Published on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
The Release of ‘Dr Anthrax’
by Felicity Arbuthnot
On Saturday, eight ‘high value’ Iraqis held without charge for over two years by the United States were released. They included Dr Huda Ammash, a distinguished internationally renowned, environmental biologist, Professor at Baghdad University, whose earned her PhD at the University of Missouri. Her father, former Iraqi Ambassador to the US, under the government of Abdul Karim Kassem (1958-1963) was executed in a purge to stamp authority by Saddam in 1981. In the 1990’s Dr Ammash was, ironically offered a seat in the Legislature. When Saddam offered a position to say: ‘No thanks, I’ve my career plan mapped out, was not an option’, but her academic career remained her passion and primary focus.
Arrested by US troops, this brave, gentle woman suddenly became ‘Mrs Anthrax’ and featured on America’s asinine playing cards of their ‘most wanted’, in the wild west, last chance saloon Iraq became after April 2003.
Dr Ammash’s crime was her numerous scientific papers on the environmental and biological impact of sanctions and the horrific health cost of the weapons used in the 1991 Gulf war by Britain and the US. In ‘Iraq Under Siege -the Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War‘ (Pluto Press, updated 2003 Ed: Anthony Arnove) contributors included Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Howard Zinn, Denis Halliday – and Huda Ammash. All those the US and UK Administrations love to hate most, were under one cover and she was firmly allied with them.
Her introduction reads: ‘The Gulf war ended in 1991, but the massive destruction linked to it continues. An unprecedented catastrophe resulting from a mixture of toxic, radiological, chemical and electromagnetic exposure is still causing substantial consequences to health and the environment, exacerbated by sanctions …. much of Iraq has been turned into a polluted and radioactive environment.’ She understated.
She refers to the International Treaties outlawing such weapons, to depleted uranium (DU) weapons not being ‘depleted’ but a ‘radioactive waste’, the all in minutely detailed, careful, hard hitting, scientific, incontrovertible fact. ‘DU is radiologically and chemically toxic to humans and other forms of life.’ She details, well on the side of caution the ‘… terrifying total of three hundred and twenty to three hundred and fifty tons of DU expended ammunition…. scattered throughout Iraq and Kuwait.’ She reminds that US Army manuals warn of the dangers, that the pollution enters the water table and thus can spread through the entire region ravaging the lives of those – young, older and yet unborn – not even in the conflict zone.
She writes of a less addressed subject: ‘Electromagnetic pollution’. ‘….particularly dangerous because it is often undetected’. In Finland near early warning radar systems, ‘..pregnancy problems, anxiety, depression, fatality, heart failures, cardiovascular diseases, cancers …leukemia, eye and skin diseases ..’ in excess have been recorded,as with those who work ‘in other electromagnetic environments.’ During the forty five day day war, widely deployed electronic devices ‘… advanced radar systems, laser guided missiles …released high frequency electromagnetic energy into the atmosphere …’ Chemical pollution included black rain, a soot laden atmosphere and environmental pollution was added to by soil ruination heavy metals such as nickel and vanadium also ‘.. changing the components of the ecosystem ..’ producing an increase in rodents and scorpions.’ Plants died in poisoned earth and in formerly fertile land: ‘ …. new fields of sand dunes were created.’
The British government were perfectly aware of Dr Ammash’s non-anthrax credentials, they gave her a visa to speak at a Conference on Iraq’s environment in Manchester in 2000, where their plants sat in their seats as the rest of the audience gave her a standing ovation. Iraqis too were in the audience, opposed to Saddam – many listened to her with tears in their eyes.
Huda Ammash tried to alert the world and redeem, save, her country’s environment. She might also have saved Ken Bigley. His kidnapper’s demand in October 2004 was, as with Margaret Hassan, release of women prisoners – all women prisoners. The British government said there were none, that after the depravities of Abu Ghraib they had been released (to call this economical with the truth would be another understatement.) The US Administration linked the demand to only Dr Ammash and a colleague Dr Rhab Taha. Colin Powell whose country is holding all Iraq hostage, said he didn’t do deals with hostage takers – and Ken Bigley was beheaded. Even two illegally held women might have been a life saving gesture.
Another life to be saved is Dr Ammash herself, who passionately fighting for the environment she loved, had fallen its victim. She never mentioned the cancer she suffers, to which she has lost both her breasts. Brave, steely, elegant, gentle. Her treatment shames us all. Oh, and anthrax? Perhaps the US should arrest a few scientists at their very own Fort Deatrick, Maryland, the US Army’s ‘Medical Research Institute’ – possibly the world’s largest producer of weapons grade anthrax.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a London-based writer.
Treaty gives CIA powers over Irish citizens
By Dan Buckley, Irish Examiner. com
US INVESTIGATORS, including CIA agents, will be allowed interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy, under an agreement signed between Ireland and the US last week.
Suspects will also have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland.
Under ‘instruments of agreement’ signed last week by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, Ireland and the US pledged mutual co-operation in the investigation of criminal activity. It is primarily designed to assist America’s so-called ‘war on terror’ in the wake of the September 11 atrocities.
The deal was condemned yesterday by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) as "an appalling signal of how the rights of Irish citizens are considered by the minister when engaging in international relations". The ICCL said it appeared to go far beyond even what has been agreed between EU countries.
On signing the agreement, the minister said that "the international community must do everything it can to combat terrorism with every means at its disposal.
"Ireland will not be found wanting," he added.
The treaty will give effect to agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition signed by the EU and the US in June 2003. These are aimed at building on mutual assistance and extradition arrangements.
Although the Department of Justice insists that the arrangement merely updates existing agreements, it goes much further. The US may ask Irish authorities:
To track down people in Ireland.
Transfer prisoners in Irish custody to the US.
Carry out searches and seize evidence on behalf of the US Government.
It also allows US authorities access to an Irish suspect’s confidential bank information. The Irish authorities must keep all these activities secret if asked to do so by the US.
The person who will request co-operation is US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the man who, as White House counsel, instigated the notorious ‘torture memo’ to US President George W Bush which advised how far CIA agents could go in torturing prisoners. The person to whom the request is sent is the Minister for Justice.
About 20,000 immigrants, who have not been charged with any crime, are currently in prison in the US. In two recent US Supreme Court cases, the US Government argued that US citizens could be imprisoned indefinitely without charge if the president designated them as "enemy combatants".
ICCL director Aisling Reidy said: "An extraordinary aspect to this treaty is, despite its scope and its potential to violate basic constitutional and human rights, that all this happened without debate or transparency.
"To agree to give such powers to a government which has allowed detention of its own citizens without access to a lawyer for over a year, which has legitimised Guantanamo Bay and the interrogation techniques there, without public debate, is an appalling signal of how highly or not the rights of Irish citizens are considered by the minister when engaging in international relations."
The Department of Justice said it was wrong to say the treaty happened without debate, as the agreements update and supplement existing arrangements, and the EU-US agreement has been scrutinised by the Oireachtas four times since December 2002.
A spokesperson also rejected that the measures go beyond what was agreed between EU countries.
Legislation will be required to give effect to some elements of the Mutual Legal Assistance Instrument. The necessary provisions will be contained in the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill which Mr McDowell expects to publish shortly.