You cannot see the smoking gun behind a locked door

The nations of the world have signed up to many Conventions, which are in theory meant to have the force of law. But international law is subject to the rule of force, not the rule of law, except where the rule of law and the rule of force coincide. There is one important UN Convention that might be considered as unobjectionable and uncontroversial to which nations should willingly adhere. It is called the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques.

Article 1 provides:

Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to engage in military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury to any other State Party.

“Environmental modification techniques” is not a phrase in common usage. For the purposes of the Convention it means any technique which deliberately manipulates natural processes whether it be by changing the dynamics composition or structure of the earth including its biota, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere and even of outer space. The convention does not prohibit the use of these techniques except for war, armed conflict our other military purposes.

When we think of the use of environmental modification techniques as a weapon of warfare it is easy to think of dictators in places like North Korea, and those that ruled Libya and Iraq in the past who were accused of having weapons of mass destruction. I suppose that a weapon which alters the environment with widespread long lasting or severe effects must be a weapon of mass destruction.

Without a doubt the USA when it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan modified the environment in which they were dropped in a widespread, long lasting and severe manner, but that happened many years before the Convention was signed.

Today the United States is accused of recently having used environmental modification techniques as a weapon of war in Iraq between 1991 and 2003 which have contaminated Iraqi soil and water courses and will contaminate them for hundreds of years to come.

“They have deployed all sorts of weapons you could think of: cluster, white phosphorus, depleted uranium munitions, toxic gases and poisonous substances, in other words chemical weapons. All these types of weapons were used deliberately and massively. They were test-tried in Iraq and caused an environmental catastrophe worse than that of Hiroshima”, says Dr Omar al-Kubaisi, a medical doctor in Iraq. It is clear, he claims, that the use of these chemical weapons has caused widespread environmental contamination which has resulted in a growing number of congenital deformities, miscarriages, all kinds of cancer cases, and increased levels of radiation throughout Iraq.

No one outside of Iraq seems to care. Politicians like Mr Blair claim that removing Saddam Hussein was well worth the misery and anguish of the war in Iraq; it is easier to make that claim if you do not personally suffer any misery and anguish; but the point I am making is not about the justification of the war in Iraq; future generations will decide that removed from the immediacy of current affairs land looking at that question in a historical perspective.

The point I make is about how the war was fought. I cannot believe that the use of depleted uranium weapons saved one allied soldiers life in Iraq; I cannot see any justification for using those weapons there, yet they were used in Iraq, which no doubt proved a convenient testing ground for weapons which had not previously been used in combat. The allies dropped more than 400 tonnes of depleted uranium weapons and there are at least 300 contaminated sites in Iraq; the full number is not known.

The United Kingdom, along with the USA and Israel claim that there is no evidence linking the use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq to cancers and health problems suffered by the people of that nation. This is odd because in 2004, the Pensions Appeal Tribunal Service accepted birth defect claims made by a 1991 Gulf War combat soldier were caused by depleted uranium poisoning and that children of British soldiers who fought in wars in which depleted uranium ammunition was used are at greater risk of suffering genetic diseases such as congenital malformations; the risk of malformation in pregnancies where the fathers were in the Gulf War is 50% higher normal.

In 2004, Iraq had the highest mortality rate due to leukaemia in the world.

There is no evidence, it is true, just non peer reviewed studies and some alarming statistics which do not show a causal link; however it should be said that there has been no real attempt to get evidence, no studies in Iraq which are peer reviewed and accepted by the international scientific community because there have been no studies.  You cannot see the smoking gun behind a locked door.

A cynic might argue that depleted uranium weapons is a good way to get rid of some of the radioactive by products from nuclear power stations; better to dump these in weapons abroad than bury them at home.

In Iraq which has been greatly impoverished by two Gulf Wars, people try to make a living any way they can. One way is to forage for scrap metal among the old sites of conflict, and sell it to the scrap metal trade. This work is done by children and is an important source of income to impoverished families. Apparently they need not worry about their future health and the well being of their progeny. There is no hard evidence. That evidence will appear later, inevitably. They can worry later.

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