Category Archives: Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Eternal Impunity of Capitalism’s Crimes

The very idea of War Being a Racket penetrates so deeply into capitalism’s flair for murder by a thousand cuts, a thousand miles in a Corvair, a thousand sips from diet Coke, a thousand sucks from Nestle baby formula, a thousand hours on the video screen, a thousand seconds inside the nuclear core, a thousand nanoparticles chewed, a thousand days living under high tension power lines, a thousand slices of mercury-cured tuna, a thousand puffs of the e-cigarette, a thousand days in law school, a thousand clicks hiked in clear cut, a thousand bombs bursting in air, a thousand doses of any one of millions of drugs or chemicals, a thousand seconds of a presidential debate, a thousand launches from NASA, a thousand bullets into Black bodies, a thousand spent uranium laced shells, a thousand drips of PCBs in our water supply, and, on and on, the drumbeat plays, a thousand cuts.

I just finished watching the documentary, The People versus Agent Orange. Carol Van Strum (here and here) is the American contingent and Nga To Tran the Vietnamese contingent. Like so many other documentaries, this one cuts to the chase – the liberation of humankind and ecologies from the death ray of capitalism is the ONLY way forward.

Veterans, Survivors Unaware of Agent Orange Benefits

The origins of Agent Orange lie in an obscure laboratory at the University of Chicago where, during World War II, the chairman of the school’s biology department, E. J. Kraus, discovered that direct doses of 2,4-D can kill certain broadleaf vegetation by causing the plants to experience sudden, uncontrolled growth not unlike that of cancer cells in the human body. Kraus, thinking his findings might be of use to the Army, informed the War Department, which initiated testing of its own but found no use for the stew of hormones prior to the end of the war. But experiments with 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T continued through the 1950s. — Orion Magazine

Ad nauseum the bantering back and forth with deplorable MAGA and shallow democrats on mainline TV/Cable, is much ado about nothing when we put into perspective every single action the corporation makes to not only rip-off each and every customer, but to delimit free speech, to eviscerate participatory democracy, to use their hit squads of lawyers to obfuscate and obliterate the righteous people up against these Titans of Tyranny – chemical, pharmaceutical, agriculture, fossil fuel, mining, data, prison, space, industrial, food, medical, media, education, criminal justice, banking, insurance, investing thieves and manslaughter experts.

The entire farm has been sold down the river a million times, so when we look at Agent Orange, the USA government, the US Air Force, the Dow corporation, the endless legal deaths by a thousand motions against some sort of reparation for the millions of Vietnamese, Americans and dozens of others in Vietnam during the tyranny of corporations and the French and the USA in fighting in another person’s land. Vietnam!

Carol Van Strum’s story is linked to my neck of the woods – the Central Oregon coast range. She is just a few dozen miles up the road, in Five Rivers. For more than 45 years, she has been both victim of, and battler against, the chemical spraying operators here where timber companies clear cut vast thousands of square miles of forest, and then deploy the markers of Agent Orange and other brews to include Glyphosate and atrazine, among others.

The film is understatement, but thorough and clear – some of us knew early on that the herbicide Agent Orange was more than a Ho Chi Minh Trail defoliant. It was part of a plan by the despotic South Vietnamese president Diệm ’s worldview – supported and supplied by the USA – that the Viet Cong should not have jungle cover and that the rice crops in the North should not only be destroyed but contaminated from the soil up.

Opinion | The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange - The New York Times

Tran is an amazing voice for Vietnam and the millions of victims of Agent Orange – many dead, by the millions, and many by several million surviving in varying levels of debilitation, and for her and millions of other women, giving birth to deformed, sick and dying babies.

Back in Oregon, the mothers and then the doctors came together to compare notes, and alas, the number of miscarriages/spontaneous abortions experienced by local women always coincided a month after helicopters working for the timber companies unloaded thousands upon thousands of gallons of the toxic brew, a mix of hormone disruptors and growth inhibitors that scour animals, plants and humans to the point of genetic mutations and untold physical ailments as adults.

We see the coughing “chemical guy” in Oregon, who is cell phone filming himself loading up the helicopters with the brew. He hacks up blood at night. He is another victim of better living through chemistry. His story is vital to the telling of the Agent Orange story back home, in Oregon.

Tran’s case seeks accountability for “the deadliest use of chemicals in the history of warfare.” The case is still held up in court.

Why the United States Won't Admit Guilt Over Agent Orange

Tran was told by her heroic mother, captured by the South Vietnamese, in 1953, “If I don’t come back, you will replace me.” Tran ended up writing news for the National Liberation Front. She met her husband in the forest, who was part of the Foreign Relations Commission. “We spent our youth engaged in war.”

In June 1968 their daughter was born, and three days later the infant’s skin  began falling off. She had difficulty breathing, and she had major heart issues. “I always blamed myself thinking I was the reason for her illness and the cause of her death. Even though I have my other two children, it is the face of my first that remains anchored in my soul,” Tran states.

Tran says she carried that guilt for 40 years. “Until I found out what killed my daughter, the poison Agent Orange.”

Her second daughter was born with alpha thalassemia, a major defect of her pancreas. Same with Tran’s third daughter, and a granddaughter. Thanks, Agent Orange and the Boys at Dow!

Back and forth the documentary travels from Carol’s and Oregon’s battle against the chemical companies and the university forestry guy who was in the back pocket of Dow, and with Tran, who has several lawyers working to “put an end to the eternal impunity,” as French barrister William Bourdon calls it.

