Iraq 10 Years On…

Dear friends,

Last week, as we remembered the 10 year anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I heard far too often the opinions of politicians and military men in the mainstream media.

They gave their views about the success of the military campaign and how well the new Iraq is doing.

These views are from men who never actually walked down a street in Iraq, sat with ordinary Iraqi people or heard their experiences.

Instead they lived in the fortified city-state known as the Green Zone and US military bases surrounded by concrete blast walls and razor wire – separated from the rest of Iraq and from everyday life. And, in the case of Australia’s Major-General Jim Molan, sat in an operations room in one of Saddam’s Palaces ordering the targeting of missiles on residential areas.

So as I attempted my own reflection and media commentary I was forced to compete for air-space with the so-called ‘official’ voices; the politicians and Major-Generals who the media so love.

I did my best to balance their out-of-touch views with my first-hand experience, to bring a more realistic picture to the audience and to share the opinions of Iraqi people I’d met over the years.

Here’s my written reflection on Iraq 10 years on, published on Eureka Street website:

http://eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=35523

and some interviews; my favourite one first (ABC Radio Sunday Nights) which covers a range of issues including Iraq, nonviolence, activism, contemplation and meditation – a nice reflection for Holy Week perhaps…

http://www.abc.net.au/sundaynights/stories/s3723347.htm

and also:

Channel 10, The Project (you need to wait for the ads to finish) http://theprojecttv.com.au/video.htm?movideo_p=39696&movideo_m=282232

ABC Brisbane, Mornings with Steve Austin:

http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2013/03/donna-mulhearn-10-years-since-the-iraq-war.html

Fran Kelly – Radio National Breakfast

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/iraq-ten-years-since-invasion/4591780

Radioactive Program – 3CR with Jessie Boylan – in-depth radio documentary

http://www.3cr.org.au/radioactive

The Drum – ABC News24 (about 26 mins in)

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-20/the-drum-tuesday-19-march/4583162

Triple J Hack (March 19 program)

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/podcast/

There has been many excellent articles and analysis published around the world in the last week, I won’t overload you, but this is a great one published in the Canberra Times from Sue Wareham, a colleague in the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/price-of-iraq-war-too-great-to-repeat-20130318-2gb77.html

Please go to website to sign the petition calling for an inquiry http://iraqwarinquiry.org.au/

I hope to do some more commentary as we approach the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in early April, when I expect more ‘experts’ to come out , and when former Prime Minister John Howard will give a lecture on the subject.

While those who hold power attempt the re-telling of history, I think it’s important to gently insist on the truth – otherwise how can we ever learn from history?

Your pilgrim

Donna

PS: Was great to catch up with some of you at meetings last week in Sydney and Brisbane.

PPS: This Thursday night you are welcome to come along to this event in Lakemba hosted by Lebanese Muslim Association: “Conversations with Donna Mulhearn, story of a Human Shield’ interviewed by Widyan Widz, at the LMA Library (Level2, 71-75 Wangee Rd, Lakemba), Thursday 28 March at 7:30pm. This is a FREE event, however registration is required. To register your attendance, please email: events@lma.org.au placing: “Conversations with …” in the subject header.  http://www.facebook.com/events/123596101160220/?ref=22

PPPS: Also Sydney folk, pencil in Friday May 24 where I’ll be at Politics in The Pub in Sydney speaking on Iraq 10 years on.

PPPPS: “Unless we know how things went so wrong in 2003, we will repeat the grave errors and again find ourselves in wars we don’t want.” Sue Wareham
 

 

Back from Iraq, new report and what’s next…

Dear friends,

I’m just back from Iraq after a month in the war-weary nation which included time in six different cities, many varied experiences, countless conversations over cups of tea, dozens of interviews, visits to homes, historic sites, hospitals, universities, demonstrations etc…

I felt much disillusionment and despair from the tired Iraqi people as well as little pockets of hope in various places.

There are many stories and comparisons to make 10 years on from the 2003 invasion and I hope to have time to write some reflections in the coming weeks.

