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World Association of International Studies

Post Predictions for 2012: Middle East
Created by John Eipper on 01/03/12 9:28 AM

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Predictions for 2012: Middle East (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 01/03/12 9:28 am)

On 3 January Miles Seeley made some good points. I completely agree that "... the US government often seems blind to the realities of the region and the traditions and customs that are so important there," and that "we will always be seen as invaders by most of the people, and resented."

However, I find it naive to think that "Exporting US-style democracy is ... often nonsensical policy when based on military intervention." It makes a lot of sense if one is making huge profits in the process! And if the outcome is more conflict in the future so much the better, because US taxpayers will pick up the huge tabs in the name of peace, freedom, democracy, etc. With the higher unemployment rate, our military has an endless supply of potential heroes to get maimed and killed in such pursuits and our politicians are more than willing to find new targets (i.e. Iran) as indicated by the Republican presidential candidates, except Ron Paul.

JE comments: WAIS tends to hit dead ends when discussing Iran, but there is a lot of saber-rattling from both sides going on recently. Not a heartening way to begin the new year. Why this new and dangerous game of chicken? Probably because both sides have enough politicians who feel they can benefit from it. I suspect Tor Guimaraes would agree.

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  • Predictions for 2012: Middle East (Miles Seeley, USA 01/04/12 2:41 PM)
    I have been thinking about Tor Guimaraes's comments on "nonsensical" wars (3 January), and find I must disagree with him. It seems to me that the American people had a lot to say about Vietnam being such a war, and that swell of opinion had an effect on the powers-that-be. I know that winding up Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan will shrink the coffers of those who have profited from those conflicts, but they have been overridden by the electorate. Stopping those wars was a major point of Obama's 2008 campaign, and in the end he carried the day.

    JE commments: David Krieger said it best on 1 January: all wars must end ... though often it doesn't seem that way. Gilbert Doctorow has just written on the Ron Paul phenomenon, with the argument that Paul's success is built primarily on his non-interventionist or neo-isolationist views. Gilbert's posting is next in the queue.

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    • "War Over": A Poem (David Krieger, USA 01/08/12 4:40 AM)
      On nonsensical wars (see Tor Guimaraes, 3 January, and Miles Seeley, 4 January), here is a recent poem:

      WAR OVER

      It was decided in Washington by someone

      wearing a suit and tie, perhaps suspenders,

      perhaps a bowtie.

      The war was declared over and thus

      it was--for us. We pulled out our tired troops

      from one of the countries where we had been warring,

      leaving behind plenty of bullets and bombs

      for our proxies. Despite our declaration of "war over"

      the war didn't end at that certain moment,

      but went on without us while we sent our soldiers

      to fight in another, similarly senseless, war

      in another country.

      Other parties to the war kept fighting without us.

      In the mayhem that continued, we were hardly missed,

      even though we had set it all in motion years before.

      By the old rules, a country is supposed to declare war

      before it begins, but those are the old rules.

      By the new rules, made up as we go, we declare

      an end to war when we are through with it. If only

      we could mesh the old and new, and the people, in chorus,

      would demand "war over" before it had begun.

      David Krieger

      JE comments:  David Krieger's last two stanzas make an especially profound observation:  by the current rules, wars aren't declared, they are "declared" over.  But what happens when no one heeds that declaration?
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      • "War Over" and Fallujah (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 01/08/12 3:45 PM)
        JE commented on 8 January: "David Krieger's last two stanzas make an especially profound observation: by the current rules, wars aren't declared, they are 'declared' over. But what happens when no one heeds that declaration?"

        Perhaps we could put this question to the mothers of the Fallujah babies who die within 20-30 minutes of their birth, thanks to America's "civilizing mission." I doubt if the "war" is over for them:

        Fallujah Babies: Under a New Kind of Siege

        By Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera

        06 January 12

        While the US military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as "catastrophic" levels of birth defects and abnormalities.

        Dr Samira Alani, a paediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005.

        "We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine," Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.

        As of December 21, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.

        "There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we've never seen them until now," she said. "So when I describe it all I can do is describe the physical defects, but I'm unable to provide a medical term."

        Incompatible With Life

        Most of these babies in Fallujah die within 20 to 30 minutes after being born, but not all.

        Four-year-old Abdul Jaleel Mohammed was born in October 2007. His clinical diagnosis includes dilation of two heart ventricles, and a growth on his lower back that doctors have not been able to remove.

        Abdul has trouble controlling his muscles, struggles to walk, cannot control his bladder, and weakens easily. Doctors told his father, Mohamed Jaleel Abdul Rahim, that his son has severe nervous system problems, and could develop fluid build-up in his brain as he ages, which could prove fatal.

