excerpts from the book
by Peter Phillips and Project
Seven Stories Press, 2006, paper
Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death
PART 1: FALLUJAH-WAR CRIMES GO UNREPORTED
Over the past two years, the United States
has conducted two major sieges against Fallujah, a city in Iraq.
The first attempted siege of Fallujah (a city of 300,000 people)
resulted in a defeat for Coalition forces. As a result, the United
States gave the citizens of Fallujah two choices prior to the
second siege: leave the city or risk dying as enemy insurgents.
Faced with this ultimatum, approximately 250,000 citizens, or
83 percent of the population of Fallujah, fled the city. The people
had nowhere to flee and ended up as refugees. Many families were
forced to survive in fields, vacant lots, and abandoned buildings
without access to shelter, water, electricity, food or medical
care. The 50,000 citizens who either chose to remain in the city
or who were unable to leave were trapped by Coalition forces and
were cut off from food, water and medical supplies. The United
States military claimed that there were a few thousand enemy insurgents
remaining among those who stayed in the city and conducted the
invasion as if all the people remaining were enemy combatants.
Burhan Fasa'a, an Iraqi journalist, said
Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak
English. "Americans did not have interpreters with them,
so they entered houses and killed people because they didn't speak
English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and
shot people because [the people] didn't obey [the soldiers'] orders,
even just because the people couldn't understand a word of English."
Abu Hammad, a resident of Fallujah, told the Inter Press Service
that he saw people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to escape
the siege. "The Americans shot them with rifles from the
shore. Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white
clothes over their head to show they are not fighters, they were
all shot." Furthermore, "even the wound[ed] people were
killed. The Americans made announcements for people to come to
one mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people
who went there carrying white flags were killed." Former
residents of Fallujah recall other tragic methods of killing the
wounded. "I watched them [U.S. Forces] roll over wounded
people in the street with tanks This happened so many times."
Preliminary estimates as of December of
2004 revealed that at least 6,000 Iraqi citizens in Fallujah had
been killed, and one-third of the city had been destroyed.
Journalists Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell
assert that the continuous slaughter in Fallujah is greatly contributing
to escalating violence in other regions of the country such as
Mosul, Baquba, Hilla, and Baghdad. The violence prompted by the
U.S. invasion has resulted in the assassinations of at least 338
Iraqi's who were associated with Iraq's "new" government.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq, and more specifically
Fallujah, is causing an incredible humanitarian disaster among
those who have no specific involvement with the war. The International
Committee for the Red Cross reported on December 23, 2004 that
three of the city's water purification plants had been destroyed
and the fourth badly damaged. Civilians are running short on food
and are unable to receive help from those who are willing to make
a positive difference. Aid organizations have been repeatedly
denied access to the city, hospitals, and refugee populations
in the surrounding areas.
Abdel Hamid Salim, spokesman for the Iraqi
Red Crescent in Baghdad, told Inter Press Service that none of
their relief teams had been allowed into Fallujah three weeks
after the invasion. Salim declared that "there is still heavy
fighting in Fallujah. And the Americans won't let us in so we
can help people."
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Louise Arbour voiced a deep concern for the civilians caught up
in the fighting. Louise Arbour emphasized that all those guilty
of violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws
must be brought to justice. Arbour claimed that all violations
of these laws should be investigated, including "the deliberate
targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,
the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields."
Marjorie Cohn, executive vice president
of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to
the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists,
has noted that the U.S. invasion of Fallujah is a violation of
international law that the U.S. had specifically ratified: "They
[U.S. Forces] stormed and occupied the Fallujah General Hospital,
and have not agreed to allow doctors and ambulances to go inside
the main part of the city to help the wounded, in direct violation
of the Geneva Conventions."
According to David Walsh, the American
media also seems to contribute to the subversion of truth in Fallujah.
Although, in many cases, journalists are prevented from entering
the city and are denied access to the wounded, corporate media
showed little concern regarding their denied access. There has
been little or no mention of the immorality or legality of the
attacks the United States has waged against Iraq. With few independent
journalists reporting on the carnage, the international humanitarian
community in exile, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent prevented
from entering the besieged city, the world is forced to rely on
reporting from journalists embedded with U.S. forces. In the U.S.
press, we see casualties reported for Fallujah as follows: number
of U.S. soldiers dead, number of Iraqi soldiers dead, number of
"guerillas" or "insurgents" dead. Nowhere
were the civilian casualties reported in the first weeks of the
invasion. An accurate count of civilian casualties to date has
yet to be published in the mainstream media.
PART 2: CIVILIAN DEATH TOLL IS IGNORED
In late October, 2004, a peer reviewed
study was published in The Lancet, a British medical journal,
concluding that at least 100,000 civilians have been killed in
Iraq since it was invaded by a United States-led coalition in
March 2003. Previously, the number of Iraqis that had died, due
to conflict or sanctions since the 1991 Gulf War, had been uncertain.
Claims ranging from denial of increased mortality to millions
of excess deaths have been made. In the absence of any surveys,
however, they relied on Ministry of Health records. Morgue-based
surveillance data indicate the post-invasion homicide rate is
many times higher than the pre-invasion rate.
In the present setting of insecurity and
limited availability of health information, researchers, headed
by Dr. Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins University, undertook a national
survey to estimate mortality during the 14.6 months before the
invasion (Jan 1, 2002, to March 18, 2003) and to compare it with
the period from March 19, 2003, to the date of the interview,
between Sept 8 and 20, 2004. Iraqi households were informed about
the purpose of the survey, assured that their name would not be
recorded, and told that there would be no benefits or penalties
for refusing or agreeing to participate.
The survey indicates that the death toll
associated with the invasion and
occupation of Iraq is in reality about
100,000 people, and may be much higher. The major public health
problem in Iraq has been identified as violence. However, despite
widespread Iraqi casualties, household interview data do not show
evidence of widespread wrongdoing on the part of individual soldiers
on the ground. Ninety-five percent of reported killings (all attributed
to U.S. forces by interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships,
rockets, or other forms of aerial weaponry.
The study was released on the eve of a
contentious presidential election fought in part over U.S. policy
on Iraq. Many American newspapers and television news programs
ignored the study or buried reports about it far from the top
headlines. "What went wrong this time? Perhaps the rush by
researchers and The Lancet to put the study in front of American
voters before the election accomplished precisely the opposite
result, drowning out a valuable study in the clamor of the presidential
campaign." (Lila Guterman, Chronicle of Higher Education)
The study's results promptly flooded though
the worldwide media-everywhere except the United States, where
there was barely a whisper about the study, followed by stark
silence. "The Lancet released the paper on October 29, the
Friday before the election, when many reporters were busy with
political stories. That day the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago
Tribune each dedicated only about 400 words to the study and placed
the stories inside their front section, on pages A4 and All, respectively.
(The news media in Europe gave the study much more play; many
newspapers put articles about it on their front pages.)
In a short article about the study on
page A8, the New York Times noted that the Iraqi Body Count, a
project to tally civilian deaths reported in the news media, had
put the maximum death count at around 17,000. The new study, the
article said, "is certain to generate intense controversy."
