Stephen Lendman – 2006-05-31 23:35:31
A Grim Assessment the Evidence
So what can we make from all this. From the Gulf war in 1991, at a minimum many tens of thousands of the US military forces sent there for a short period of time have had health problems or are now on some form of disability. But the worst is yet to come. In the Afghanistan war beginning in late 2001 and the Iraq war from March, 2003, about 1.3 million US military forces have served in combat and occupation in these countries.
They were all assigned long tours of duty and most of them have served two or three deployments to what are beyond question the most dangerous and toxic environments on earth. Somewhere between 30 – 75% of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm are now on some kind of disability or have died.
If those percentages are applied to the 1.3 million of our military now serving or having served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, between 390,000 to 975,000 vets may end up on disability or die from exposure to the far more toxic DU munitions used in these wars, the many other poisonous pollutants they’ve been exposed to, and the much longer and multiple tours of duty they’ve had to undergo.
In simple terms, it’s likely we can expect an eventual catastrophic human disaster of epic proportions and one being covered up because of its enormity. And it’s in addition to the far greater one we’ve inflicted on 26 million innocent Iraqis discussed below.
Should the truth about all this come out fully, what sane young men and women would ever volunteer for military service knowing they were either signing their death warrants or at the least likely assuring themselves a lifetime of devastating and/or debilitating health problems. And add to that the mass outrage by the US public and the people of other nations that joined with the US in sending contingents of their military to be part of an illegal occupying force.
The effect of all this has finally reached the US Congress, but it’s unlikely anything meaningful will emerge there to reveal how dangerous and deadly exposure to DU contamination really is. Still on May 11, the House passed legislation that includes an amendment by Rep. Jim McDermott (himself an MD and once a practicing psychiatrist) ordering a comprehensive study of possible health effects from DU exposure on US military forces and their children.
It’s almost certain this amendment will never get through the Senate or certainly won’t ever be signed into law by George Bush. Still kudos and an A for effort to Rep. McDermott even though it’s almost certain it will all be for naught.
The Devastating Toll on Iraqis Since 1991
As bad as it’s been and still is for our troops and their families, try to imagine the nightmare 26 million innocent Iraqis have been living through since January, 1991. The Gulf war began the malicious destruction of a once modern state. It caused 100,000 or more Iraqi deaths in just weeks and destroyed essential infrastructure like electricity and clean water facilities vital to the health, welfare and the safety of the people.
It also began the spread of deadly toxic radiation across the country from the first use of DU munitions in combat as well as a harmful stew of other pollutants responsible for rampant illness and disease. This living hell is what US illegal aggression based on lies and deceit brought to this most highly developed and well-functioning of all states in the Middle East now unable to cope against a brutal occupier determined to destroy and control it for its own imperial purpose and gain.
The sacking and plunder of Iraq began in January, 1991. But although the war formally ended after six weeks of one-sided fighting, the bombing and brutality against the people never did. Air attacks continued sporadically throughout the 1990s (ordered by Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton) destroying more infrastructure, causing more deaths and adding to the spread of deadly pollutants including the toxic radiation from the DU weapons used.
What also followed the formal end to hostilities was a dozen years of brutal economic sanctions that ravaged a population helpless to cope with their horrific effects. The result was a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions that never ended. Besides the physical and human toll, the economy was destroyed as is evident from the following data. The per capita annual income of Iraqis declined from a 1979 level of $2,313 to $255 in 2003 and $144 in 2004. Further, the college of economics at Baghdad University estimated that unemployment rose to a level of 70%.
Even the so-called “oil for food” program did little to relieve the crisis prior to the 2003 invasion. In fact, it was never intended to as the US planned all along to inflict the greatest possible hardship on the people hoping their misery would encourage them to rise up and topple Saddam. It turned out it had the opposite effect despite the severity of the toll. Instead of blaming Saddam, Iraqis relied on him for whatever relief they could get. It wasn’t much or nearly enough because the US allowed him little to give.
