Democracy Now! January 30, 2003

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Democracy Now! January 30, 2003
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The US is thinking the unthinkable: it is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq. We ll talk to military analyst William Arkin.; Dr. Asaf Durakovic gives a rare interview about depleted uranium in Iraq: he was the first military doctor to test Gulf War veterans for radiation exposure and was terminated for his work ; We go to Baghdad to speak with former U.N. humanitarian coordinator Hans Von Sponeck about a new report on the health affects of war

9:00-9:01 Billboard 9:01-9:06: In Baghdad today the Center for Economic and Social Rights released a major report highlighting the human costs of a war against Iraq. The report warns that United States military forces may commit war crimes by deliberately destroying essential civilian life support systems According to the Pentagon, one of the air campaign's first targets will be Iraq's national electricity grid. The resulting damage to water, sanitation, public health, and food distribution systems will claim an enormous number of civilian casualties -- up to 500,000 according to a confidential UN document. Such disproportionate collateral damage would violate fundamental principles of the laws of war. For example, the Geneva conventions prohibit attacking objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population. Under international law, warring parties must distinguish between military and civilian targets at all times and refrain from any attack that will cause excessive civilian casualties. Guest: Hans Von Sponeck, former Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq who resigned this position three years ago to protest international policy toward Iraq, including sanctions He is in Baghdad as a special envoy to the Center for Economic and Social Rights, One Minute Music Break 9:07-9:20 Military analyst William Arkin is reporting in the Los Angeles Times : One year after President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the axis of evil, the United States is thinking about the unthinkable: It is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq. At the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in Omaha and inside planning cells of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, target lists are being scrutinized, options are being pondered and procedures are being tested to give nuclear armaments a role in the new U.S. doctrine of "preemption." Arkin reports the Bush administration has significantly lowered the nuclear threshold to make so-called preemptive nuclear attacks a possibility. This may also lead to other nations revising their own thresholds that dictate when nuclear weapons are deployed. Arkin concludes that to use nuclear weapons to defeat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has the potential to create a political and global disaster. Guest: William Arkin, military affairs analyst for the Los Angeles Times. He wrote a piece in this Sunday s LA Times The Nuclear Option in Iraq: The US has lowered the bar for using the ultimate weapon which looks at the Bush administration s plans to possibly use nuclear weapons in the upcoming war on Iraq. Links: The Nuclear Option in Iraq: The US has lowered the bar for using the ultimate weapon 9:20-9:21 One Minute Music Break 9:21-9:40: As the Pentagon weighs deploying nuclear weapons in Iraq, we re going to take a look now at another kind of radioactive weapon US troops may use: depleted uranium. Depleted uranium is the most effective anti-tank weapon ever devised. It is made from nuclear waste left over from making nuclear weapons and fuel. As an unwanted waste product of the atomic energy industry, it is extremely cheap. It is also the densest material available on the market, and can smash through all known armor. US gunners say DU rounds save lives on the front line. But when DU rounds punch through tanks, they create a firestorm of uranium dioxide dust. Those invisible particles are still hot. As the Christian Science Monitor s Scott Peterson writes, the particles make Geiger counters sing. They stick to the tanks, contaminate the soil and blow in the desert wind as they will for the 4.5 billion years it takes for the DU to lose its radioactivity. The public first became aware the US military was using DU weapons during the 1991 Gulf War. US gunners used 320 tons of DU to destroy 4,000 Iraqi armored vehicles. The Pentagon deemed those vehicles a "substantial risk" and US forces buried them in Saudi Arabia and low-level radioactive waste dumps in the US. Thousands of US troops became sick after that war, afflicted with a range of mysterious symptoms that have come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome. Many vets believe DU is responsible. According to Reuters, some troops are so concerned about a new Gulf War Syndrome they have begun to bank their sperm before they head to the Middle East. The sperm banks are now offering discounts to troops. Iraqis say DU is a major cause of the severe health problems such as cancer and birth defects. The director of the cancer ward at Basra's Saddam Teaching Hospital says pre-war cancer rates have increased eleven times. The Pentagon and the White House deny this. Pentagon officials refer to the latest government report on the subject, which said: "Gulf War exposures to depleted uranium have not to date produced any observable adverse health effects attributable to DU's chemical toxicity or low-level radiation." Just last week, the White House Office of Global Communications rolled out a new propaganda document called: Apparatus of Lies: Saddam s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003 . The document characterized Iraq s claims as a campaign of disinformation. Despite repeated calls, the Pentagon refused to be interviewed for this program. In a minute we ll be speaking with Dr. Asaf Durakovic. In 1991, Dr. Durakovic was Chief of Nuclear Medicine at the veterans hospital in Wilmington Delaware. There he discovered the first gulf war veterans with symptoms of radiation exposure. The hospital terminated him after he refused to halt his research. He has pursued the research to this day He was also a former US Army Colonel. He rarely gives interviews in this country. But first we go to Steve Robinson of the National Gulf War Resource Center. Guest: Steve Robinson, Executive Director, National Gulf War Resource Center. They monitor the current status of scientific studies. Guest: Dr. Asaf Durakovic, nuclear scientist and former Chief of the Nuclear Sciences Division at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute. He is currently the Medical Director of the Uranium Medical Research Center, an independent non-profit institute which studies the effects of Uranium contamination. The UMRC recently sent a team to the Nargahar province in Afghanistan to test for uranium contamination in residents living near and around US bombing sites during Operation Enduring Freedom. 9:40-9:41 One Minute Music Break 9:41-9:58 Depleted Uranium, cont d Guest: Dr. Chris Busby, Scientific Secretary with the European Committee on Radiation Risk , a group of scientists and risk specialists within Europe who assess the risk levels of low-level radiation exposure. The ECRR has just published a report which determines that previous risk-models for depleted uranium exposure are incorrect. The report determines that depleted uranium is 100 to 1000 times more carcinogenic than the present risk model suggests. Dr.Busby is also a member of the International Society for Environment Epidemiology, and was invited to Iraq and Kosovo to investigate the health effects of depleted uranium. He has also given presentations on depleted uranium to the Royal Society and to the European Parliament. He is a member of the UK Ministry of Defence Oversight Committee on Depleted Uranium. Guest: Karen Parker, attorney specializing in humanitarian law. She has been working with the UN Commission on Human Rights since 1996 to expose the illegality of DU munitions under humanitarian law. Links: Uranium Medical Research Center: National Gulf War Resource Center: Committee on Radiation Risk: Outro and Credits Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Ana Nogiera and Alex Wolfe. Mike Di Filippo is our engineer and webmaster.

Date Recorded on: 
January 30, 2003
Date Broadcast on: 
January 30, 2003
Item duration: 
59 min.
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