Iraq: Silent crimes
by Felicity Arbuthnot In the increasingly surreal world of Iraq, where those deemed "most wanted" by the US are pictured on a pack of playing cards and given silly nicknames in a mindset that most of us grew put of in kindergarten school — Dr Germ or Dr Anthrax — the case of the arrest of Dr Huda Ammash, aka Dr Anthrax, is especially disturbing. Dr Ammash, a graduate of the University of Missouri and of Texas University, is an internationally respected environmental biologist. Since the 1991 Gulf War she has devoted much of her expertise to studying the health effects of the toxic and radioactive depleted uranium (DU) weapons used by the US and Britain and the other environmental impacts of the war, on both the civilian population of the region and on Iraqi and allied soldiers suffering from "Gulf war syndrome". She is a fellow of the Islamic Academy of Science and has served as both Dean of the College of Education for Women at the University of Baghdad and Dean of the College of Science. She has spoken widely internationally on the dangers of depleted uranium. At a major international conference in Manchester three years ago, she and an expert from Hiroshima drew stark comparisons between the radiation- linked cancers and birth defects both in Iraq and Japan. Her publications include Impact of Gulf War Pollution in the Spread of Infections Diseases in Iraq, published by Soli Al Mondo, Rome, in 1999 and Electronic, Chemical and Microbial Pollution Resulting from War and Embargo and its Impacts on the Environment and Health, in the Journal of the Iraqi Academy of Science in 1997. She also contributed a chapter to Iraq Under Siege — the Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War (Pluto Press, UK and South End Press, US) which was reprinted and updated in February. Ammash addressed "Toxic Pollution, the Gulf War and Sanctions" in a book about which one reviewer commented: "A brilliant book, which exposes the grim reality behind the US new world order and British 'ethical foreign policy' " She also drew attention to the illegality in international law of the use of weapons whose effects continue to kill and pollute long after the war is over — DU weapons remain toxic and radioactive for four-and-a-half billion years. Contributers to Iraq Under Siege include Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ali Abunimah and former UN Under Secretary General and UN co-ordinator in Iraq Denis Halliday. The whole is a devastating condemnation of pollution, politics towards Iraq, resultant infant mortality, dodgy dealings at the UN — all in all a shameful, shoddy US-British-driven policy. Their respective government policy-makers must have been less than happy. South End Press have no doubt about the reason for Dr Ammash's detention and are "outraged at the US extra-legal detention of Dr Ammash and its plans to interrogate her". Co-publisher Alexander Dwinell demands that "she be released immediately". Dwinell says starkly: "The US government is trying to silence Dr Ammash's outspoken criticism of the US role in causing cancers and other illnesses in Iraq through its use of biological hazardous weapons such as radioactive depleted uranium". Deeply concerning is that those arrested by the US are being "disappeared" with absolutely no accountability, even more totally than those in Guantanamo Bay. Ironically, that is exactly what happened under Iraq's previous regime. League of Arab Lawyers President Sabah Al Mukhtar, whose practice frequently acts for governments — including, on occasion, that of Kuwait - - is incandescent. "From A to Z this is illegal. From the occupation to the detentions. To target, detain, disappear without any charge being made public, with no legal representation, with no magistrate, public prosecutor, proper state representative having made the decision. "For the US army in Doha to issue a list of nationals in another country — it is unlawful, unlawful, unlawful." With the ghost of McCarthy walking tall in the White House, Dr Strangelove stalking the Pentagon and Machiavelli's descendants apparently running US foreign policy, the future looks bleak for Iraq, democracy and the disappeared. Ironically, many Iraqis are already saying that it was better under Saddam. Regime change anyone?