'It manifests itself as abscesses, in massive tumours, in gangrene, internal bleeding and child mastectomies and shrunken heads and deformities and thousands of tiny graves.' * (p 895)
Comment by Peter Limbrick: This is the second Editorial Comment under the heading, 'Hey, stop killing those children! Kill these children instead!'
I make no apology for harking back to the Gulf War of 1991 and our (USA and UK) invasion of Iraq in 2003 or for quoting again from Robert Fisk's exemplary chronicles of them. Fisk has long first-hand experience of the Middle East and an unwavering commitment to reporting what governments get up to in my name and yours. It is essential to learn how past conflicts have treated children because the next one is always just around the corner and perhaps some work could be done to protect children from war's ravages and obscenities.
This piece is about depleted uranium (DU) munitions and their devastating impact on that generation of children and on generations to come. DU shells, delivered by aircraft or tanks, are made from nuclear industry waste products, are tougher than tungsten and ignite into an aerosol uranium spray after piercing a tank or personnel carrier's armour. I can easily imagine some arms industry inventor feeling proud of such a clever weapon – and one that turns waste to good use as well!
Fisk develops the argument that DU weaponry has brought in its wake a cancer epidemic in Iraq.
'... increasingly, we found that those most at risk came from areas where allied aircraft – and in the far south, tanks – had used large quantities of DU munitions.' (p 896)
'Dr Ismael blamed...the 1991 war for turning his paediatric ward into way-station for dying children, for the infants who – given their first medicines – bleed to death in front of the doctors. "In three years, I have seen hundreds of children with leukaemia and last year there was a dramatic increase" Dr Ismael said. "This month we diagnosed twenty new cases, mostly from the south – from Basra, Nasiriyah, Kerbala and Najaf. It's mainly caused by radiation."' (pp 897-898)
'"There was a military base near our home in Baghdad," she (Hassiba) says. "It was bombed heavily by the Americans....We felt ill with the choking smoke at the time. I already had a healthy child, born before the war. But when I became pregnant after the war, I had a miscarriage. Then I had Youssef, who has leukaemia, then another miscarriage."' (p 899)
The following extract comes from a letter from a US lieutenant colonel at the Los Alamos National Laboratory dated 21/3/91 to a Major Larson at the organisation's 'Studies and Analysis Branch':
'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 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 (Department of Defence) proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability.' (p 906)
'So there it is...the message is simple: the health risks of DU ammunition are acceptable until we – the West – invent something even more lethal to take its place.' (p 906)
That 'something even more lethal' is already on the shelf waiting to be used. Believe me. The arms industry and the politicians that promote it and directly or indirectly profit from it are waiting for the next conflict so they can try it out. I subscribe to the argument that the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, fried, burned and evaporated in just such a 'product test'. It worked – both by validating the new technology and scaring the Russians.
I do not have a crystal ball to predict the next 'theatre' (Pakistan, Iran and Sub-Saharan Africa come to mind) but I do know that one of the group of 'actors' will be eager arms dealers anxious to show their wares. The number of people their new 'smart' weaponry can kill will be a factor in the sales pitch. 'Collateral damage' (i.e. the murder of innocent men, women and children) will not be considered and environmental damage will be thought too insignificant to be mentioned.
Wars mean money and the dead or damaged bodies of children mean nothing.
All quotes in this Comment are from Robert Fisk's The Great war for civilisation: the conquest of the Middle East, published by Harper Perennial in 2006. I recommend this book to readers so they will get a fuller account than I have been able to give here.
Some relevant websites: