February 26, 2010
Now we’re killing them with kindness
For that’s just what we do
To help them redevelop and even have a Zoo.
Killing them with kindness when we drag them out of bed
Cuff little hands behind and shoot them through the head.
Oh we’re killing them with kindness
For that’s just what we do.
If they’re Uzbek or Hazara,Pashtun or Tajik
It really doesn’t matter if they play hide and seek
As we’ll bomb all their weddings and their funerals too.
For that’s just, well that’s just what we do.
Oh we’re killing them with kindness
Killing them with kindness
And if you hear we slit pricks at Bagram or elsewhere
Do remember that it’s done with tender loving care,
As we’re killing them with kindness
For that’s just what we do
To help them redevelop and even keep that zoo.
February 26, 2010
More than 40 sites across Iraq are contaminated with high levels or radiation and dioxins, with three decades of war and neglect having left environmental ruin in large parts of the country, an official Iraqi study has found.
Areas in and near Iraq’s largest towns and cities, including Najaf, Basra and Falluja, account for around 25% of the contaminated sites, which appear to coincide with communities that have seen increased rates of cancer and birth defects over the past five years. The joint study by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionising radiation, which is thought to be a legacy of depleted uranium used in munitions during the first Gulf war and since the 2003 invasion.
The environment minister, Narmin Othman, said high levels of dioxins on agricultural lands in southern Iraq, in particular, were increasingly thought to be a key factor in a general decline in the health of people living in the poorest parts of the country.
“If we look at Basra, there are some heavily polluted areas there and there are many factors contributing to it,” she told the Guardian. “First, it has been a battlefield for two wars, the Gulf war and the Iran-Iraq war, where many kinds of bombs were used. Also, oil pipelines were bombed and most of the contamination settled in and around Basra.
“The soil has ended up in people’s lungs and has been on food that people have eaten. Dioxins have been very high in those areas. All of this has caused systemic problems on a very large scale for both ecology and overall health.”
Government study groups have recently focused on the war-ravaged city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, where the unstable security situation had kept scientists away ever since fierce fighting between militants and US forces in 2004.
“We have only found one area so far in Falluja,” Othman said. “But there are other areas that we will try to explore soon with international help.”
The Guardian reported in November claims by local doctors of a massive rise in birth defects in the city, particularly neural tube defects, which afflict the spinal cords and brains of newborns. “We are aware of the reports, but we must be cautious in reaching conclusions about causes,” Othman said. “The general health of the city is not good. There is no sewerage system there and there is a lot of stagnant household waste, creating sickness that is directly affecting genetics. We do know, however, that a lot of depleted uranium was used there.
“We have been regulating and monitoring this and we have been urgently trying to assemble a database. We have had co-operation from the United Nations environment programme and have given our reports in Geneva. We have studied 500 sites for chemicals and depleted uranium. Until now we have found 42 places that have been declared as [high risk] both from uranium and toxins.”
Ten of those areas have been classified by Iraq’s nuclear decommissioning body as having high levels of radiation. They include the sites of three former nuclear reactors at the Tuwaitha facility – once the pride of Saddam Hussein’s regime on the south-eastern outskirts of Baghdad – as well as former research centres around the capital that were either bombed or dismantled between the two Gulf wars.
The head of the decommissioning body, Adnan Jarjies, said that when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived to “visit these sites, I tell them that even if we have all the best science in the world to help us, none of them could be considered to be clean before 2020.”
Bushra Ali Ahmed, director of the Radiation Protection Centre in Baghdad, said only 80% of Iraq had so far been surveyed. “We have focused so far on the sites that have been contaminated by the wars,” he said. “We have further plans to swab sites that have been destroyed by war.
“A big problem for us is when say a tank has been destroyed and then moved, we are finding a clear radiation trail. It takes a while to decontaminate these sites.”
Scrap sites remain a prime concern. Wastelands of rusting cars and war damage dot Baghdad and other cities between the capital and Basra, offering unchecked access to both children and scavengers.
