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Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Once World's Bread Basket, Iraq Now a Farming Basket Case

  Iraq now imports nearly all the food its people eat: California rice, Washington apples, Australian wheat, fruits and vegetables from its neighbors. All are staples in Iraqi groceries and on the dinner table.

  The decline of the farming sector creates other problems. Agriculture accounts for half or more of Iraqi jobs and is the second-largest contributor to the gross domestic product. The prices that people and the government pay for shortfalls in what they used to grow weaken the country's economy.

  Iraq's agriculture faces the same problems as farmers everywhere: drought (in its fifth year), bugs, disease, salty water, red tape. Those problems are exacerbated, however, by location and history. Eight years of war with Iran, defeat in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, then 12 years of sanctions and, most recently, six years of war and U.S.-led occupation have left the country's agricultural sector in shambles.

This year's wheat harvest is expected to be 1.3 million tons, down a million tons from last season. The prized amber rice crop grown by Habeeb and popular throughout the region for its perfumed scent will be around 100,000 tons, one-third of last year's yield.

  One result is that Iraq has become one of the world's biggest importers of wheat, around 3.5 million tons. Barley to feed livestock - sheep, goats and cattle - also is shipped in from other countries.
Turkey and Syria have built dams on the Euphrates within their borders, and they turn the spigot off and on to Iraq.

  "The shortage is very effective," Awn Theyab, the director general of Iraq's National Center for Water Resources, said after Turkey reduced the flow after one week. "If it continues, we won't have enough water for the first round of the winter season, because our reservoirs are empty."

 Sitting barefoot on a carpet runner in a tiled room next to their paddies, Habeeb and Muhair swapped gripes about the government. Poor or zero planning. Delayed or incomplete payments. Baksheesh - bribes - needed for the best seeds. Weak fertilizer. Weaker pesticide. Power to run water pumps for only six hours a day, so they must buy gasoline for generators.

Flashback: The Depleted Uranium Threat

"The DoD, the nation's biggest polluter, is now cleaning up 29,500 currently or formerly contaminated sites in every state and territory. California alone has 3,912 contaminated sites on 441 current and former DoD installations. Many of DoD's facilities have already contaminated groundwater sources of drinking water.... The cost to clean up toxic munitions contamination and unexploded ordnance at active and former military installations around the country may reach $200 billion." - The National Resources Defense Council, April 21, 2004.

While attempting to act as the planet's nuclear watchdogs, the United States and Great Britain have become two of the world's largest, cancer-causing radiated dust and rusty depleted uranium projectile polluters. 

Using tanks and planes, the US and British military have fired hundreds of tons of radioactive depleted uranium munitions (DU) while fighting the first Gulf War, the Balkans War, and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For two decades, successive US and British government leadership has done little overall to clean up the hazardous war waste.

Ironically, while firing this nuclear by-product all over Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, both Britain and the US regularly criticized and put financial or political pressure on Iran, Syria, North Korea and Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons. Of those four countries, only Pakistan is said to possess depleted uranium munitions, but their military forces have not been notorious for using them.

Depleted uranium is a by-product of the enrichment of natural uranium for nuclear reactor-grade or nuclear weapons-grade uranium. It is additionally used as an armor to protect tanks. Its metallic density is ideal for manufacturing munitions that readily pierce tank and other armor by burning and burrowing through it. But, while doing so, the munition creates large quantities of radioactive dust that the wind can carry for 20 to 30 miles. Sometimes the projectiles didn't explode. Instead, they buried themselves and degraded. Now they pollute or threaten water supplies, soil, plants, birds and animals in war-torn regions.

Dangerous DU debris is credited by some with creating higher child cancer and other illness rates in Europe and the Middle East. DU's fine particles can be harmful as well to the kidneys, skin and the lenses of the eyes. And, when inhaled or swallowed by humans, animals or fish, that dust can create serious and permanent health hazards. Expended DU is a permanent terrain contaminant with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Uranium dust can linger in the lungs, the blood and other organs for years. It is reported to have caused some of the so-called mysterious ailments among the more than 350,000 US service members, many of whom unsuccessfully sought medical treatment after the first Gulf War.

( Add to that stats of 37% of vets with mental heath problems, particularly PTSD. Another current post notes DND doctors are overworked and unpaid. 

SUPPORT THE TROOPS!  Like 'Broken Soldier' has said...it's a LIE!  The DU part is only 64 or so years old.

The graft and corruption ? Do you remember why George Armstrong Custer - war hero and iconic disaster of the Old West - had to get out of Washington? He implicated the President's brother in ripping off war supply. )

What Are the Biggest Financial Scandals in U.S. History ?

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