The United States militarist plutocracy wrangled in recent weeks over assigning more than 500 billion of worth-less-and-less foreign creditors' US dollars to its imperialist war machine. The corporate media tried to foment vain interest in what terms the plutocrats may end up negotiating among themselves for that budget's approval. To confirm the essential obscenity of the US government and the rubber-stamp-with-vaudeville US legislature, their injustice system has just set free a terrorist - Luis Posada Carriles - despite a formal request from Venezuela that Posada Carriles be extradited for bombing an airliner, killing over 70 civilians.
Inherently inhuman, since it is deliberately operated to prioritize corporate profit, the US political system is geared to generate indiscriminate slaughter and death. Serious counting of people absent by death stopped long ago. Most-favoured-genocides, like Darfur, get a reckoning. US generated slaughter does not. Hence the Bush regime's dismissal of the authoritative Lancet report on Iraq's lost hundreds of thousands. In Diyala this week a US helicopter killed at least six school children in a strike on a primary school. Might be more, might be fewer - the US authorities could hardly care less. Remember Colin Powell's reply to a request for a total figure of Iraqi casualties during Desert Storm, "It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in."
Powell's role in the destruction of Iraq is a bit-part in the wider drama of corporate imperialism's drive to remake colonialism under the guise of globalization. The main coercive components of that drive are gross trade inequities along with heavily conditioned debt and "aid", accompanied by constant psychological warfare in the corporate media. When the standard components fail to generate sufficient power, covert action or outright aggression are used. Imperialist terror constantly shadows globalization, purposefully shaping and baiting enemies by way of self-justifying propaganda. Corporate media news manufacture and its atomization of information are among the most pernicious and insidious of the strategies involved.
The systemic terror inflicted on countries like Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, Palestine and Somalia is a continuation of unfinished colonial business. The terror system is active within countries too. From Mexico to Egypt to the Philippines to the imperial centres themselves, authorities keen to collaborate in the globalization project replicate imperialist terror strategies on a local rather than a global scale. Even the bitty, piecemeal clues thrown out by the corporate news machine make clear the depth and breadth of the challenge to humanity presented by the United States and its European and Pacific allies.
Depleted Uranium - horror by stealth
The deliberate degradation of Iraq's health system via years of UN sanctions and subsequent maladministration under military occupation is news in the sense that it provides headlines like "Infant mortality in Iraq soars as young pay the price for war" in the Independent of May 8th. Perhaps a more complete contextual report is the World Socialist Web Site article of May 9th "Iraqi infant mortality soars by 150 percent—a damning revelation of US war crimes". Both help complete part of the overall picture's foreground but omit the horrific detail and controversy around depleted uranium-provoked cancers and genetic deformations.
Naturally, the US and British governments deny and where possible censor the steadily accumulating evidence of the horrific effects of their criminally reckless use of depleted uranium munitions in the two Gulf Wars. It is certain these munitions have not only irreversibly damaged the health of many hundreds of US and collaborating troops and mercenaries as well as many thousands of Iraqi military and civilians. They have also condemned future generations of the affected multitude to cancer and deformation. Despite its neutral and heavily technical emphasis, the Wikipedia entry on depleted uranium makes two very pertinent points.
Firstly, "DU is considered both a toxic and radioactive hazard that requires long term storage as low level nuclear waste. DU is relatively expensive to store but relatively inexpensive to produce or obtain. Generally the only real costs are those associated with conversion of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to metal. DU is extremely dense, 67% denser than lead, only slightly less than tungsten and gold, and just 16% less dense than osmium or iridium, the densest naturally occurring substances known. Its low cost makes it attractive for a variety of industrial and military uses."
Thus, DU poison costs a lot of money to store safely. Cheaper than tungsten and other expensive metals for producing effective armour piercing shells, DU weapons manufacture solves two problems at once. It camouflages the dispersal of nuclear waste and increases shareholder profits all round by removing high storage costs and converting the poisonous trash into expensive munitions. As so well-signalled by incidents like the Bhopal Union Carbide chemical plant disaster and innumerable other cases, human health has next to no place in the corporate profit equation. Costs of any health care for people suffering the effects of DU radiation exposure can be postponed through decades of obfuscation and denial and finally defrayed onto national governments. Arms corporations ultimately externalize potential health and legal costs by passing them on to forever-deceived taxpayers.