Othman said Iraq’s environmental degradation is being intensified by an acute drought and water shortage across the country that has seen a 70% decrease in the volume of water flowing through the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
“We can no longer in good conscience call ourselves the land between the rivers,” she said. “A lot of the water we are getting has first been used by Turkey and Syria for power generation. When it reaches us it is poor quality. That water which is used for agriculture is often contaminated. We are in the midst of an unmatched environmental disaster.”
February 26, 2010
“Violence can only be concealed by a lie and the lie can only be mantained by violence. any man who has once proclaimed violence is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.”
February 26, 2010
There were two wars being fought in Westminster yesterday. There was Iraq, where the heat and dust of the battle is being examined in a chilly room by men as grey as the sky overhead. Then there was Afghanistan, where our mission was being defended by the quivering moustache that is Bob Ainsworth at the Defence Select Committee for the first time.
Iraq had all the glamour, the TV, the press, the previews. This was perfect timing for Bob. Indeed, if I believed Bumbling Bob was capable of such a thing, I would say that he’d organised it on purpose, as his appearance has been rescheduled three times. Still, the room in the Commons corridor was packed.
So was the Iraq Inquiry for, oh, at least an hour or two. One thing about Iraq, which we should all recall, is that the glamour fades fast. By the afternoon the public and much of the media had lost interest. Sir John Chilcot, a mandarin who, confusingly, looks a bit like a koala, provides not even one particle of spectacle. I don’t know why but it seemed in keeping that, directly above the inquiry room at the QEII centre, there was a conference on chlamydia testing.
I ran between Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is now as dry as a desert wind but I could understand what was being said (though the stenographer at one point referred to Eric instead of Iraq). I watched in the room reserved for the public, in which there was only one actual member of the public, Michael Culver, an actor who wore a T-shirt that said “Karadzic Now, Blair When?”. He proved an invaluable translator: every once in a while he would say something like, “This man is lying through his teeth!”
As the civil servant witnesses, who were straight out of central casting, droned on about no-fly zones, I asked Mr Culver what he thought. “The whole point of this is to bore everybody into the ground,” he announced. He speaks the truth.
It was much more chaotic in the room with Bumbling Bob. Actually Bumbling Bob has had a change of consonant. He is now Mumbling Bob. I saw entire chunks of war zone disappear behind that little triangular moustache.
Still, we got the idea that things weren’t going so well. Bob tried to explain why the MoD couldn’t find its equipment, particularly its Bowman battle radios. Mumbling explained that they didn’t know where they were but they were not lost.
“We will return to this. The difference between losing equipment and not knowing where it is strikes me as not very big,” said Tory MP James Arbuthnot in his slow grave baritone voice.
Bob blinked furiously. He was losing the hearts and minds of Britons, much less Afghans. Why? Bob told us, and I paraphrase because I have no choice, that it’s too far away and too complicated. “Nobody is interested in history,” he said (tell that to the Iraq inquiry).
I felt grateful when he was asked a really easy question about Christmas posting arrangements. But Bob embarked on another marathon mumble which include something about too many unsolicited cakes sent to Helmand. “That is our biggest worry.”
Is it? It’s only a bit of cake, Bob. Still, it’s Afghanistan and, yesterday, it was much messier than Iraq.
The Times online.Ann Treneman.
February 19, 2010
Britain Losing the Plot in Afghanistan as Losses Mount
Politics / Afghanistan
Aug 17, 2009 – 05:22 AM
Lesley Docksey writes: So far, the cost to the British taxpayer of our current ‘Great Game’ in Afghanistan is £12 billion(1). If only our eight years there had cost nothing but money. Leaving aside the horrendous cost to the Afghan people and their land, Britain’s forces have suffered loss, not least, because of the muddle, ignorance and incompetence of those who sent them to war, a loss of face.
