Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, speaking at the Dr. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on April 5, 2008. The event commemorated the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
US/NATO War Creates Humanitarian Crisis in Libya
Depleted Uranium weapons used while imperialists plot oil theft
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an immediate ceasefire in the North African state of Libya where western-backed rebels and the combined military forces of the United States and NATO have engaged in a sabotage and bombing campaign designed to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi. The secretary general and his leading humanitarian envoy Valerie Amos spoke directly to the growing humanitarian crisis inside the country, particularly in the eastern region where the counter-revolutionary militias are based.
In the western city of Misratah, an ongoing battle for control of the area resulted in the deaths of 17 people on April 17. It was also reported that in the eastern city of Ajdabiya Libyan military forces routed rebel units who were seen fleeing the area back towards their stronghold in Benghazi.
Both United Nations and Libyan governmental officials said on April 18 that they had reached an agreement to allow aid workers to travel safely to Misratah. It was also announced that a UN humanitarian presence would be established in the capital city of Tripoli. (VOA, April 18)
Nonetheless, it was the passage of the UN Resolution 1973 that provided the political and legal rationale for the launching of the US/NATO bombing operations over Libya which has continued for over one month. Since the beginning of the bombing on March 19, thousands of civilians have been killed and many more have been injured.
On April 17 reports indicated that NATO warplanes had bombed Al-Hira, located 50 km southwest of the capital of Tripoli. This region and surrounding areas have been targeted by NATO jets over the last several weeks. (presstv.ir, April 17)
Several meetings have been held in London, Berlin, Qatar and Cairo by the NATO countries and their allies involved in the war against Libya. All of the meetings have reiterated the demand that the Libyan government be overthrown, although some of the NATO countries such as Germany, Turkey and Spain have voiced skepticism that a military solution could be found that would end the war.
Reports of Depleted Uranium Weapons Used by the United States
On April 16, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement saying that cluster bombs had been used by the Libyan military against the population in Misratah. These allegations were immediately denied by the Libyan government.
Mussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Libyan government, said of the charges made by HRW that “Absolutely no. We can’t do this. Morally, legally we can’t do this. We never do it. We challenge them to prove it.” (AFP, April 17)
Cluster bombs have been produced and utilized by the U.S. military dating back at least to the Vietnam War during the 1960s and 1970s. The weapons were used also by the U.S. in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan from the 1990s through the early years of the 2000s. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) used cluster bombs during its bombing campaign against Lebanon in 2006.
A Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted in Dublin, Ireland in 2008 and has since been signed by 108 countries. Yet only 55 of these states have ratified the ban on usage of the weapon which is normally dropped from the air but can be launched by missiles on the ground.
Neither the United States nor Libya has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. There have been no casualties confirmed related to the purported use of cluster bombs by the Libyan military in Misrata.
Even though the allegations of the usage of cluster bombs by the Libyan military in Misratah was reported by the New York Times and is being used as propaganda by the Transitional National Council, which is the US/NATO-backed rebel forces, the utilization of depleted uranium weapons on the part of the United States military forces has received almost no attention in the corporate media and among the rebel forces fighting the Gaddafi government or most of the international human rights organizations that are based in the imperialist countries.
Since late March and early April, reports of the U.S. usage of DU weapons have been meet by contradictory responses from the Pentagon. Paula Kurtz, a U.S. Air Force spokeswoman said on April 3 that “I don’t want to speculate on what may or may not be used in the future. Weapons with depleted uranium have not been used in Libya.” (Herald Scotland, April 3)
However, organizations around the world have made repeated allegations that DU weapons are being used by the recently introduced U.S. A-10 tankbuster aircraft. Kate Hudson, the general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said that “We continue to seek a cast-iron guarantee that depleted uranium has not been used and will not be used in Libya. The US has a long history of only admitting to deploying this radioactive material months or years after it has been used.” (Herald Scotland, April 3)
Experts on the usage of DU weapons have insisted that based upon news video footage of US/NATO strikes on Libyan tank columns these materials are being used in the war. Conn Hallinan, a columnist for the Foreign Policy in Focus publication, said he is certain that DU weapons are being used by the U.S. military in Libya.