That was Operation Ranch hand, from 1962 to 71, approved by JFK and his henchmen in the DoD and military. The idea was to take away the forest cover but also to be part of a food-denial program, which under any auspices of international conventions, is an act of genocide, and a war crime.

Dr. James Clary was with the Air Force in Vietnam, which ran the program. He was ordered to dump the computer and erase all memory. Instead, he printed out a stack of documents two feet high – missions, sorties, coordinates, dates, gallons dropped throughout all of Southeast Asia and Laos.

“We had the information coming from Dow that there were real problems for people associated with this chemical. It was all locked up for 35 years.”

Playing down all the negative effects of this chemical was part of the Dow plan. Dioxin was the byproduct in the brew. Dow told the US government they were having difficulty producing the volume of the chemical the US wanted. The government told them to not worry about safety standards and quality control, and that a fast production process which produced more of the dioxin would not matter, since the crops and forest were being sprayed, and if people got in contact with it, the idea coming from both industrialists at Dow and those in government and the military was, “Hey, so what, this is a war . . . these are the effing Vietnamese.”

However, a former military man like Clary never saw it that way. He reiterated that 20 million gallons of it was dumped on Southeast Asia. The Ranch Hand program stopped in 1971, but then the chemicals were enlisted by the US on forest land – clear cuts that were sprayed to denude the razed land of any opportunities weeds and shrubs. The money has to be made, and the stockpiled product has to go! Sell it to the state forestry department and timber outfits.

Dr. Clary tears up on the film, showing a deep regard for the Vietnamese. He cried at the sight of the deformed children. The filmmakers state: “He is not a typical war monger, and never said that. He became a whistle-blower to expose such attitudes. They are the opposite of how he feels.

“They went back and said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we need the quantities. Besides it’s going to be sprayed on the jungle over there. Not gonna be any people there and if they happen to get into it, so what? We’re at war.'”

Oregon Community Rights Organizer Featured in New Documentary 'THE PEOPLE vs. AGENT ORANGE' | CELDF

Carol Van Strum reiterates that the half-life of a dioxin molecule is 2 billion years. Dioxin, the forever chemical and the gift of cancer and birth defects and mutagenic ailments that keep on giving. Tran is now fighting for the fourth generation of people affected by the millions of gallons of this poison sprayed on her homeland. She has breast cancer.

Dr, Clary breaks down emotionally, saying he never thought his government would betray all the veterans who directly were affected and whose offspring were/are still affected. The judge in the Agent Orange case is a pure case of misanthropy that infects all chambers of the judicial and legal class.

Andre Burny, author of Agent Orange: Apocalypse Vietnam, makes it clear that this is a “crime against humanity, an attack on the human genome.”

It’s telling that one of several scientists featured in a clip, Dow’s Dr. Cleve Goring, says, “The attack on the chemical is entirely emotional. 2,4 5-T is about as toxic as Aspirin. We have not done a good job with our PR campaign.”

As benign as Aspirin! You haven’t heard this before, right? Farmed chemical-laced salmon, safe as mother’s milk. Oh, antibiotic-laced meat and poultry are safe for all consumers. You know, it would take a bathtub of the stuff a day for twenty years to cause cancer. Or, lab rats are not humans . . . no comparison. 5-G is like an apple a day. Violent video games are A-Okay. Genetically Engineered crops are better than those old fashioned heritage crap. What’s a little used motor oil dumped into the pond.

Oh, dear reader, you have as many of these “it’s safer than the alarmists yammer about” stories, I am sure. Imagine, the bottom line of Dow is to cover up, drag court cases on and on until the plaintiffs are six feet under. What a little rebranding won’t fix. Or some heavyweight like Brad Pitt or Betty White endorsing the product bringing people all together now.

The documentary, The People versus Agent Orange,” delves into many of the treatment centers for victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. There are dozens. I have been to two of them, years ago, and they were not even tied to Agent Orange. Like Tran, most of the mothers blamed themselves for children coming out twisted, stunted, without limbs, craniums asymmetrical or ballooned out.

This is how capitalism works – lies, deceit, murder, cover, cover-up, blame the victim, pass on the diseases and poisons and clean up costs to the people. This is the price of capitalism, many Americans will say. This is the price of convenience. This is the price of Low Prices and instant soup, instant turkey, instant husband/wife.

Blame the child for the crimes of consumerism. Blame the fetus for the mother taking the advice of western medicine. Blame the communities for the sprayed hog blood-urine-shit in their backyards.

Capitalism is more than some giant smoke and mirrors game, bigger than some house of cards, bigger than snake oil salesmen/women grifting, bigger than shoveling up billions into the debt (poor) house. It is a system of rackets, and while Gen. Butler may have written War is a Racket about the MIC, we have to transpose that military industrial complex to Banks/Hospitals/Insurance Companies/Courthouses/Police Stations/Law Firms/Colleges/Mining Companies/Drug Manufacturers/Big Ag Outfits/Media Conglomerates/So-Called Liberal Press and the like are the very definition of Rackets, certainly perfect actors for Dante’s Circles of Hell.

We are the fodder for that inferno, and if anyone of any political stripe doesn’t end up being pissed off after watching The People versus Agent Orange, then they are misanthropes, cult followers, colonized zombies. And I can say that about any number of hundreds of righteous documentaries — bear witness and then what? Retreat to stupidity, retreat to the capitalist’s see-speak-hear no evil while the evil eats your soul from the inside-out!

Please note that I was in Vietnam in 1994 and in 1996. I worked first with several biological teams doing a huge transect of the forest near the Laotian border. I met amazing Vietnamese scientists. I revisited places my military father was at as a CW4 cryptographic guy. His stories were my stories.

I was in Vietnam in 1994 the same age my father was there, shot twice. That was age 36.

I made a point of getting into many villages after the science report was done. I drove a motorcycle down Highway One. I met amazing people there, and had two Vietnamese who helped me navigate the language.

I was embraced by men the same age as my father. Men who fought as Viet Cong, and those men, of course, did not do an eight-month and then a 12-month set of tours like my Army father. They spent more than a decade or more fighting the French, fighting the Americans.

I met a woman in Hanoi who was bombed as a child in an orphanage. I met people studying the breast milk of lactating women, in 1996, with 16 times the level of PCB’s (US standards) in their systems.

Vietnam came to me again, as I worked with many veterans, and some Vietnamese back in Texas putting on the 20th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon (April 1975). I had Le Ly Hayslip at the event, and she blessed my daughter who was still in her mother’s womb. Den Yen was the vice mayor of Saigon, and he too showed up. John  McAfee, A Slow Walk in a Sad Rain, was just one of many writers, historians, artists who were in this historical event in 1995.

I worked with then Thomas Daniel, now taking on his mother’s name, Vu, who was both my student and friend and we worked together on art projects. My play, Tiger Cages, was partly written after I ended up in London after watching the bad play, Miss Saigon. My short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, tells the story of people somehow connected to the Vietnam war.  I have taught college courses for US military, even at the Sergeants Major Academy at Biggs Field. Vietnam, “Never another Vietnam,” the “tragedy of Vietnam War,” and more is in my DNA. I even worked as a social worker helping homeless veterans and their families secure housing and benefits.

This film is powerful in that it tells a simple story of ecocide and American hubris. Several million Vietnamese were killed directly by US bombs. Many more died later from injuries and chemical death. The trauma on a country is also part and parcel of this illegal and unethical war.

Ecocide as a military practice was first coined for the war against the Vietnamese the US conducted. This documentary and Dr. Clary discuss this heinous war crime, of destroying the crops, the food sources, the soil as part of military stratagem.

As a note, my piece here was in my blog, and at first I thought I covered all bases. One of the filmmakers, Alan Adelson, made it clear to me some of my juxtapositions of quotes were wrongly attributed. I was writing this “review” as I watched the documentary, The PEOPLE versus Agent Orange. I let my passions and zeal overtake my editor’s calm and thorough copy-editing.

I appreciate Alan’s email, and I know this sort of review is not mainstream, and probably not usable for the director. I am able to take off one revolutionary cap and put on a more traditional journalist’s cap. I hope the film shows in Portland and if so, that I can have a crack at talking with the filmmaker. I have other gigs, including Street Roots, in Portland. While my column, Finding Fringe, is not textbook newspaper “objective” reporting, it still provides a look into people like Carol and her son, Jordan Merrell — A letter a day for 15 years and 9 months

War is a Racket – Major General Butler, 1935 | Creative by Nature

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. — Smedley Butler, War is a Racket (1935)

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I don’t think so. I think that the – the hook for many of our supporters was the idea that this was an unusual messenger for an important environmental message. You know, people who support environmental issues are constantly trying to find a way to preach beyond the choir, to reach beyond their base of people who are already on board, and I think one of the things that’s very appealing about the film, but primarily Jerry as a messenger, is that you don’t expect this message to come from a career military person.

And through Jerry, you’re – we’ve been able to reach this audience of military folks who maybe wouldn’t be attuned to the environmental message about the effects of toxins on health and things like that. So I think there was a real appeal to many of those organizations from that perspective. — Rachel Libert, co-producer of film, Semper Fi

 

 

The post Eternal Impunity of Capitalism's Crimes first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reject Militarism on the Anniversary of 9/11

Nineteen years after more than 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, there remains a bipartisan commitment to fight an endless “war on terrorism,” instigate regime change coups, increase military spending, enhance US nuclear weapons, deport undocumented residents, curtail civil liberties, and militarize the police.

The September 11, 2001 attacks on the US have obscured “The Other 9/11,” the US attack on Chilean democracy in the US-backed coup on September 11, 1973. The two 9/11s are connected by what the CIA calls “blowback.” The CIA first used the term in describing the unintended negative consequences of the US and UK sponsored coup against the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. The September 11, 2001 attacks were blowback from decades of US intervention in the Middle East. That doesn’t justify the terrorism, but it does explain it. If we want peace and security for our nation, we should respect the peace and security of other nations.

Contrary to Trump’s lies about ending the endless wars, his administration has escalated the “Long War” in the Middle East and North Africa with increased troop deployments, drone strikes, and Special Operations.

Trump is also morphing the War on Terror abroad into a war against dissent at home. He encourages and uses law enforcement to attack nonviolent protesters, calling them “thugs” and “antifa terrorists.” He encourages white racist vigilante militias that show up armed to menace Black Lives Matter demonstrators and to intimidate local and state governments in armed protests against climate action (Oregon) and COVID-19 public health measures (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin).

Trump encourages these actions with statements that amplify paranoid far-right fantasies that call climate change and COVID-19 hoaxes perpetrated by secret elite conspiracies. Trump has instructed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and Border Patrol to violate immigration laws and subject immigrants and asylum seekers to unspeakable brutality, including separating children from their parents and internment in concentration camps where COVID-19 is running rampant. He stokes racial fears and civil strife to justify authoritarian rule. He calls the news media “fake,” the elections “rigged,” and promotes conspiracy fantasies on Twitter. Trump is sowing confusion and demoralization so people will not be able to resist repression by sections of law enforcement and the racist militias should Trump decide to resist a peaceful transfer of power. The ultimate blowback against US coups and wars abroad against democracy threatens to be a coup against democracy at home.