A second point in the non-commital Wikipedia article, here in relation to the link between DU, cancer and genetic defects is, "In general, the prevailing scientific view on the matter is that such data, and other scarce data available, do not conclusively prove a poisoning effect of depleted uranium; but that the possibility exists and cannot be ruled out either, and so a precautionary principle would suggest to suspend the use of such weapons." But the war criminals who launched their illegal aggression against Iraq in March 2003 explicitly and deliberately trashed all international norms by appealing to their factitious, bogus "war on terror". With them or against them, human life counts for little or nothing. Witness the Walter Reed hospital scandal and the generally despicable treatment of war veterans. If they treat their own side so callously, what can Iraqis expect? Iraqis bear witness to and suffer the terrifying answer day after day.
Figures from the Spanish group Research Collective on Radioactive Weapons (1) suggest that now in Iraq as many as 20 babies in every 4000 are born eyeless. This source argues that the figure in a normal population should be 1 in every 50 million. The article notes, "In Iraq, they call doomed pregnancies "bellies of jelly". With reason, since from 1991 unformed lumps of meat have been born with deformations never seen before." The article cites a report from Al-Jazeera reckoning that since 1991 the incidence of cancer in Iraq has increased tenfold and birth defects fivefold, "due to the use of uranium weapons".
The response of the US and British authorities has been to repress awkward testimony about the facts of their deployment and use of DU armaments. The same article quoted above notes the case of Riyadh Lafta, an internationally recognised Iraqi epidemiologist highly critical of DU munitions and their use. Riyadh Lafta " tried fruitlessly for six months to get a visa to travel to Seattle to give a conference in Washington. The British government then refused him a 4-hour transit visa from the Middle East to Canada, where he was invited for another conference."
Back in 1999, four years before the second Gulf War, Felicity Arbuthnot (2) reported the case of Professor Asaf Durakovic "He is one of the world's leading experts on radiation, and sees a familiar pattern. 'Any doctor who becomes involved in this subject is pressurized, fired; records and samples go missing...' " Durakovic wrote of his concerns about DU munitions to President Clinton in 1997. "Shortly afterwards his senior position at the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Veterans' Administration Authority in Wilmington, Delaware, was terminated." Arbuthnot goes on to note how at the same time in Britain, Iraq war veterans Ray Bristow and Colin Purcell Lee, returning from research in Iraq, "arrived home 'to find we had been called traitors by a senior Cabinet Minister' and that their homes had been raided by Ministry of Defence Police."
Craig Etchison of Global Research argues "I suspect the military-industrial complex will stonewall admitting the effects of DU for as long as possible to avoid accepting responsibility, not to mention liability, for their reckless actions. When John Hanchette, a founding editor of USA Today tried to publish stories about DU, he received a phone call from the Pentagon asking him to desist. He was later replaced at USA Today. The World Health Organization's chief expert on radiation and health had his report on DU suppressed. "(3)
DU and terror - Colin Powell again
The criminal use of poisons and chemicals against civilian populations by imperial powers is long-standing. For the United States the use of Agent Orange in South East Asia is perhaps the most well-known precedent. From 1962 to 1971 the US government applied over 20 million gallons of chemical poisons in Vietnam. (4) With its use of DU and other poisonous weapons in Iraq, the United States is following colonialist precedents like those of Britain's chemical warfare in Iraq in 1919 and Spain's chemical warfare campaign in Morocco in the 1920s or Italy's use of poison gas during its attack on Ethiopia in 1935.
