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StarPhoenix (Saskatoon), Friday, March 11, 2005

Canada must play role to end Iraq occupation

by David Orchard

The following is the viewpoint of the writer, a former candidate for leadership of the Progressive Conservative party of Canada and a Borden farmer.

On Feb. 22 in Brussels, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced that Canada would be sending forces to Jordan to help train Iraqi police and, although Canadian troops are not officially in Iraq, Canadian Maj. Gen. Walter Natynczyk (with the support of Ottawa) has been the second top-ranking soldier in that country in his role as deputy commander of the U.S. Army's Third Corps.

What exactly is it that Canada is helping out with? Across much of the world, and above all in North America, there is a deafening silence about what is actually happening in Iraq.

The number of American dead is reported daily, growing to about 1,500 to date. Although we hear less about the American wounded, virtually nothing gets reported about the number of Iraqis killed and wounded. (In the U.S. war on Vietnam roughly 100 Vietnamese, Laotians or Cambodians were killed for each American fatality. Recent estimates in Iraq put the ratio roughly the same.)

Although admitted by the Pentagon, it is barely whispered in the media that the U.S. is using internationally outlawed napalm and cluster bombs in Iraq. Some of the other weapons being used are not mentioned at all.

But we are told that things are getting better -- there has been an election. Organizing show elections in countries under foreign occupation has long been recognized as illegitimate. It's interesting to read the New York Times story of Sept. 4, 1967 (U.S. encouraged by Vietnam vote: officials cite 83 per cent turnout despite Vietcong terror) with a remarkably similar tone to the one recently trumpeted around the world as a success for President George Bush's Iraqi policy.

"According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday," it says. "Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong... A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy ... The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government."

Eight years later, the toll of dead in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia was six million and the U.S. had dropped 10-million tonnes of bombs on the three countries -- four times the total dropped in the Second World War.

Today in Iraq a low-intensity nuclear war is being waged by the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, largely against a civilian population in a small Third World country, a country that endured a previous bombardment in 1991, then a dozen years of sanctions and now renewed attack and occupation.

For one nation to attack and occupy another is a flagrant violation of international law as developed over the centuries and codified in the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and in the Nuremberg War Tribunal rulings. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, head of the American prosecution staff at Nuremberg, told the court that
"Launching a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify." They are crimes, he said, "whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them."

In its final ruling, the Nuremberg Tribunal declared: "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime."

The UN charter states unequivocally that the only legal ground upon which lethal force by one nation against another is justified is if one country is under direct and ongoing attack itself, or if authorized by the Security Council. Neither of these justifications exists nor has existed in Iraq.

Doug Rokke, former head of the Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project, points out that the U.S. military has used roughly 3,000 tons of depleted uranium munitions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is continuing to do so. Shells fired by the Abrams tank contain approximately 10 pounds of solid depleted uranium, while those fired by the A10 Warthog aircraft and the Bradley armoured vehicles somewhat less.

Upon impact the munitions become pulverized. This dust goes wherever the wind blows it and people across Iraq are breathing it. It seeps into the water and soil. A lethal dose of this material is minuscule -- some estimates are as low as two-millionths of a gram inhaled into the lungs.

Depleted uranium was first used by the U.S. in combat in the 1991 Gulf War and the cancer rates in Iraq have spiked sharply since. There is no known treatment. This radioactive contamination will remain lethal, in Dr. Rokke's words, "for eternity."

Canada stayed out of the war against Vietnam. Some Canadians, including a courageous nurse named Claire Culhane, spoke out and some made films helping to bring the knowledge of that horror to the world's attention. Canadians made a difference in the Suez crisis of 1956, in the Cuban missile crisis, and in opposing subsequent U.S. attacks on, and embargo of, that little country in the 1960s and since. Canadian voices, and those from across the globe, are needed again today to speak out in order to put a stop to what is being done to the citizens of the cradle of civilization.

David Orchard is the author of the bestseller, The Fight for Canada - Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism, and ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel (306) 652-7095, e-mail:

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