But the Times has not published any further news articles about
the paper. The Washington Post, perhaps most damagingly to the
study's reputation, quoted Marc E. Garlasco, a senior military
analyst at Human Rights Watch, as saying, "These numbers
seem to be inflated." Mr. Garlasco says now that he hadn't
read the paper at the time and calls his quote in the Post "really
unfortunate." (Lila Guterman, Chronicle of Higher Education).
Even so, nobody else in American corporate
media bothered to pick up the story and inform our citizens how
many Iraqi citizens are being killed at the hands of a coalition
led by our government. The study was never mentioned on television
news, and the truth remains unheard by those who may need to hear
it most. The U.S. government had no comment at the time and remains
silent about Iraqi civilian deaths. "The only thing we keep
track of is casualties for U.S. troops and civilians," a
Defense Department spokesman told The Chronicle.
When CNN anchor Daryn Kagan did have the
opportunity to interview the Al Jazeera network editor-in-chief
Ahmed Al-Sheik-a rare opportunity to get independent information
about events in Fallujah-she used the occasion to badger Al-Sheik
about whether the civilian deaths were really "the story"
in Fallujah. CNN's argument was that a bigger story than civilian
deaths is "what the Iraqi insurgents are doing" to provoke
a U.S. "response" is startling. "When reports from
the ground are describing hundreds of civilians being killed by
U.S. forces, CNN should be looking to Al Jazeera's footage to
see if it corroborates those accounts-not badgering Al Jazeera's
editor about why he doesn't suppress that footage." (MediaWatch,
Asheville Global Report)
Study researchers concluded that several
limitations exist with this study, predominantly because the quality
of data received is dependent on the accuracy of the interviews.
However, interviewers believed that certain essential characteristics
of Iraqi culture make it unlikely that respondents would have
fabricated their reports of the deaths. The Geneva Conventions
have clear guidance about the responsibilities of occupying armies
to the civilian population they control. "With the admitted
benefit of hindsight and from a purely public health perspective,
it is clear that whatever planning did take place was grievously
in error. The invasion of Iraq, the displacement of a cruel dictator,
and an attempt to impose a liberal democracy by force have, by
themselves, been insufficient to bring peace and security to the
The illegal, heavy handed tactics practiced
by the U.S. military in Iraq evident in these news stories have
become what appears to be their standard operating procedure in
occupied Iraq. Countless violations of international law and crimes
against humanity occurred in Fallujah during the November massacre.
Evidenced by the mass slaughtering of
Iraqis and the use of illegal weapons such as cluster bombs, napalm,
uranium munitions and chemical weapons during the November siege
of Fallujah when the entire city was declared a "free fire
zone" by military leaders, the brutality of the U.S. military
has only increased throughout Iraq as the occupation drags on.
According to Iraqis inside the city, at
least 60 percent of Fallujah went on to be totally destroyed in
the siege, and eight months after the siege entire districts of
the city remained without electricity or water. Israeli style
checkpoints were set up in the city, prohibiting anyone from entering
who did not live inside the city. Of course non-embedded media
were not allowed in the city.
UPDATE Since these stories were published,
countless other incidents of illegal weapons and tactics being
used by the U.S. military in Iraq have occurred.
During "Operation Spear" on
June 17th, 2005, U.S.-led forces attacked the small cities of
Al-Qa'im and Karabla near the Syrian border. U.S. warplanes dropped
2,000 pound bombs in residential areas and claimed to have killed
scores of "militants" while locals and doctors claimed
that only civilians were killed.
As in Fallujah, residents were denied
access to the city in order to obtain medical aid, while those
left inside the city claimed Iraqi civilians were being regularly
targeted by U.S. snipers.
According to an IRIN news report, Firdos
al-Abadi from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society stated that 7,000
people from Karabla were camped in the desert outside the city,
suffering from lack of food and medical aid while 150 homes were
totally destroyed by the U.S. military.
An Iraqi doctor reported on the same day
that he witnessed, "crimes in the west area of the country...
the American troops destroyed one of our hospitals, they burned
the whole store of medication, they killed the patient in the
ward... they prevented us from helping the people in Qa'im."
Also like Fallujah, a doctor at the General
Hospital of al-Qa'im stated that entire families remained buried
under the rubble of their homes, yet medical personnel were unable
to reach them due to American snipers.
Iraqi civilians in Haditha had similar
experiences during "Operation Open Market" when they
claimed U.S. snipers shot anyone in the streets for days on end,
and U.S. and Iraqi forces raided homes detaining any man inside.
Corporate media reported on the "liberation"
of Fallujah, as well as quoting military sources on the number
of "militants" killed. Any mention of civilian casualties,
heavy-handed tactics or illegal munitions was either brief or
non-existent, and continues to be as of June 2005.
A Surveillance Society - Quietly Moves
"While the evening news rolled footage
of Saddam being checked for head lice, the Intelligence Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2004 was quietly signed into law."
On December 13, 2003, President George
W. Bush, with little fanfare and no mainstream media coverage,
signed into law the controversial Intelligence Authorization Act
while most of America toasted the victory of U.S. forces in Iraq
and Saddam's capture. None of the corporate press covered the
signing of this legislation, which increases the funding for intelligence
agencies, dramatically expands the definition of surveillable
financial institutions, and authorizes the FBI to acquire private
records of those individuals suspected of criminal activity without
a judicial review. American civil liberties are once again under
History has provided precedent for such
actions. Throughout the 1990s, erosions of these protections were
taking place. As part of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism bill adopted
in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Justice Department
was required to publish statistics going back to 1990 on threats
or actual crimes against federal, state and local employees and
their immediate families when the wrongdoing related to the workers'
official duties. The numbers were then to be kept up to date with
an annual report. Members of congress, concerned with the threat
this type of legislation posed to American civil liberties, were
able to strike down much of what the bill proposed, including
modified requirements regarding wiretap regulations.
The "atmosphere of fear" generated
by recent terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic, provides
administrations the support necessary to adopt stringent new legislation.
In response to the September 11 attacks, new agencies, programs
and bureaucracies have been created. The Total Information Office
is a branch of the United States Department of Defense's Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency. It has a mission to "imagine,
develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information
technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information
systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total
information awareness." Another intelligence gathering governmental
agency, The Information Awareness Office, has a mission to gather
as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized
location for easy perusal by the United States government. Information
mining has become the business of government.
In November 2002, the New York Times reported
that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was
developing a tracking system called "Total Information Awareness"
(HA), which was intended to detect terrorists through analyzing
troves of information. The system, developed under the direction
of John Poindexter, then-director of DARPA's Information Awareness
Office, was envisioned to give law enforcement access to private
data without suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant. The "Total
Information Awareness" program's name was changed to "Terrorist
Information Awareness" on May 20, 2003 ostensibly to clarify
the program's intent to gather information on presumed terrorists
rather than compile dossiers on U.S. citizens.
Despite this name change, a Senate Defense
Appropriations bill passed unanimously on July 18, 2003, expressly
denying any funding to Terrorist Information Awareness research.