The combination of war and economic sanctions caused widespread illness and disease that was devastating and still is. Even by conservative estimates, it likely caused the death of at least one million Iraqis including 500,000 children. Some estimates put the number as high as 1.5 million and some others far higher still.
When Denis Halliday resigned in 1998 as UN head of Iraqi humanitarian relief he said he did so because he believed he’d been instructed to implement a policy of genocide and refused to do it. He added that 5,000 Iraqi children were dying needlessly every month. Hans Von Sponek, who took on the UN relief job after Halliday, also resigned in frustration and disgust in 2000 voicing similar sentiments when he left.
But bad as conditions were then, they got far worse following the US illegal aggression beginning in March, 2003. The daily toll of death and destruction since then is unknown precisely, but even conservative estimates are appalling and shocking. The British Lancet earlier reported by their “conservative assumptions” an Iraqi toll of about 100,000 “excess deaths” post March, 2003. They recently updated their initial estimate (three years later) to a now likely 300,000 and rising daily as we all should know.
Other estimates place the number far higher, up to 500,000 in one estimate I saw a few months ago. Whatever the true number is, the US inflicted disaster on Iraq and its people for over the past 15 years is truly of epic proportions. It clearly warrants the label genocide and makes all those in the US at the highest levels of three administrations responsible for it guilty of egregious war crimes and crimes against humanity.
What May Lie Ahead
Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins, and the US is hopelessly embroiled in two wars it has no possibility of winning. Both of them will go on without end as long as we remain occupiers in countries where we’re not wanted and will never be tolerated.
Further, both countries have a long history of expelling invaders regardless of how long it took them to do it. It will be no different this time, but it’s shocking to imagine the human toll that will result on all sides before they finally do end, the final tally is estimated years later, and the many years it will then take to rebuild these shattered countries.
So with two out-of-control wars ongoing, it would seem unthinkable the US would now be planning one or two more. How can that be possible, and what sane planners would ever contemplate such an irrational course? We don’t have the troop strength, and our military budget (on and off the books) is off the charts and running up huge deficits even the new Fed chairman is alarmed about. Logic and fiscal sanity should indicate it would be folly to compound the current mess with a still greater mess.
But that’s exactly what appears to be in the works, and the preliminary and softening up stage of a planned attack against Iran is already underway just as it was leading up to the March, 2003 “shock and awe” assault against Iraq.
For many months, Iran has known the US has been flying unmanned aerial surveillance drones to help select target sites. There have been some scattered but unconfirmed reports that one or more of these intruders have been shot down. It’s also a not so hidden secret we’ve sent special forces or combat personnel into Iran under cover along with reconnaissance teams to collect similar information on the ground as well as link up with anti-government elements we hope will help our efforts.
The Iranians know all this, and you can bet they’re trying to snare a few of them, but if they have neither side is letting on. I wouldn’t want to be one of the illegal infiltrators and get caught in the act. I don’t think the Iranians will be very hospitable or understanding nor should they be. So what’s likely to happen next and when.
I have no timetable, but it’s been responsibly reported, and I believe the reports, that George Bush has signed off on a “shock and awe” attack against Iran and is intending to do it using industrial strength nuclear weapons. They’re deceptively called “bunker-buster mini-nukes” which I explained above are nukes but not mini ones — they’re likely to be from one-third to two-thirds as powerful as a Hiroshima bomb. But they can be produced to any potency and some likely will be and used. I also explained that the Pentagon has lied (do they ever do anything else) that the radiation emitted from these earth-penetrating munitions will be contained below ground and thus are safe to use. Not so, and the Pentagon knows it.
Our apparent intentions toward Iran are also based on more lies and deception as we accuse that country of violating international law by having a secret nuclear weapons program. There’s no evidence whatever Iran has one, but they’d be irresponsible not to be taking every measure possible to defend itself against a hostile US intending to bring down its government by any means including nuclear war. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and so far as known is in full compliance with it. As such it has every legal right to enrich uranium for its commercial nuclear industry as does every other country following NPT rules.