End the Wars on Terrorism Abroad and Dissent at Home

One of my first steps as President would be to end the wars on “terrorism” abroad and at home. Neither major party calls for ending the endless wars against “terror” abroad even though the top priority in the official National Security Strategy of the United States has changed to “Great Power Competition” with the goal of preventing the emergence of strong regional powers in Eurasia, namely China, Iran, and Russia. This New Cold War, like the War on Terrorism, is about the profits of US-based global corporations abroad, not the security of the people of the United States at home.

The nuclear modernization program initiated under Obama and continued under Trump with bipartisan support has destabilized the nuclear balance of terror and kicked off a new nuclear arms race. The nuclear threat, coupled with inaction by the great powers on the climate emergency and the proliferation of disinformation propagated by state actors on all sides that makes it difficult for publics to come to agreement on what to demand of their governments, has prompted the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move their Doomsday Clock the closest it has ever been to midnight.

I would end the saber rattling against Russia, China, and Iran in the Great Power Competition strategy and focus on diplomacy. We need to partner with other major powers to address our common problems, notably nuclear arms, climate, and cyberwar.

I would also end the bipartisan repression of dissent at home. With Trump’s encouragement, law enforcement is using militaristic tactics to suppress peaceful protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Both major parties are united in suppressing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and publishers like Julian Assange, whose real crimes in the eyes of the National Security State is that they exposed its secret wrongdoings.

The US should speak out against violations of human rights and democracy wherever they occur, but that should not preclude also working with authoritarian governments to resolve life-or-death global issues like climate change and nuclear arms. War and threats of war are the most powerful destroyers of civil liberties, democracy, and human rights. Military threats, economic sanctions, and covert meddling in the politics of other countries only reinforces the nationalist rationalizations of authoritarian governments for repression at home in order to ward off threats from abroad.

The most powerful way to promote human rights is to set a good example. If the US wants its advocacy of human rights to be credible and effective, it must set the right example at home, where police killings of Black people are seen on social media around the world.  A country where there is mass incarceration in the largest prison system in the history of the world, and from where the US military is deployed in some 800 foreign military bases for its endless wars, making the US the nation that the world’s people consider the biggest threat to peace.

The Other 9/11: Chile

Thirty years before the United States’ 9/11, the CIA orchestrated the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected socialist government of Chile on September 11, 1973.

It is a tragic coincidence of the US bloody intervention history in Latin America that President Salvador Allende was overthrown and pushed to suicide on the same date that decades later would affect US soil by a terrorist attack. The same feelings that American felt of being violated by the first foreign attack since Pearl Harbor were felt in Chile that September 11 in 1973. The sin of Salvador Allende in the eyes of Nixon, Kissinger, and CIA Director Richard Helms was to advance deep socialist reforms that would create a more equal society, a just distribution of incomes, real freedom of expression, and a truly democratic framework that could allow, finally, the participation and voices of all sectors, specially the impoverished workers of Chile.

Sound familiar? These are exactly the challenges that the US faces today, problems that have riddled the US throughout its history and become worse in the Trump era – the authoritarian duopoly of Republicans and Democrats, voter suppression, third party suppression, deep inequality from coast to coast, and chronic poverty. It is the same kind of repression that Chile suffers today under the conservative millionaire Sebastián Piñera when people again advance the same reforms that Allende worked for and paid for with his life. It is the same social, economic, and political oppression that the two countries share on this anniversary of 9/11.

Aid, Not Arms – Make Friends, Not Enemies

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the Green Party of the United States warned against the danger that the two major parties and the corporate media would turn this horrific crime into a rationale for destructive wars abroad and political repression at home.

Instead of treating the 9/11 attackers as criminals to be brought to justice, the US used the attacks as a pretext for a long series of regime change wars in the Middle East and North Africa. The foreign policy leadership of the Bush administration had already written about the need for a “new Pearl Harbor” in order to provide the pretext for an invasion of Iraq to seize its oil fields. They wasted little time in getting started after 9/11.

The Authorization To Use Military Force (AUMF) against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks passed Congress on September 18 with only one dissenting vote. The US invasion of Afghanistan started on October 1. The AUMF legislation is still the legal basis for today’s endless wars.

The Patriot Act, which gave the federal government broad new intrusive surveillance and investigatory powers that weakened civil liberties, was overwhelmingly voted through Congress by October 25.

The Bush administration, joined by the Democratic amen corner led by Senator Joe Biden, lied about weapons of mass destruction and about Iraq’s alleged role in 9/11 to start a second war in Iraq by March 2003.

After 19 years, US combat troops are now engaged in 14 wars. At least 37 million people, and as many as 59 million people, have been displaced by these wars, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II.

The annual observation of 9/11 has been turned by politicians into a militaristic celebration of American power that is used to garner public support for US military spending and imperial aggression abroad. Right after 9/11, the world was united in its grief for our country. It was a moment that should have been used to build peace based on mutual cooperation and respect.

Let us remember 9/11 this year by demanding that the US withdraw from its endless wars, prioritize diplomacy to resolve conflicts, end arms sales to belligerents, and provide humanitarian aid for war refugees, including reopening immigration to the US from these countries.

