Talk World Radio: Now That War Victims and Burn Pits Matter, Meet Iraqis Who Live Near Burn Pits

AUDIO:

Talk World Radio is recorded as audio and video on Riverside.fm — except when it can’t be and then it’s Zoom. Here is this week’s video and all the videos on Youtube.

VIDEO:

This week on Talk World Radio, we’re talking about burn pits. Our guest Kali Rubaii is an assistant professor of anthropology at Purdue University, researching the environmental health impacts of war. She did research among farmers from Anbar, Iraq, in 2014 and 2015, documenting the environmental read more

Democrats need backbone on militarism to win in 2020: Iran is NOT Responsible for US Dead in Iraq

By John Grant

Who exactly is responsible for US casualties in Iraq during the Iraq War? The question has been raised thanks to President Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qessim Suleimani.

On January 13, the New York Times published a front-page story about a lawsuit filed against Iran in federal court by US veterans and veteran families; it charges Iran with wounding or killing these men. The crux of the lawsuit is that the explosive devices that killed and maimed these read more

Rogue president, rogue nation: Trump Tells Iraq Order US Troops Out and I’ll Freeze Your Central Bank’s Account at the Fed

By Dave Lindorff

President Trump’s actions in the Middle East are becoming increasingly unhinged.

A week ago, he nearly triggered a catastrophic war between Iran and the US when, acting seemingly on a whim or in response to the advice of two of his nuttier advisors, fundamentalist Christian “Rapture” believers Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, he ordered the assassination by drone of the commander of Iran’s military, Qassem Suleimani.

Fortunately for American troops, sailors and pilots, and for read more

Opening Pandora’s Box in Iraq: Trump Hit on Iranian Commander Puts a Target on His Own and Top US Generals’ Backs

By Dave Lindorff

As far back as at least the American Revolution, there was an unwritten rule among combatants that you don’t kill the commander in the field of battle. That’s why generals could be seen directing their troops while sitting astride a horse behind the front lines —easy targets for anyone equipped with a rifled barrel on their long gun to pick off.  The reason they felt relatively safe doing so was that it was that both sides understood that if commanding officers were read more

Camp Bucca, Abu Ghraib and the Rise of Extremism in Iraq

October 28, 2019

Yesterday morning, President Trump announced the death of Abu Bakr Al- Baghdadi and three of his children.

President Trump said Al-Baghdadi, the founder of ISIS, was fleeing U.S. military forces, in a tunnel, and then killed himself by detonating a suicide vest he wore.

In 2004, Al-Baghdadi had been captured by U.S. forces and, for ten months, imprisoned in both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca.

I visited Camp Bucca in January, 2004 when, still under construction, the Camp was a network read more

New Study Documents Depleted Uranium Impacts on Children in Iraq

In the years following 2003, the U.S. military dotted Iraq with over 500 military bases, many of them close to Iraqi cities. These cities suffered the impacts of bombs, bullets, chemical and other weapons, but also the environmental damage of open burn pits on U.S. bases, abandoned tanks and trucks, and the storage of weapons on U.S. bases, including depleted uranium weapons. Here’s a map of some of the U.S. bases:

This map and the other illustrations below have been provided by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the authors of a forthcoming article in the journal Environmental Pollution. The article documents the results of a study undertaken in Nasiriyah near Tallil Air Base. Nasiriyah was bombed by the U.S. military in 2003 and in the early 1990s. Open-air burn pits were used at Tallil Air Base beginning in 2003. See a second map:

Now take a look (do not turn away) at these images of infants who were born between August and September of 2016 to parents who had continuously lived in Nasiriyah. The visible birth defects include: anencephaly (A1 and A2 , B), lower limb anomalies (C), hydrocephalus (D), spina bifida (E), and multiple anomalies (F, G, H). Imagine if these tragic birth defects had been caused by a natural disaster or the misdeeds of the next government targeted by the United States for “regime change” — would not the outrage be widespread and thunderous? But these horrors have a different cause.

Here’s another illustration, of hand and foot abnormalities in children in Nasiriyah, and in the ancient city of Ur, near the U.S. base:

The study now being published found an inverse relationship between the distance one lived from Tallil Air Base and the risk of birth defects as well as of levels of thorium and uranium in one’s hair. It found a positive relationship between the presence of thorium and uranium and the presence of birth defect(s). Thorium is a decay-product of depleted uranium, and a radioactive compound.