If you missed my first report from Iraq it is here:

https://donnamulhearn.com/2013/02/18/greetings-from-iraq/

and I’ve also been posting regularly on Facebook and Twitter.

I also want to share with you an important report, the first of its kind and just released today, about the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, called In a State of Uncertainty, which you can download here: http://www.ikvpaxchristi.nl/media/files/in-a-state-of-uncertainty.pdf

A world-wide launch of the report began with The Guardian getting first access to prepare this story:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/06/iraq-depleted-uranium-clean-up-contamination-spreads

Along with activists world-wide, I issued a media release to Australian media which is pasted below, please feel free to use and pass on to any media who may be interested.

I have a few talks coming up in the next two weeks (details below), so hope to catch up with some of you, and also hope to share a sneak peek of some of David’s footage with you soon, stay tuned…

Your pilgrim

Donna

PS: Upcoming talks

Thursday & Friday March 14,15: Melbourne, ‘Iraq 10 Years On’ Conference, Deakin University city campus, for details and program see: http://www.deakin.edu.au/arts-ed/ccg/events/symposiums/2013/13-australia-iraq/index.php

Sunday March 17, 5.30pm, ‘No War’, Fundraising event for Sydney Greens candidate, Dianne Hiles, 107 Redfern St, Redfern http://www.facebook.com/events/434176750000826/

Monday March 18: “Iraq 10 Years on’, Panel discussion, 6pm-8.30pm, Sydney Mechanic’s School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney,  http://www.facebook.com/events/340747502696286/ Entry $10/$5 concession, hosted by Stop the War Coalition

Wednesday March 20: “Ten Years to the Day, what did the anti-war protests achieve?” with Prof Jake Lynch, including world premiere of short film ‘Lionhearts’  on Australian anti-war demonstrations, 5pm-6.30pm, New Law Building LT, 024, hosted by Sydney University Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Thursday March 21, Brisbane: Public meeting, details to come

Sunday March 24, Palm Sunday rally: Brisbane, details to come

Thursday March 28: 7.30-9pm, Lebanese Muslim Association, Lakemba

PPS: Media Release below:

A decade on, depleted uranium contamination stills blights Iraq: new report released today, Australian witness

March 7, 2013

The impact and legacy of the use of 400 tonnes (400,000 kgs) of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq has been documented in a new report released wold-wide today and witnessed first-hand by Australian independent journalist and activist, Donna Mulhearn.

The report, released to mark the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reveals for the first time the extent of DU weapons use in civilian areas and highlights uncertainties of the impact on the health of communities.

Donna Mulhearn this week returned from a month travelling around Iraq, her fifth visit since 2003, where she investigated and documented the impact of DU, interviewing Doctors, scientists, academics, NGOs and families adding to ten years of research on the issue.

She visited hospital wards where children dying cancer in Basra and babies with birth deformities in Fallujah are linked to the toxic legacy of the DU weapons, labelled the “Agent Orange” of today.

Donna said the report, In a State of Uncertainty, published by Dutch organisation IKV Pax Christi, reveals how widely the weapons were used in Iraq, and in what circumstances.

“This is what the US military has so far refused to do,” she said.

“The report also analyses the costs and technical burdens associated with DU use, arguing that a decade on, many contamination problems remain unresolved – leaving civilians at risk of chronic DU exposure.

“DU presents a clear risk to human health and the environment, the greatest victims being women, children and the unborn; as well as entire communities struggling to utilise land for agriculture in a toxic eco-system.”

User states argue the use of controversial DU munitions is justified against armoured vehicles, yet In a State of Uncertainty documents their use against a wider range of targets in 2003, with attacks often taking place within civilian areas, leaving residents at risk from contamination. This resulted from the US military use of DU in medium calibre ammunition for aircraft and armoured fighting vehicles, and the frequency of urban combat operations in 2003.

The report also finds the Iraqi government has struggled with the cost and technical challenges posed by the legacy of contamination, a situation compounded by the US military’s refusal to release targeting data. The Iraqi government acknowledges that there are more than 300 sites with known contamination, based on the limited data available, with new sites regularly discovered. Clean-up of sites typically costs around US$150,000, but varies considerably depending on the setting, extent and level of contamination.

