Environmentalists Against War
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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 in southern 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 settle. 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 that have plagued Iraqis since the Gulf War — some of which are the same birth defects that we are seeing in our own Gulf War veterans who 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 in human beings. 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 human beings.

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.

We’re about 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 and others.

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?

We must remember that, when we attacked the civilian infrastructure in the first Gulf War, they were operating at 100 percent. What was made 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 their own. Any pressures — like a bombing campaign — will crash their system immediately. The Uinited Nations has already estimated that 16 million Iraqis who 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 campaign against 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.

Children 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.

That 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.”

Pax Christie 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.

Thank you.


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