“The welfare of the people, in particular, has always been the alibi of tyrants.” (Albert Camus, 1913-1960.)
Throughout Iraq, Americans bringing “freedom from tyranny”, with their British auxiliaries, and their few arm twisted “coalition”, largely morphed in to tyrants overnight. As with Saddam Hussein’s statue, the U.S., simply covered legality with an American flag – and toppled it. And as across the country, indiscriminate, unaccountable killing sprees started early on – and continue still.
U.S., wickednesses in Fallujah, the district by district liquidations, have probably been documented in more detail, than any other city, town or village, in deaths, injuries and deformities, so serves one tragic service – as an invaluable test case for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq. Whilst the recent, chilling Report by Busby, et al., (1) in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, has received deserved publicity, and been presented to the U.N., another, presented to the 15th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva (13th September-1st October) has received less so.
“Testimonies of Crimes Against Humanity in Fallujah – Towards a Fair International Criminal Trial”(2): “… pleads and implores”, the United Nations in : “.. respect for the memory (of the) victims, to investigate the crimes and violations”, in the document, and all that: “has been inflicted upon Iraq, placing the country at the top of the world’s daily list for deaths, displaced persons, both internally and externally, the ensuing savage corruption, child molestation, rape, rampant kidnapping, contrary to the noble goals and (founding aspirations) of your Organisation.”
After the invasion and fall of Baghdad, the document records, Fallujah remained calm, escaping the turmoil engulfing the rest of Iraq. Exactly two weeks after the toppling of the statue, on 23rd April 2003, when a group of students peacefully demonstrated outside Al Quds school, for its return by the U.S., soldiers, who had – without consultation – taken it over as a base, so they could resume studies. The response was massive violence.
The troops fired “indiscriminately” killing thirteen and wounding seventy five. Three of the dead were children under eleven. In a depressingly familiar story, according to Dr Ahmed Ghanim Al-Ali, the then hospital Director, they also fired on the medical staff who came to rescue the injured.
A week later, troops fired on a funeral, the first such occurrence in Iraq, which, with Afghanistan, along with wedding parties and mourning gatherings, have become a disgraceful litany. Two were killed and fourteen wounded, including children.
In the early hours of the second anniversary of the falling of the Twin Towers, a group driving a blue BMW, fired on the offices of the Mayor of Fallujah. Chased by the Fallujah Protection Force, the car disappeared in to a U.S., camp just outside the city. Returning, they came under heavy fire, eight were killed and two wounded. Again the ambulances were fired on and prevented assisting.
Those marking an atrocity at home, with executions abroad, transpired to be both U.S., forces and allegedly, with much substantiating evidence, mercenaries of the notorious Blackwater Security (now XL.) It took repeated demands by Fallujah’s Mayor and others for the U.S., military to finally hand back the bodies (which: ” … had been left in the back of crushed vehicles in the burning sun”) and two traumatised injured.
Acts of violence, murders, arrests, incarceration without trial and general acts of terror, are the hallmark of the freedom promised to the people of Iraq.
Ironically, American forces, with representatives from then U.S., “Viceroy” Paul Bremer’s Office, in a meeting with the City Council, tried to recruit locals as agents, for protection. Seemingly, they were told that according to the Geneva Conventions, protection of Iraqis lay with the occupying forces. Outside, were BMWs – driven by Blackwater staff. Bremer had given the company its first contract (for a reported $21 million) in Iraq.
It was against the background the brutal, deviant behaviour, that, on 31st March 2004, four Blackwater employees, Scott Helvenston, Jerko Slovko, Wesley Bataloni and Mike Teague, were brutally murdered, dragged through the streets, their bodies hung over a bridge spanning the Euphrates.
The action was presented to the world, largely, as an example of the irrational endemic violence in Iraqis. The brutal treatment of Iraqis, at the hands of the invading forces and Blackwater, had scant mention in the main stream media.