Health concerns
Reports collected by the International Committee of the Red Cross reveal that tribal leaders in southern Iraq highlighted DU contamination as a primary health concern, with fear of DU exposure widespread in Iraq.

Iraqis commonly associate increased incidence rates of cancers, congenital birth malformations and other diseases with DU, resulting in significant levels of anxiety. Prompted by numerous media reports of a health crisis in Fallujah, linked by researchers to the toxic legacy of military activities, a major review of birth defect rates in six Iraqi provinces by the World Health Organisation and Iraqi Ministry of Health is to be published soon.

In a State of Uncertainty documents the enormous problem still posed by the poorly regulated storage and trade in military scrap metal. Deregulation of the scrap trade under the Coalition Provisional Authority resulted in casual scrap metal collectors being needlessly exposed to DU, and to the export of contaminated scrap to neighbouring countries. Scrap metal collectors continue to remain at risk of exposure, as do those who live near dozens of uncontrolled scrap sites. The Iraqi government has requested international assistance in analysing and managing contaminated military scrap.

The United Nations General Assembly has twice called for greater transparency over DU weapons use, most recently in December 2012, where 155 states voted in favour. The US, UK, France and Israel were the only four states which opposed the text, (Australia abstained) which also accepted the potential risks from DU use and called for a precautionary approach to their post-conflict management.

Donna said it is clear that for states recovering from conflict, effectively managing DU contamination to standards even approaching those in the states that employ the weapons poses significant challenges. The implications for the wider acceptability of DU munitions are clear.

“The question that arises is: Is it politically acceptable to disperse large quantities of a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal, which is widely recognised as hazardous, in conventional warfare?” she said.

Ends

The report In a State of Uncertainty can be downloaded from: www.ikvpaxchristi.nl/media/files/in-a-state-of-uncertainty.pdf

Recently filmed video footage from Iraq on this issue is available. For further information and interviews contact Donna Mulhearn: 0422 749319, 02-47511220 donnamulhearn@yahoo.com.au

The report’s author: Wim Zwijnenburg can be contacted at zwijnenburg@ikvpaxchristi.nl Tel: 0031 648981832

About IKV Pax Christi
IKV Pax Christi is a Dutch civil society organisation that works with its partners for peace, reconciliation and justice worldwide.

 

About the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW)
ICBUW is a global civil society network with members in 30 countries, including Australia, that undertakes research and advocacy on depleted uranium weapons. ICBUW argues that the uncontrolled dispersal of DU during conflict runs counter to radiation protection norms, poses a risk to civilians and creates an unwelcome burden on states recovering from conflict. ICBUW argues that a precautionary approach to DU would preclude its use, for more on ICBUW and DU please visit www.icbuw.org or download the report Precaution in Practice: http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/195.pdf

Depleted uranium (DU)
A by-product of uranium enrichment, DU has been employed in anti-armour kinetic energy ammunition since the Cold War. Dense, pyrophoric, and provided at low cost to arms manufacturers, DU has been lauded by those states that employ it as a highly effective and militarily necessary material.

As intermediate level radioactive waste, DU is subject to a range of domestic environmental, security and health and safety regulations in those same states.  Its uncontrolled release during conflicts has the potential to create significant hotspots of contamination and generate large quantities of contaminated wreckage. A radioactive and chemically toxic heavy metal, particulate matter generated in the high temperature metal fires from DU impacts presents an inhalational hazard to civilians. DU is genotoxic (can damage DNA) and, as with other alpha radiation emitters, has been classified as a Class I Human Carcinogen by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer when internalised. Civilians living and working around hotspots or in the scrap metal trade may face chronic exposure to DU residues with a long term health impact. DU has been shown to be able to migrate into drinking water sources, although considerable uncertainties remain over its environmental behaviour under different climatic and soil conditions.

The environmental monitoring and remediation of DU contaminated sites places a technical and financial burden on states recovering from conflict and it is thought that the suspected or actual presence of contamination has a profound psychological effect on civilians.