Let’s turn the US into the world’s humanitarian superpower instead of its global military empire. Providing aid instead of arms is the best way to promote peace and security. It is time for the US to make friends instead of enemies.

The post Reject Militarism on the Anniversary of 9/11 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

12 Ways the U.S. Invasion of Iraq Lives On In Infamy

While the world is consumed with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, on March 19 the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by ramping up the conflict there. After an Iran-aligned militia allegedly struck a U.S. base near Baghdad on March 11, the U.S. military carried out retaliatory strikes against five of the militia’s weapons factories and announced it is sending two more aircraft carriers to the region, as well as new Patriot missile systems and hundreds more troops to operate them. This contradicts the January vote of the Iraqi Parliament that called for U.S. troops to leave the country. It also goes against the sentiment of most Americans, who think the Iraq war was not worth fighting, and against the campaign promise of Donald Trump to end the endless wars.

Seventeen years ago, the U.S. armed forces attacked and invaded Iraq with a force of over 460,000 troops from all its armed services, supported by 46,000 UK troops, 2,000 from Australia and a few hundred from Poland, Spain, Portugal and Denmark. The “shock and awe” aerial bombardment unleashed 29,200 bombs and missiles on Iraq in the first five weeks of the war.

The U.S. invasion was a crime of aggression under international law, and was actively opposed by people and countries all over the world, including 30 million people who took to the streets in 60 countries on February 15, 2003, to express their horror that this could really be happening at the dawn of the 21st century. American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who was a speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy, compared the U.S. invasion of Iraq to Japan’s preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and wrote, “Today, it is we Americans who live in infamy.”

Seventeen years later, the consequences of the invasion have lived up to the fears of all who opposed it. Wars and hostilities rage across the region, and divisions over war and peace in the U.S. and Western countries challenge our highly selective view of ourselves as advanced, civilized societies. Here is a look at 12 of the most serious consequences of the U.S. war in Iraq.

1. Millions of Iraqis Killed and Wounded

Estimates on the number of people killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq vary widely, but even the most conservative estimates based on fragmentary reporting of minimum confirmed deaths are in the hundreds of thousands. Serious scientific studies estimated that 655,000 Iraqis had died in the first three years of war, and about a million by September 2007. The violence of the U.S. escalation or “surge” continued into 2008, and sporadic conflict continued from 2009 until 2014. Then in its new campaign against Islamic State, the U.S. and its allies bombarded major cities in Iraq and Syria with more than 118,000 bombs and the heaviest artillery bombardments since the Vietnam War. They reduced much of Mosul and other Iraqi cities to rubble, and a preliminary Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report found that more than 40,000 civilians were killed in Mosul alone. There are no comprehensive mortality studies for this latest deadly phase of the war. In addition to all the lives lost, even more people have been wounded. The Iraqi government’s Central Statistical Organization says that 2 million Iraqis have been left disabled.

2. Millions More Iraqis Displaced

By 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that nearly 2 million Iraqis had fled the violence and chaos of occupied Iraq, mostly to Jordan and Syria, while another 1.7 million were displaced within the country. The U.S. war on the Islamic State relied even more on bombing and artillery bombardment, destroying even more homes and displacing an astounding 6 million Iraqis from 2014 to 2017. According to the UNHCR, 4.35 million people have returned to their homes as the war on IS has wound down, but many face “destroyed properties, damaged or non-existent infrastructure and the lack of livelihood opportunities and financial resources, which at times [has] led to secondary displacement.” Iraq’s internally displaced children represent “a generation traumatized by violence, deprived of education and opportunities,” according to UN Special Rapporteur Cecilia Jimenez-Damary.

3. Thousands of American, British and Other Foreign Troops Killed and Wounded

While the U.S. military downplays Iraqi casualties, it precisely tracks and publishes its own. As of February 2020, 4,576 U.S. troops and 181 British troops have been killed in Iraq, as well as 142 other foreign occupation troops. Over 93 percent of the foreign occupation troops killed in Iraq have been Americans. In Afghanistan, where the U.S. has had more support from NATO and other allies, only 68 percent of occupation troops killed have been Americans. The greater share of U.S. casualties in Iraq is one of the prices Americans have paid for the unilateral, illegal nature of the U.S. invasion. By the time U.S. forces temporarily withdrew from Iraq in 2011, 32,200 U.S. troops had been wounded. As the U.S. tried to outsource and privatize its occupation, at least 917 civilian contractors and mercenaries were also killed and 10,569 wounded in Iraq, but not all of them were U.S. nationals.

4. Even More Veterans Have Committed Suicide

More than 20 U.S. veterans kill themselves every day—that’s more deaths each year than the total U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Those with the highest rates of suicide are young veterans with combat exposure, who commit suicide at rates “4-10 times higher than their civilian peers.” Why? As Matthew Hoh of Veterans for Peace explains, many veterans “struggle to reintegrate into society,” are ashamed to ask for help, are burdened by what they saw and did in the military, are trained in shooting and own guns, and carry mental and physical wounds that make their lives difficult.

5. Trillions of Dollars Wasted

On March 16, 2003, just days before the U.S. invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney projected that the war would cost the U.S. about $100 billion and that the U.S. involvement would last for two years. Seventeen years on, the costs are still mounting. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated a cost of $2.4 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University’s Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of the Iraq war at more than $3 trillion, “based on conservative assumptions,” in 2008. The UK government spent at least 9 billion pounds in direct costs through 2010. What the U.S. did not spend money on, contrary to what many Americans believe, was to rebuild Iraq, the country our war destroyed.