        "This is the first instance of something like this in all our family," Rahim told Al Jazeera. "We lived in an area that was heavily bombed by the Americans in 2004, and a missile landed right in front of our home. What else could cause these health problems besides this?"

        Dr Alani told Al Jazeera that in the vast majority of cases she has documented, the family had no prior history of congenital abnormalities.

        Alani showed Al Jazeera hundreds of photos of babies born with cleft palates, elongated heads, a baby born with one eye in the centre of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines.

        She told Al Jazeera of cases of "thanatophoric dysplasia," an abnormality in bones and the thoracic cage that "render the newborn incompatible with life."

        Rahim said many of his relatives that have had babies after 2004 are having problems as well.

        "One of them was born and looks like a fish," Rahim said. "I also personally know of at least three other families who live near us who have these problems also."

        For now, the family is worried how Abdul will fare in school when he is enrolled next year. Maloud Ahmed Jassim, Abdul's grandfather, added, "We've seen so many miscarriages happen, and we don't know why."

        "The growth on his back is so sensitive and painful for him," Rahim said. "What will happen in school?"

        Jassim is angered by a lack of thorough investigations into the health crisis.

        "Why is the government not investigating this," he asked. "Western media seem interested, but neither our local media nor the government are. Why not?"

        In April 2011, Iraqi lawmakers debated whether the US attacks on the city constituted genocide. Resolutions that called for international prosecution, however, went nowhere.

        Scientific Proof

        Alani, along with Dr Christopher Busby, a British scientist and activist who has carried out research into the risks of radioactive pollution, collected hair samples from 25 parents of families with children who have birth defects and sent them to a laboratory in Germany for analysis.

        Alani and Busby, along with other doctors and researchers, published a study in September 2011 from data obtained by analysing the hair samples, as well as soil and water samples from the city.

        Mercury, Uranium, Bizmuth and other trace elements were found.

        The report's conclusion states:

        "Whilst caution must be exercised about ruling out other possibilities, because none of the elements found in excess are reported to cause congenital diseases and cancer except Uranium, these findings suggest the enriched Uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Questions are thus raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields."

        "As doctors, we know Mercury, Uranium and Bismuth can contribute to the development of congenital abnormalities, and we think it could be related to the use of prohibited weapons by the Americans during these battles," Alani said.

        "I made this link to a coroner's inquest in the West Midlands into the death of a Gulf War One veteran... and a coroner's jury accepted my evidence," he told Al Jazeera.

        "It's been found by a coroner's court that cancer was caused by an exposure to depleted uranium," Busby added, "In the last 10 years, research has emerged that has made it quite clear that uranium is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, certainly in the form that it takes when used in these wars."

        In July 2010, Busby released a study that showed a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks. The report also showed the sex ratio had declined from normal to 86 boys to 100 girls, together with a spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage similar to but of far greater incidence than Hiroshima.

        Dr Alani visited Japan recently, where she met with Japanese doctors who study birth defect rates they believe related to radiation from the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        She was told birth defect incidence rates there are between 1-2 per cent. Alani's log of cases of birth defects amounts to a rate of 14.7 per cent of all babies born in Fallujah, more than 14 times the rate in the affected areas of Japan.

        A Contaminated Country?

        In Babil Province in southern Iraq, the head of the Babil Cancer Centre, Dr Sharif al-Alwachi, said cancer rates have been escalating at alarming rates since 2003, for which he blames the use of depleted uranium weapons by US forces during and following the 2003 invasion.

        "The environment could be contaminated by chemical weapons and depleted uranium from the aftermath of the war on Iraq," Dr Alwachi told Al Jazeera. "The air, soil and water are all polluted by these weapons, and as they come into contact with human beings they become poisonous. This is new to our region, and people are suffering here."

        The US and UK militaries have sent mixed signals about the effects of depleted uranium, but Iraqi doctors like Alwachi and Alani, and along with researchers, blame the increasing cancer and birth defect rates on the weapon.

        Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of Uranium in Iraq, has been researching the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqis since 1991. He told Al Jazeera he personally measured radiation levels in the city of Kerbala, as well as in Basra, and his Geiger counter was "screaming" because "the indicator went beyond the range."

        Alani explained that she is the only doctor in Fallujah registering cases of congenital abnormalities.

        "We have no system to register all of them, so we have so many cases we are missing," she said. "Just yesterday a colleague told me of a newborn with thanatophoric dysplasiaand she did not register it. I think I only know of 40-50 per cent of the cases because so many families have their babies at home and we never know of these, and other clinics are not registering them either."

        The hospital where Alani does her work was constructed in the Dhubadh district of Fallujah in 2008. According to Alani, the district was bombed heavily during the November 2004 siege.

        "There is also a primary school that was built nearby, and from that school alone three teachers developed breast cancer, and now two of them are dead," Alani said. "We get so many cases from this area, right where the hospital is."