According to Hallinan, “Politically, it’s a bad idea. Medically, it’s an extremely bad idea. It’s just one of those things that is an effective weapon that you have to step away from.” (Tehran Times, April 17)
Depleted uranium releases radioactive material that continues to pose a danger to humans and the environment for at least 4.5 billion years. The U.S. has launched shells, bombs and cruise missiles containing depleted uranium that easily penetrate and burn heavy armor and fortifications. In addition, water and soil are contaminated with the use of DU weapons.
Another report issued by the Center for Research on Globalization based in Toronto says that cruise missiles can also be laced with the deadly substance. Prof. Massimo Zucchetti wrote in an article published on April 14 that “Cruise missiles have been used since the first days (of war against Libya), and we will show there is the strong suspicion that those missiles bring Depleted Uranium either as flight stabilizers in the wings, or as a weight kinetic energy enhancer.” (globalresearch.ca)
In a statement issued by antiwar.com on April 16, it stresses that “An impacting DU missile burns at 10,000 degrees C. When it strikes a target, 30 percent fragments into shrapnel. The remaining 70 percent vaporizes into three highly-toxic oxides, including uranium oxide.” (antiwar.com, April 16)
This statement goes on to point out that “This black dust remains suspended in the air and, according to wind and weather, can travel over great distances. If you think Iraq and Libya are far away, remember that radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales.” (antiwar.com)
It has been well documented that the health and environmental impact of DU weapons are devastating. High rates of infections, birth defects and cancers have been reported that are the direct result of the use of DU weapons.
The use of DU weapons on the city of Fallujah in Iraq reveals that there have been horrendous health conditions resulting from the U.S. military deployment of these materials. Fallujah represented a stronghold of resistance to the U.S. military invasion and occupation of the Iraq in 2003-2004. After the presidential elections of 2004 that resulted in the second administration of George W. Bush, the city was destroyed by U.S. military forces during a siege in November and December of that year.
In an interview with Iraqi political analyst Ali al-Nashmi on Jan. 3, it was stated that “Gross birth defect 11 times the norm and rising; leukemia 39 times the norm; cancer cases and infant mortality rates are alarming in the city of Fallujah. In 2009, doctors from Fallujah hospital reported that almost a fourth of all newborns died within the first week, adding that 75 percent of the newborns were deformed. This can be compared to only 6 of 500 babies that died in the first week with just one birth defect in 2002 (before the U.S. invasion).” (Press TV, Jan. 3)
There is No Such Thing As an Imperialist Humanitarian War
The ongoing war against the people and government of Libya reveals every day that there is no such thing as a humanitarian war that can be carried out by imperialist states against post-colonial countries. Libya has the largest known oil reserves on the African continent and substantial reserves of natural gas and other strategic resources.
From the early days of the rebel attacks on the Libyan government, the western imperialist states froze assets of tens of billions of dollars belonging to Tripoli. In addition, the imperialists have established mechanism for the theft of Libyan oil from areas being contested by the rebels and governmental forces.
A rebel official, Wahid Bughaigis, has been appointed as the “oil minister” for the so-called Transitional National Council which seeks to replace the Libyan government. As a result of battlefield damage, two major oilfields in the east of the country at Messla and Sarir have been largely out of operation for several weeks.
The rebels accused Libyan military forces of deliberating disabling the operations of the oil fields. Nonetheless, the Libyan government has blamed US/NATO air strikes for the damage done to the oil fields which have a production capacity of 400,000 barrels per day.
During early April the Gulf state of Qatar, which is participating in the US/NATO war against Libya, facilitated the sale of 1 million barrels of crude that reportedly brought in $120 million for the rebel forces. Consequently, the theft of Libyan oil is well underway illustrating the real objectives behind the US/NATO war against the North African state.
As the war continues against Libya the opposition within the region and inside the imperialist states is escalating. Since the national demonstrations in New York and San Francisco on April 9-10 that opposed the current war against Libya as well as all other U.S. military occupations and proxy wars around the world, demonstrations have continued throughout the country and the world.
On April 16 the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) in Detroit held a community speak-out against the US/NATO war on Libya. Representatives from various organizations condemned the war and pointed to the failure of the U.S. and the UN to take any action to halt the atrocities being committed against civilian populations in Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, all of which are western-backed states.
The wars of occupation and the support for the repression and exploitation of peoples throughout the world represents the desperations of the western imperialist states who are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. These wars will only be ended by the mass organized opposition of workers, youth and other oppressed peoples uniting across various nations and regions throughout the globe.