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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Goodness me, who rattled his cage. This seems to be the season for throwing the toys out of the pram - Campbell, Sweeney ... best, f. 28 June 2003 Frontpag Your Problems Solved Classified FEATURES The first casualty of Pilger... John Sweeney says that John Pilger blames the Americans alone for birth defects in Iraq, and overlooks evidence that implicates Saddam Hussein The Americans are making a hash of rebuilding Iraq, but one of the not so bad things they have done is to give Iraqis the freedom to scribble. On the wall outside the Baathist ministry of health the other day, a graffiti artist had scrawled in perfect English, We need a health ministry free of corruption.ı For years John Pilger one of the worldıs most renowned investigative journalistsı, it says on the back of his latest book has been insisting that the West, not Saddam, is to blame for the crisis in Iraqıs public health; that 5,200 Iraqi children were dying every month; that Western depleted-uranium weapons were to blame for an epidemic of cancers; that sanctions crippled Iraqıs doctors. Funnily enough, Pilgerıs journalism echoed what the Baathist regime wanted people to hear. But very recently in Baghdad what some might call the PilgerBaathist line was put to a very public test by yet another American blunder. They handpicked a new acting health minister, Dr Ali Shenan al-Janabi, who was number three at the health ministry under Saddam. According to virtually every Iraqi doctor I spoke to, he was an unacceptable choice. The Iraqi doctors were not keen to say so to the BBC on camera. To criticise the Baath party on the record is, even now, something that no Iraqi will do lightly. Then two surgeons at Al Kindi teaching hospital in Baghdad, Dr Rahim Ismael and Dlair Omar, mulled it over and said, OK, weıll do it.ı They damned the health ministry under Saddam as a corrupt and brutal instrument of state oppression. They said that many medicines had been held back in warehouses. The ministry was trying to make healthcare worse in Iraq, the goal being to blacken the name of UN sanctions, which Saddam detested as a brake on his power. The fewer drugs, the worse the equipment and the more dead babies, the better it was for the regime. Any Iraqi doctors who didnıt toe the line were punished. At a press conference to launch the new acting health minister, Dr Ali Shenan replied that what his critics were really complaining about were Western-led United Nations sanctions against Iraq. As the words came out of his mouth, I thought to myself, Heıs talking John Pilger.ı But Dr Ali Shenan was sacked, thanks to the doctors, while John Pilger is still in business. In Victorian London the biggest killer was not the absence of medicines. It was unclean water, untreated sewage and uncollected rubbish. In Saddamıs Iraq dirty water, untreated sewage and uncollected rubbish from the Shia slums of Baghdad and Basra were state policy for a regime that earned $12 billion in oil revenue every year. Yet Pilger makes no mention of Saddamıs neglect of public health. Why? And then thereıs the Hiroshima effectı of depleted uranium. Pilger wrote in the Daily Mirror just before the war, Depleted uranium [is] a sinister component of tank shells and airborne missiles. In truth, it is a form of nuclear warfare, and all the evidence suggests that its use in the Gulf war in 1991 has caused an epidemic in southern Iraq: what the doctors there call ³the Hiroshima effect², especially among children.ı That the cancer rates from 1991 onwards are the fault of the Westıs depleted-uranium weapons alone was one of Saddamıs central messages. In his television documentary film, Paying the Price, broadcast three years ago, Pilger did the rounds of a Basra hospital. He spoke to a paediatrician, Dr Ginan Ghalib Hassen. He wrote it all up in his book The New Rulers of the World: In the next bed, a child lay in his shrouded motherıs arms. One side of his head was severely swollen. ³This is neuroplastoma,² said Dr Hassen. ³It is a very unusual tumour. Before 1991, we saw only one case of this tumour in two years. Now we have many cases. I am a doctor; I am not supposed to cry, but I cry every day, because this is torture.²ı Pilger asked her, What do you say to those in the West who deny the connection between depleted uranium and the deformities of these children?ı That is not true. How much proof do they want? There is every relation between congenital malformation and depleted uranium. Before 1991, we saw nothing like this at all.