These results were found near this particular base rather than dozens of others, not because it is necessarily unique; no similar studies have yet been conducted near each of the other bases. The results found by this study are likely to be identical to results that could be found by a similar study next year, or next decade, or next century, or next millennium, at least in the absence of major efforts to mitigate the damage.

Depleted uranium (DU) weapons were not just stored in Iraq, but also fired in Iraq. Between 1,000 and 2,000 metric tons of DU was fired in Iraq according to a 2007 report by the U.N. Environment Program. While not at the same level, the U.S. military has also poisoned the Washington, D.C., area, among other parts of the United States and the globe with DU. The Pentagon to this day claims the right to use DU. Depleted uranium is permanently hazardous waste from the production of nuclear energy, a source of energy marketed by its lobbyists as environmentally beneficial. Here’s a description of DU from Iraq Veterans Against the War, a group (later renamed “About Face: Veterans Against the War!”) many of whose members are familiar with the damage that DU does to people directly, not just to their offspring:

“Depleted Uranium (DU) is a toxic, radioactive heavy metal that is the waste byproduct of the uranium enrichment process when producing nuclear weapons and uranium for nuclear reactors. Because this radioactive waste is plentiful and 1.7 times more dense than lead, the United States government uses DU in munitions/ammunition which are extremely effective at piercing armored vehicles. However, every round of DU ammunition leaves a residue of DU dust on everything it hits, contaminating the surrounding area with toxic waste that has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the age of our solar system, and turns every battlefield and firing range into a toxic waste site that poisons everyone in such areas. DU dust can be inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through scratches in the skin. DU is linked to DNA damage, cancer, birth defects, and multiple other health problems. The United Nations classifies Depleted Uranium ammunitions as illegal Weapons of Mass Destruction because of their long-term impact on the land over which they are used and the long-term health problems they cause when people are exposed to them.”

Not only did bringing DU weapons to Iraq amount to putting “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq in the name of eliminating “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” but using and storing DU in Iraq arguably violated the Convention on the Prohibition of the Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques. The use of DU was also one part of an illegal war, which in its entirety violated both the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Each element of such a war is illegal. In addition, the use of such weapons violates the Geneva Conventions’ ban on collective punishment, as well as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The use of these weapons was a small part of the damage done to Iraq, its people, its society, and its natural environment by the war. We ought not to require any legal case before offering aid and making reparations. Basic human decency ought to suffice.

Don’t Iraq Iran

If Iran had spent the last few decades lying about and threatening the United States, and had attacked and built military bases in Canada and Mexico, and had imposed sanctions on the United States that were creating great suffering, and then a lying scheming war-crazed Iranian official announced that he believed the United States had put some missiles on some fishing boats in the Chesapeake Bay, would you believe that . . .

a) The United States was a dangerous rogue state threatening Iran with imminent destruction?
b) Whether or not to bomb U.S. cities really depended on exactly what kind of missiles were on those fishing boats?
c) The sanctions were clearly not severe enough?
or
d) All of the above?

Of course not. You’re not a lunatic.

But U.S. culture is a lunatic. And you and I live in it.

The case against Iraqing Iran includes the following points:

Threatening war is a violation of the U.N. Charter.

Waging war is a violation of the U.N. Charter and of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

Waging war without Congress is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Have you seen Iraq lately?

Have you seen the entire region?

Have you seen Afghanistan? Libya? Syria? Yemen? Pakistan? Somalia?

War supporters said the U.S. urgently needed to attack Iran in 2007. It did not attack. The claims turned out to be lies. Even a National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 pushed back and admitted that Iran had no nuclear weapons program.

Having a nuclear weapons program is not a justification for war, legally, morally, or practically. The United States has nuclear weapons and no one would be justified in attacking the United States.

Dick and Liz Cheney’s book, Exceptional, tell us we must see a “moral difference between an Iranian nuclear weapon and an American one.” Must we, really? Either risks further proliferation, accidental use, use by a crazed leader, mass death and destruction, environmental disaster, retaliatory escalation, and apocalypse. One of those two nations has nuclear weapons, has used nuclear weapons, has provided the other with plans for nuclear weapons, has a policy of first-use of nuclear weapons, has leadership that sanctions the possession of nuclear weapons, and has frequently threated to use nuclear weapons. I don’t think those facts would make a nuclear weapon in the hands of the other country the least bit moral, but also not the least bit more immoral. Let’s focus on seeing an empirical difference between an Iranian nuclear weapon and an American one. One exists. The other doesn’t.