Little can be found about the last three victims – but surreally, Helvenston, a former U.S., Navy SEAL, had been a personal trainer for Hollywood celebrities, including Demi Moore and had taken to reality shows such as: “Combat Missions”, and: “Man vs Beast”, where he completed an obstacle course faster then a chimpanzee. Tragically, though, not faster than the Fallujans. His last reality show appearance: “Extreme Expeditions : Model Behaviour”, had still to be shown at the time of his death.(3)
The revenge April retaliation, came in spite of attempts by the City Council to mediate and negotiate. “U.S., troops rejected the intervention of and presence of the U.N.” A tape recording of their refusal to negotiate and stated determination to strike the city, is witness to their lawless rejection.
U.S., troops gave orders that no one was to leave the city. The population was trapped, reminiscent of General Norman Schwartzkopf’s “turkey shoot” on the Basra Road, in 1991, with the road blocked at both ends and no escape. The bridge to the hospital was cut off, condemning the wounded to death, with five hundred pound bombs, and cluster bombs being dropped on Fallujah’s families – who had nowhere to hide.
That attack, with the subsequent one in October-November 2004, were compared to Guernica, and without doubt equal some of history’s most shameful episodes. The people besieged in a reign of terror, of pure, primitive, savagery – targeted with weaponry of mass destruction.
Instructed by the troops to hold a white flag if they ventured out, sickeningly, U.S., snipers, then targeted heads of those who dared, in desperation, for help, food, water, medical aid, water and telephones having been cut, in contravention to the Geneva Convention. Also in contravention, is fact the forces had anyway, prevented essential foodstuffs and medicines from coming in.
The Report to the Human Rights Commission further reminds of the ongoing bombing between the two major assaults, which has continued, year on year. Whilst the two major attacks on Fallujah have been recorded in acres of newsprint (see also 4) the voices of the survivors have been largely absent. The document records those of one hundred and sixteen, from April’s onslaught, with several earlier ones. Just some of the newly enfranchised, collaterally damaged, disposable Iraqis, include:
*Ahmed Hassan Shaker was killed on 6th January 2004, on going outside his home to find the cause of bullets “which were ringing out.” A missile killed him and his wife, Sihan, instantly. They left six orphans, the eldest six, the youngest, just seven months. (Witness, Ahmed Hassan’s father.) The U.S., military apologized to the family. No compensation has been forthcoming.
*Montaser Sami Hammad Ali al-Awani, killed, on 7th June 2003: ” .. by random firing of U.S., troops on civilians”, in Fallujah’s Nazzal district. (Witness, his father.)
*Ahmed Obaid M’hidi Saud Issawi, died on 27th October 2003, when: “U.S., forces opened fire indiscrimately at everyone …” (Witness, his brother.)
*In April 2004, Ali Dahi Abd Muflih lost fifteen members of his family, the majority women and children, when their home was completely destroyed by a U.S., missile. (Witness, surviving family member.)
*April 2004, Alaa Najim Abdullah Al-Issawi shot in the head by a U.S., sniper. (Witness, his brother.)
* St Valentine’s Day, 14th April 2004, Fatah Saad Abbas al-Issawi, eight years old, killed as a result of “indiscriminate firearm” discharge. (Witness, her father.)
* Heba Abd Awda Jafil al-Halbusi, twenty, killed by U.S., sniper, whilst trying to escape “hell of U.S., fire”, with her family. (Witness, her father.)
*Marwa Mohammed Khalif, her age not recorded, by a bullet to the head. (Witness, her mother.)
*17th April 2004, Ali Ismail Obeid Jassim Salman al-Issawi, aged five, and his brother, Hakki, Ismail Obeid Jassim Salman al-Issawi, ten, both killed by a sniper, whilst playing in front of their house. Buried together in the same grave. (Witness, their father.)
Throughout the testimonies, the words “indiscriminate”, “random”, “rampage” and “sniper” come up unceasingly. Other victims of this very democratic kind of killing, since there was no discrimination, included: Ayah (six); Fadhela, (thirteen); Mohammed, (nine); Shaimaa (fifteen); Alia (thirteen); Bushra (fifteen); Naba (three); Salwa (twelve); Baida (eleven); Hanin (seven.) As in the following November’s psychopathic purge, the football pitch became a cemetery – but in November, they would need two.
The reign of terror in this city, which has existed since – and in some linguistic and archeological evidence, maybe before – Babylonian times, has continued, with “arbitrary arrests”, “systematic torture”, and allegations “of a policy of humiliation.”