In response, the Pentagon proposed The Multistate Anti-Terrorism
Information Exchange, or MATRIX, a program devised by longtime
Bush family friend Hank Asher as a pilot effort to increase and
enhance the exchange of sensitive terrorism and other criminal
activity information between local, state, and federal law enforcement
agencies. The MATRIX, as devised by the Pentagon, is a State run
information generating tool, thereby circumventing congress' concern
regarding the appropriation of federal funds for the development
of this controversial database. Although most states have refused
to adopt these Orwellian strategies, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut
and Florida have all jumped on the TIA band wagon.
Yet, somehow, after the apparent successful
dismantling of TIA, expressed concern by Representatives Mark
Udall of Colorado, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Ron Paul of Texas
and Dennis Moore of Kansas, and heightened public awareness of
the MATRIX, the Intelligence Authorization Act was signed into
law December 13, 2003.
On Thursday, November 20, 2003 Minnesota
Representative Betty McCollum stated that, "The Republican
Leadership inserted a controversial provision in the FY04 Intelligence
Authorization Report that will expand the already far-reaching
USA Patriot Act, threatening to further erode our cherished civil
liberties. This provision gives the FBI power to demand financial
and other records, without a judge's approval, from post offices,
real estate agents, car dealers, travel agents, pawnbrokers and
many other businesses. This provision was included with little
or no public debate, including no consideration by the House Judiciary
Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction. It came as
a surprise to most Members of this body."
According to Lip Magazine, "Governmental
and law-enforcement agencies and MATRIX contractors across the
nation will gain extensive and unprecedented access to financial
records, medical records, court records, voter registration, travel
history, group and religious affiliations, names and addresses
of family members, purchases made and books read."
Peter Jennings, in an ABC original report,
explored the commercial applications of this accumulated information.
Journalist and author Peter O'Harrow, who collaborated with ABC
News on the broadcast "Peter Jennings Reporting: No Place
to Hide," states ". . .marketers-and now, perhaps government
investigators-can study what people are likely to do, what kind
of attitudes they have, what they buy at the grocery store."
Although this program aired on prime-time mainstream television,
there was no mention of the potential for misuse of this personal
information network or of the controversy surrounding the issues
of privacy and civil liberties violations concerning citizens
and civil servants alike. Again, the sharing of this kind of personal
information is not without precedent.
On November 12, 1999, Clinton signed into
law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which permits financial institutions
to share personal customer information with affiliates within
the holding company. The Intelligence Authorization Act of Fiscal
Year 2004 expands the definition of a surveillable financial institution
to include real estate agencies, insurance companies, travel agencies,
Internet service providers, post offices, casinos and other businesses
as well. Due to massive corporate mergers and the acquisition
of reams of newly acquired information, personal consumer data
has been made readily available to any agency interested in obtaining
it, both commercial and governmental.
With the application of emerging new technologies
such as Radio Frequency Identification chips or RFIDs, small individualized
computer chips capable of communicating with a receiving computer,
consumer behavior can literally be tracked from the point of purchase
to the kitchen cupboard, and can be monitored by all interested
UPDATE BY ANNA MIRANDA: The United States
is at risk of turning into a full-fledged surveillance society.
The tremendous explosion in surveillance-enabling technologies,
combined with the ongoing weakening in legal restraints that protect
our privacy mean that we are drifting toward a surveillance society.
The good news is that it can be stopped. Unfortunately, right
now the big picture is grim. ACLU
THE PATRIOT ACT
Fifteen 'sunset' provisions in the PATRIOT
Act are set to expire at the end of 2005. One amendment, the "library
provision" went before Congress in June. Despite President
Bush's threat to veto, lawmakers, including 38 Republicans, voted
238 to 187 to overturn the provision, which previously allowed
law enforcement officials to request and obtain information from
libraries without obtaining a search warrant. Although inspectors
still have the "right" to search library records, they
must get a judge's approval first.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed
Congress in April that this provision has never been used to acquire
information, although the American Library Association recently
reported that over 200 requests for information were submitted
since the PATRIOT Act was signed into law in October 2001.
The overturning of the library provision
has been seen as a small victory in the fight to reclaim privacy
rights. Rep. Saunders, who was responsible for almost successfully
having the provision repealed last year, commented that "conservative
groups have been joining progressive organizations to call for
The fight to the right for privacy continues
to wage on with more successes, as the MATRIX program was officially
shut down on April 15, 2005. The program, which consisted of 13
states-and only had four states remaining prior to its closure,
received $12 million in funding from the Department of Justice
and the Department of Homeland Security. By utilizing a system
called FACTS (Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution), law
enforcement officials from participating states were able to share
information with one another and utilized this program as an investigative
tool to help solve and prevent crimes. According to the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement, "Between July 2003 and April
2005, there have been 1,866,202 queries to the FACTS application."
However, of these queries, only 2.6 percent involved terrorism
or national security.
Although the MATRIX has been shut down,
Florida law enforcement officials are pursuing continuing the
program and rebuilding it. Officials have sent out a call for
information from vendors beginning a competitive bidding process.
RFID TECHNOLOGY AND THE REAL ID ACT
On May 10, 2005, President Bush secretly
signed into law the REAL ID Act, requiring states within the next
three years to issue federally approved electronic identification
cards. Attached as an amendment to an emergency spending bill
funding troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the REAL ID Act passed
without the scrutiny and debate of Congress.
One of the main concerns of the electronic
identification card is identity theft. The Act mandates the cards
to have anti-counterfeiting measures, such as an electronically
readable magnetic strip or RFID chip. Privacy advocates argue
that RFID chips can be read from "unauthorized" scanners
allowing third parties or the general public to gather and/or
steal private information about an individual. Amidst growing
concerns about identity theft, the REAL ID Act has given no consideration
to this drawback.
Other privacy concerns regarding the electronic
identification card is the use of information by third parties
once they've scanned the cards and accessed the information. At
this time, the Act does not specify what can be done with the
information. A company or organization scanning your identification
card could potentially sell your personal information if strict
guidelines on what to do with the information are not mandated.
Inability to conform over the next three
years will leave citizens and residents of the United States paralyzed.
Identification cards that do not meet the federally mandated standards
will not be accepted as identification for travel, opening a bank
account, receiving social security checks, or participating in
government benefits, among other things.
The Real Oil for Food Scam
The U.S. has accused UN officials of corruption
in Iraq's oil for food program. According to Joy Gordon and Scott
Ritter the charge was actually an attempt to disguise and cover
up long term U.S. government complicity in this corruption. Ritter
says, "this posturing is nothing more than a hypocritical
charade, designed to shift attention away from the debacle of
George Bush's self-made quagmire in Iraq, and legitimize the invasion
of Iraq by using Iraqi corruption and not the now-missing weapons
of mass destruction, as the excuse." Gordon arrives at the
conclusion that, "perhaps it is unsurprising that today the
only role its seems the United States expects the UN to play in
the continuing drama of Iraq is that of scapegoat."
According to Gordon the charges laid by
the U.S. accounting office are bogus. There is plenty of evidence
of corruption in the "oil-for-food" program, but the
trail of evidence leads not to the UN but to the U.S. "The
fifteen members of the Security Council-of which the United States
was by far the most influential--determined how income from oil
proceeds would be handled, and what the funds could be used for."
