Dave Robinson / Pax Christie
I’m the National Coordinator for
Pax Christie USA, the national Catholic peace movement in the
United States. It’s part of
Pax Christie International, which is a global movement of Catholics
and people of conscience working for sustainability, peace, disarmament,
and human rights.
I traveled to Iraq in December, from the 8th
until the 21st with a delegation of religious leaders. We visited
hospitals. We visited
orphanages. We visited government offices. We were testing
and looking at what the human impact would be on the systems crash
that we can
expect in Iraq from another Gulf War.
One of the effects of
our use of depleted uranium, as you all know, is a dramatic increase
in cancer rates in Iraq, especially
Iraq where there are some areas that have experienced a 2,000
percent increase in cancers. The vast majority of those who
have been impacted
are, of course, children. Children because they are small
and they tend to play near the ground and in the dirt where the
DU, once it
volatizes and wafts for up to a mile and a half, tends to
Once you get DU particulates into your lungs and into your
lymphnodes, you will get cancer.
The other aspect that is
reflected in these photographs and that we experienced first-hand
are the horrendous birth defects
have plagued Iraqis since the Gulf War — some of
which are the same birth defects that we are seeing in
Gulf War veterans
were exposed to DU in the first Gulf War.
In addition to
the birth defects, we were shown a book of photographs
of tumors that have never been seen before
Essentially what this means, in my opinion, is that the
United States government
used the environment as a weapon of mass destruction during
the Gulf War.
We must not forget that the US government
is the only government on this planet to have used all three
weapons of mass destruction
against human beings in conflict. We are the only government
to use nuclear weapons against people — as we did
in 1945. We are one of the few governments in modern
times that have used chemical
weapons against human beings in conflict. And now, with
the use of
depleted uranium, we are opening a whole new area of
WMD by using radiological weapons.
In addition, WMD in
Iraq by the US included the use of
what I would call biological weapons. It’s one
thing to create biological weapons in a laboratory and
then release those bugs into the environment.
But another way to do it is by
taking out the infrastructure that is neccesary to maintain human
life, and thereby creating those bugs in the environment
that then effect
We have a copy of “Iraq’s Water
Treatment Vulnerabilities,” a
Defense Intelligence Agency Assessment from February 1991 that made
clear what the effects on the civilian population would
be should we debilitate and destroy
the very means of human life being sustained by water treatment and
sewage treatment and a lack of power.
to “re-run the movie” as George
Bush said, and we can expect at least the effect that we have
seen in Saul Bloom’s presentation
Pax Christie deplores this affront to creation and the
effects on human beings who, we know, are all part of the web
of life — part of the environment.
We’re going to go back into Iraq for reasons that Gopal made
very clear, much beyond the idea that we are creating safety for
ourselves from weapons of
mass destruction. We’re going into Iraq for motives that can’t
even be made public by this government because they could not get
the support necessary
if the real reasons were made public. We’re about to kill tens
of thousands of human beings and create a lingering death for hundreds
of thousands more
who will bear the brunt and who will suffer from a massive increase
in toxins released
into the environment. Who will bear the brunt of another round?
must remember that, when we attacked the civilian infrastructure
in the first Gulf War, they were operating at 100 percent. What
visible to us in
visits with hospital administrators and UN agencies was that, right
now, the system in Iraq for maintaining human life are just holding
own. Any pressures — like
a bombing campaign — will crash their system immediately.
The Uinited Nations has already estimated that 16 million Iraqis
are comopletely dependent on
the system of food distribution will, once the food distribution
ends (and it will — days before the bombing starts), those
people will have absolutely no access to food until the bombing
campaign ends and the United States sends
in troops who are then supposed to be aid workers (which I have
grave doubts about).
I was in Afghanistan and Pakistan this summer
assessing the damage
the US had done in those countries. One of the lingering effects
of the US
Iraq would be the same as it was in Afghanistan — tens of
thousands of unexploded cluster bombs.
Cluster bombs have a built-in failure rate that’s recognized
by the United Nations as ten percent but the de-miners that we
meet in Afghanistan said that
in reality it’s closer to 25 percent. Twenty-five percent
of the cluster bombs that are dropped do not explode. They wait,
sitting on the soil, denying
the ground that they encompass so that you cannot plant, you
cannot live. They are also extremely attractive. They are small
yellow canisters that, in Afghanistan,
look very similar to a very popular brand of cookies.
who see unexploded cluster bombs on the ground are attracted
to them in a way that you could expect.
I met with an eight-year-old. — one
of the most articulate human beings that I’ve ever had
the privilege to meet — who stood in a room and
showed us his wounds, eight months old, some of which were still
draining. He explained to us how he was walking to school one
day and his cousin saw what
he thought was a box of cookies lying on the ground. He picked
it up and it started to smoke. His cousin threw it and it “fragged” him.
He would have lost both his arms and his legs if it hadn’t
been for a German NGO that his father was able to find in the
hospital who took pity on them, evacuated
him out to Germany, did reconstructive surgery and now he’s
able to walk and play — he’s got all his limbs.
was just one case we encountered that’s repeated thousands
of times that we never see. The effects of this war will be a
catastrophe — ostensibly
intended to “prevent a catastrophe.”
USA joins the environmental community in opposing this war. And
we’re calling for March 5, which in our tradition is Ash
Wednesday, to be a national day of strike against the war. Do
not go to school. Do not go
to work. If you come from a faith-based tradition, pray, fast,
learn. Learn about
what the reality is behind this bogus war.
For everyone we are
saying it should be a day of “oil independence.” To
break our addiction to the oil that costs so dearly in blood.