If you’re wondering, U.S. presidents who have made specific public or secret nuclear threats to other nations, that we know of, as documented in Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine, have included Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, while others, including Barack Obama and Donald Trump have frequently said things like “All options are on the table” in relation to Iran or another country.

War supporters said the U.S. urgently needed to attack Iran in 2015. It did not attack. The claims turned out to be lies. Even the claims of supporters of the nuclear agreement reinforced the lie that Iran had a nuclear weapons program in need of containment. There is no evidence that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program.

The long history of the United States lying about Iranian nuclear weapons is chronicled by Gareth Porter’s book Manufactured Crisis.

Proponents of war or steps toward war (sanctions was a step toward war on Iraq) say we urgently need a war now, but they have no argument for urgency, and their claims are thus far transparent lies.

None of this is new.

In 2017, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations claimed that Iranian weapons had been used in a war that the U.S.., Saudi Arabia, and allies were and still are illegally and disastrously waging in Yemen. While that’s a problem that should be corrected, it is hard to find a war anywhere on the planet without U.S. weapons in it. In fact, a report that made news the same day as the ambassador’s claims, pointed to the long-known fact that many of the weapons used by ISIS had once belonged to the United States, many of them having been given by the U.S. to non-state fighters (aka terrorists) in Syria.

Fighting wars and arming others to fight wars/terrorism is a justification for indictment and prosecution, but not for war, legally, morally, or practically. The United States fights and arms wars, and no one would be justified in attacking the United States.

If Iran is guilty of a crime, and there is evidence to support that claim, the United States and the world should seek its prosecution. Instead, the United States is isolating itself by tearing down the rule of law. It is destroying its credibility by abandoning a multi-nation agreement. In a Gallup poll in 2013, the majority of nations polled had the United States receive the most votes as the greatest threat to peace on earth. In the Gallup poll, people within the U.S. chose Iran as the top threat to peace on earth — Iran which had not attacked another nation in centuries and spent less than 1% of what the U.S. spent on militarism. These views are clearly a function of what people are told through news media.

The history of U.S./Iranian relations matters here. The U.S. overthrew Iran’s democracy in 1953 and installed a brutal dictator / weapons customer.

The U.S. gave Iran nuclear energy technology in the 1970s.

In 2000, the CIA gave Iran nuclear bomb plans in an effort to frame it. This was reported by James Risen, and Jeffrey Sterling went to prison for allegedly being Risen’s source.

The Trump White House early on openly expressed a desire to claim that Iran had violated the 2015 nuclear agreement, but produced no evidence. It didn’t matter. Trump left the agreement anyway and now uses his own shredding of the agreement as grounds for nuclear fearmongering about Iran.

The push to attack Iran has been on for so long that entire categories of arguments for it (such as that the Iranians are fueling the Iraqi resistance) and demonized leaders of Iran have come and gone.

What’s changed that gives the question more importance than ever is that the United States now has a president who seeks the approval of people who want to bring about the end of the world in the Middle East for religious reasons, and who have praised President Trump’s announcement of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem for just those reasons.

While Iran has not attacked any other country in centuries, the United States has not done so well by Iran.

The United States aided Iraq in the 1980s in attacking Iran, providing Iraq with some of the weapons (including chemical weapons) that were used on Iranians and that would be used in 2002-2003 (when they no longer existed) as an excuse for attacking Iraq.

For many years, the United States has labeled Iran an evil nation, attacked and destroyed the other non-nuclear nation on the list of evil nations, designated part of Iran’s military a terrorist organization, falsely accused Iran of crimes including the attacks of 9-11, murdered Iranian scientists, funded opposition groups in Iran (including some the U.S. also designates as terrorist), flown drones over Iran, openly and illegally threatened to attack Iran, and built up military forces all around Iran’s borders, while imposing cruel sanctions on the country.

The roots of a Washington push for a new war on Iran can be found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, the 1996 paper called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the 2000 Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and in a 2001 Pentagon memo described by Wesley Clark as listing these nations for attack: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

It’s worth noting that Bush Jr. overthrew Iraq, and Obama Libya, while the others remain works in progress.