Contrary to popular understanding, the Security Council is not
the same thing as the UN. It is part of it, but operates largely
independently of the larger body. The UN's personnel "simply
executed the program that was designed by the members of the Security
The claim in the corporate media was that
the UN allowed Saddam Hussein to steal billions of dollars from
oil sales. If we look, as Gordon does, at who actually had control
over the oil and who's hands held the money, a very different
picture emerges. "If Hussain did indeed smuggle $6 billion
worth of oil in the 'the richest rip off in world history,' he
didn't do it with the complicity of the UN. He did it on the watch
of the U.S. Navy." explains Gordon.
Every monetary transaction was approved
by the U.S. through its dominant role on the Security Council.
Ritter explains, "the Americans were able to authorize a
$1 billion exemption concerning the export of Iraqi oil for Jordan,
as well as legitimize the billion-dollar illegal oil smuggling
trade over the Turkish border." In another instance, a Russian
oil company "bought oil from Iraq under 'oil for food' at
a heavy discount, and then sold it at full market value to primarily
U.S. companies, splitting the difference evenly between [the Russian
company] and the Iraqis. This U.S. sponsored deal resulted in
profits of hundreds of millions of dollars for both the Russians
and the Iraqis, outside the control of 'oil for food.' It has
been estimated that 80 percent of the oil illegally smuggled out
of Iraq under 'oil for food' ended up in the United States."
Not only were criminals enriched in this
nefarious scheme, it also ended up sabotaging the original purpose
of "oil for food." Gordon explains, "Flow Iraq
sold its oil was also under scrutiny, and the United States did
act on what it perceived to be skimming by Hussain in these deals.
The solution that it enacted, however, succeeded in almost bankrupting
the entire Oil for Food Program within months."
Harebrained Security Council policy not
only succeeded in enriching the dishonest, it also virtually destroyed
the program. According to Gordon, the U.S. and UK attempted to
prevent kickbacks resulting from artificially low prices: "Instead
of approving prices at the beginning of each sales period (usually
a month), in accordance with normal commercial practices, the
two allies would simply withhold their approval [of the price]
until after the oil was sold-creating a bizarre scenario in which
buyers had to sign contracts without knowing what the price would
be." The result was "oil sales collapsed by forty percent,
and along with them the funds for critical humanitarian imports."
What we have here, according to Gordon
and Ritter, is a bare-faced attempt by criminals to shift blame
to the innocent. Gordon concludes, "Little of the blame can
credibly be laid at the feet of 'the UN bureaucracy.' Far more
of the fault lies with policies and decisions of the Security
Council in which Lt United States played a central role."
The accusations against the Oil for Food
Program have served as a springboard for general attacks on the
credibility of the United Nations as a whole, as well as personal
attacks on Kofi Annan. For the most part the mainstream media
has seized on the accusations and repeated them, without doing
any of the research that would give the discussion more integrity.
For example, "the United Nations" is criticized for
"its" failures, and the Secretary General is then blamed
because these events "happened on his watch." What was
not mentioned at all for the first year of media coverage is that
"the UN" is made up of several different parts, and
that the part that designed and oversaw the Oil for Food Program
was the Security Council, whose decisions cannot be overridden
or modified in any way by the Secretary General. Not only that,
while the most vitriolic accusations against the UN have come
from the United States, the U.S. is in fact the most dominant
member of the Security Council. The U.S. agreed to all the decisions
and procedures of the Oil for Food Program that are now being
so harshly criticized as "failures of the United Nations."
The mainstream press, for the most part,
has repeated that the Oil for Food Program lacked accountability,
oversight, or transparency. What is most striking about this is
that the elaborate structure of oversight that was in fact in
place-and is never mentioned at all-is so easily available. It
is on the program's web site in complete detail along with huge
amounts of information, making the program in fact highly transparent.
Yet the mainstream press coverage reflects none of this.
Last fall we saw the beginnings of some
acknowledgement of the U.S. responsibility for Iraq's ongoing
smuggling, as some Democrats introduced evidence in hearings that
all three U.S. administrations knew of and supported Iraq's illicit
trade with Jordan and Turkey, two key U.S. allies. The press picked
that up, but little else.
Since my article came out, there has been
a good deal of press coverage from public radio stations and from
foreign press. In addition, I have testified twice before Congressional
committees, where the members of Congress were incredulous to
hear that in fact the program operated very differently than they
had been told-even though the information I provided them was
obvious, basic, publicly available, and easily accessible.
Iran's New Oil Trade System Challenges
The U.S. media tells us that Iran may
be the next target of U.S. aggression. The anticipated excuse
is Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. William Clark tells
us that economic reasons may have more to do with U.S. concerns
over Iran than any weapons of mass destruction.
In mid-2003 Iran broke from traditional
and began accepting eurodollars as payment for it oil exports
from its E.U. and Asian customers. Saddam Hussein attempted a
similar bold step back in 2000 and was met with a devastating
reaction from the U.S. Iraq now has no choice about using U.S.
dollars for oil sales (Censored 2004 #19). However, Iran's plan
to open an international oil exchange marker for trading oil in
the euro currency is a much larger threat to U.S. dollar supremacy
than Iraq's switch to euros.
While the dollar is still the standard
currency for trading international oil sales, in 2006 Iran intends
to set up an oil exchange (or bourse) that would facilitate global
trading of oil between industrialized and developing countries
by pricing sales in the euro, or "petroeuro." To this
end, they are creating a euro-denominated Internet-based oil exchange
system for global oil sales. This is a direct challenge to U.S.
dollar supremacy in the global oil market. It is widely speculated
that the U.S. dollar has been inflated for some time now because
the monopoly position of "petrodollars" in oil trades.
With the level of national debt, the value of dollar has been
held artificially high compared to other currencies.
The vast majority of the world's oil is
traded on the New York NYMEX (Mercantile Exchange) and the London
IPE (International Petroleum Exchange), and, as mentioned by Clark,
both exchanges are owned by U.S. corporations. Both of these oil
exchanges transact oil trades in U.S. currency. Iran's plan to
create a new oil exchange would facilitate trading oil on the
world market in euros. The euro has become a somewhat stronger
and more stable trading medium than the U.S. dollar in recent
years. Perhaps this is why Russia, Venezuela, and some members
of OPEC have expressed interest in moving towards a petroeuro
system for oil transactions. Without a doubt, a successful Iranian
oil bourse may create momentum for other industrialized countries
to stop exchanging their own currencies for petrodollars in order
to buy oil. A shift away from U.S. dollars to euros in the oil
market would cause the demand for petrodollars to drop, perhaps
causing the value of the dollar to plummet. A precipitous drop
in the value of the U.S. dollar would undermine the U.S. position
as a world economic leader.
China is a major exporter to the United
States, and its trade surplus with the U.S. means that China has
become the world's second largest holder of U.S. currency reserves
(Japan is the largest holder with $800 billion, and China holds
over $600 billion in T-bills). China would lose enormously if
they were still holding vast amounts of U.S. currency when the
dollar collapsed and assumed a more realistic value. Maintaining
the U.S. as a market for their goods is a pre-eminent goal of
Chinese financial policy, but they are increasingly dependent
on Iran for their vital oil and gas imports. The Chinese government
is careful to maintain the value of the yuan linked with the U.S.
dollar (8.28 yuan to 1 dollar). This artificial linking makes
them, effectively, one currency. But the Chinese government has
indicated interest in de-linking the dollar-yuan arrangement,
which could result in an immediate fall in the dollar. More worrisome
is the potentiality of China to abandon its ongoing prolific purchase
of U.S. Treasuries/debt-should they become displeased with U.S.
policies towards Iran.
Unstable situations cannot be expected
to remain static. It is reasonable to expect that the Chinese
are hedging their bets. It is unreasonable to expect that they
plan to be left holding devalued dollars after a sudden decline
in their value. It is possible that the artificial situation could
continue for some time, but this will be due largely because the
Chinese want it that way. Regardless, China seems to be in the
process of unloading some of its U.S. dollar reserves in the world
market to purchase oil reserves, and most recently attempted to
buy Unocal, a California-based oil company.
The irony is that apparent U.S. plans
to invade Iran put pressure on the Chinese to abandon their support
of the dollar. Clark warns that "a unilateral U.S. military
strike on Iran would further isolate the U.S. government, and
it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other
industrialized nations to abandon the dollar en masse." Perhaps
the U.S. planners think that they can corner the market in oil
militarily. But from Clarks point of view, "a U.S. intervention
in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making
matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to mention
potential adverse effects on the U.S. economy." The more
likely outcome of an Iran invasion would be that, just as in Iraq,
Iranian oil exports would dry up, regardless of what currency
they are denominated in, and China would be compelled to abandon
the dollar and buy oil from Russia-likely in euros. The conclusion
is that U.S. leaders seem to have no idea what they are doing.
Clark points out that, "World oil production is now flat
out, and a major interruption would escalate oil prices to a level
that would set off a global depression."
UPDATE BY WILLIAM CLARK: Following the
completion of my essay in October 2004, three important stories
appeared that dramatically raised the geopolitical stakes for
the Bush Administration. First, on October 28, 2004, Iran and
China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between
$70 and $100 billion dollars.)' It should also be noted that China
currently receives 13 percent of its oil imports from Iran. The
Chinese government effectively drew a "line in the sand"
around Iran when it signed this huge oil and gas deal. Despite
desires by U.S. elites to enforce petrodollar hegemony by force,
the geopolitical risks of a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities
would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.
An article that addressed some of the
strategic risks appeared in the December 2004 edition of the Atlantic
Monthly. This story by James Fallows outlined the military war
games against Iran that were conducted during the summer and autumn
of 2004. These war-gaming sessions were led by Colonel Sam Gardiner,
a retired Air Force colonel who for more than two decades ran
war games at the National War College and other military institutions.
Each scenario led to a dangerous escalation in both Iran and Iraq.
Indeed, Col. Gardiner summarized the war games with the following
conclusion, "After all this effort, I am left with two simple
sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for
the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work."
The third and final news item that revealed
the Bush Administration's intent to attack Iran was provided by
investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. The January 2005 issue of
The New Yorker ("The Coming Wars") included interviews
with high-level U.S. intelligence sources who repeatedly told
Hersh that Iran was indeed the next strategic target. However,
as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China will likely
veto any U.S. resolution calling for military action against Iran.
A unilateral military strike on Iran would isolate the U.S. government
in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that
such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations
to abandon the dollar in droves. I refer to this in my book as
the "rogue nation hypothesis."
While central bankers throughout the world
community would be extremely reluctant to "dump the dollar,"
the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward
from their perspective-the global community is dependent on the
oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf. Numerous
oil geologists are warning that global oil production is now running
"flat out." Hence, any such efforts by the international
community that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken-not
to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the
American people per se-but rather to thwart further unilateral
warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical
oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.
Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran's euro-denominated
oil bourse will open in March, 2006. Logically, the most appropriate
U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency
system for international oil trades.
Rich Countries Fail to Live Up to Global
Forty-five million children will needlessly
die between now and the year 2015, reveals the report by Oxfam,
"Poor Are Paying the Price of Rich Countries' Failure."
According to this report, 97 million more children will be denied
access to an education by the year 2015 and 53 million more people
will lack proper sanitation facilities. Ending poverty will require
assistance on many levels. For third world countries, economic
growth is undermined by unfair trade rules. Without finance and
support, these countries will not be able to take advantage of
global trade, investment opportunities, or protect basic human
Wealthy countries such as the U.S., Germany,
Japan, and the UK have promised to provide a very small fraction
of their wealth to third world countries. By offering .7 percent
of their gross national income, they could reduce poverty and
end the burden of debt that makes low income countries pay up
to $100 million per day to creditors. In the years 1960-65, wealthy
countries spent on average 0.48 percent of their combined national
incomes on official development assistance but by the year 2003
the proportion had dropped to 0.24 percent. Vital poverty-reduction
programs are failing for the lack of finance. Cambodia and Tanzania
are among the poorest countries in the world, yet they will require
at least double the level of external financing that they currently
receive if they are to achieve their poverty-reduction targets.
Global initiatives to enable poor countries
to develop provisional education and combat HI V/AIDS are starved
of cash. Despite the fact that HIV infection rates are rising
in sub-Saharan Africa, the global fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis,
and Malaria is assured of only one quarter of the funds that it
needs for 2005. Poor countries continue to spend more paying back
their creditors than they do on essential public services. Low-income
countries paid $39 billion in debt payments and interest in 2003,
while they received only $27 billion in aid.
Wealthy countries can easily afford to
deliver the necessary aid and debt relief. For wealthy countries
such as the U.S. to spend merely 0.7 percent of gross national
income on humanitarian aid is equal to one-fifth of its expenditure
on defense and one half of what it spends on domestic farm subsidies.
The U.S., at just 0.14 percent, is the
least generous provider of aid in proportion to national income
of any developed country. By comparison, Norway is the most generous
provider at 0.92 percent. The U.S. is spending more than twice
as much on the war in Iraq as it would cost to increase its aid
budget to 0.7 percent, and six times more on its military program.
Canceling the debts of the 32 poorest countries would be small
change for the wealthy nations.
Millions of children are now in school
in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia, thanks to money
provided by foreign aid and debt relief. Because of these relief
funds, Ugandans no longer have to pay for basic health care. A
policy was implemented that resulted in an increase of 50 to 100
percent in attendance at Ugandan health clinics and doubled the
rate on immunities. History also shows that aid has been necessary
in eradicating global diseases as well as rebuilding countries
devastated by war.
The wealthiest of nations have continuously
signed international statements pledging to increase foreign aid
to 0.7 percent of their gross national income in order to eliminate
the crippling debts of third world countries. Repeatedly, they
have broken their promises.