6. Dysfunctional and Corrupt Iraqi Government

Most of the men (no women!) running Iraq today are still former exiles who flew into Baghdad in 2003 on the heels of the U.S. and British invasion forces. Iraq is finally once again exporting 3.8 million barrels of oil per day and earning $80 billion a year in oil exports, but little of this money trickles down to rebuild destroyed and damaged homes or provide jobs, health care or education for Iraqis, only 36 percent of whom even have jobs. Iraq’s young people have taken to the streets to demand an end to the corrupt post-2003 Iraqi political regime and U.S. and Iranian influence over Iraqi politics. More than 600 protesters were killed by government forces, but the protests forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign. Another former Western-based exile, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the cousin of former U.S.-appointed interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, was chosen to replace him, but he resigned within weeks after the National Assembly failed to approve his cabinet choices. The popular protest movement celebrated Allawi’s resignation, and Abdul Mahdi agreed to remain as prime minister, but only as a “caretaker” to carry out essential functions until new elections can be held. He has called for new elections in December. Until then, Iraq remains in political limbo, still occupied by about 5,000 U.S. troops.

7. Illegal War on Iraq Has Undermined the Rule of International Law

When the U.S. invaded Iraq without the approval of the UN Security Council, the first victim was the United Nations Charter, the foundation of peace and international law since World War II, which prohibits the threat or use of force by any country against another. International law only permits military action as a necessary and proportionate defense against an attack or imminent threat. The illegal 2002 Bush doctrine of preemption was universally rejected because it went beyond this narrow principle and claimed an exceptional U.S. right to use unilateral military force “to preempt emerging threats,” undermining the authority of the UN Security Council to decide whether a specific threat requires a military response or not. Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general at the time, said the invasion was illegal and would lead to a breakdown in international order, and that is exactly what has happened. When the U.S. trampled the UN Charter, others were bound to follow. Today we are watching Turkey and Israel follow in the U.S.’s footsteps, attacking and invading Syria at will as if it were not even a sovereign country, using the people of Syria as pawns in their political games.

8. Iraq War Lies Corrupted U.S. Democracy

The second victim of the invasion was American democracy. Congress voted for war based on a so-called “summary” of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was nothing of the kind. The Washington Post reported that only six out of 100 senators and a few House members read the actual NIE. The 25-page “summary” that other members of Congress based their votes on was a document produced months earlier “to make the public case for war,” as one of its authors, the CIA’s Paul Pillar, later confessed to PBS Frontline. It contained astounding claims that were nowhere to be found in the real NIE, such as that the CIA knew of 550 sites where Iraq was storing chemical and biological weapons. Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated many of these lies in his shameful performance at the UN Security Council in February 2003, while Bush and Cheney used them in major speeches, including Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. How is democracy—the rule of the people—even possible if the people we elect to represent us in Congress can be manipulated into voting for a catastrophic war by such a web of lies?

9. Impunity for Systematic War Crimes

Another victim of the invasion of Iraq was the presumption that U.S. presidents and policy are subject to the rule of law.  Seventeen years later, most Americans assume that the president can conduct war and assassinate foreign leaders and terrorism suspects as he pleases, with no accountability whatsoever—like a dictator. When President Obama said he wanted to look forward instead of backward, and held no one from the Bush administration accountable for their crimes, it was as if they ceased to be crimes and became normalized as U.S. policy. That includes crimes of aggression against other countries; the mass killing of civilians in U.S. airstrikes and drone strikes; and the unrestricted surveillance of every American’s phone calls, emails, browsing history and opinions. But these are crimes and violations of the U.S. Constitution, and refusing to hold accountable those who committed these crimes has made it easier for them to be repeated.

10. Destruction of the Environment

During the first Gulf War, the U.S. fired 340 tons of warheads and explosives made with depleted uranium, which poisoned the soil and water and led to skyrocketing levels of cancer. In the following decades of “ecocide,” Iraq has been plagued by the burning of dozens of oil wells; the pollution of water sources from the dumping of oil, sewage and chemicals; millions of tons of rubble from destroyed cities and towns; and the burning of huge volumes of military waste in open air “burn pits” during the war. The pollution caused by war is linked to the high levels of congenital birth defects, premature births, miscarriages and cancer (including leukemia) in Iraq. The pollution has also affected U.S. soldiers. “More than 85,000 U.S. Iraq war veterans… have been diagnosed with respiratory and breathing problems, cancers, neurological diseases, depression and emphysema since returning from Iraq,” as the Guardian reports. And parts of Iraq may never recover from the environmental devastation.

11. The U.S.’s Sectarian “Divide and Rule” Policy in Iraq Spawned Havoc Across the Region

In secular 20th-century Iraq, the Sunni minority was more powerful than the Shia majority, but for the most part, the different ethnic groups lived side-by-side in mixed neighborhoods and even intermarried. Friends with mixed Shia/Sunni parents tell us that before the U.S. invasion, they didn’t even know which parent was Shia and which was Sunni. After the invasion, the U.S. empowered a new Shiite ruling class led by former exiles allied with the U.S. and Iran, as well as the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region in the north. The upending of the balance of power and deliberate U.S. “divide and rule” policies led to waves of horrific sectarian violence, including the ethnic cleansing of communities by Interior Ministry death squads under U.S. command. The sectarian divisions the U.S. unleashed in Iraq led to the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the emergence of ISIS, which have wreaked havoc throughout the entire region.

