Wednesday 21 January 2004

American Terrorist

by John Pilger

Forget Hutton. He will not reveal what the US and UK authorities really don't want you to know: that radiation illnesses caused by uranium weapons are now common in Iraq. By John Pilger

The disaster in Iraq is rotting the Blairite establishment. Blair himself appears ever more removed from reality; his latest tomfoolery about the "discovery" of "a huge system of clandestine weapons laboratories", which even the American viceroy in Baghdad mocked, would be astonishing, were it not merely another of his vapid attempts to justify his crime against humanity. (His crime, and George Bush's, is clearly defined as "supreme" in the Nuremberg judgment.)

This is not what the guardians of the faith want you to know. Lord Hutton, who is due to report on the Kelly affair, will provide the most effective distraction, just as Lord Justice Scott did with his arms-to-Iraq report almost ten years ago, ensuring that the top echelon of the political class escaped criminal charges. Of course, it was not Hutton's "brief" to deal with the criminal slaughter in Iraq; he will spread the blame for one man's torment and death, having pointedly and scandalously chosen not to recall and cross-examine Blair, even though Blair revealed during his appearance before Hutton that he had lied in "emphatically" denying he had had anything to do with "outing" Dr David Kelly.

Other guardians have been assiduously at work. The truth of public opposition to an illegal, unprovoked invasion, expressed in the biggest demonstration in modern history, is being urgently revised. In a valedictory piece on 30 December, the Guardian commentator and leader writer Martin Kettle wrote: "Opponents of the war may need to be reminded that public opinion currently approves of the invasion by nearly two to one."

A favourite source for this is a Guardian/ICM poll published on 18 November, the day Bush arrived in London, which was reported beneath the front-page headline "Protests begin but majority backs Bush visit as support for war surges". Out of 1,002 people contacted, just 426 said they welcomed Bush's visit, while the majority said they were opposed to it or did not know. As for support for the war "surging", the absurdly small number questioned still produced a majority that opposed the invasion.

Across the world, the "majority backs Bush" disinformation was seized upon - by William Shawcross on CNN ("The majority of the British people are glad he [Bush] came . . ."), by the equally warmongering William Safire in the New York Times and by the Murdoch press almost everywhere. Thus, the slaughter in Iraq, the destruction of democratic rights and civil liberties in the west and the preparation for the next invasion are "normalised".

In "The Banality of Evil", Edward S Herman wrote, "Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on 'normalisation' . .

. There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals . . . others working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive Napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the general public."

Current "normalising" is expressed succinctly by Kettle: "As 2003 draws to its close, it is surely al-Qaeda, rather than the repercussions of Iraq, that casts a darker shadow over Britain's future." How does he know this? The "mass of intelligence flowing across the Prime Minister's desk", of course! He calls this "cold-eyed realism", omitting to mention that the only credible intelligence "flowing across the Prime Minister's desk" was the common sense that an Anglo-American attack on Iraq would increase the threat from al-Qaeda.

What the normalisers don't want you to know is the nature and scale of the "coalition" crime in Iraq - which Kettle calls a "misjudgement" - and the true source of the worldwide threat. Outside the work of a few outstanding journalists prepared to go beyond the official compounds in Iraq, the extent of the human carnage and material devastation is barely acknowledged. For example, the effect of uranium weapons used by American and British forces is suppressed. Iraqi and foreign doctors report that radiation illnesses are common throughout Iraq, and troops have been warned not to approach contaminated sites.

Readings taken from destroyed Iraqi tanks in British-controlled Basra are so high that a British army survey team wore white, full-body radiation suits, face masks and gloves. With nothing to warn them, Iraqi children play on and around the tanks.

Of the 10,000 Americans evacuated sick from Iraq, many have "mystery illnesses" not unlike those suffered by veterans of the first Gulf war. By mid-April last year, the US air force had deployed more than 19,000 guided weapons and 311,000 rounds of uranium A10 shells.

According to a November 2003 study by the Uranium Medical Research Centre, witnesses living next to Baghdad airport reported a huge death toll following one morning's attack from aerial bursts of thermobaric and fuel air bombs. Since then, a vast area has been "landscaped" by US earth movers, and fenced. Jo Wilding, a British human rights observer in Baghdad, has documented a catalogue of miscarriages, hair loss, and horrific eye, skin and respiratory problems among people living near the area. Yet the US and Britain steadfastly refuse to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct systematic monitoring tests for uranium contamination in Iraq. The Ministry of Defence, which has admitted that British tanks fired depleted uranium in and around Basra, says that British troops "will have access to biological monitoring". Iraqis have no such access and receive no specialist medical help.

According to the non-governmental organisation Medact, between 21,700 and 55,000 Iraqis died between 20 March and 20 October last year. This includes up to 9,600 civilians. Deaths and injury of young children from unexploded cluster bombs are put at 1,000 a month. These are conservative estimates; the ripples of trauma throughout the society cannot be imagined. Neither the US nor Britain counts its Iraqi victims, whose epic suffering is "not relevant", according to a US State Department official - just as the slaughter of more than 200,000 Iraqis during and immediately after the 1991 Gulf war, calculated in a Medical Education Trust study, was "not relevant" and not news.

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