Monthly Archives: August 2010

The smallest non-victory ever recorded

We recently had an almost infinitesimally short exchange with Michael Christie, Reuters Iraq Bureau Chief, where we challenged his figures for Iraqi mortality.

We are happy to say Christie has since attempted to redress this:

“Muhsin al-Timimi, a 47-year-old journalist, hopes for an end to the war in which more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians, and more than 4,400 U.S. soldiers, have died.” [Iraqis say war “not ending” despite U.S. drawdown, 29/08/2010]

Of course, still no mention of The Human Cost of the War in Iraq, A Mortality Study, 2002-2006.

War Criminal to come to Dublin

Tony Blair will be at Eason on O’Connell Street on 4th September 2010.

For your information:

Prosecuting a crime against peace (otherwise known as a crime of aggression) depends on one of two factors…

The Human Cost of the War in Iraq, A Mortality Study, 2002-2006

The Destruction of Fallujah – A US Legacy

Not yet mentioned in the Irish press.

Patrick Cockburn writing in CounterPunch:

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighboring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that “to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened”. [The Toxic Legacy From the Siege of Fallujah – Worse Than Hiroshima?, CounterPunch, 27/07/10]

Cockburn interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now!:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Patrick, I’d like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on—by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after the US soldiers’ attack on that city. Could you talk about that?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Sure. I think what’s significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with—grotesquely so, babies—you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was—when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn’t—one could write about this, but one couldn’t really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives—proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took—you know, it has taken place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it’s been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary.

AMY GOODMAN: What were the various weapons that were used in the bombing of Fallujah in 2004?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed. I think one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high—large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses—often you find, you know, whole families living in one room—was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very high civilian casualties. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don’t know about—this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study—might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima. [Democracy Now!, 29/07/10]

And the report itself: ‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009’ [International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health]

via MLMB

Reuters – Bureau Chief, Iraq

There’s another article in today’s Irish Times about US plans to reduce troop numbers in Iraq. It makes the same ‘mistakes’ as previous reports mentioned here and here. But among the errors and distortions there is one howler that stands out…

Dear Michael,

Further to your report on the latest reduction in US troops numbers in Iraq [1], which I came across in the Irish Times [2], I wanted to point out the following. You write:

“up to 106,071 Iraqi civilians also died in fierce warfare unleashed between majority Shi’ites and minority Sunni Muslims who dominated the country under Saddam.”

This figure corresponds to that provided by Iraq Body Count [3], who count those civilian deaths reported in the media. Yet IBC freely admit their figures “can only be a sample of true deaths unless one assumes that every civilian death has been reported. It is likely that many if not most civilian casualties will go unreported by the media. That is the sad nature of war.” [4]

Further, the deaths recorded by IBC “includes deaths caused by US-led coalition forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others.” [5]

Kind regards,

David [Email, 19/8/10]

Reuters Bureau Chief, Iraq, Michael Christie responded as follows:

“thanks for outpointing” [Email, 19/8/10]


Response to “War – Defense – Security – ?”

Response to War – Defense – Security – ?:

“Thank you very much for your email.
I thought I was entering a note of caution when I made clear that the shift from the combat fighting role was largely a linguistic one – noting Obama’s acknowledgment that there would still be “American sacrifice”. And of course the reduction from 140,000 or so in early 2009 has been a longer term process.
Indeed, the August 2010 date was always something of a midway point between the dates the Bush administration agreed with the Iraqis, for withdrawing US troops from Iraqi cities in summer of 2009 and supposedly pulling out altogether at the end of 2011.
So I take your wider point that there was a certain amount of spin in the speech – which is why I described it as an attempt to boost his standing as a war president and contrasted his claims with the casualty figures, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

All best and thanks again” [Email, 4 August, 2010]

My bad. Sometimes you just need a bigger magnifying glass to find the criticial analysis.

War – Defense – Security – ?

Yesterday’s Irish Times featured two reports on Iraq. The first of which declared: “US combat troops to leave Iraq by end of month“. The second claimed that “Violence [in Iraq] has fallen sharply in the last three years.”

The second report states that “nearly 400 civilians were killed in bombings and other attacks in July.” Iraqi government officials however put the figure at 535, with a further 1,000 injured, in what they describe as “the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008.”

Yet the Irish Times goes on to say “violence has fallen sharply in the last three years.” What this doesn’t tell you is that a) civilian deaths are roughly back to where they were in the two years following the invasion and b) any which way you look at it, 400 deaths or 535 deaths, even using conservative estimates this is the most deadly month in Iraq of 2010.

But, Irish Times, let’s stick to the good news.