12. The New Cold War Between the U.S. and the Emerging Multilateral World

When President Bush declared his “doctrine of preemption” in 2002, Senator Edward Kennedy called it “a call for 21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should accept.” But the world has so far failed to either persuade the U.S. to change course or to unite in diplomatic opposition to its militarism and imperialism. France and Germany bravely stood with Russia and most of the Global South to oppose the invasion of Iraq in the UN Security Council in 2003. But Western governments embraced Obama’s superficial charm offensive as cover for reinforcing their traditional ties with the U.S. China was busy expanding its peaceful economic development and its role as the economic hub of Asia, while Russia was still rebuilding its economy from the neoliberal chaos and poverty of the 1990s. Neither was ready to actively challenge U.S. aggression until the U.S., NATO and their Arab monarchist allies launched proxy wars against Libya and Syria in 2011. After the fall of Libya, Russia appears to have decided it must either stand up to U.S. regime change operations or eventually fall victim itself.

The economic tides have shifted, a multipolar world is emerging, and the world is hoping against hope that the American people and new American leaders will act to rein in this 21st-century American imperialism before it leads to an even more catastrophic U.S. war with Iran, Russia or China. As Americans, we must hope that the world’s faith in the possibility that we can democratically bring sanity and peace to U.S. policy is not misplaced. A good place to start would be to join the call by the Iraqi Parliament for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

• This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The U.S. Is Recycling Its Big Lie About Iraq To Target Iran

Sixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, most Americans understand that it was an illegal war based on lies about non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” But our government is now threatening to drag us into a war on Iran with a nearly identical “big lie” about a non-existent nuclear weapons program, based on politicized intelligence from the same CIA teams that wove a web of lies to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In 2002-3, U.S. officials and corporate media pundits repeated again and again that Iraq had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that posed a dire threat to the world. The CIA produced reams of false intelligence to support the march to war, and cherry-picked the most deceptively persuasive narratives for Secretary of State Colin Powell to present to the UN Security Council on February 5th, 2003. In December 2002, Alan Foley, the head of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), told his staff, “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.”

Paul Pillar, a CIA officer who was the National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia, helped to prepare a 25-page document that was passed off to members of Congress as a “summary” of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. But the document was written months before the NIE it claimed to summarize and contained fantastic claims that were nowhere to be found in the NIE, such as that the CIA knew of 550 specific sites in Iraq where chemical and biological weapons were stored. Most members read only this fake summary, not the real NIE, and blindly voted for war.  As Pillar later confessed to PBS’s Frontline, “The purpose was to strengthen the case for going to war with the American public. Is it proper for the intelligence community to publish papers for that purpose? I don’t think so, and I regret having had a role in it.”

WINPAC was set up in 2001 to replace the CIA’s Nonproliferation Center or NPC (1991-2001), where a staff of a hundred CIA analysts collected possible evidence of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons development to support U.S. information warfare, sanctions and ultimately regime change policies against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and other U.S. enemies.

WINPAC uses the U.S.’s satellite, electronic surveillance and international spy networks to generate material to feed to UN agencies like UNSCOM, UNMOVIC, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who are charged with overseeing the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The CIA’s material has kept these agencies’ inspectors and analysts busy with an endless stream of documents, satellite imagery and claims by exiles for almost 30 years. But since Iraq destroyed all its banned weapons in 1991, they have found no confirming evidence that either Iraq or Iran has taken steps to acquire nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

UNMOVIC and the IAEA told the UN Security Council in 2002-3 they could find no evidence to support U.S. allegations of illegal weapons development in Iraq. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei exposed the CIA’s Niger yellowcake document as a forgery in a matter of hours. ElBaradei’s commitment to the independence and impartiality of his agency won the respect of the world, and he and his agency were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Apart from outright forgeries and deliberately fabricated evidence from exile groups like Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) and the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), most of the material the CIA and its allies have provided to UN agencies has involved dual-use technology, which could be used in banned weapons programs but also has alternative legitimate uses. A great deal of the IAEA’s work in Iran has been to verify that each of these items has, in fact, been used for peaceful purposes or conventional weapons development rather than in a nuclear weapons program. But as in Iraq, the accumulation of inconclusive, unsubstantiated evidence of a possible nuclear weapons program has served as a valuable political weapon to convince the media and the public that there must be something solid behind all the smoke and mirrors.

For instance, in 1990, the CIA began intercepting Telex messages from Sharif University in Tehran and Iran’s Physics Research Centre about orders for ring magnets, fluoride and fluoride-handling equipment, a balancing machine, a mass spectrometer and vacuum equipment, all of which can be used in uranium enrichment. For the next 17 years, the CIA’s NPC and WINPAC regarded these Telexes as some of their strongest evidence of a secret nuclear weapons program in Iran, and they were cited as such by senior U.S. officials. It was not until 2007-8 that the Iranian government finally tracked down all these items at Sharif University, and the IAEA inspectors were able to visit the university and confirm that they were being used for academic research and teaching, as Iran had told them.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the IAEA’s work in Iran continued, but every lead provided by the CIA and its allies proved to be either fabricated, innocent or inconclusive. In 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies published a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran in which they acknowledged that Iran had no active nuclear weapons program. The publication of the 2007 NIE was an important step in averting a U.S. war on Iran. As George W Bush wrote in his memoirs, “…after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

But despite the lack of confirming evidence, the CIA refused to alter the “assessment” from its 2001 and 2005 NIEs that Iran probably did have a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003. This left the door open for the continued use of WMD allegations, inspections and sanctions as potent political weapons in the U.S.’s regime change policy toward Iran.

