The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.
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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] (My apologies to moderator for first version replete with spelling errors, etc. I think I've eliminated most. Thanks) Dear all, Having worked directly with Professor Christine Gosden since her visit to Halabja in 1998, I feel it necessary to respond to Tom Young's statements and conclusions from his visit to the community and its hospital. I too have recently visited the community and know individuals who have lived and worked there during the attacks in throughout the period since. To suggest that Halabja is simply facing the same problems of other rural Kurdish towns and villages is to studiously ignore some irrefutable facts, not least of which is the well documented genocidal tendencies of the former Iraqi regime towards the Kurds, which included the use widespread use of mustard gas (see Human Rights Watch - whose findings are also mischaracterized by Mr. Young). When Prof. Gosden visited the hospital in 1998, a radio broadcast informed people in advance that she would arrive with a number of Kurdish doctors prepared to provide limited treatment. More than 700 people showed up, all complaining of problems they believed were caused by chemical weapons exposures in 1988. The injuries evidenced in these people may or may not have been caused by chemical weapons. Without advanced genetic testing and/or forensic evidence of weapons agents used in the community it is truly impossible to say. But a preponderance of testimonial evidence, knowledge of Iraqi WMD programs and well documented effects of mustard gas all continue to point to long-term effects of weapons exposure in this population. Because the data collected in during Professor Gosden's first visit could not be considered unbiased, an additional regionwide survey was undertaken by Prof. Gosden and a consortium of local doctors. The results of this survey, when published, should remove any doubts created by the less than scientific, and certainly biased accounts of individuals such as Tom Young and Mr. al-Obaidi, and even Mr. Pelletiere. While Mr. Young's hospital visit sounds quite uncharacteristic when compared with my own and others' who work in the community, I will afford him benefit of the doubt that he is not twisting reality to fit a not-so-hidden political agenda, and respond to his assertions. Given continued limits on diagnostic capacity and a complete lack of cancer treatment anywhere in Kurdistan (as someone with knowledge of the effects of UN sanctions should well understand), it is not surprising that leukemia and other cancer patients are not turning up in droves at the hospital in Kurdistan. As WKI works closely with doctors and others in Halabja to this day, I can't imagine which physician, nurses (and pharmacists?) gave him an impression that "deformed" babies, skin cancers, neurological disorders, or blindness were not frequent. All of these conditions, associated with exposure to mustard gas, are clearly evident throughout the community to all those living and working in Halabja. Clinical video studies conducted by doctors in the maternity and other wards of the Halabja hospital and three others in Kurdish cities provide horrible evidence to contradict Mr. Young's findings, including numerous extremely rare congenital abnormalities and cancers. Furthermore, any member of Halabja's medical staff would be quick to point out that Halabja residents seeking advanced or specialized treatment (and there are no evidence based treatments for exposures to chemical weapons) would seek such treatment in Suleymania or even Baghdad or Mosul, as is the local custom. In Halabja alone, there are more than 400 residents who were blinded in the attack or lost sight in its aftermath. There are currently hundreds of children who do not attend school because of neurological impairment, and while their disorders cannot be definitively linked to mustard or nerve agents, their existence in high numbers cannot be refuted. A survivor support group is increasingly active in the town, and I am sure each and every one would be more than pleased to show their scars to Mr. Young so he might be better informed when he offers observations in the future. Clearly, Mr. Young's examination of the hospital was cursory, unscientific and guided by the intention to debunk Professor Gosden's observations. (In any event, I would wager that Professor Gosden's biased ascertainment is far more prescient that Mr. Young's). To suggest that problems found in Halabja are similar to those found in other rural Kurdish areas subjected to conflict and deprivation mimics the "fog of war" theory upon which many who would deny Iraqi government involvement in Halabja's tragedy subsist. The opinion expressed by Mr. al-Obaidi, who is well-known for slanderous and unsubstantiated allegations, which