U.S. Plans for Hemispheric Integration
The U.S. and Canada have been sharing
national information since the creation of NORAD (North American
Aerospace Defense Command) in 1958. This bi-national agreement
to provide aerospace warning and control for North America is
scheduled to expire in May 2006. In preparation for the renewal
of this contract, the U.S. and Canadian commanders are proposing
to expand the integration of the two countries, including cooperation
in the "Star Wars" program, cross-national integration
of military command structures, immigration, law enforcement,
and intelligence gathering and sharing under the new title of
NORTHCOM, U.S. Northern Command.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
refused to join NORTHCOM. To circumvent his decision, this "illusive
transitional military" (aka NORAD/NORTHCOM) formed an interim
military authority in December 2002, called the Bi-National Planning
Group (BPG.) The command structure is fully integrated between
NORAD, NORTHCOM and the BPG. The BPG is neither accountable to
the U.S. Congress nor the Canadian House of Commons. The BPG is
also scheduled to expire in May 2006. Hence, the push for Canada
to join NORTHCOM.
Donald Rumsfeld said that U.S. Northern
Command would have jurisdiction over the entire North American
region. NORTHCOM's jurisdiction, outlined by the U.S. Department
of Defense (DoD), includes all of Canada, Mexico, parts of the
Caribbean, contiguous waters in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans
up to 500 miles of the Mexican, U.S. and Canadian coastlines as
well as the Canadian Artic.
Under NORTHCOM, Canada's military command
structures would be subordinated to those of the Pentagon and
the DoD. In December 2001, the Canadian government reached an
agreement with the head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, entitled
the "Canada-U.S. Smart Border Declaration." This agreement
essentially hands over confidential information on Canadian citizens
and residents to the U.S. Department of Homeland. It also provides
U.S. authorities with access to tax records of Canadians. The
National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, currently debated in
the U.S. Senate, centers on a so-called 'Information Sharing Network'
to coordinate data from 'all available sources."
The BPG is the interim military for NORTHCOM.
Part of the BPG's agenda is the Civil Assistance Plan (CAP) which
supports the ongoing militarization of the civilian law enforcement
and judicial functions in both the U.S. and Canada. Military commanders
would "provide bi-national military assistance to civil authorities."
The U.S. military would have jurisdiction over Canadian territory
from coast to coast, extending from the St. Laurence Valley to
the Parry Island in the Canadian Arctic.
It appears that some Canadian leaders
are in full support of this program. In the summer 2004, Canada
agreed to amend the NORAD treaty to allow sharing satellite and
radar data with the ballistic missile defense program based in
Colorado. This operation center will control the 40 interceptor
rockets planned for Alaska, California and at sea.
On February 22, 2005, at the NATO summit
in Brussels, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin declared that
his people would not participate in the controversial Missile
Defense Shield. Contradicting this message, Canadian Ambassador
to the U.S. (and former board member of the Caryle Group) Frank
McKenna, said "We are part of it now."
On August 2, 2004, the U.S. Air Force
quietly published a new doctrine called "Counterspace Operations."
The development of offensive counterspace capabilities provides
combatant commanders with new tools for counterspace operations..
. that may be utilized throughout the spectrum of conflict and
may achieve a variety of effects from temporary denial to complete
destruction of the adversary's space capability. It has also been
noted that Canadian Military personnel are taking part in large
scale American space war games designed to prepare for combat
Under an integrated North American Command,
Canada would be forced to embrace Washington's pre-emptive military
doctrine, including the use of nuclear warheads as a means of
self defense, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in December
Similar bi-national negotiations are being
conducted with Mexico. U.S. military could exert strategic control
over air space, land mass and contiguous territorial waters extending
from the Yucatan peninsula in southern Mexico to the Canadian
Arctic, representing 12 percent of the world's land mass. The
militarization of South America under the "Andean Trade Preference
Act" as well as the signing of a "parallel" military
cooperation protocol by 27 countries of the Americas (the so-called
Declaration of Manaus) is an integral part of the process of hemispheric
integration (see story #17).
Richard N. Haass, of the U.S. Department
of State, said at the 2002 Arthur Ross Lecture, "In the 21st
century, the principal aim of American foreign policy is to integrate
other countries and organizations into arrangements that will
sustain a world consistent with U.S. interests and values and
thereby promote peace, prosperity and justice as widely as possible.
Integration reflects not merely a hope for the future, but the
emerging reality of the Bush Administration's foreign policy."
U.S. Uses South American Military Bases
to Expand Control of the Region
The United States has a military base
in Manta, Ecuador, one of the three military bases located in
Latin America. According to the United States, we are there to
help the citizens of Manta, but an article in the Bulletin of
Atomic Scientists says that many people tell a different story.
According to Miguel Moran, head of a group
called Movimiento Tohalli, which opposes the Manta military base,
"Manta is part of a broader U.S. imperialist strategy aimed
at exploiting the continent's natural resources, suppressing popular
movements, and ultimately invading neighboring Colombia."
Michael Flynn reported that the military base in Ecuador is an
"integral part of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in
Colombia-and is a potential staging ground for direct American
involvement in the conflict there. Ecuadorians worry that the
U.S. could ultimately pull their country into conflict."
Flynn goes on to say that "the base is also at the center
of a growing controversy regarding the U.S. efforts to block mass
emigration from Ecuador [to the U.S.]." Policy makers have
diminished the difference between police roles and military roles,
stating that a police force is a body designed to protect a population
through minimal use of force and the military, which aims to defeat
an enemy through use of force.
According to a ten-year lease agreement
between Ecuador and the United States, "... U.S. activities
at the base are to be limited to counter-narcotics surveillance
flights (the agreements for the other two Latin American Forward
Operating Locations contain similar restrictions)." Ecuadorian
citizens are not pleased with the lease or the way the U.S. has
abused it. "A coalition of social and labor organizations
has called for the termination of the U.S. lease in Manta on the
grounds that the United States has violated both the terms of
the agreement and Ecuadorian law."
The U.S., says Flynn, is intervening in
Colombia through private corporations and organizations. Most
of the military operations and the spraying of biochemical agents
are contracted out to private firms and private armies. In 2003,
according to the article in Z Magazine, the U.S. State Department
said, "...there are seventeen primary contracting companies
working in Colombia, initially receiving $3.5 million." One
of these private American defense contractors, DynCorp, runs the
military base at Manta. "The Pentagon's decision to give
DynCorp-a company that many Latin Americans closely associate
with U.S. activities in Colombia-the contract to administer the
base reinforced fears that the United States had more than drug
interdiction in mind when it set up shop in Manta," says
In addition, say Sharma and Kumar, DynCorp
was awarded a "$600 million contract to carry out aerial
spraying to eliminate coca crops which also contaminates maize,
Yucca, and plantains-staple foods of the population; children
and adults develop skin rashes." The chemical, the foundation
for the herbicide Roundup, is sprayed in Ecuador in a manner that
would be illegal in the United States.
According to the NACLA report, in 2004,
the Pentagon began installing 3 substitute logistics centers (now
under construction) in the provinces of Guayas, Azuay, and Sucumbios,
and is currently militarizing the Ecuadorian police who are receiving
"anti-terrorist" training by the FBI. The U.S. military
is also aiding Colombia's "war on drugs." Isacson, Haugaard
and Olson write that, "increased militarization of antinarcotics
operation is a pretext for stepped up counterinsurgency action
and extending the war against them by the U.S." Washington
also has seven security offices in Ecuador: defense (DAO), drug
enforcement (DEA), military aid (MAAG), internal security, national
security (NSA), the U.S. Agency for Internal Development (USATD),
the Peace Corps, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). According
to the Bush Administration they are mixing military and police
roles to "...govern its counter-terror efforts in the hemisphere."
Michael Flynn offers this quote from an
Ecuadorian writer as another example of the United States intervening
in the operations of another country to further its own agenda:
"The U.S. invasion of Iraq and the pressure on Ecuador to
sign the interdiction agreement form part of a policy aimed at
consolidating a unipolar world with one hegemonic superpower."
UPDATE BY MICHAEL FLYNN: I think one important
aspect of my story about the Manta base is that it shows the arrogance
that often characterizes U.S. relations with its southern neighbors.
This arrogance comes with a heavy price, which the U.S. is paying
now as South American leaders express an ever greater willingness
to take an independent path in their affairs and reject the U.S.
lead. This fact was clearly revealed recently when the Organization
of American States soundly rejected a U.S. proposal to set up
a mechanism to review the state of democracy in the Americas.
Manta is a small part of this much larger picture. U.S. ambassadors,
the head of Southcom, even representatives in Congress have shown
a disregard for Ecuadorian concerns about operations at the Manta
base, which has helped fan criticism of the base, and has turned
into a lightning rod of criticism of U.S. policies. And this is
only one of among dozens of similar bases spread out across the
globe-what impact are they having on U.S. relations?
An equally important issue touched on
in my story is the U.S. reaction to the migration crises that
has gripped several Latin countries in recent years. Manta is
a sort of quasi-outpost of the U.S. southern border, which has
shown remarkable flexibility in recent years. The fact is, the
border itself ceased long ago to be the front line in the effort
to stop unwanted migration. The United States uses military bases
located in host countries as staging grounds for detention efforts.
It has funded detention centers in places like Guatemala City,
and it has teamed up with law enforcement officials from other
countries to carry out multi-lateral operations aimed at breaking
up migrant smuggling activities. Manta is one piece in this larger
UPDATE BY USA HAUGAARD While the nation
is focused on events in Iraq and Afghanistan, 9/11 has also had
a disturbing impact on U.S. policy toward Latin America. But the
growth in U.S. military programs towards Latin America and the
unfortunate emphasis by the United States on encouraging nondefense
related roles for militaries is part of a more general trend that
the Center for International Policy, Latin America Working Group
Education Fund and Washington Office on Latin America have been
documenting since 1997. Latin American civil society organizations,
individuals and governmental leaders have struggled hard to strictly
limit their militaries' involvement in civilian affairs, given
that many militaries in the region had exercised severe repression,
carried out military coups and maintained political control during
several turbulent decades. After this painful history, it is troubling
for the United States to be encouraging militaries to once again
adopt nondefense related roles, as is the growing weight of U.S.
military, rather than regional development aid in U.S. relations.
We are seeing a continuation of the general
trend of declining U.S. development assistance and stable military
aid to the region as well as the United States encouraging actions
that blur the line between civilian police and military roles.
We are also witnessing efforts by the Defense Department to exercise
greater control over "security assistance" (foreign
military aid programs) worldwide, which were once overseen exclusively
by the State Department. This almost invisible shift--by no means
limited to Latin America-is disturbing because it removes the
State Department as the lead agency in deciding where foreign
military aid and training is appropriate as part of U.S. foreign
policy. It will lead to less stringent oversight of military programs
and less emphasis upon human rights conditionality.
Our report, which we published in Spanish,
received good coverage from the Latin American press. Mainstream
U.S. newspapers regularly use our military aid database. The larger
story about the general trends in U.S. military aid in Latin America
and changes in oversight of foreign military programs, however,
is one that has been covered by only a few major media outlets.
To see our military aid database, reports
and other information (a collaborative project by the three organizations)
see our "Just the Facts" website, http://www.ciponline.org/facts.
See also our organizations' websites: Washington Office on Latin
America, www.wola.org; Center for International Policy, www. ciponline.org;
and Latin America Working Group Education Fund, www.lawg.org.
We welcome efforts by journalists, scholars
and nongovernmental organizations to insist upon greater transparency
and public oversight of U.S. military training programs, not just
in Latin America but worldwide.
COLOMBIAN COCA-COLA MAFIA
In Carepa, Colombia where a Coca-Cola
bottling plant operates, the managers employed members of one
of the brutal, armed paramilitary groups, the United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia, to oppose the union workers. CocaCola does
not own the bottling plants, but contracts with the companies
that do. As the union at the bottling plant began organizing,
the paramilitary group began threatening the union organizers.
The Colombian Trade Union Federation reports that 45 trade unionists
were murdered in the first eight months of 2003, and 117 or more
were murdered in 2002. Fearing for their lives, about 60 out of
100 plant workers quit and fled the area. The union was crushed
and the new workers were hired at wages less than half of what
the union members were making. The union wage of about $380 per
month dropped to $130.
CENSORED #4, 2005
HIGH URANIUM LEVELS FOUND IN TROOPS AND CIVILIANS
Civilian populations in Afghanistan and
Iraq and occupying troops ha been contaminated with astounding
levels of radioactive depleted and nondepleted uranium as a result
of post-9/11 United States' use of tons of uranium munitions.
Uranium dust will be in the bodies of
our returning armed forces. Nine soldiers from the 442nd Military
Police serving in Iraq were tested for DU contamination in December
2003. Conducted at the request of The New York Daily News, as
the U.S. government considers the cost of $1,000 per affected
soldier prohibitive, the test found that four of the nine men
were contaminated with high levels of DU, likely caused by inhaling
dust from depleted uranium shells fired by U.S. troops. Several
of the men had traces of another uranium isotope, U-236, that
are produced only in a nuclear reaction process.
Most American weapons (missiles, smart
bombs, dumb bombs, bullets, tank shells, cruise missiles, etc.)
contain high amounts of radioactive uranium. Depleted or non-depleted,
these types of weapons, on detonation, release a radioactive dust
which, when inhaled, goes into the body and stays there. It has
a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Basically, it's a permanently
available contaminant, distributed in the environment, where dust
storms or any water nearby can disperse it. Once ingested, it
releases subatomic particles that slice through DNA.
UPDATE BY JOSH PARRISH: There is national
dispute on the dangers of Depleted Uranium (DU). The Depart of
Defense has continually claimed that DU munitions are safe. At
the same time, veterans groups and various scientists and doctors
say that DU is the cause of Gulf War Syndrome and responsible
for a sharp rise in birth defects among Iraqis and returning U.S.
The information coming from the Department
of Defense has, at best, been contradictory. Dr. Michael Kilpatrick,
the deputy director of the Deployment Health Support Directorate
and Pentagon spokesman on Depleted Uranium, has said "as
long as this (DU exposure) is exterior to your body, you're not
at any risk and the potential of internalizing it from the environment
is extremely small." Several studies, commissioned by the
Pentagon, have supported this assertion. One in particular, The
Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses,
that reported to President Clinton in 1996 stated that "current
scientific evidence does not support a causal link" between
veterans symptoms and chemical exposures in the Persian Gulf.
This committee goes on to say that stress "is likely to be
an important contributing factor to the broad range of physical
and psychological illnesses currently being reported by gulf war
However, these Pentagon studies contradict
an Army report from 1990 that stated DU is "linked to cancer
when exposures are internal, [and] chemical toxicity causing kidney
damage." Here the U.S. government acknowledges that internal
exposure to DU is likely to be harmful. It is only after the 1991
Gulf War, where DU munitions were used for the first time, the
government began to claim they were harmless.
The main point of contention between the
U.S. government and those who oppose the use of DU is what constitutes
internal exposure and how does this exposure occur. The military
insists that only soldiers who had shrapnel wounds from DU or
who were inside tanks shot by DU shells and accidentally breathed
radioactive dust were at risk. This ignores the findings of Leonard
Dietz who, in 1979, found that DU contaminated dust could travel
great distances through the air. Dietz accidentally discovered
that air filters he was experimenting with had collected radioactive
dust from a lead plant that was producing DU 26 miles away. "The
contamination was so heavy that they had to remove the topsoil
from 52 properties around the plant," Dietz said.
When they were in Iraq, the soldiers of
the 442nd Military Police Company performed duties such as providing
security for convoys, running jails and training Iraqi police.
The fact that some of these soldiers have DU in their bodies is
proof that one need not be directly exposed to a DU explosion
to become contaminated. "These are amazing results, especially
since these soldiers were military police and not exposed to the
heat of battle," said Dr. Asaf Duracovic, who examined the
GIs and performed the testing that was funded by the New York
Daily News. One soldier from the 442n0, who tested positive for
DU exposure, Specialist Gerard Darren Mathew has since fathered
a child with birth defects. The child is missing three fingers
and most of her right hand.
Whether or not DU is the cause of the
myriad of ailments referred to collectively as "Gulf War
Syndrome" has not been conclusively proved or disproved,
and that is the problem. No thorough studies of DU's long-term
effects have been done. In the absence of studies and definitive
findings, the U.S. government has simply avoided the issue and
refused to decontaminate affected areas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
CENSORED #24, 2005
REINSTATING THE DRAFT
In the spring of 2004, several million
dollars were added to the Pentagon's budget to prepare for the
activation of the Selective Service System (SSS) By August 2003,
thirty-two states, two territories, and the District of Columbia
enacted legislation that required driver's license information
to be sent to the SSS. Violation of this legislation would restrict
access to federal employment and student loans. Also, draft dodging
would be much more difficult due to the "Smart Border Declaration,"
signed by the U.S. and Canada, which involved a "pre-clearance
agreement" of people entering or departing each country and
a provision aimed at eliminating higher education as a shelter.
Not waiting for the institution of a draft,
the Pentagon, in 2003 stepped up their aggressive recruitment
of Latinos and other minority groups. The Pentagon preys on the
fact that Latinos are the fastest growing group of military-age
individuals in the United States. These young people are also
particularly likely to enter the military in search of "civilian
skills" that they can apply in the workforce. However, 2001
Department of Defense (DOD) statistics showed that while 10 percent
of military forces are comprised of Latinos, 17.7 percent of this
group occupies "front-line positions," meaning: "infantry,
gun crews, and seamanship." These are positions that, beside
put these young people in particular danger, are not likely to
give them skills translatable to their post military lives.
UPDATE BY BROOKE FINLEY: The activation
of SSS began on June 15, 2005. At this time, the Pentagon has
begun a campaign to fill 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070
appeals board slots nationwide.
In October 2004, at a campaign stop in
Daytona Beach, Florida, President George W. Bush mistakenly said
to his supporters: "After standing on the stage, after the
debate, T made it very plain we will not have an all-volunteer
army. Hearing the alarmed shouts of his supporters, he continued
quickly, "And yet this week... will have an all-volunteer
army. Let me restate that: we will not have a draft."
The president's quick back-pedaling was
understandable considering the polls at the time, which showed
that even the slightest mention of a draft would be a form of
political suicide for either of the candidates. But despite the
reassuring words, it is becoming more apparent that, in order
for the Administration to continue to pursue its aggressive foreign
policy, the draft is quickly becoming a military necessity.
The Bush Administration has claimed time
and again that they will never reinstate the draft and the U.S.
House voted 402-2 against S.89 and H.R.163, which would've required
all young people, including women, ages 18-26 to serve two years
of military service. But an internal Selective Service memo made
public under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, in February
2003, a meeting was held with two of Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld's undersecretaries and the Selective Services' acting
director, to debate and discuss a return of the draft. The memo
notes the Administration's reluctance to launch a full scale draft
but states, "defense manpower officials concede there are
critical shortages of military personnel with certain skills,
such as medical personnel, linguists, computer network engineers,
etc." The potentially prohibitive costs of "attracting
and retaining such personnel for military service has led some
officials to conclude that, while a conventional draft may never
be needed, a draft of men and women possessing these critical
skills may be warranted in a future crisis."
Following this memo, the Health Care Personnel
Delivery System (the HCPDS or "Special Skills Draft")
was developed for the Selective Service System at the request
of Congress and is currently in standby mode. Initially, HCPDS
will be used to draft men and women, ages 20-45, who are skilled
doctors, nurses, medical technicians and those with "certain
other health care skills." But, Richard Flahavan, a spokesman
for the Selective Service, admits that this legislation provides
a perfect launching pad for a future full-scale draft. "Our
thinking," says Flahavan, "was that if we could
run a health-care draft in the future,
then with some very slight tinkering we could change that skill
to plumbers or linguists or electrical engineers or whatever the
military was short."
The National Guard and the Army Reserve
now make up almost half of the fighting force in Iraq. The Pentagon
is demanding that these volunteer soldiers extend their service,
and the military, without legal ratification by Congress, has
enforced the "stop loss" provision, which forces reservists
and guardsmen to remain on active duty for an indeterminate amount
of time. Many have been informed that their enlistment has been
extended until December 24, 2031.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, claims
that this extension is already one type of "draft" being
used by the military. "People are being forced to stay beyond
their commitment, and that's an indication of being overextended."
Another sign of the Administration's predicament
is the lowered standards for Marine and Army recruits. The Army
has allowed 25 percent more high school drop-outs into their program,
and the Marines have offered $30,000 rewards for anyone who re-enlists.
Almost $300 million has been spent on incentives alone for new
recruits since the war in Iraq began and the advertising costs
per new recruit have increased from $640 in 1990 to almost $1,900
in 2004. Recruitment is still focused on attracting the economically
disadvantaged. Recruiters are continuously targeting high unemployment
areas with flashy marketing campaigns and enlistment bonuses of
thousands of dollars.
President Bush signed an executive order
allowing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship immediately
if they volunteer for active duty, rather than waiting the usual
five years. Lt. Gen. James Heimly, the commander of the Army Reserve,
sums up the military and President Bush's seduction of potential
soldiers with one statement; "We must consider the point
at which we confuse 'volunteer to become an American soldier'
Through the No Child Left Behind Act,
as well as the National Defense Authorization Act it is required
that every high school receiving federal funding hand over the
names, addresses and phone numbers of every junior and senior
to local military recruitment offices. The public schools predominately
targeted are located in poor communities.
With the neo-conservatives' aggressive
foreign policy agenda: the possibility of a long commitment in
the Middle East; the war on terror coupled