In 2007, UNMOVIC published a Compendium or final report on the lessons learned from the debacle in Iraq. One key lesson was that, “Complete independence is a prerequisite for a UN inspection agency,” so that the inspection process would not be used, “either to support other agendas or to keep the inspected party in a permanent state of weakness.” Another key lesson was that, “Proving the negative is a recipe for enduring difficulties and unending inspections.”

The 2005 Robb-Silberman Commission on the U.S. intelligence failure in Iraq reached very similar conclusions, such as that, “…analysts effectively shifted the burden of proof, requiring proof that Iraq did not have active WMD programs rather than requiring affirmative proof of their existence. While the U.S. policy position was that Iraq bore the responsibility to prove that it did not have banned weapons programs, the Intelligence Community’s burden of proof should have been more objective… By raising the evidentiary burden so high, analysts artificially skewed the analytical process toward confirmation of their original hypothesis – that Iraq had active WMD programs.”

In its work on Iran, the CIA has carried on the flawed analysis and processes identified by the UNMOVIC Compendium and the Robb-Silberman report on Iraq. The pressure to produce politicized intelligence that supports U.S. policy positions persists because that is the corrupt role that U.S. intelligence agencies play in U.S. policy, spying on other governments, staging coupsdestabilizing countries and producing politicized and fabricated intelligence to create pretexts for war.

A legitimate national intelligence agency would provide objective intelligence analysis that policy-makers could use as a basis for rational policy decisions. But, as the UNMOVIC Compendium implied, the U.S. government is unscrupulous in abusing the concept of intelligence and the authority of international institutions like the IAEA to “support other agendas,” notably its desire for regime change in countries around the world.

The U.S.’s “other agenda” on Iran gained a valuable ally when Mohamed ElBaradei retired from the IAEA in 2009, and was replaced by Yukiya Amano from Japan. A State Department cable from July 10th 2009 released by Wikileaks described Mr. Amano as a “strong partner” to the U.S. based on “the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA.”  The memo suggested that the U.S. should try to “shape Amano’s thinking before his agenda collides with the IAEA Secretariat bureaucracy.” The  memo’s author was Geoffrey Pyatt, who later achieved international notoriety as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was exposed on a leaked audio recording plotting the 2014 coup in Ukraine with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

The Obama administration spent its first term pursuing a failed “dual-track” approach to Iran, in which its diplomacy was undermined by the greater priority it gave to its parallel track of escalating UN sanctions. When Brazil and Turkey presented Iran with the framework of a nuclear deal that the U.S. had proposed, Iran readily agreed to it. But the U.S. rejected what had begun as a U.S. proposal because, by that point, it would have undercut its efforts to persuade the UN Security Council to impose harsher sanctions on Iran.

As a senior State Department official told author Trita Parsi, the real problem was that the U.S. wouldn’t take “Yes” for an answer. It was only in Obama’s second term, after John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, that the U.S. finally did take “Yes” for an answer, leading to the JCPOA between Iran, the U.S. and other major powers in 2015.  So it was not U.S.-backed sanctions that brought Iran to the table, but the failure of sanctions that brought the U.S. to the table.

Also in 2015, the IAEA completed its work on “Outstanding Issues” regarding Iran’s past nuclear-related activities. On each specific case of dual-use research or technology imports, the IAEA found no proof that they were related to nuclear weapons rather than conventional military or civilian uses. Under Amano’s leadership and U.S. pressure, the IAEA still “assessed” that “a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003,” but that ”these activities did not advance beyond feasibility studies and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.”

The JCPOA has broad support in Washington, but the U.S. political debate over the JCPOA has essentially ignored the actual results of the IAEA’s work in Iran, the CIA’s distorting role in it and the extent to which the CIA has replicated the institutional biases, the reinforcing of preconceptions, the forgeries, the politicization and the corruption by “other agendas” that were supposed to be corrected to prevent any repetition of the WMD fiasco in Iraq.

Politicians who support the JCPOA now claim that it stopped Iran getting nuclear weapons, while those who oppose the JCPOA claim that it would allow Iran to acquire them. They are both wrong because, as the IAEA has concluded and even President Bush acknowledged, Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program. The worst that the IAEA can objectively say is that Iran may have done some basic nuclear weapons-related research some time before 2003 – but then again, maybe it didn’t.

Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in his memoir, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, that, if Iran ever conducted even rudimentary nuclear weapons research, he was sure it was only during the Iran-Iraq War, which ended in 1988, when the U.S. and its allies helped Iraq to kill up to 100,000 Iranians with chemical weapons. If ElBaradei’s suspicions were correct, Iran’s dilemma since that time would have been that it could not admit to that work in the 1980s without facing even greater mistrust and hostility from the U.S. and its allies, and risking a similar fate to Iraq.

Regardless of uncertainties regarding Iran’s actions in the 1980s, the U.S.’s campaign against Iran has violated the most critical lessons U.S. and UN officials claimed to have learned from the fiasco over Iraq. The CIA has used its almost entirely baseless suspicions about nuclear weapons in Iran as pretexts to “support other agendas” and “keep the inspected party in a permanent state of weakness,” exactly as the UNMOVIC Compendium warned against ever again doing to another country.

In Iran as in Iraq, this has led to an illegal regime of brutal sanctions, under which thousands of children are dying from preventable diseases and malnutrition, and to threats of another illegal U.S. war that would engulf the Middle East and the world in even greater chaos than the one the CIA engineered against Iraq.