The first report looks like the kind you or I might write, if we chose to limit our research to whatever we can find in US government press releases. While they’d be basically accurate, albeit within the strict limits we’d set out, inevitably, what we would have left out would have been of far more interest.

For example, we wouldn’t have discussed whether the reduction in troops signifies any change in terms of policy, we wouldn’t have asked whether the situation that necessitated the troops presence yesterday no longer applies today (which relates neatly back to the second report) and most importantly we wouldn’t have asked the leaders of the country being (partially un)occupied what they thought of the whole charade.

In late 2008 Obama pledged that he “would remove combat troops from Iraq in 16 months.” It’s now about 16 months on, so that explains why we have an Irish Times report declaring the “US would meet its deadline of ending combat operations in Iraq at the end of this month.” However, as you’d imagine that’s not the whole story, a few paragraphs later we are told: “US forces in Iraq are scheduled to be cut to just 50,000.” So actually what the writer is trying to tell us, in a roundabout way, is that troop numbers are to be reduced from “a peak of more than 140,000” to about a third that number.

That’s not really the whole story either though, the peak in troop numbers over the last few years was more like 170,000, but that’s back in October 2007. Troops numbers prior to this news were neither 140,000 nor 170,000, they were more like 98,000. So the troop numbers are only planned to be halved.

But again, that’s not even half the story. Actually, its almost exactly half the story.

As of May 2010 there were approximately 250,000 contractors (or mercenaries to you and me) working in Afghanistan, Iraq and the U.S. Central Command, with almost 100,000 of them active in Iraq (and at least 11,000 of these armed). Which is exactly the same as the number of US troops deployed there.

So, in total the US has approximately 200,000 military or contracted military personnel in Iraq at present. With Obama’s ‘withdrawal’ the US has reduced numbers by about one quarter. Which hardly warrants a headline like “US combat troops to leave Iraq by end of month”.

This headline is essentially justified by Obama’s rhetorical trick of calling this particular quarter of the US occupying force “combat troops” and the work they were undertaking the “combat mission”.

In reality though, where rhetorical gadgets like the one above are dismissed, the US is not withdrawing from Iraq, it is simply switching from what is referred to as a “military” force to a “security” force. According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in The Nation, “The [US] State Department is asking Congress to approve funds to more than double the number of private security contractors in Iraq,” apparently submitting a request to the Wartime Contracting Commission for up to 7,000 further hired guns. Which may just signal another rebranding, from the Department of War, to the Department of Defense, to the Department of Security.

[Update: A response to this post from the writer of the second report can be found here]

The Irish Times Censors Comments

For the third time the Irish Times has censored a comment of mine – this one posted last Saturday beneath an article by John Waters about the children’s rights referendum.   I don’t usually find myself in broad agreement with what JW has to say but this was different.  Waters made a good fist of exposing what he calls the pious humbug of the referendum – and of how when it seemed that the referendum might unintentionally do what it says on the tin – i.e. confer some actual rights on vulnerable immigrant children – Fianna Fail had immediately begun to talk about needing to ‘tweak’ the wording of the wretched thing so as to appease some of the more rabid anti-immigrant racists who have begun to bellow about the referendum.

Unfortunately, despite this being the third time The Irish Times has censored a comment of mine, I haven’t  yet learned to keep a copy of what I submit to them.  But it said, roughly, that Waters is right; that the referendum is about a transfer of parental authority/responsibility for protecting their children to the state and other agencies; that it does not confer a single, legally enforceable right on any child and that no undertakings of any sort have been given to provide extra funding and supports for the dire state of child protection services which would have to be a cornerstone of any meaningful rights-based legislation.  Even if it was a good idea, which it is not, what use is more power for social workers in a situation where they are already on their knees from overwork and are unable to protect children already known to be at risk?  Are we going to seriously hamper the existing constitutional protection that children have in favour of a system which sees so many children inexplicably and unaccountably dead and/or missing?  Madness.   Also, and most worryingly, the ammendment wording does not include a whisper of an increase in a legally enforceable duty of care or accountability of the state and its agencies for failures. 

The comment also included a link to a letter that was published in The Irish Examiner (might this be the problem?), which asks for Irish people to be vigilant about politicians playing politics with children’s rights.  When I spotted that comments submitted after mine had been allowed, I posted a reminder/request to the moderators yesterday to find out what had happened to my post – to no avail.  Today I see that they have, in their wisdom, decided to close the thread completely to any further comment.  Is the Children’s Rights Referendum unworthy of public discussion?  There are only 6 comments on the thread.  Why do other pieces carry umpteen pages of comments and remain open for weeks after they are published?