As it is, the loss of British soldiers in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan goes on(2), while Government spokesmen trot out a changing array of reasons, excuses and justifications for fighting such a war and the soldiers wonder why they’re there. With every sad death reported in the media, up pops an officer to talk about what a brave hero he was, such a first rate soldier, who died doing the job he loved. But still they go on dying.
And although the Ministry of Defence (MoD) provide figures for casualties (see notes 14 and 15), the figures mention everything but those personnel who may have died from their wounds, or complications arising from them, some weeks after they have been air-evacuated to this country for treatment. So, although at the time of writing, the total killed in action in Afghanistan is over 200, I do not think that this figure represents the real tally of those who have died for the misguided aims of those in power. The US Department of Defense apparently has a cut-off point for reporting a soldier dying as a result of being injured in action of about 2-3 weeks(3). Die within that time and you join the list of heroes. Die after that from your injuries and you are invisible, not one of the ‘glorious dead’ – which accords no value to the dead and no respect for those left to mourn. Where America leads, Britain follows. Certainly I have never seen it reported that someone has died from wounds he received some months ago, and the number of dead having risen because of it. And for each one killed, some will be injured, horribly or invisibly.
Take the invisible ones first. In 2007 Combat Stress warned they had seen a 53% increase in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases since 2004. They were already dealing with cases returning from two war fronts, but that wasn’t the only reason for the increase. First, those who deal with ex-servicemen suffering from PTSD will tell you that it can take up to 14 years either for the damage to fully surface or for those affected to seek help. Second, the first (short) Gulf war took place 14 years before the noticed rise in cases. Our forces have been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last 8 years.
In November 08 the MoD were insisting that, of 195,100 serving personnel, only 0.45% suffered from mental disorders(4). Yet in March 09 a senior military psychiatrist admitted that the Government has “no idea” how big a problem it faces in the number of traumatised troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan(5). What trouble is to come? And will the Government ever take responsibility? Because the constant bleat coming from both Ministers and, sadly, commanding officers, is that only a small percentage of personnel are affected by PTSD, and those receive first rate care. That doesn’t explain why, of the British male prison population, up to 10% are ex-servicemen serving long sentences for murder, manslaughter and other violent crimes committed because of undiagnosed PTSD. Or that, on any night of the year there could be up to 35,000 homeless ex-service personnel on our streets(6). Nor why British forces should be so much more immune that US forces. Last year the RAND Corporation produced a report saying that ‘some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries’(7). Frightening figures.
The physically injured are a little more visible, or what’s left of them is. But again, despite the fine words, the Government seems to be more concerned about financing the damage that has been done in our name. Figure this: in July this year the MoD was defending the practice of spying on servicemen suspected of lodging false claims for damages for injuries(8). It said the tactic helped stop fraudulent claims and saved millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Since 2000, 284 claims have been secretly tracked and monitored. This, said the MoD, was less than 1% of all claims. Not a lot, is it?
Not until you do the maths. 284 is 1% of 28,400. That means that in the last 8½ years, there have been around 28,500 claims for damages because of injuries. And that is over 7% of the total Armed Forces strength(9), or over 16% of the regular Armed Forces. Take out all those engaged in office or non-combatant jobs, and suddenly a very large problem appears. Either there is a compensation culture within the Armed Forces (hard to believe seeing how desperate many injured soldiers are to get back on active duty with their units), or an awful lot of people are getting hurt badly enough that they need and seek compensation. Admittedly some of the injuries would have occurred anyway, through accidents or negligence. But the majority must surely be for injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some will be for loss of hearing, most affecting those serving in Afghanistan. In October 2008 the Times reported that ‘nearly one in ten soldiers serving with one regiment have hearing defects that could bar them from further frontline service and affect their civilian job prospects’(10). And the compensation for total hearing loss was £46,000, due to be increased to £92,000. No wonder the MoD wants to claw back what it can. But there must be many more than we know who have lost limbs, suffered serious brain damage or are paraplegic. Modern medicine can work miracles, and keep people alive who even a few years ago would have died. And the one ‘positive’ result of violent conflict is that medical knowledge is advanced as surgeons become more practised at dealing with horrific injuries.
And yet – there is something odd about the figures of injuries sustained by British Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are proportionately more people dying of the injuries they have received in action now than in previous years. For instance, in Iraq in 2003, 39 were ‘killed in action’ and only one ‘died of wounds’. Yet in 2006 18 were killed in action and 9 died of wounds. And the following year 24 were killed in action and 13 died of wounds(11). In Afghanistan things were a little better but followed the same trend. In 2006 20 were killed in action and only one died of wounds, but from January to 15 July 2009, 41 were killed in action and 5 died of wounds(12). Are they running out of field hospitals and medical supplies? Is the lack of transport to get the wounded into medical care the problem? Or is it because they are not in tanks any more, but in vehicles which the MoD say are armoured, but in practice insufficiently so? Considering the MoD’s record for kitting out the forces it has committed to fighting its wars, it would come as no surprise.
For the MoD’s record on procurement and supply is truly terrible. It has been known for years that MoD procurement deals often wildly exceed their budget, sometimes by as much as 40%(13). A recent report by the National Audit Office, being sat upon by the Government, is believed to say that £2.5bn is wasted every year on equipment projects(14). From the start of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq there have been stories about shortages of essential equipment, some basic like body armour, and some expensive like helicopters. The helicopter shortage is a long-running saga of incomplete orders, helicopters built to the wrong specifications, helicopters waiting to be refitted and helicopters promised with a delivery date of 2014. At one point the Conservatives produced figures saying that only a third of the Armed Forces helicopters were usable(15). The shortage was made very clear when General Sir Richard Dannatt, on his last trip to Afghanistan before retirement, was interviewed by the BBC while hitching a ride in a US helicopter because no British helicopters were available. The latest story to surface is that Air Commodore Simon Falla, deputy commander of Britain’s joint helicopter command, had suggested Britain could only send a limited number of helicopters to Afghanistan because of a shortage of parking spaces(16). All this of course gives rise to another outburst of excuses and justifications from the men at the top.
But without helicopters to move the troops around, they have to travel on land, constantly at risk from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or roadside bombs. Properly armoured vehicles, like helicopters, are thin on the ground. A number of Ridgebacks, built to replace the Snatch Land Rovers in which 37 soldiers have died, and armoured to withstand IEDs, have been sitting in Dubai because there were no planes available to fly them to Afghanistan(17). While they wait, soldiers are using vehicles like the Jackal which is supposed to give greater protection than the Snatch Land Rover. Except that 13 soldiers have already died in Afghanistan while travelling in one of these. According to Dr Richard North, the Jackal design is fundamentally flawed.
‘The driver sits over the front wheel, the most vulnerable part of the vehicle which is also the most likely to trigger, and so take the full force of, a mine. The bottom of the Jackal is flat, meaning the blast is not dissipated. Reinforcing the bottom with more armour – as with the Jackal II – means that the vehicle will flip over with the force of a blast and crush its passengers…… The Jackal is just the latest failure by the Ministry of Defence to provide a mine-resistant vehicle to both Iraq and Afghanistan. A quarter of the 195 service personnel to have died in Afghanistan were travelling in poorly protected vehicles. Such is the problem from mines that convoys travel at four miles an hour, with a minesweeper on foot walking in front’(18).
At the same time modern warfare doesn’t work in an ancient land with guerrilla fighters. Tanks work against tanks not hit and run insurgents. Nor can Snatch Land Rovers, Jackals and similar vehicles succeed against IEDs. Because modern warfare can’t cope with the nature of fighting in Afghanistan the sniper is being resurrected (19). Mind you, judging from the photos of the camouflage being used I suspect it won’t be long before the insurgents start targeting anything that looks like a small mobile haystack. Worzel Gummidge with a Kalashnikov isn’t in it.
