU contamination. Ms Euler has recently returned from Athens where she presented a paper on DU to a Doctors of the World conference.

Alice Mahon said in a statement: "In repeated statements to the House that there is no evidence linking depleted uranium to human cancers, ministers rely on suspect studies such as that by the Rand Corporation. This was commissioned by the United States government and its findings are based entirely on a survey of literature. Not a single examination was carried out on anyone who might have been exposed to risk in the Gulf or the Balkans.

"There remains much confusion in the scientific community over the effects on human health due to the inadequacy of research into what happens when radioactive particles created by the use of depleted uranium in battlefield conditions are ingested or inhaled. This has never been investigated in an epidemiological study. Therefore all statements about its effects - including those made by the Ministry of Defence and quoted by government ministers - are premature and unreliable.

"I cannot believe that Britain or other NATO countries have carried out full testing and analysis of hundreds of thousands of troops during the past few weeks. Therefore the claim there is no evidence of increases in illness is simply not credible. The only way that the government can lay fears about DU to rest is to fund a full and independent study. An epidemiological study and urine analysis for depleted uranium will take some time. Meanwhile, the government should impose a complete moratorium on the production and use of DU shells.'

Public Seminar

Later on January 30 in the House of Commons, a Public Seminar of the Committee for Peace in the Balkans was held, entitled Depleted uranium: NATO's poisoned legacy, with presentations by Dr Rokke and Dr Euler. It was held with the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium.

Dr Rokke said that the continued use of DU weapons is a "war crime" which should be stopped immediately.

"What we learned during the Gulf War and what we learned during the research scared us," Dr Rokke said.

He said that his full recommendations, detailed in a November 1995 US army pamphlet entitled "handling procedures for equipment contaminated with depleted uranium or other radioactive commodities" had not been passed on to troops or civilians on the ground during NATO's 1999 war against Yugoslavia over Kosova.

An international storm broke over the use of DU munitions in January after Italy reported that six of its soldiers who served in the Balkans had died of leukaemia.

But NATO chiefs have consistently denied that there is any proof that DU munitions carry any serious health risk and have rejected calls for a moratorium on their use.

Rokke said it was an "absolute lie" that troops and civilians who had been exposed to DU in the Gulf and in the Balkans had not suffered health problems. "We do have birth defects, we do have tumours," he said.

Rokke himself was diagnosed with reactive airway disease due to uranium poisoning.

He accused the NATO governments of covering up health warnings about DU, and said their insistence that the weapons would continue to be used raised serious "moral and ethical" as well as medical issues.

"When you deliberately and wilfully take radioactive waste... and throw it down in place in the world where children can pick it up and be exposed to it... that's a crime against humanity and it is a war crime," he said.

He also reacted angrily to comments by German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping, who said on Saturday that fears about radiation from DU weapons were being whipped up by opponents of the Kosova war.

"I'm going to make this loud and clear," Rokke said. "The individuals who started the warnings on depleted uranium hazards... were the US army's experts -- myself and my team members who were tasked with cleaning up after the Gulf War."

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For Your Information:

"The new order that splits the world"

In an article in The Times on January 31, the journalist Simon Jenkins writes that he cheered when he heard that a Chilean judge had ordered the arrest of General Pinochet. He did so not because he regards the general as a villain (which he does). He cheered because the judge was Chilean, the court Chilean and the crimes Chilean. A nation is never so mature as when it holds its own past to account, he writes.

Simon Jenkins continues: "Yet I fear I am losing friends. A new political divide is opening, as wide as the Cold War polarity between hawk and dove, Left and Right. The divide is between the champions of the ‘new world order’ and those who regard such global intervention as dangerous and rarely justified. The dispute is ideological and deep. I cannot pretend to be on the winning side.

"Despite their defeat in the Pinochet affair, the champions of intervention are on the march. They have taken up Kipling’s white man’s burden and his demand that ‘a courthouse stands where the raw blood flowed’. They are abetted by a potent coalition of soldiers, aid donors, charity bosses, lawyers and United Nations plutocrats. Under their banner, America and its proxies (mostly Britain) are bombing Iraq, colonising the Balkans, and bloating Africa with aid and the Middle East with arms. Since there is dictatorship and killing everywhere, there is always work to be done. Kofi Annan, the Innocent III of our age, blesses every soldier of philanthropic fortune. He declares that, under globalisation, human rights are more important than state sovereignty."

Simon Jenkins says that the International Herald Tribune, house journal of the new imperialism, carries articles almost daily by think-tankers and lobbyists explaining "what we must do" in some benighted corner of the globe. The cast of hobgoblins is devastating, he says, from Saddam Hussein to North Korean communists, Latin American drug barons and African mass murderers. He points out that on January 30, a vice-president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace claimed American credit for democratic advances in Mexico, Serbia, Ghana and Peru. The vice-president asserted that US-funded "non-governmental groups" had a "critical role" in these elections. He seemed blind to the irony that the same euphemisms excused past American meddling in elections in Vietnam and Lebanon, with disastrous results, Simon Jenkins writes.