ı Felicity Arbuthnot, Pilgerıs senior researcher for the film, wrote in a magazine article published in September 1999, By early 1992, doctors in Iraq were bewildered by the rise in birth deformities some so grotesque and unusual that they expected to see them only in textbooks and perhaps once or twice in a lifetime. They compared them to those recorded in the Pacific Islands after the nuclear testing in the 1950s. Cancers, too, were rising, especially among the young, the most susceptible to radiation.ı Hang on a minute. Cancers donıt happen overnight. They develop after a latency period of at least four years. The Iraqis reported a rash of cancers in the south from 1992 onwards. The cancers that happened in 1992 cannot, scientifically, have been caused in 1992 or 1991 when the depleted uranium was used but at least four years before that. To say any different is ridiculous; it would deny the evidence from Hiroshima and Nagasaki,ı Dr Nick Plowman, the head of oncology at Barts, told me. In the mid-1980s Iranian human-wave offensives almost took Basra, but they were stopped by Saddamıs chemical weapons. The UN found incontrovertible evidence that Saddam used mustard gas against the Iranians every year between 1984 and 1988. When the Iranians came close to Basra, the Iraqis dropped gas on their own people, too. Nearly all of the war was fought in Iraq, not Iran, so thatıs where Saddam dropped his chemical weapons. Mustard gas sulphur mustard is carcinogenic and mutagenic. That is, sulphur mustard causes cancers, leukaemias and birth defects. The children of Iranian soldiers who were gassed by Saddamıs men have developed terrible cancers and birth defects. No depleted-uranium weapons were used on them. The children of Halabja, the Kurdish town gassed by Saddam, have developed cancers and birth defects. Again, no depleted uranium was used on them. Pilger knows all about chemical weapons. He wrote in the Mirror in January, I often came upon terribly deformed Vietnamese children in villages where American aircraft had sprayed a herbicide called Agent Orange. This terrible chemical weapon was dumped on almost half of South Vietnam. Today, as the poison continues to move through water and soil and food, children continue to be born without palates and chins and scrotums or are stillborn. Many have leukaemia.ı If chemical weapons cause cancers in Vietnam, why donıt they do the same in Iraq? The answer seems a simple one: chemical weapons cause cancer so long as they are dropped by the Americans. Shortly after Pilgerıs programme was broadcast in 2000, Arbuthnot phoned Gwynne Roberts, the only journalist brave enough to go to Iraq in 1988 and dig up soil contaminated by Saddamıs chemical weapons. Portland Down found mustard gas in Robertsıs soil samples. Arbuthnot was puzzled: how could the cancers in Iraq have started in 1992? Robertsıs view, like mine, is that without letting the West off the hook on the question of depleted uranium the contribution that Saddamıs chemical weapons may have made to the Hiroshima Effect should be seriously investigated. I emailed John Pilger, asking him, You know about Saddamıs use of chemical weapons, so why didnıt you raise the possibility of that being the cause of the cancers and birth defects?ı He replied, You apparently think my film was made in 1991. It wasnıt. It was made in 1999, eight years after the 1991 Gulf war, or twice the time it takes for deformities to develop, according to you. In the film I clearly put to one of the doctors the doubts that depleted uranium is the cause of the deformities. Her answer was a good one. Another specialist himself raises the doubts and addresses them. At no point in the film do I say that DU is, on its own, responsible for the extraordinary rise in cancers over, I repeat, a period of eight years up to when the film was made.ı This is artful. If Pilger and Arbuthnot accept that DU cannot have caused cancers observed in 1992, why havenıt they made this clear? None of the cancers and birth defects that Pilgerıs researcher dates back to 1992 can be the fault of depleted uranium. To omit the possibility that some of the cancers were caused by Saddamıs chemical weapons is to misrepresent the facts. To imply by that omission that depleted uranium is solely responsible for the cancers and birth defects in Iraq as he does in his book, his film and in the Daily Mirror is a disgrace to journalism. I accuse John Pilger of cheating the public and favouring a dictator. John Sweeney is special correspondent for the BBC. Return to top of page · Send comment on this article to the editor of the Spectator.co.uk · Email this article to a friend İ 2003 The Spectator.co.uk _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk