Sunday, April 17, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Today Rawya Rageh filed a report for Al Jazeera:

Rawya Rageh: Jabir Karim is an Arab whose family has called Kirkuk home for generations. But now he says they're being uprooted from a city increasingly coming under Kurdish control.

Jabir Karim: We live in constant fear. The Kurdish Asayish police rounds up people with no charges. I've been detained. My son's been detained since 2006. And I don't know where he is. It's like we're being told leave or your homes will be raided, you will disappear.

Rawya Rageh: In this ethnically mixed city, tension is on the rise again. Many Arabs say Kurds who've been brutalized and replaced under Saddam Hussein for decades are actively trying to change Kirkuk's demographics in their favor. Entire brand new Kurdish neighborhoods are being built while some Arab families claim they're being intimdated into leaving ahead of a census that's supposed to help resolve the city's fate. The squabble repeatedly delaying the country's first full population count in a quarter of a century. Despite the demographic shifts that have been taking place here for years, bridges like this one are a symbolic reminder of how different groups have been trying to co-exist in Kirkuk for generations -- even if Kurds live on one side and Arabs live on the other surrounded by reminders of their common heritage. In the main market, vendors holler in the different languages of the community here. And in neighborhoods across the city, tales of unshaken attachment. Ahmed Ali is a Kurd whose family was expelled from Kirkuk three times in the 1980s under Saddam's Arabization policies. Yet, they kept coming back.

Ahmed Ali: Kirkuk is like a mother. All our life is tied to it. We were born here. Married here. It's like everything to us. How can we forfeit it? It's a part of our soul.

Rawya Rageh: It's not just about inherited birth rights to this land. At stake too is the wealth beneath it. And as long as the census keeps getting delayed so does the Constitutionally stipulated referendum to determine Kirkuk's status.

Jabir Karim: We don't care who ends up ruling us -- Arab, Kurd or Christian. All we want of him is to be just.

Ahmed Ali: If it goes to the Kurds, no problem. Arabs, no problem. Or even the Christians. The most important thing is stability.

Rawya Rageh: Hopes for normalcy for a city that's known too little of it for too long. Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera, Kirkuk.

As she noted, no census, no referendum Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution required the referendum to be held by the end of 2007. Nouri was prime minister than (as he is now) and couldn't live up to his own country's constitution then or since.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4449. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD still lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4450.

Reuters notes today's violence include an attack on a Mosul checkpoint in which 1 police officer was killed, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of an official with the National Security Ministry (a Ministry still lacking a Minister to head it) and left two of the man's family members injured, a Kirkuk stick bombing claimed 1 life, 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad home invasion resulted in the deaths of 3 women and 1 man. Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Two women committed a suicide separately in Kirkuk on Sunday, raising to three suicides in the northern Iraq city within 72 hours, said a source form the Joint Coordination Center (JCC)."

In other news, protesters in Sulaimaniya today were fired on by Kurdish forces. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports fifty people were injured (forty-two were protesters, eight were security forces) and, "Health officials told CNN that seven protesters were hit in the legs by gunshots but all are in stable condition. The unrest in the Kurdish city, starting since February 17, has killed at least seven people and injured more than 250 health officials said." Reuters notes that seven of the security forces injured were suffering "exposure to tear gas" according to "Rekawt Hama Rasheed, general directof of the health office in Sulaimaniya." Shamal Aqrawi, Namo Abdulla, Ahmed Rasheed and Elizabeth Fullerton further add two journalists were wounded in the security's assault and quotes Hawalati's editor Rahm Gharib stating, "Journalist Chunour Mohammed was shot while trying to take a photo of a wounded protester. She got a bullet in her hand. We denounce this act by the authorities."

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this entry. Pru notes this from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:
Sadie Robinson takes issue with those who have recently converted to the nuclear cause

The disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has underlined the danger of nuclear power. Authorities in Japan have now officially ranked the crisis on the same level as the Chernobyl disaster.

Not surprisingly, the nuclear industry is on a mission to rebrand nuclear power as safe. What is surprising is that some environmentalists, such as George Monbiot, are lining up with them.

In a recent Guardian article, Monbiot claimed that anti-nuclear campaigners have made “wild” assertions about the dangers of radiation that have no scientific backing.

In fact there is an abundance of scientific research showing significant links between radiation exposure and cancers, Down’s syndrome, kidney and liver damage, and other serious diseases.

