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United peace effort preferable to unilateral violence

United peace effort preferable to unilateral violence

by Leslie Bravery
12 September 2013

On Tuesday, 10 September 2013, Syria accepted a Russian proposal to give up chemical weapons and join the international convention (CWC) on the prohibition of such armaments. Regardless of the civil war raging in Syria, this endorsement of the CWC would have been welcome. It is a pity that such an initiative did not occur to the United States government. The next essential requirement is for the world community to take the necessary measures to ensure that chemical weapons can no longer fall into the hands of extremist anti-government forces operating in Syria. World community opposition, including the objections of his own people, to US bombing of Syria has taken the wind out of Obama's sails. The threats will no doubt continue but the world has learned to mistrust US rhetoric.

Barack Obama is claiming the right to attack Syria in the name of what he calls his country's “values”, asserting that the Syrian President had crossed a “red line”. But the United States itself crossed that line decades ago, in various theatres of war. Obama's claim to US moral superiority is belied by an appalling history of inflicting death, injury and sickness that tragically continues – even when the violence ends – with succeeding generations enduring still-births and crippling deformities.

It is a record that should be very publicly examined in the face of the present US threat against Syria. Obama has produced no conclusive evidence that the Syrian government carried out the 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb but there is plenty of evidence, even from professional CIA, NIC and NSA etc. analysts, pointing towards fanatical al-Qaeda-supported elements as being the most likely perpetrators of the war crime. A leading member of an earlier UN commission of inquiry into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Carla Del Ponte, told Swiss TV on 5 May 2013 that there was evidence to suggest that the rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin. After listening to testimony from victims of the conflict she said that there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof”.

Depleted uranium
The world and the Iraqi victims of US depleted uranium weapons (DU) know that false propaganda was produced by the US when it accused Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This time the US goes so far as to say it is prepared to attack Syria without UN Security Council authorisation, without the support of its allies, and even without the support of the people of the United States. Obama's unilateral war rhetoric does not bode well for the already grievously suffering Syrian people. Humanity gets short shrift from the self-righteous Uncle Sam when he decides to take on the roles of judge, jury and executioner. Advocating, in front of the House Armed Services Committee, the need for Congress to approve military strikes on Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed the psychology vividly, saying “nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of a hanging".

The heat and blast from weapons containing depleted uranium cause horrific injuries and, apart from immediate injuries and death, the release of DU causes birth defects (warning – explicit video). The chemical toxicity and effects of low-grade radiation are recognised by the World Health Organisation. The US used DU in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf in 1991 and in the Balkans. More than 100,000 DU shells were fired during the Gulf War. The weapons are 'pyrophoric', meaning DU rounds burn as they fly and when they strike an object the material breaks up and causes secondary explosions. Some of the uranium vaporises into extremely small particles, which fill the air, remaining there until they fall to the ground with the rain. Vaporised, the chemically toxic and radioactive material easily enters the body through the skin or the lungs. Depending on their size, inhaled particles of radioactive uranium oxide dust can remain in the lungs or travel further, throughout the body. The smallest particles can be carried through cell walls and “affect the master code – the expression of the DNA.” DU is a perfect example of an indiscriminate terror weapon. This use of the radioactive waste from the US nuclear weapons industry has left its toxic residue in the environments of Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.

US-Iraq mustard gas complicity
Back when Iraq, at war with Iran, was an ally of the US, a top secret memo (photocopy) documenting chemical weapons use by Iraq, dated 4 November 1983, warned the US government that, “Any publicity about Iraq's widespread use of chemical weapons could set back recent efforts to strengthen Iraqi-US ties depending on the position taken by the US.”

Agent Orange and more
For nine years (1962 to 1971) the US military dumped a total of 20 million gallons of chemicals on Vietnam. Highly toxic Agent Orange (which also caused sickness amongst US soldiers and their allies) was sprayed indiscriminately on both forests and farmland in Vietnam as well as on neighbouring countries. The US destroyed the people's food supplies, destabilised the ecology, and ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Vietnam estimates that as a result of the decade-long chemical attack, 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 babies have been born with birth defects, and two million have suffered from cancer or other illnesses. In 2012, the Red Cross estimated that one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or health problems related to Agent Orange. According to the UN, the chemical, laced with dioxin, is one of the most toxic substances known to humanity. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed by the defoliants, 500,000 children have been born with defects from mental retardation to spina bifida and a further two million people have suffered cancer or other illnesses. Those who produced the chemicals and the government whose forces were employed in using them with such terrible effect upon a civilian population have yet to be called to account. Their victims wait in vain for proper compensation.

Eisenhower's warning
In his 1961 presidential farewell speech, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the world of the growing power and influence of the military-industrial complex. In that speech, over half a century ago, he observed: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.”

The world is tired of the strident tones of politicians speaking on behalf of the self-righteous, self-serving elite. Eisenhower spoke on behalf of humanity when he said the world must “...avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate.” Bombing Syria would not bring peace and, as the introduction to an Oxfam petition reminds us, “Any further escalation of the conflict could increase serious and life-threatening risks for civilians, and further undermine regional stability. Instead, we urge President Obama, President Putin and other world leaders to intensify peaceful efforts to find a political solution to the crisis through diplomacy and dialogue. It is time for leaders to show courage against the tide of war: urge President Obama and President Putin to push for peace talks today.”


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