Mr. Young also shares with the CASI list, is full of deliberate distortions and outright lies. I'd like to share my response to the editors of al-Jazeera (which they will surely ignore): "To the Editors of al-Jazeera: Mr. al-Obaidi has once again woven quite a piece of fallacious slander in "What Happened in the Kurdish Halabja." The racism permeating the piece speaks well enough to his motivations, so I will only address some of the gross inaccuracies that are quite easily confirmed. While I, Mike Amitay, am indeed the son of Morris, that is about the only thing Mr. al-Obaidi gets right about me. I have never had anything to do with Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy or JINSA. With malice or ignorance, Mr. al-Obaidi has clearly mistaken me for my father, assigning me positions held by my father in both these organizations. (Subsequent to my submission, Al-Jazeera changed Amitay "junior" in the original posting to "senior", acknowledging their error and undermining the veracity of the author). That I do not share the political beliefs of my father is beside the point. To label me "the Zionist Mike Amitay" based on my father's beliefs is intellectual putrescence at its finest. While I vaguely know Moti Zaken (whom I have never met) and had brief contact with the long defunct Israel-Kurdish Friendship League, I can only assert that neither had any no role in establishment or funding of the Washington Kurdish Institute. While Zaken could easily attest to this himself, so too could examination of WKI's financial or organizational records, open to public scrutiny as WKI is a 501 (c) (3) organization. The unsupported assertion that WKI's Board Members, who in any event are not directly involved in day-to-day management of WKI, are "well known for their connection with the Israeli Mossad", is a patently ridiculous statement by any measure of journalistic integrity or personal knowledge of these individuals. One must give credit to Mr. al-Obaidi for his ability to use Google in finding the names of Board Members and others. One could just as easily peruse Mr. al-Obaidi's web personna and learn about the circumstances of his "flight" from Iraq, the bogus "opposition" political organization he claims to run, and his close cooperation with virulent anti-Semites and Ba'athists. While WKI is indeed examining the long-term effects of chemical weapons on civilians, we hope to publish our findings in peer-review scientific journals before sharing them with reputable journalists. Mr. al-Obaidi's rehashing the US Army War College report does underscore the need for forensic evidence collection from attack sites, including Halabja, and from survivors throughout Iraq and Iran, where chemical weapons were also used. We have strenuously advocated that thorough independent investigations be carried out to determine what weapons agents have been used throughout Iraq. While disappointing that such a blatant concoction of racism, slander and falsehood would appear under the al-Jazeera banner, it is not really surprising. Mike Amitay, Washington, D.C." While Mr. Young might indeed be intrigued by the "fog of war" argument put forward by Pelletiere, Jude Wanniski and al-Obaidi, the blatant racism and political bias inherent in al-Obaidi's "opinion", leads me to question his motives in sharing it with the CASI list. As long as there is are doubts about both who is responsible for Halabja and what the long-term medical and environmental implications are, the people will remain beyond meaningful assistance. There is a real need to illuminate the problems facing people in Halabja and elsewhere, and it is clear that only scientific evidence will clear the "fog of war" which continues to so conveniently serves many different agendas. I have no doubt that Mr. Pelletiere will high on the list of witnesses called upon by Saddam and Chemical Ali's defense lawyers, and I have no doubt he will relish this opportunity, though whether or not he actually testifies about the motivations of the US government in pinning the attack on Iran remains to be seen. In some ways, the DOD War College report is just the prompting needed for further examination, yet this has yet to happen. It is impossible for me to understand why no one has bothered to gather forensic evidence related to weapons used in the attacks on Halabja and elsewhere. Whether determining culpability, or learning how to better protect and treat survivors, any number of reasons would appear compelling. Anyone truly interested in helping the people in Halabja, Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran, or anywhere such weapons were used or might be used, should be calling for comprehensive environmental and medical testing/treatment, not trashing a scientist who has dedicated her life to helping these people and finding answers which we all seek. Sincerely, Mike Amitay, WKI _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk