The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] felicity arbouthnot speaks

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

The Coalition Against Sanctions and War on Iraq.

c/o Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4, UK.

Tel: (0161) 286 7950      E-mail:

Felicity Arbouthnot is a free-lance journalist and a regular visitor to Iraq.  Felicity was also 
the reasearcher for John Pilgers powerfull documentry "Paying the Price - killing the children of 
Iraq" and this is the speech that was given by Felicity to "The Silent Holocaust" National 
conference which was hosted and sponsered by the Fire Brigade Union. in 1998

“I will start by giving you one example which illustrates the problems that the people are 
suffering and the parsimony of some of the organisations that are supposed to be helping alleviate 
the suffering.  At one time the European Union supplied Iraq with a large consignment of powered 
milk which is absolutely vital in Iraq because most Iraqi women are too undernourished to breast 
feed their babies. When the powdered milk was tested, it was revealed to be highly radio-active and 
not fit for consumption.

“Before the Gulf War, Iraq imported 70 per cent of all her needs. This extended to pharmaceuticals 
and the supply and servicing of items such as incubators, X-ray machines etc. Iraq was dependent on 
imports to maintain its livestock industry; poultry production dropped after the war to 18% of its 
previous levels.  Before the war the access to clean water was 93% and the access to high quality 
health care was about 92%.  UNESCO even said that Iraq was one of the only countries in the world 
where, even if you were born in absolute poverty with illiterate parents you could come out of the 
education system either a brain surgeon, archaeologist or whatever you wished to become. So it is 
important to bear in mind that this was a very developed country. The embargo has resulted in the 
collapse of the health service. Shortages in medical supplies have resulted in patients who either 
do not wake up from an anaesthetic for about two and a half days or come-to during the operation. 
This has been going on for about two and a half years.

“I want to say something about the effects from the huge amount of radio activity that was released 
into the country from the shells and missiles during the war. The radio activity came from the 
depleted uranium that was used to coat the missiles and shells. It was released in the form of dust 
after firing. The UK Atomic Energy Authority told me that if there were 50 tons of this dust left 
in the country it would result in 500,000 extra cancer deaths by the end of the century. The UKAEA 
told the government about this in 1990. It is now estimated that there are between 700 and 900 tons 
of this material in Iraq. The results are that Iraqi hospitals are over-flowing with children with 
cancer and this dust will remain active for 4,500 million years.  You can now go into any hospital 
in Iraq and see people with the most appalling cancers and, of course, there is nothing to treat 
these people with.  When I was in Iraq doctors told me that just ten months after the war they were 
reporting the appearance of birth defects that they had only previously seen in text books of 
examples taken from the pacific islands after the nuclear tests that took place there in the 1950s. 
They said that increases in hydrocephalus, cleft palate, deformed or missing limbs, webbed fingers 
and webbed toes had all been noted.  All these symptoms can be seen in those cases of Gulf War 
syndrome. If governments were prepared to put proper money into funding an independent scientific 
survey they would see that this is really the unique nightmare of the vanquished and the victor 
being equally effected.

“One of the most pernicious things is that, under the ‘dual-use’ heading, anti-cancer drugs are 
banned from being imported into Iraq. The logic being that medicines for radio therapy, because 
they have minute amounts of radio active properties, may have a military application. The theory is 
that Iraq will somehow obtain millions of these pills and devise a way of making a nuclear weapon - 
which is technologically impossible. In the same way, even pencils cannot be imported by Iraq, as 
they contain graphite. So far no one has been able to find out the military application of other 
banned products such as lipstick, deodorant, sanitary towels, shroud material and medical gauze, 
i.e. bandages.

“One thing that any visitor to Iraq notes is the way ‘black’ souvenirs in the form of expended 
shell, bomb or rocket parts are collected. They are every where. They litter the towns and 
countryside. Children in particular collect them and play with them. Of course, this is a prime 
route for children to become exposed to radiation.  When I latched onto this risk, early in 1993 I 
arranged to see someone very senior in the ministry of health [in Iraq] to voice my concerns. I 
explained to this man the risks that Iraqi children were putting themselves to. This very 
autocratic man, who had seemingly got intimidation down to a fine art; suddenly, all his 
bombasticness went, he dropped his eyes and said to me, ‘We are very, very afraid’.  Sometime after 
that I went to a ward in a hospital. There I saw young cancer patients of 3 and 5 unable to move as 
any movement would cause excruciating pain.  The smallest, who’s eyes were full of tears and who 
was making murmuring noises and who had taught himself not to cry as he knew that the shaking of 
his crying would rock his body further and cause even greater paid. As I walked out of the ward, 
unable to stand up due to the shame, I stopped by the bed of the 5 year old who was in exactly the 
same condition. I put my hand towards him and he immediately grabbed my hand seeing that perhaps I 
was someone slightly different. He looked at me in the universal way children look trying to see a 
look of affection. In that moment I decided that somehow I would try and make the difference and 
perhaps, in my own small way, help remove the sanctions.

“Not only are the children of Iraq very sick but psychologists report that the children are the 
most traumatised they have ever come across. They have not only been bombed three times but they 
have no toys to play with and their schools are empty of even the most basic learning materials. 
Frequently children will faint at school and it will be discovered that it is because the children 
will not be eating that week as families, to survive, eat in rotation. One third of Iraqi children 
are characterised as having stunted growth.  Some of the materials denied children are ping-pong 
balls and children's bicycles and adults are having to have operations such as amputations and 
caesarean sections without anaesthetics.

I also want to say something about the situation in Britain and the political brain-washing that 
has been done to the press. This was illustrated by the cynical way the press treated George 
Galloway when he brought the young Iraqi girl with leukaemia here for treatment. He had raised the 
money for her treatment himself and he was very proud that he had been able to show the world that 
sick Iraqi children are just like sick children anywhere in the world. The vitriol, the wall to 
wall, solid vitriol, the lack of compassion was extended even to the children, even at five year 

I want to finish by telling you about another child I who became a friend. His name was Jassim and 
his main wish was to be a poet.  The first time I met Jassim he was lying on a bed in a hospital 
ward without any sheets or bedding, just lying, staring with his beautiful dark eyes, as he did not 
have the energy to move. He had left school and had been selling cigarettes in the street to 
support his parents. When I entered the ward he suddenly came alive and sat up after hearing this 
different language being spoken. Jassim had several writings and poems by his bed and he showed me 
one called the ‘Identity Card'.  He had got the idea from a poem of the same name by a famous poet 
called Darlish. But Jassims poem was different. It talked about the struggle to survive on the 
streets in Iraq. I told him I worked as a journalist, that I would get the poem published outside 
Iraq and, when I returned, I would bring a newspaper with it in for him to see.  Several months 
later a friend of mine took back a newspaper with Jasims poem printed in it.  When my friend came 
back from Iraq I asked if Jassim was pleased to see his poem printed. Unfortunately he had died 
three days prior to the person arriving in Iraq.

Do You Yahoo!?
Get personalised at My Yahoo!.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]