The connection between the use of chemical weapons and DU munitions and the deployment of US terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles and his kind runs through US policies of the last few decades. These policies form a seamless web interweaving hypocritical State Department diplomacy, sadistic war crimes and terror to achieve policy goals. The biographies of individuals like Colin Powell embody the connections. As an investigating army Major, Powell tried to cover up the My Lai massacre. Later as assistant to President Reagan's Secretary for Defence Caspar Weinberger, Powell supported the Iran-Contra transactions to fund the illegal terrorist war against Nicaragua. A key member of the regional team in Central America organizing that war was Luis Posada Carriles based at the time in El Salvador.
Powell was an enthusiastic supporter of the criminal terror war against Nicaragua, condemned as unlawful by the International Court of Justice in 1986. No surprise then that while Secretary of State his assistant was an even more sinister figure, Richard Armitage. The biography of Armitage takes in enforcement of the Phoenix assassination and torture programme in Vietnam, strong allegations of drugs-dealing in Burma and Thailand, dirty war activities in Iran to assassinate opponents of the Shah and a leading role in the Iran-Contra terrorist transactions. By using drugs to finance their terror activities US government functionaries are following another time-honoured colonialist tradition since both Britain and France in their time exploited the opium trade to further regional policy aims.
US narcotics-US terror : inseparable twins
Relentlessly sinister individual political continuities abound between the Vietnam and Reagan eras and the campaigns against Iraq. Another notorious figure is John Negroponte, who assisted Henry Kissinger during the Paris peace talks to end the Vietnam war. Like Powell and Armitage, he too facilitated Reagan's terrorist war against Nicaragua as well as overseeing the dirty war in Honduras via local US government proxy General Alvarez Martinez in the early 1980s. After helping facilitate death squads in Iraq while US ambassador there, Negroponte is now working alongside another hangover from the Reagan era, Condoleezza Rice, former protÃ©gÃ© of Reaganaut corporate-grandee-diplomat George Schulz.
Now Negroponte and US government drugs functionary John Walters are accusing Venezuela of failing to cooperate adequately in the bogus US "war on drugs"(6). The view of the Venezuelan government is refreshingly frank: " The government discounted that Venezuela might permit activities by the US authorities in the country to fight drugs trafficking...Interior Minister Pedro CarreÃ±o declared that "the United States with its Drugs Enforcement Agency monopolizes drugs shipments like a cartel". CarreÃ±o, leaving a ceremony at the National Pantheon told reporters that when Venezuela agreed to suspend work with the DEA it was because "they were making large transfers of drugs using the cover of handovers under surveillance " and did not carry out "arrests of citizens, the dismantling of a single cartel........We were able to determine that we were clearly in the presence of a new cartel." (7)
This exchange on drugs between US government officials and the Venezuelan authorities takes place at the same time that the US government is deliberately refusing to move against Luis Posada Carriles, a self-confessed terrorist, also connected to narcotics, faced with a request for extradition from the Venezuelan authorities. In neighbouring Colombia, the US government has consistently provided billions of dollars to support the narco-terror regime of President Alvaro Uribe, irrevocably tainted by current revelations of its links to and dependence on drugs-dealing paramilitaries. In April this year, reports emerged of US and British government complicity in the opium trade in Afghanistan to the tune of over US$120 billion. (8)
ALBA - gainsaying false gods
In Britain, the US government's most faithful ally, the Foreign Office has dropped the "war on terror" motif. (9) It no longer serves a useful purpose. The global majority see clearly that terror - "do what we want, or else" - is self-evidently a fundamental policy of the United States and its European and Pacific allies in their drive to secure the trade and economic outcomes they need to sustain their neo-colonial power and privilege. The overweening determination of the global elite to ensure that corporate needs take priority over the needs of the world's impoverished majority springs from their worship of inhuman greed and from deep-seated racism.
The governments that front for that global elite are responsible for millions of needless deaths through criminal military aggression both directly, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and indirectly, as in Lebanon or Somalia where they have supported proxy military enforcers. At the same time they wage a relentlessly strident propaganda war against countries like Cuba and Venezuela. Why? Because Venezuela and Cuba are responsible for saving and enhancing millions of lives through their promotion of health, education and broad cooperation initiatives via the ALBA - Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas - trade and cooperation treaty, now incorporating over 60 million people in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
ALBA shows up the United States government and its European and Pacific allies as agents of sterility, deformation and destruction. Their political and economic systems based on global exploitation of humanity's impoverished majority offer little to rest of the world except extremes of injustice. The case of Posada Carriles marks their unremitting espousal of terror. The continuing genocide against the Palestinians is emblematic of their hypocrisy. The destruction of Iraq, its people and society, embodies their sadism. Through their fetish for poisonous technology of mass destruction, they feed their monstrous corporate capitalist god not just with live innocents, but with thousands of victims from generations yet unborn.
By insisting on international legal norms in the case of Posada Carriles and the related case of the five Cuban anti-terrorists imprisoned by the US injustice system, Venezuela and Cuba have exposed the United States government as a promoter of terrorism. By prioritizing the social dimension of their economic relations, the ALBA countries are effectively demonstrating the inefficiency and inhumanity of global corporate capitalism. Venezuela has abandoned the World Bank and the IMF. Bolivia and Nicaragua have joined Venezuela in rejecting the Centre for the International Settlement of Investment Disputes as an impartial arbiter. Ecuador, Bolivia Brazil and Paraguay have now thrown their weight behind Venezuela and Argentina's proposal for Bancosur as a regional development alternative to the US and European dominated financial system.
These moves are as important as the diverse campaigns of resistance in Iraq, Palestine, Colombia and Mexico or Iran's insistence on it's right to develop peaceful nuclear power. Determined support for these varieties of resistance is probably humanity's best and only chance to counteract the twin strategic strands of globalization and military terror used by the United States government and its allies. The changing of the governmental guard in London and Paris simply shuffles faces among the same old murderous caste of corporate capitalism's high priests. But the script has alternative endings now, rewritten by the former sacrifical victims. "Weighed in the balance and found wanting" - the writing on the wall for the US government and its allies is getting clearer, much slower than their victims need, but perhaps much faster than we think.
toni solo is an activist based in Central America, see toni.tortillaconsal.com
1. "Balance de la situaciÃ³n sanitaria en Iraq. Censura de las cifras de muertos y del aumento de cÃ¡nceres y malformaciones por las armas radiactivas." Alfredo Embid, Colectivo de InvestigaciÃ³n sobre las Armas Radiactivas in Rebelion, May 6th 2007
2. "Poisoned legacy - Felicity Arbuthnot investigates the worldwide spread of cancers and deformities since the Gulf War." New Internationalist, Issue 316 - September 1999.
3. "Depleted Uranium: Pernicious Killer Keeps on Killing", Dr. Craig Etchison, Global Research, February 20, 2007
4. "Vietnamese Agent Orange Victims Sue Dow and Monsanto in US Court", Ngoc Nguyen and Aaron Glantz, Asia Times, May 16, 2006 (from ZNet)
5. "EspaÃ±a empleÃ³ en los aÃ±os veinte armas quÃmicas contra los hombres de Abdelkrim", Ignacio Cembrero, from El PaÃs, published in WebIslam 18th February 2002 (http://www.webislam.com/numeros/2002/161/noticias/EspaÃ±a_armasquimicas.htm)
6. "Negroponte condemns Venezuela on drugs" BOGOTA, May. 10 (UPI) -- " Venezuela does not do enough to combat drug trafficking through the country, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte says. Negroponte -- in Colombia as part of a four-nation tour of the region -- said Wednesday Colombia is concerned about the amount of cocaine allegedly transported through Venezuela."
7. "El gobierno de Hugo ChÃ¡vez acusÃ³ a la DEA de ser un nuevo cartel." Associated Press, 8/5/2007
8. "Heroin is "Good for Your Health": Occupation Forces support Afghan Narcotics Trade. Multibillion dollar earnings for organized crime and Western financial Institutions", Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, April 29, 2007
9. " Benn criticises 'war on terror' ", BBC News, 16 April 2007