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World is blind to real situation in Iraq: activists

Saturday 27 May 2006

OSAKA — An Iraqi journalist and a Japanese human rights activist said the public has a poor idea of the situation in Iraq and warned of an impending health catastrophe as more Iraqis contract cancer from exposure to depleted uranium shells used by the U.S. and Britain.

Speaking at a public gathering Thursday evening in Osaka, Isam Rasheed, a freelance journalist, and Fumikazu Nishitani, head of Osaka-based NGO Rescue the Iraqi Children, gave an update of what was going on in the Middle Eastern country.

"It is now virtually impossible for foreign journalists to move around independently in Iraq," Nishitani said.

"Most (journalists) are embedded with U.S. forces or operate from the Green Zone, a walled fortress in central Baghdad. As a result, few people in the West, or in Japan, have seen the true extent of the damage and suffering in Fallujah, while the U.S. government continues to deny responsibility for the cancer and leukemia outbreaks."

"The world has seen little of the devastation wrought by U.S. troops on the city of Fallujah," Rasheed said. "Entire neighborhoods were destroyed and the number of innocent civilians killed and maimed the bombing was quite high."

Nishitani said the situation was a "major problem for Japan" because the Japanese public does not have a clear picture of what is going on in Iraq because there are few Japanese journalists there.

During the Vietnam War, Japanese reporters went to Vietnam and showed what was really going on, according to Nishitani.

Now, there are no Japanese reporters from the mainstream media in Iraq, he said, noting they all left on orders from the Foreign Ministry.

Rasheed said many Japanese he has spoken with over the past few years know little about what is really going on and says they believe the Self-Defense Forces are providing humanitarian relief when the only news they receive about it is from the government.

"What are they doing in Iraq? The Iraqis don’t know. When we heard the Japanese were coming, many Iraqis were happy because they thought this meant Japanese companies would be coming to Iraq and provide jobs and technology training," the journalist said.

"That hasn’t happened, and there is a sense of bitter disappointment."

Nishitani slipped into Iraq three times, most recently earlier this month, and filed reports for the Mainichi Shimbun and other news outlets.

Rasheed, who is also a photographer, is based in Baghdad and writes for a Scottish newspaper.

The men showed two of Rasheed’s films as well as photos of the November 2004 siege of Fallujah by U.S. troops.

They also showed photos of Iraqis with cancer they had interviewed. Iraqi doctors and many international experts claim much of the cancer, particularly leukemia, was caused by exposure to depleted uranium shells from U.S. and British forces that have contaminated the ground.

Rasheed told the story of one 12-year-old boy he interviewed who began playing in a field contaminated with depleted uranium at the age of 10. Shortly after he began showing signs of illness and was eventually diagnosed with leukemia.

Despite extensive evidence and a growing international consensus that the depleted uranium shells are responsible for the rise of cancer in Iraq, the United States continues to deny any connection.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment ordering a comprehensive study on the effects of exposure to depleted uranium. The study, however, will only be conducted on U.S. soldiers.

Journalists have discovered that since 2003, parts of Baghdad have radiation levels 1,900 times higher than normal.

During the first year of the war, starting in March 2003, the U.S. Army and Air Force used ammunition containing about 115 metric tons of depleted uranium.

"Nobody has any idea how many Iraqis may have developed leukemia or fallen ill (with other diseases), because of the depleted uranium shells," Nishitani said.

"It’s a major health catastrophe in the making." Rasheed said.

by ERIC JOHNSTON, May 26, 2006


Forum posts

  • Nazi Germany has been replace by the Nazis of the coalition of willing, including Israel and USA. The yet free world should understand the threat that U.S. is for peace, understanding, human rights and freedom.
    A one party system rules in the U.S. GOP/Democrats. The American people think that it is just wonderful for civilians to be bombed, burned, murdered, tortured and imprisioned.

    This weekends America is celebrating Memorial day and act of infamy, which tells the world that their soldiers can’t commit crimes as we saw in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. The real history is not taught in schools. Our murder are heroes - that is the major message America passes on to the world.
    And yes, they same attitude applies to Israel.

    • If there is such a thing as Divine Retribution, America will most certainly have HELL to pay for this genocide. To feign ignorance of our military’s continuing devastation of a nation that never attacked us, will not save us.
      America has been and continues to be a superpower that lives on perpetual warfare and the wholesale destruction of foreign cultures, a nation that thrives on bloodlust, and is far from being the beacon of the world, as it has long depicted itself to those at home and abroad, nor does our country have the right to call itself a decent or noble nation any longer. Only when we as a nation come to terms with our ignorance, our hypocrisy and our unjustified arrogance can we even begin to start over again and wiping the clean slate, with not just ourselves, but the rest of the world that shares this endangered planet with us. God save us all.