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September 2000 - Return to Monthly Index           MiddleEast.Org 9/22/00
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US Poisoned Iraqi Public Water Supply


   SUNDAY HERALD - 17 September 2000:
   The US-led allied forces deliberately destroyed Iraq's water supply
   during the Gulf War - flagrantly breaking the Geneva Convention and
   causing thousands of civilian deaths.
   Since the war ended in 1991 the allied nations have made sure than any
   attempts to make contaminated water safe have been thwarted.
   A respected American professor now intends to convene expert hearings
   in a bid to pursue criminal indictments under international law
   against those responsible.
   Professor Thomas J Nagy, Professor of Expert Systems at George
   Washington University with a doctoral fellowship in public health,
   told the Sunday Herald: "Those who saw nothing wrong in producing
   [this plan], those who ordered its production and those who knew about
   it and have remained silent for 10 years would seem to be in violation
   of Federal Statute and perhaps have even conspired to commit
   Professor Nagy obtained a minutely detailed seven-page document
   prepared by the US Defence Intelligence Agency, issued the day after
   the war started, entitled Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities and
   circulated to all major allied Commands.
   It states that Iraq had gone to considerable trouble to provide a
   supply of pure water to its population. It had to depend on importing
   specialised equipment and purification chemicals, since water is
   "heavily mineralised and frequently brackish".
   The report stated: "Failing to secure supplies will result in a
   shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could
   lead to increased incidents, if not epidemics, of disease and certain
   pure-water dependent industries becoming incapacitatedÉ"
   The report concludes: "Full degradation of the water treatment system
   probably will take at least another six months."
   During allied bombing campaigns on Iraq the country's eight
   multi-purpose dams had been repeatedly hit, simultaneously wrecking
   flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and
   hydroelectric power. Four of seven major pumping stations were
   destroyed, as were 31 municipal water and sewerage facilities - 20 in
   Baghdad, resulting in sewage pouring into the Tigris. Water
   purification plants were incapacitated throughout Iraq.
   Article 54 of the Geneva Convention states: "It is prohibited to
   attack, destroy or render useless objects indispensable to the
   survival of the civilian population" and includes foodstuffs,
   livestock and "drinking water supplies and irrigation works".
   The results of the allied bombing campaign were obvious when Dr David
   Levenson visited Iraq immediately after the Gulf War, on behalf of
   International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
   He said: "For many weeks people in Baghdad - without television,
   radio, or newspapers to warn them - brought their drinking water from
   the Tigris, in buckets.
   "Dehydrated from nausea and diarrhoea, craving liquids, they drank
   more of the water that made them sick in the first place."
   Water-borne diseases in Iraq today are both endemic and epidemic. They
   include typhoid, dysentery, hepatitis, cholera and polio (which had
   previously been eradicated), along with a litany of others.
   A child with dysentery in 1990 had a one in 600 chance of dying - in
   1999 it was one in 50.
   The then US Navy Secretary John Lehman estimated that 200,000 Iraqis
   died in the Gulf War. Dr Levenson estimates many thousands died from
   polluted water.
   Chlorine and essential equipment parts needed to repair and clear the
   water system have been banned from entering the country under the UN
   Ohio Democrat Representative Tony Hall has written to American
   Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, saying he shares concerns
   expressed by Unicef about the "profound effects the deterioration of
   Iraq's water supply and sanitation systems on children's health".
   Diarrhoeal diseases he says are of "epidemic proportions" and are "the
   prime killer of children under five".
   "Holds on contracts for water and sanitation are a prime reason for
   the increase in sickness and death." Of 18 contracts, wrote Hall, all
   but one on hold were placed by the government in the US.
   Contracts were for purification chemicals, chlorinators, chemical
   dosing pumps, water tankers and other water industry related items.
   "If water remains undrinkable, diseases will continue and mortality
   rates will rise," said the Iraqi trade minister Muhammed Mahdi Salah.
   The country's health ministry said that more than 10,000 people died
   in July of embargo-related causes - 7457 were children, with
   diarrhoeal diseases one of the prime conditions.
   In July 1989, the figure was 378. Unicef does not dispute the figures.
   The problem will not be helped by plans for the giant Ilisu Dam
   project (to which the British government is to give £200 million in
   export credit guarantees), which will give Turkey entire control of
   the water flow to Iraq and Syria.
   Constructors Balfour Beatty write in their environmental impact
   report, that for the three years of construction, water flow to Iraq
   will be reduced by 40%. Iraq has also suffered a three year drought,
   with the Tigris the lowest in living memory.

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