And as a final blow to the Armed Forces sagging self-esteem, there is this. According to a leaked Army memo Britain’s war effort in Afghanistan is being hindered by a number of frontline troops too fat to fight(20). The memo from Major Brian Dupree, of the Army physical training corps in Wiltshire, said basic fitness policy “is not being carried out”. Units were routinely failing to fulfil the Army’s basic fitness regime of two hours of physical exercise a week, he added. Two hours a week? What on earth do they do for the other 166 hours a week, apart from eat? Surely the British soldier was supposed to be the epitome of physical fitness. Are the dreaded route marches with full kit restricted to less than 15 minutes a day?
Can one even begin to picture it? Our Army, so full of ‘brave heroes’ and ‘first-rate soldiers’, so ‘fully supported’ (and kitted out) by the MoD, reduced to this – a convoy of not quite well enough armoured vehicles crawling across the Afghan landscape at 4 mph, preceded by a walking man with a red flag (sorry, mine sweeper), hopefully watched over by some small protective haystacks concealing the army’s best sharpshooters(21). They also, presumably, have at times to move at 4 mph. Who volunteers to walk in front of the convoy like this? Or will the unlucky man have been ‘volunteered’ because, being a little overweight, it was thought some extra exercise was called for? How else find someone willing to be such a sitting duck? After all, not all the moveable vegetation in Helmand will be British.
Truly, while Afghanistan weeps over its thousands of dead, the Taliban must be crying with laughter.
Lesley Docksey is Editor of Abolish War, www.abolishwar.org.uk
1. Revealed: £12 billion hidden costs of Afghan war, Independent, 26 July 2009
2. Ditto the American Forces and those of the other nations caught up in this situation. The Canadians in particular seem to be taking a disproportionately hard hit in relation to the size of their force operating in Afghanistan.
3. A look at the war-dead in Afghanistan. Occupation Soldiers, the Resistance, the Civilians and the Future by Les Blough, Axis of Logic
4. Forces mental illness figures out, BBC News, 4 November 2008
5. MoD doctor: we’ve no idea how many troops suffer from trauma, Independent, 17 March 2009
6. Memorandum from Robin Short, Martin Kinsella and David Walters, Select Committee on Defence, written evidence, 28 June 2007
7. Mental health injuries scar 300,000 U.S. troops, Associated Press, 17 April 2008
8. MoD defends ‘spying’ on soldiers, BBC News, 18 July 2009
9. Regular Armed Forces: 191,900; Regular Reserves: 191,300; Volunteer reserves: 42,300. giving a total strength of 425,500 (2006 figures). 2007 figures put the Regular Armed Forces at 195,100.
10. Deafness is the new scourge of British troops in Afghanistan, Michael Evans, The Times, 30 October 2008
11. Op Telic Casualty and Fatality Tables, Ministry of Defence
12. Op Herrick Casualty and Fatality Tables, Ministry of Defence
13. Lewis Page, a former naval officer, claims in his book Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs that the MoD spends two to three times more than it needs for its equipment.
14. MoD accused of wasting millions, BBC News, 20 July 2009
15. UK rationalizes helicopter fleet between Iraq and Afghanistan, Global Security 21 May 2008
16. Why the helicopter shortage in Afghanistan is down to parking, Guardian, 14 August 2009
17. ‘Life-saving’ Afghanistan vehicles stranded in Dubai, Telegraph, 4 August 2009
18. Revealed: How Army’s new armoured vehicle is a death trap too, Independent, 9 August 2009
19. Return of the Sniper, Independent 4 July 2009
20. Troops ‘too fat’ to fight, Independent, 2 August 2009
21. Have you noticed that the Rifle Brigade, the home of the sharpshooter for at least two hundred years, is now registering casualties in Afghanistan?
Global Research Articles by Lesley Docksey
© Copyright Lesley Docksey , Global Research, 2009
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.