Some of the clearest evidence comes from survivors of the atomic bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of the Second World War.

One 2005 report summarised research into links between radiation exposure and serious disease (1). It concluded, “The main finding from follow-up studies in Japan is that radiation increases the risk for most types of cancers, basically in proportion to radiation dose.”

A wide-ranging report, the BEIR study, published in 2006 (2) detailed the increase in cancers in survivors.


This is one of the studies that Monbiot cited as showing that there was little evidence that radiation caused birth defects. For some reason, he omitted to say what it concluded about radiation and cancer.

It found “excess cancers”—those above the level expected in the general population—among people who had been exposed even to low levels of radiation.

But for foetuses, excess cancers were found after even lower doses.

And there doesn’t have to be a nuclear bomb or a radiation leak for diseases to emerge.

Living near nuclear plants is linked to a rise in illness.

So, research in Scotland showed there was a large rise in incidences of leukaemia in children living near a nuclear reprocessing plant compared to children of the same age living in the area before the facility began operating. (3).

Similar findings have been shown in France and Germany (4).

One study published in 1995 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found evidence of a link between radiation and Down’s syndrome in children (5).

It found that women in the Fylde area of Lancashire, north west England, were more likely to give birth to children with Down’s syndrome during periods of high radioactive fallout from nuclear testing.

They also found that a surge in Down’s syndrome cases followed a fire in 1957 at the nearby Windscale nuclear plant, now renamed Sellafield.

The researchers described a “highly significant association” between radiation exposure and Down’s syndrome.

They also pointed to the impact of radiation over time, adding, “It seems that the total dose you’ve had in your life is much more important than any individual dose.”

Links between low doses of radiation received by foetuses and childhood cancer have also been found (6) and (7).

One report argued that their findings provided “direct evidence against the existence of a threshold dose below which no excess risk arises” (6).

The BEIR 2006 study agreed, saying, “A comprehensive review of the biology data led the committee to conclude that the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.” (8).

It went on to argue that man-made forms of radiation could cause cancer: “Calculations in this report suggest that approximately one cancer per 100 people could result from a single exposure to 0.1 Sv of low-LET radiation above background.”

Background radiation is constantly present in the environment and comes largely from natural sources.

There is a debate about whether a “safe” dose of radiation exists. But this study, along with many others, argues that very small doses of radiation, including background radiation, may be linked to changes in cells and illnesses.


Children of nuclear workers have are at an increased risk of developing cancers (9).

Workers mining uranium, and people living around uranium mines, have developed a range of cancers and diseases—so much so that states have accepted the need to compensate them. The workers are exposed to radon, which is produced as uranium decays.

The US conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1962. This relied upon tens of thousands of workers mining and processing uranium ore.

The US passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) in 1990 (10) to offer “an apology and monetary compensation to individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases following their exposure to radiation.”

But it was largely about money—the litigation that workers and their families would have taken otherwise would have cost far more.

A number of studies have shown uranium miners to have an increased risk of lung cancer and leukaemia (11).

Research has also found increases in kidney disease and diabetes for people living close to mines (12).

This is bad enough. But when disaster strikes, as it so often has, the horrific potential impact of radiation on health is exposed.

Much research into the impact of radiation is inconclusive, often because of the small number of people sampled. This is compounded by the fact that the nuclear industry and nuclear lobbyists fund and carry out research—with a vested interest in playing down the risk that radiation poses.


And many researchers stress that they cannot prove that radiation causes cancer, they can only show a significant link between the two.

But there is also growing consensus that low doses of radiation can’t be assumed to be harmless and that there is no “safe” dose of radiation.

George Monbiot may say there is no proof that radiation causes illness and deformity. But there is evidence that exposure is linked to those illnesses and deformities. And there is certainly no proof that low doses are safe.

The nuclear industry claims the risks are low. But why should we take any risks? A risk of developing cancer, however “low”, is not acceptable.

It can seem preposterous that environmentalists like Monbiot are vigorously campaigning for nuclear power. But there is a logic to his position.

Monbiot doesn’t think that we can meet our energy needs by a combination of green, renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency. And he believes that any sort of radical change will be very difficult to win.

Because he accepts these limits, he has become an advocate for one of the system’s worst aspects. Socialists have a different vision. We are fighting for a world that is sustainable and run by ordinary people.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Chernobyl: The day we almost lost Europe

Nuclear radiation: Hazardous for billions of years

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