Dogs were unleashed by both military and often those accompanying them in plain clothes, suspicions falling on Blackwater again, in a litany. Just one victim was thirteen year old Ameen, whose twenty two year old university student and bread winner brother, Sineen, was shot “in a hail of bullets” when these mixed forces broke in to their home, after blowing out the door.
Ameen was beaten, his hand badly damaged by dogs, the all, he described carried out by men with beards and ear rings. As he was being beaten, it transpired, others were putting his brother’s bloodied, mutilated body under a mattress, behind the curtains. This was after their father had been killed in the April 2004 bombardment.
Leaving the house ransacked and belongings smashed, the group allegedly rampaged through the neighbourhood, injuring, “robbing and stealing … money and jewellery ..” The U.S., forces, has thus taken a town which had escaped the invasion’s murderous chaos, but has it rained upon them by the occupying forces, for now, approaching eight years.
As Dirk Adriaensens (5) has written: “The latest ‘incident’ occurred on Wednesday 15 September 2010 (following the official ‘withdrawal’ of US troops.) Seven civilians were killed and four injured. Their names will be added to the endless list of victims of the U.S., aggression against this troubled city. May they never be forgotten.”
Killed during the raid by US/Iraqi forces on 15 September 2010
* Humadi Jassim Ahmed……….old man
* Manzel Humadi Jassim Ahmed………youngster
* Sameer Humadi Jassim Ahmed……..youngster
* Sadiek Humadi Jassim Ahmed………youngster
* Abid Swissan Ahmed………old man
* Yassein Abid Swissan Ahmed…….youngster
* Yassein Kassar Saad……..Former Iraqi officer in Iraqi army
• Injured civilians
* Omar Humadi Jassim…….youngster
* Ibrahim Abid Kassar………youngster
* Hathima Jassim (85 years old)
* Ahmed Humadi Jassim ….youngster
Whilst the people of Fallujah are stalked by visible killers in the form of Americans with their hardware, they live with an invisible one, in the residues left by the weapons used, including depleted uranium, the radioactivity and toxicity of which they eat, breathe and drink, since it can be measured in air and seeps in to the water table, affecting fauna and flora.
“In 2006, 5,928 cases of previously unknown, or rarely seen diseases were diagnosed (in Fallujah)”, records the Report. “In the first half of 2007, 2,447 seriously ill patients were admitted, showing mostly little known symptoms. Fifty percent were children … five years after the 2004 attacks, cancers had multiplied by four.” In five years: “a twelve fold incident in fourteen year olds was noted.” Birth defects rose by twenty five percent in a six year period.(See 4 and 5 for detail.)
Dr Bill Wilson, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, who is determined to see Tony Blair in Court on war crimes charges, also has the British government’s culpability in using depleted uranium (DU) high on his agenda.
In 1996 and again in 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee included DU., in their list of weapons of mass destruction, urging all States to curb the spread and production of these weapons.
On 19th October 2010, Dr Wilson wrote to the (UK) Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the successor to British Nuclear Fuels Limited, asking for details of all the documents it holds pertaining to the effects of spent or “depleted” uranium on health.
Dr Wilson comments: “Depleted uranium, high in the U-238 isotope, is what is left after uranium has been used to generate power. The nuclear industry, rather than putting this still radioactive and potentially lethal material out of harm’s way, however, sells it on to the arms industry and it is used to make armour-piercing or anti-tank shells. It has been doing this for decades, as a way of decreasing the financial losses associated with what I regard as an unnecessary and dangerous way of generating electricity.
“Such shells produce 3000oC fireballs and the resultant black uranium oxide particles get everywhere; they are blown hundreds of miles and are inhaled and ingested. There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that the cavalier use of depleted-uranium weaponry in Iraq and Afghanistan has caused a massive increase in cancers (particularly amongst children) and horrific birth defects, both in civilians living there and in service personnel and their families. What’s more, it has a half-life of almost 4.5 billion years!
“The US and UK Governments have been warned of all this, but appear to have ignored such warnings and have done practically nothing to clear up the mess they have left, not even fencing off highly radioactive destroyed tanks to stop children playing on them. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the issues at stake here and the potential for legal action.