In 2010, Tony Blair included Iran on a similar list of countries that he said Dick Cheney had aimed to overthrow. The line among the powerful in Washington in 2003 was that Iraq would be a cakewalk but that real men go to Tehran. The arguments in these old forgotten memos were not what the war makers tell the public, but much closer to what they tell each other. The concerns here are those of dominating regions rich in resources, intimidating others, and establishing bases from which to maintain control of puppet governments.

Of course the reason why “real men go to Tehran” is that Iran is not the impoverished disarmed nation that one might find in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, or even the disarmed nation found in Libya in 2011. Iran is much bigger and much better armed. Whether the United States launches a major assault on Iran or Israel does, Iran will retaliate against U.S. troops and probably Israel and possibly the United States itself as well. And the United States will without any doubt re-retaliate for that. Iran cannot be unaware that the U.S. government’s pressure on the Israeli government not to attack Iran consists of reassuring the Israelis that the United States will attack when needed, and does not include even threatening to stop funding Israel’s military or to stop vetoing measures of accountability for Israeli crimes at the United Nations. (President Obama’s ambassador refrained from one veto on illegal settlements, while President-Elect Trump lobbied foreign governments to block the resolution, colluding with the foreign nation of Israel — if anybody gives a damn about that sort of thing.)

In other words, any U.S. pretense of having seriously wanted to prevent an Israeli attack is not credible. Of course, many in the U.S. government and military oppose attacking Iran, although key figures like Admiral William Fallon have been moved out of the way. Much of the Israeli military is opposed as well, not to mention the Israeli and U.S. people. But war is not clean or precise. If the people we allow to run our nations attack another, we are all put at risk.

Most at risk, of course, are the people of Iran, people as peaceful as any other, or perhaps more so. As in any country, no matter what its government, the people of Iran are fundamentally good, decent, peaceful, just, and fundamentally like you and me. I’ve met people from Iran. You may have met people from Iran. They look like this. They’re not a different species. They’re not evil. A “surgical strike” against a “facility” in their country would cause a great many of them to die very painful and horrible deaths. Even if you imagine that Iran would not retaliate for such attacks, this is what the attacks would in themselves consist of: mass murder.

And what would that accomplish? It would unite the people of Iran and much of the world against the United States. It would justify in the eyes of much of the world an underground Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons, a program that probably does not exist at present, except to the extent that legal nuclear energy programs move a country closer to weapons development. The environmental damage would be tremendous, the precedent set incredibly dangerous, all talk of cutting the U.S. military budget would be buried in a wave of war frenzy, civil liberties and representative government would be flushed down the Potomac, a nuclear arms race would spread to additional countries, and any momentary sadistic glee would be outweighed by accelerating home foreclosures, mounting student debt, and accumulating layers of cultural stupidity.

Strategically, legally, and morally weapons possession is not grounds for war, and neither is pursuit of weapons possession. And neither, I might add, with Iraq in mind, is theoretically possible pursuit of weapons never acted upon. Israel has nuclear weapons. The United States has more nuclear weapons than any other country but Russia (the two of them together have 90% of the world’s nukes). There can be no justification for attacking the United States, Israel, or any other country. The pretense that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons is, in any case, just a pretense, one that has been revived, debunked, and revived again like a zombie for years and years. But that’s not the really absurd part of this false claim for something that amounts to no justification for war whatsoever. The really absurd part is that it was the United States in 1976 that pushed nuclear energy on Iran. In 2000 the CIA gave the Iranian government (slightly flawed) plans to build a nuclear bomb. In 2003, Iran proposed negotiations with the United States with everything on the table, including its nuclear technology, and the United States refused. Shortly thereafter, the United States started angling for a war. Meanwhile, U.S.-led sanctions prevent Iran from developing wind energy, while the Koch brothers are allowed to trade with Iran without penalty.