US hostility to Iran has nothing to do with its enrichment policy or even its form of government. It’s the result of Iran’s intent to remain independent of US dominance and go its own way. It’s been that way since the uprising that overthrew the repressive and US installed and supported Shah in 1979 after which Iran no longer was willing to continue relinquishing its sovereignty and remain subservient to US interests.
The result has been continued hostility between the two countries that may now be culminating with a US planned attempt to oust the country’s leadership forcibly since we’ve given up trying to achieve that goal by other means short of war. The strategy won’t be any more successful in Iran than it’s been in Iraq. What US planners may succeed in doing is engulfing the whole Middle East in flames without a realistic notion of what the outcome of that may be. It certainly won’t be a good one, but that never before deterred an administration that’s often wrong but never in doubt.
The US way of doing things is to engage other nations like a schoolyard bully. It’s especially true in our dealings with the developing world where we generally treat the countries in it on the basis of an “our way or the highway” policy. We can’t unleash our full force bullying against most developed ones in the Global North, but we do that freely and often, directly or through proxies, against all others that forget “who’s boss.” When that happens, that “highway” is usually strewn with unwarranted economic sanctions, coup attempts, political assassinations, or death and destruction from war.
The US follows this hostile course to bring “outlier” nations in line with our policies, but also to deter others from deviating from them as well. It’s a bloodstained legacy that puts to rest the myth that the US is a peace loving, benevolent democracy only wanting to spread those principles to other nations that don’t practice them. But let me state clearly something I haven’t said elsewhere before but should have. By the US I don’t mean the people. I mean the leadership of both major political parties and their corporate and elitist allies all of whom work against the public interest everywhere and only for their own.
The US and Iranian public interest won’t be served by what our present leadership apparently has in mind for that country – regime change the hard way. It looks like the plan is to make it extra hard by upping the ante to send a clear and decisive message to the Iranians and all other nations going their own way that we will nuke you into submission unless you come around willingly.
So far, we’ve only used nuclear weapons below the radar with DU munitions that alone have caused unspeakable harm. But should the US go further and attack Iran with industrial strength nuclear bombs, we will have crossed an inviolable threshold, moved the nation one step closer to tyranny and brought the world a lot closer to a possible eventual nuclear holocaust. In my judgment, that’s what’s now at stake unless a way is found to stop this aggressive juggernaut before it goes further and it’s too late to act.
Iran is First in the US Target Queue
Followed by Venezuela
Unimaginable as it may seem, high-level leadership and planners in Washington may have in mind not just a third conflict but a fourth one as well. I’ve written about this several times, and recently wrote a feature article titled “The US Now Planning A Fourth Attempt to Oust Hugo Chavez.”
Based on my knowledge and ear to the ground observing and listening to the steady and intensifying drumbeat of anti-Chavez rhetoric coming from top US officials through the corporate media (all of it the usual litany of lies and deception only), I have no doubt whatever a fourth attempt to oust President Chavez and his government is planned and likely now being implemented under the radar. Precisely how and what will be unleashed won’t be known until the fireworks begin.
But make no mistake about it, they will begin, and this time they may include attempted assassinations and open conflict with DU munitions or even full-scale nuclear bombs if that’s part of the plan. If that happens, the nuclear nightmare will have arrived in the Americas and come ever closer to the US Southern border.
By whatever means the US has in mind in its latest attempt to unseat Hugo Chavez, its intentions toward him and his government are clear, unmistakable and written in stone. The US will settle for nothing less than full control of his country’s vast hydrocarbon reserves and a government willing to hand them over to us. Those reserves are far more vast than once thought as the best estimates of the country’s oil reserves (including the extra-heavy kind more expensive to refine) are thought to be about 350 billion barrels or even higher. That compares to Saudi Arabia’s estimated reserves of about 262 billion barrels of (at least mostly) the preferred and more easily refined “light sweet” crude.