“As part of my ongoing campaign for justice and to prevent further massive human rights abuses, I am seeking clarity on what the UK Government has historically known about the health effects of depleted uranium.
A refusal to answer my Freedom-of-Information request will tell its own story.”
The Decommissioning Authority, he comments: “should come clean on dirty fuel.” Indeed: “In the wake of America’s “shock and awe” bombing campaign to take Baghdad, radiation detectors as far away as the United Kingdom noted a fourfold spike in radioactivity in the atmosphere.” (6) The pregnant women, for whom it to too dangerous to undergo an X-ray for fear of of damaging the unborn baby, receives ongoing doses, courtesy the weapons industry, from Fallujah to Florida, from Baghdad to Belfast.
Two letters might be of use to Dr Wilson, written, respectively, immediately after and shortly after, the 1991 attack on Iraq. They are self explanatory. The late Leonard Dietz, to whom the second letter is addressed, was an eminent nuclear physicist and expert on the dangers of inhaled or ingested DU particles. They are typed exactly as written in the originals:
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos New Mexico 87545 memorandum
To: Studies and Analysis Branch (wr 13) (or may be 10, slightly eroded)
Attn: Maj Larson I Mar 1991
From: Lt Col M.V. Ziehman
STOP/Telephone: F668/(505) 665 19??
Subject: THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DEPLETED URANIUM PENETRATORS
There is a relatively small amount of lethality data for uranium penetrators, either the tank fired long version or the GAU-8 round fired from the A10 close air support aircraft. The recent was has likely multiplied the number of du rounds fired at targets by orders of magnitude. It is believed that du penetrators were very effective against Iraqi armor; (sic) how-ever, assessments of such will have to be made.
There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of du on the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the effectiveness of du on the battlefield, du rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus,be deleted from the military arsenal.
If du penetrators proved their worth during our recent combat activities, then we should assure their future existence (until something better is developed) through
Service/DOD proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability.
I believe we should keep this sensitive issue at (sic) mind when after action reports are written.
(signed) Lt Col Z
Department of Defense, United States of America (seal.)
Office of the Director of
Defense Research and Engineering
Washington, DC 20301 – 3030
15th August 1991
Mr. Leonard A. Dietz
1124 Mohegan Road
Schenectady, NY 12309
Dear Mr Dietz:
Your letter of 30th July 1991 concerning depleted uranium was brought to my attention by Dr. Osterman.
In this letter you posed the question of the “probability that lung cancer could develop: after inhalation of depleted uranium. As you are no doubt well aware, since this material is a source of ionizing radiation, the potential for carcinogenicity
is real. The same holds true for nephro-toxicity which, in most of the literature available to me, seems to be the greater limiting health endpoint of concern, protection from which requires a much lower ambient concentration in drinking water or foodstuffs.
The potential risk to human health from exposure to depleted uranium is, of course, dose and time related, both of which must be measured, approximated, or assumed.
Let me assure you that we feel that your concern, which parallels our own, is real and we thank you for sharing that with us.
John W. Kolmer, MD.,
Military Ass’t for Medical
and Life Sciences.
Keen as Colonel Ziehman might have been to water down the dangers, so as not to “lose a valuable combat capability”, regardless of the health of allied troops or invaded citizens, the U.S., Army’s own manuals are more forthcoming. As has been written in these columns before:
“If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with DU are both chemical and radiological. Personnel in or near vehicles struck by DU penetrators could receive significant internal exposures.” (7) Or indeed those near bombed homes, streets, schools, mosques … Further: “Short term effects of high doses can result in death, while long term effects of low doses have been implicated in cancer.” (8) This warning was sounded by the giant, US government contracted, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in July 1990, six months before Desert Storm.
Further, shortly after Desert Storm, the UK Atomic Energy Authority “self initiated a Report”, warning of half a million extra cancer deaths in by 2000, if just fifty tonnes of residual DU dust had been left “in the region.”
For either government to claim they were unaware of the apocalyptic consequences of further use, would be, as UK Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong admitted, in another cover up a couple of decades ago, to be “economical with the truth.”
7. (US) Army Environmental Policy Institute: “Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in the US Army”, 1995.
8. SAIC : “Kinetic Energy Penetrator Long Term Strategy Study”, Danesi, July 1990.