Another area of ongoing lie debunking, one that almost exactly parallels the buildup to the 2003 attack on Iraq, is the relentless false claim, including by candidates in 2012 for U.S. President, that Iran has not allowed inspectors into its country or given them access to its sites. Iran had, in fact, prior to the agreement voluntarily accepted stricter standards than the IAEA requires. And of course a separate line of propaganda, albeit a contradictory one, holds that the IAEA has discovered a nuclear weapons program in Iran. Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Iran was not required to declare all of its installations, and early last decade it chose not to, as the United States violated that same treaty by blocking Germany, China, and others from providing nuclear energy equipment to Iran. While Iran remains in compliance with the NPT, India and Pakistan and Israel have not signed it and North Korea has withdrawn from it, while the United States and other nuclear powers continuously violate it by failing to reduce arms, by providing arms to other countries such as India, and by developing new nuclear weapons.

This is what the empire of U.S. military bases looks like to Iran. Try to imagine if you lived there, what you would think of this. Who is threatening whom? Who is the greater danger to whom? The point is not that Iran should be free to attack the United States or anyone else because its military is smaller. The point is that doing so would be national suicide. It would also be something Iran has not done for centuries. But it would be typical U.S. behavior.

Are you ready for an even more absurd twist? This is on the same scale as Bush’s comment about not really giving much thought to Osama bin Laden. Are you ready? The proponents of attacking Iran

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Corrupt Spineless Iraqi Legislators Are Right

You’ve got 5,000 armed foreign troops stationed in your country. You don’t say a word until the idiot foreign emperor stages a surprise visit. Then you’re outraged principally because he didn’t notify you or meet with you or put up any pretense that your country belonged to you in any way. At that point you demand that the U.S. occupation of Iraq finally be brought to a bitter better-late-than-never end. And you’re damn right.

The U.S. has been helping Iraq into ever-worsening catastrophe for longer than almost anyone can remember, supporting European imperialists, backing both sides in a war with Iran, propping up a horrendous dictator, bombing Baghdad in the First Gulf War, slaughtering civilians and retreating troops, imposing starvation sanctions, bombing routinely, shock-and-aweing a horrific sociocide, killing millions, throwing millions out of their homes, creating disease epidemics, demolishing infrastructure, training death squads, stirring up terrorism, flooding the region with weapons, fueling regional rivalries, attacking neighboring countries. If, after all that, a photo-op by an orange-haired buffoon becomes grounds for finally ending it, that’s more than fine with me.

Just the latest installment of the assault on the birthplace of doomed Western civilization began 16 years ago this coming March. The annual protests of the war in the U.S. and other NATO countries have long since (disgracefully and inexcusably) ended. People now legally driving cars were not even born when the U.S. government came up with the clever name “Shock and Awe” for the criminal and terrorist strategy of so devastating a city with death and destruction as to thrill the most sadistic warmongers while allowing them to pretend to believe the result would be surrender or — somehow — friendly, grateful welcoming and thanks. People not yet alive for that are now being recruited by the U.S. military, taught that they can either gripe or vote(!!!), and hitting 30,000 hours of television viewed — don’t even ask about video games.

At around $1 trillion per year in military spending by the U.S. government, justified principally by the need to destroy Iraq, we’re now looking at $16 trillion or so, an amount which almost certainly could have saved the earth’s environment for human life had it been spent on that instead of on an operation that, at its height, put the U.S. military higher than almost all entire nations on earth in a ranking of petroleum consumption per year.

Through the course of this barbaric crime — no mistake, no error, no misjudgment, no strategically flawed noble operation, but crime in the ranks of the greatest crimes ever — U.S. politicians have proven as principle-free and opportunistic as any of their Iraqi counterparts. We’ve been told to support the war, to oppose it, to pretend that escalating it would end it, to pretend that deescalating it was ending it, to blame Obama for the agreement Bush signed to end it, to credit Trump for not ending it, to blame Iraqis for not appreciating it, to honor Americans for participating in it, and generally to load up our skulls with so much bullshit you could plant us upside down in a desert and grow a rainforest.

Basta! End it! Remove every troop, every mercenary, every contractor, every base, every weapon, every flag. Load up the planes, lift them off the ground, and get the Fallujah out. If you want to do good rather than harm, send actual aid, send reparations, send apologies, promise never to do it again, join the International Criminal Court and send top guilty parties over for indictment and trial. Democratize the United Nations and commit to obeying the law. Stop raising the planetary thermostat to the point that will make Iraq uninhabitable. That, along with ending the wars on Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria, seems like the least we could do. Let’s resolve to take that positive step in the coming year if not the coming week.