        Even with a vast amount of anecdotal evidence, the exact cause of the health crisis in Fallujah is currently inconclusive without an in-depth, comprehensive study, which has yet to be carried out.

        But despite lack of governmental support, and very little support from outside Iraq, Alani is determined to continue her work.

        "I will not leave this subject", she told Al Jazeera. "I will not stop."


        JE comments: This is a very troubling topic, but we should talk about it. A question for our military experts: how much would military effectiveness be compromised by a ban (unilateral, even) on depleted uranium munitions?  Even if uranium isn't the cause of these dreadful birth defects, wouldn't it make political sense to stop using them?

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        • Fallujah and Christopher Busby (Randy Black, USA 01/10/12 6:02 AM)
          I found Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's 9 January posting of an Al Jazeera article intriguing. I decided to try to track some of the claims mentioned by Dr. Christopher Busby, the British scientist quoted in the article. I did a bit of research on Dr. Busby, the former spokesman for Britain's Green Party.

          Busby is known for his Internet-published articles that discuss the risks of ionizing radiation, depleted uranium and the impacts of cells. His background and education is in chemistry and chemistry physics.

          Among his several marketing efforts and through his Website, he sells a mineral supplement that he calls an anti-radiation pill. He claims that his pills will offset the effects of ingested radioisotopes. His Website, in Japanese, specifically targets that market.

          While he continues to market his anti-radiation pills, he admitted in one news article (English language) that his pills were useless. His pills, a common health supplement, sell via Busby's online store for 650 percent more than in local health food stores in Japan.

          Dr. Busby's anti-radiation pills are nothing more than a combination of calcium and magnesium. The pill's makeup is 800mg calcium and 300mg magnesium plus the usual stuff that holds the material together. A bottle sells on his Website in Japan for the equivalent of $75US plus $30 shipping. Japanese health food stores sell the same product for about $12, but without the claim that it prevents damage from radiation. On his Japanese language Website, Dr. Busby claims to be a member of a European radiation risk committee, a group that ceased operations years ago.

          One committee on which he served labeled Busby's theories "biologically implausible." The Committee Examining Radiation Risk of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) report rejected his theories in 2004. In a 10-2 vote, the committee, along with an independent consultant, examined Busby's theories and rejected them. The two dissenters were Busby and a non-scientist on the committee. He also sells urine tests, iodine and a "clay radiation detox bath" tablet on the site.

          The rejection cited lack of biological plausibility, lack of supporting evidence, weakness of his studies and absence of supporting evidence found by the independent review commissioned by the Committee. Busby responded by selling a three-person minority report on his Website for ₤25.

          Busby's opinions and studies on these matters have received considerable attention in the science community and have been met with skepticism in New Scientist magazine. A computer simulation by one group, published in the Journal of the Royal Society, discounted Busby's opinions. That study dealt specifically with Busby's writings about depleted uranium and the Gulf War.


          His two books on cancer in Wales were criticized in the Journal of Radiological Protection as "erroneous in consequence of various mistakes." The Editor-in-Chief of the magazine said, "(Busby) seems to avoid publication in recognized scientific literature, which presents difficulties for a proper review of the evidence underlying his conclusions."

          Dr. Busby's latest controversy involves yet another conspiracy theory. He claims that the Japanese government is purposefully spreading radioactive contamination throughout the entirety of Japan to hide the cancer clusters from the Fukushima accident and thus to hinder the legal "fallout."

          Britain's Green Party has disavowed any connection to Busby.

          I'll leave it to WAISers as to whether or not the Al Jazeera article is plausible.


          JE comments: This is an ad hominem argument, but one that should be aired so that readers can form their own judgments.  Dr. Busby's Internet marketing schemes don't necessarily detract from the validity of the Al Jazeera article, although it's equally valid for Randy Black to point out the apparent conflict of interest.

          Westerners tend to view anything on Al Jazeera with suspicion, but it presents a perspective that needs to be taken seriously. AJ has a huge audience, and articulates the views of millions in the Middle East.


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      • "War Over": A Poem (Robert Whealey, USA 01/08/12 4:23 PM)

        Does anybody remember that FDR pointed to Japan as barbaric for bombing Pearl Harbor before any declaration of war on 8 Dec 1941? Then Truman in Korea, Johnson and Nixon fought long wars in Korea and Indochina without declarations of war. Clinton was never able to understand the Yugoslavian problem, and George W Bush went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no declarations of war.

        It seems that Ron Paul is the only candidate in 2012 who has some insight into the sad history of American foreign wars since 1950. Does anybody think that Obama can save Pakistan? You can add my voice to several members of WAIS who think that any Israeli or American bombing of Iran would backfire--to say the least.

        JE comments:  It's been pretty long since we've had an update on Pakistan.  Any WAISer insights?

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