The journalist continues: "This movement is similar to the final decades of the British Empire, now celebrated on the centenary of Queen Victoria’s death. After the decades of military and commercial supremacy came a last great burst of morality. To Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Milner and the Round Table, ‘imperium’ brought with it ethical obligations. John Buchan wrote of nations that had lost their nerve, and thus their sovereignty, as The New York Times talks of ‘failed states’. Imperial rule was ‘the endless adventure’, as young people now regard a stint with a UN agency. To Milner, foreign affairs was the one dignified pursuit of the political elite, a phenomenon noticeable today in America. Pax Britannica did not last and many of its wiser heads tried to foresee the endgame. Lord Lugard, one of its great administrators, held that the goal of intervention should be a people that ‘in due course of time . . . was robust enough to stand by itself’. Lugard’s problem was that the ‘due course of time’ was unspecified. British imperialism developed a potent lobby for its everlasting extension. It ignored Lugard’s concept of indirect rule and created permanent colonies: colonies that required costly defence."

"The new imperialism is no different," Simon Jenkins writes. "From Cyprus and Gaza to Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone the world is dotted with blue flags. Since the new imperialism never colonises, it need never decolonise. Its outposts are office blocks in every Third World capital. Its viziers live in hotel registers, club-class lounges and conference centres. This is an empire of virtue on which the sun never sets and in which any First World graduate can find a tax-free job. If Lenin were alive today he would find his ‘Imperialism as the Highest State of Capitalism’ more pertinent than ever."

Simon Jenkins points out that the British Empire gave way to the concept of national self-determination that underpinned the new United Nations. Decolonisation and the integrity of sovereign states was the ethos of the age. It was the ethos in which I was educated, he writes, and adds: Never did an ethos pass so quickly.

He continues: "Last month the charge was revived against former President Bush and his Gulf War commanders that winning Kuwait’s territorial integrity in 1991 was ‘only half the job’. The other was to topple Saddam Hussein, which they unaccountably failed to do. Seeking to topple foreign regimes, whether drug-supported in Latin America, genocidal in Africa or merely ‘destabilising’ in the Middle East, is now considered a commonplace of foreign policy. Its morality is that of the arch-imperialist, Bernard Kouchner, former lord of Kosovo, who asserts that those who stay silent during a massacre are thereby its ‘accomplices’.

"You will encounter few articles or speeches in Britain or America these days espousing national self-determination. You will hear only the language of ‘something must be done’. It may involve the overthrow of a government (Iraq), or intervention in a civil war (Colombia), or the capture of a leader already declared guilty (Serbia), or merely the dislike of an election result (Austria). But something must always be done. In his 1999 Chicago speech Tony Blair made a brave attempt to systematise this philosophy of interference. He spoke of wars not to defend territory but to enforce ‘globalised values’."

The journalist points out that Tony Blair had invoked the rhetoric of John F Kennedy, "When one man is enslaved, who is free?" He goes on to say that Tony Blair then listed five criteria for armed intervention, all of which ignored self-determination. The truest, he says, was "Are we prepared for the long term?" With British military action continuing in Iraq, the Balkans and Sierra Leone, the Prime Minister was at least under none of the illusions of the new Bush regime, he writes. Simon Jenkins writes: "This imperial age is for real. The new Washington may plead an aversion to the short-term adventurism of Bill Clinton, but America has a huge military-industrial-NGO interest in its prosecution. Not since the 13th century has the Christian North had so many fortresses bestriding the Balkans, and so large a clergy back home arguing their necessity."

Simon Jenkins then writes that the other side of this "Great Divide" is harder to define. It has no good battle themes, he says. It is not "non-interventionist", let alone isolationist. It supported the Falklands conflict and Gulf War as guarding the United Nations principle of border sovereignty. But it subjects interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states as requiring more than Tony Blair’s "might is right". Relief for the victims of civil wars — in Ethiopia, Sudan and Croatia — was until recently a matter for the Red Cross. Military intervention "to avert a humanitarian disaster" must pass a far tougher test of effectiveness and legality. It rarely does. The bombing of civil targets in Belgrade and Baghdad came near to being a war crime, as might Nato’s supervision of continued ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Simon Jenkins declares: "The new imperialism answers to nobody but itself."

"Chile’s difficult struggle with its past," he writes, "was hijacked three years ago in London by a group of international lawyers. They did not dare to confront anyone from America, true architect of the Pinochet atrocities. America is too powerful. Instead Chile was confronted and its sovereignty infringed. Britain first abused the general’s immunity and then refused to let his own Government try him before his own people.

"For once the interventionists failed. General Pinochet will be tried, if he lives long enough, by his own. In Lugard’s terms, Chile has proved itself robust. This has been a small victory for non-intervention, but one not likely to be repeated. Ranks of lawyers and soldiers are eager to become global ‘untouchables’. At present they refuse to tolerate the democracy that toppled Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic trying him or otherwise holding him to account at home. He is their crook, not Belgrade’s. Yugoslavia is therefore ordered to surrender its past leader out of its jurisdiction to the absurdly partisan war crimes tribunal at The Hague. If doing so undermines Serb democracy, nobody cares. In the new world order there is no accountability and no doctrine of proportionality. Dislike its edicts and Nato can always drop more bombs."

The journalist concludes: "That is the new divide."

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