It takes no mental exertion to see the two countries at the head of the US target queue have vast amounts of the essential commodity the US wants most and is willing to go to war if necessary to secure control over everywhere it feels it’s worth the cost and effort. There’s no doubt the US feels that way about Iran and Venezuela just as it did about Iraq.
The US decided Saddam had to go not because of his oppressive rule or his “now you see ’em, now you don’t” WMDs. It was because of his unwillingness to surrender his nation’s sovereignty to the US. Same old story, and it’s the same again in Iran and most of all in Venezuela that has to be the greatest prize of the three.
It’s especially tricky for the US there as that nation happens to have a democratic leader loved by the great majority of his people. It’s because Hugo Chavez is fiercely and proudly independent, as he has every right to be, and puts the needs of his people ahead of the US and its Big Oil interests. Chavez was twice democratically elected and then prevailed in an August, 2004 recall referendum (the third coup attempt by ballot box means) that was a contrived act of desperation cooked up by his right wing opposition in league with US corporate interests.
It was a flop, as Chavez’s supporters flocked to the polls giving him a decisive victory. He deserved and earned it and his other electoral victories as he proved he’s the rarest of political leaders who actually delivers on his promises to the people. Try finding a US politician who’s done that, especially one with any power to follow through. You’ll need a high-powered version of that lamp Diogenes once used used looking for an honest man.
It’s Hugo Chavez’s intention to serve the interests and needs of his own people and not those of his dominant Northern neighbor that has him once again high on its target list for elimination. Hugo Chavez will remain there until the US finds a way to remove him which it certainly will keep trying to do.
Chavez is well aware of it and so are the Venezuelan people who love and support him and are likely to fight to keep him in office. They know what their lives were like before he became their president and what a vast difference he made once he came into office. He promised to serve the people and proved it by instituting a vast array of social programs the majority of the US public might only dream about if they knew what’s available now to the Venezuelan people.
They include free, comprehensive and high-quality health and dental care for all as well as free education through the university level to all those who wish it and can qualify. Compare that to what’s available in the US – a health care system available only to those who can afford its high and fast-rising cost and a deliberately degraded inner-city public education system as well as a costly one at the university level unavailable to lower income families that can’t afford it for their children.
Now try to imagine what the US has in mind for Venezuelans. It won’t tolerate a developing nation’s leader who’ll institute such essential social services for the people and will try to end them even if it takes nuclear war to do it. Try to think of appropriate language to describe the leader of a nation who would unleash such an attack and do it for power and profit. Do the words tyrant and war criminal come to mind?
Get Ready for the Long Knives
The Marines Again in Action to Go Along with
A Little Or Maybe A Lot of “Shock and Awe.”
The plans for two “outlier” countries are set, the wheels are in motion, and we now must wait and see what will unfold in the next chapter of the ongoing drama of an aggressor and imperial US against the world with Iran and Venezuela numbers one and two in the US target queue.
Several times before I spelled out in some detail what I feels lies ahead unless a way is found to stop it. I fear two more conflicts are ahead for starters to add to the ones now ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still others will follow against other countries to be named later and by whatever timetable and means we have in mind.
The result may be that the US is near to crossing an inviolable Rubicon in two deadly and dangerous ways — first by unleashing the nuclear genie in an industrial strength way, and second by suspending the Constitution and declaring martial law at home in the wake of a likely inevitable second major terror attack that may be as much an inside job as was the first one on September 11.
Unless the US public awakens to these very real threats, we face the same fate as did the Germans who lost their model democratic state after the ascension of Adolph Hitler.
Good German people let him steal it from them while they weren’t paying attention or bought into his false rhetoric that he was serving their interests and protecting them from an outside threat — that never existed. We also have no outside threat from any other nation, but we’ve been effectively scared to death and conned by the false rhetoric that’s made us feel we do.
The result is we’re getting too close for comfort to the point of no return. There’s still time to act if we’re bold enough to do it. Think of the choice I think we face. Act together in our collective self-interest or do nothing and see us pass from a once proud but now tattered republic to tyranny. It can happen here as it has elsewhere unless we act to prevent it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.