UN resolution: 2012 UN General Assembly resolution calling for a precautionary approach to depleted uranium weapons http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/unga-2012-vote

World Health Organisation:  WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health report into rates of congenital malformations in Iraq, FAQ http://www.emro.who.int/irq/iraq-infocus/faq-congenital-birth-defect-study.html

 

 

 

 

 

A decade on, depleted uranium contamination stills blights Iraq: new report released today, Australian witness

Media Release: March 7, 2013

The impact and legacy of the use of 400 tonnes (400,000 kgs) of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq has been documented in a new report released wold-wide today and witnessed first-hand by Australian independent journalist and activist, Donna Mulhearn.

The report, released to mark the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, reveals for the first time the extent of DU weapons use in civilian areas and highlights uncertainties of the impact on the health of communities.

Donna Mulhearn this week returned from a month travelling around Iraq, her fifth visit since 2003, where she investigated and documented the impact of DU, interviewing Doctors, scientists, academics, NGOs and families adding to ten years of research on the issue.

She visited hospital wards where children dying cancer in Basra and babies with birth deformities in Fallujah are linked to the toxic legacy of the DU weapons, labelled the “Agent Orange” of today.

Donna said the report, In a State of Uncertainty, published by Dutch organisation IKV Pax Christi, reveals how widely the weapons were used in Iraq, and in what circumstances.

“This is what the US military has so far refused to do,” she said.

“The report also analyses the costs and technical burdens associated with DU use, arguing that a decade on, many contamination problems remain unresolved – leaving civilians at risk of chronic DU exposure.

“DU presents a clear risk to human health and the environment, the greatest victims being women, children and the unborn; as well as entire communities struggling to utilise land for agriculture in a toxic eco-system.”

User states argue the use of controversial DU munitions is justified against armoured vehicles, yet In a State of Uncertainty documents their use against a wider range of targets in 2003, with attacks often taking place within civilian areas, leaving residents at risk from contamination. This resulted from the US military use of DU in medium calibre ammunition for aircraft and armoured fighting vehicles, and the frequency of urban combat operations in 2003.

The report also finds the Iraqi government has struggled with the cost and technical challenges posed by the legacy of contamination, a situation compounded by the US military’s refusal to release targeting data. The Iraqi government acknowledges that there are more than 300 sites with known contamination, based on the limited data available, with new sites regularly discovered. Clean-up of sites typically costs around US$150,000, but varies considerably depending on the setting, extent and level of contamination.

Health concerns
Reports collected by the International Committee of the Red Cross reveal that tribal leaders in southern Iraq highlighted DU contamination as a primary health concern, with fear of DU exposure widespread in Iraq.

Iraqis commonly associate increased incidence rates of cancers, congenital birth malformations and other diseases with DU, resulting in significant levels of anxiety. Prompted by numerous media reports of a health crisis in Fallujah, linked by researchers to the toxic legacy of military activities, a major review of birth defect rates in six Iraqi provinces by the World Health Organisation and Iraqi Ministry of Health is to be published soon.

In a State of Uncertainty documents the enormous problem still posed by the poorly regulated storage and trade in military scrap metal. Deregulation of the scrap trade under the Coalition Provisional Authority resulted in casual scrap metal collectors being needlessly exposed to DU, and to the export of contaminated scrap to neighbouring countries. Scrap metal collectors continue to remain at risk of exposure, as do those who live near dozens of uncontrolled scrap sites. The Iraqi government has requested international assistance in analysing and managing contaminated military scrap.

The United Nations General Assembly has twice called for greater transparency over DU weapons use, most recently in December 2012, where 155 states voted in favour. The US, UK, France and Israel were the only four states which opposed the text, (Australia abstained) which also accepted the potential risks from DU use and called for a precautionary approach to their post-conflict management.

Donna said it is clear that for states recovering from conflict, effectively managing DU contamination to standards even approaching those in the states that employ the weapons poses significant challenges. The implications for the wider acceptability of DU munitions are clear.

“The question that arises is: Is it politically acceptable to disperse large quantities of a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal, which is widely recognised as hazardous, in conventional warfare?” she said.

Ends

The report In a State of Uncertainty can be downloaded from: www.ikvpaxchristi.nl/media/files/in-a-state-of-uncertainty.pdf

Recently filmed video footage from Iraq on this issue is available. For further information and interviews contact Donna Mulhearn: 0422 749319, 02-47511220 donnamulhearn@yahoo.com.au

The report’s author: Wim Zwijnenburg can be contacted at zwijnenburg@ikvpaxchristi.nl Tel: 0031 648981832

About IKV Pax Christi
IKV Pax Christi is a Dutch civil society organisation that works with its partners for peace, reconciliation and justice worldwide.

About the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW)

ICBUW is a global civil society network with members in 30 countries, including Australia, that undertakes research and advocacy on depleted uranium weapons. ICBUW argues that the uncontrolled dispersal of DU during conflict runs counter to radiation protection norms, poses a risk to civilians and creates an unwelcome burden on states recovering from conflict. ICBUW argues that a precautionary approach to DU would preclude its use, for more on ICBUW and DU please visit www.icbuw.org or download the report Precaution in Practice: http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/195.pdf

Depleted uranium (DU)
A by-product of uranium enrichment, DU has been employed in anti-armour kinetic energy ammunition since the Cold War. Dense, pyrophoric, and provided at low cost to arms manufacturers, DU has been lauded by those states that employ it as a highly effective and militarily necessary material.

As intermediate level radioactive waste, DU is subject to a range of domestic environmental, security and health and safety regulations in those same states.  Its uncontrolled release during conflicts has the potential to create significant hotspots of contamination and generate large quantities of contaminated wreckage. A radioactive and chemically toxic heavy metal, particulate matter generated in the high temperature metal fires from DU impacts presents an inhalational hazard to civilians. DU is genotoxic (can damage DNA) and, as with other alpha radiation emitters, has been classified as a Class I Human Carcinogen by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer when internalised. Civilians living and working around hotspots or in the scrap metal trade may face chronic exposure to DU residues with a long term health impact. DU has been shown to be able to migrate into drinking water sources, although considerable uncertainties remain over its environmental behaviour under different climatic and soil conditions.

The environmental monitoring and remediation of DU contaminated sites places a technical and financial burden on states recovering from conflict and it is thought that the suspected or actual presence of contamination has a profound psychological effect on civilians.

UN resolution: 2012 UN General Assembly resolution calling for a precautionary approach to depleted uranium weapons http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/unga-2012-vote

World Health Organisation:  WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health report into rates of congenital malformations in Iraq, FAQ http://www.emro.who.int/irq/iraq-infocus/faq-congenital-birth-defect-study.html

Greetings from Iraq…

Dear friends,

Greetings from Fallujah – Iraq!

I have been on the ground in Iraq for 2 weeks now and I just wanted to send a quick note and touch base.

The good news is I have with me film maker David Bradbury, thanks to a very generous donation from an activist friend which has ensured this trip and all its stories will be documented by a great film maker – thanks again Neville!

David and I flew into Basra in southern Iraq and quickly began to investigate the issue of pollution caused by recent wars, namely weapons containing depleted uranium which were used widely in Basra in 1991 and 2003 by US forces. It was a depressing visit. The city is in poor condition with slums having emerged in the last few years as rural families move to the city seeking jobs. The environment is extremely polluted both from war remnants and the massive oil and gas industries. The rate of cancers and birth defects in the community is still very high and clean-up of the environment is slow. There is much to be done to repair this war-weary city. We spoke with many Doctors, scientists and activists and have some sobering reports to come.

made the 6 hour drive through southern Iraq from Basra to Najaf safely despite the crazy kamikazi drivers & 15 or so checkpoints with plenty of questions & passport checks...the scenery was depressing - palm trees making way for industrial waste from wars and oil & gas industries...

made the 6 hour drive through southern Iraq from Basra to Najaf safely despite the crazy kamikazi drivers & 15 or so checkpoints with plenty of questions & passport checks…the scenery was depressing – palm trees making way for industrial waste from wars and oil & gas industries…

Next we headed to the holy city of Najaf where we were hosted by the amazing Sami Rasouli and the Muslim Peacemaker Team. Here, as well as interviewing Professors and community leaders, we got to take in the unique culture of this historic holy city, visit the world’s largest cemetery, wander the ruins of ancient Babylon but best of all hear of the inspiring work of this team of dedicated peacemakers. These Iraqis, like so many others , constantly dispel the myth of the so-called ‘sectarian violence’ in Iraq, as they hold hands together, Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian, Sabean and work together for healing and inspiration. Can’t wait to share more about that!

The largest cemetery in the world Wadi-us-Salaam in the holy city of Najaf, southern Iraq. About 5 million people are buried there and many aspire to be buried there...quite a sight

The largest cemetery in the world Wadi-us-Salaam in the holy city of Najaf, southern Iraq. About 5 million people are buried there and many aspire to be buried there…quite a sight

From Najaf we travelled to Fallujah via Ramadi and are now settled at Fallujah General Hospital where I have reunited with old friends. If you’ve been following the news from Iraq, Fallujah is currently at the centre of Iraqi politics as the city is leading massive anti-government demonstrations here every Friday. Stay tuned…

Our travel in the new Iraq has not been easy. We have been constantly stopped by Iraqi police and army, held at checkpoints and questioned. If it wasn’t for our quick-witted Iraqi friends there is no way we would have got into Fallujah through the 15 or so checkpoints.

A CNN team headed for Fallujah yesterday was forced to turn back to Baghdad due to army road blocks. Iraqi people were prevented from travelling to Baghdad to attend a planned demonstration there. Journalists are being arrested (a French journalist was imprisoned for 3 weeks for taking a photo of a water treatment plant).

It seems the new Iraq is becoming very close to the old Iraq in terms of lack of free press, free movement or free speech… after so many decades of suffering Iraqis deserve better than this.

When the word “democracy” is mentioned here the response is usually a big belly laugh from Iraqis who struggle with every day with human rights violations, security and basic services.

I’m aware I’m reporting this sad news of the legacy of the US/UK/Australian invasion and occupation of Iraq on a Saturday exactly 10 years after a massive outpouring of public opinion against the war by about 15 million people all over the world. It was a day that we raised our voices together, and although our voices were dismissed by some governments, how important was it to register our dissent nevertheless, so that history has noted it.

A friend of mine has made a great little tribute video to those who marched against the war in Australia – have a look, you may see yourself!

Here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMnPcAUIxlM

You might also enjoy these reflections and commentaries:

http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/51511/lest-we-forget-anti-iraq-war-protesters-were-right#ixzz2KxlOVNUq

http://www.countercurrents.org/ferner120213.htm

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/for-democracys-sake-lets-talk-about-our-war-in-iraq-20130213-2ed6y.html

I’ve posted some colourful pictures of my trip so far on my Facebook page, so please go and check out the pics http://www.facebook.com/donna.mulhearn?ref=tn_tnmn

I hope to write again with more reflections – David and I are very aware of our precarious position as foreign journalists here in this police state, how ironic is it – 10 years ago it was the Saddam regime that was paranoid and oppressive, now it’s the Government of the new Iraq…

Your pilgrim

Donna

PS: You can also follow me on Twitter @donnamulhearn

PPS: For those of you who like to read a glossy mag, pick up Marie Claire Magazine this month; they were good enough to ask me to contribute an article about the 10 year anniversary – Good on them!

PPPS: Attached pic shows how palm trees are making way for industrial waste from wars and oil & gas industries in the new Iraq…

PPPPS: “Mission Accomplished George W.Bush declared. But what was the mission?” Professor H at Ramadi University asked.

Flying into Basra

Flying into Basra

The new Iraq: an oil company building overlooks poverty-stricken slum in Basra...

The new Iraq: an oil company building overlooks poverty-stricken slum in Basra…

Slum in Basra

Slum in Basra

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