Britain has joined the United States in attempting to censor Dr. Riyadh Lafta, coauthor of the Lancet Iraq mortality study. First the US denied him a visa to speak in Washington state. As a substitute, he was invited to speak at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. But, in order to get to Canada he needed to switch planes in London, requiring a stay of four hours. In a disgusting display of imperial arrogance, Tony Blair’s Britain choked off that possibility by denying him a transit visa.
“[British consular officials] refuse to give us a transit visa just to change airplanes,” Dr. Lafta wrote from Amman to colleagues at the University of Washington, and to B.C.’s Simon Fraser University, where he planned to give a talk on Friday.
“I am sorry you are disappointed, but what can I do?…”
With Dr. Lafta are scores of documents that will help researchers from Simon Fraser, Washington and Iraq determine how badly the U.S.-led war in Iraq affects children — whether birth defects in Iraq are on the rise, and whether Iraqi children are suffering a tenfold increase in cancers such as leukemia, said Simon Fraser professor Tim Takaro.
“We need this data and, as unpopular as it is, we need to complete this work,” Dr. Takaro said. “It’s extraordinary that the British would have held up something, and it makes me think that they were influenced to do it — we’d love to know why.”
Dr. Lafta had applied for a U.S. visa on July 20, 2006, to speak to students at the University of Washington about the death toll of the war in Iraq. He was helped by a U.S. congressman and a senator, but his application was not approved. His Canadian visa was issued during that time.
The more we hear of the depths to which the US and Britain will sink to deny voice to the Lancet study authors, the more I suspect that they must know the study is, indeed, in the ballpark with its estimate of 655,000 excess deaths since the invasion and occupation. Why else are the invaders trying so hard to silence this study?
[h/t Tim Lambert at Deltoid. ]
April 19th, 2007
Barry Rosen, Director of the Security Studies Program at MIT, demolishes the claim that the US must stay in Iraq to prevent catastrophe:
Four years of experience strongly suggests that the costs to the United States of persisting in Iraq will be significant. Whatever success is achieved there, the end result will not be the stable liberal democratic vision of the war’s supporters. Rather, after lots more killing, exhaustion may set in, partial deals may be struck, and factions may retreat to tend their own battered gardens.
Call this what you will, but it cannot justify the costs incurred. And this outcome will not differ significantly from what will occur if the United States begins to disengage now.
April 19th, 2007
According to the New York Times,, the World Health Organization reports that public health is deteriorating:
As a result of these multiple public-health failings, diarrhea and respiratory infections now account for two-thirds of the deaths of children under five, the report said. Twenty-one percent of Iraqi children are now chronically malnourished, according to a 2006 national survey conducted by Unicef, which puts them at risk for both stunted growth and mental development.
And, in what may be a first for the New York Times, they quote Les Robert, of the Lancet Iraq mortality study fame, as an expert, without any language dismissing him as crazed or politically biased:
“There has been so much violence for so long that the result is inevitably this kind of complete social decay,” said Dr. Les Roberts, a principal researcher in a series of public health surveys on mortality among Iraqi citizens whose controversial results have been published in the British journal Lancet.
He says he believes that some of the new data vastly underestimates the human tragedy. “The W.H.O. has done a great job in walking a tightrope,” said Dr. Roberts, who was formerly at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and now heads the program on forced migration and health at Columbia University. “They are telling the world that the Iraqi health situation is really bad and likely to get worse, but doing it within the political constraints of respecting government numbers.”
He said, for example, that the report of 100 deaths a day from violence was “a gross underestimate,” placing the probable tally at several times higher.
The health situation continues to decline :
Dr. Khalid Shibib, of the W.H.O., said that most of the public health figures were “better a few years ago” because “loss of electricity and displacement of people have led to a deterioration of our public services and lack of access.”
“If the environmental situation continues to deteriorate, there will be increased diarrheal diseases, such as cholera,” he said. “Also, if there continues to be so many displaced people who are crowded together — maybe living with relatives — there will be a great rise in respiratory diseases, maybe even tuberculosis.”
And health care is declining as doctors and nurses flee and ethnic conflict infects health facilities. As a result:
The report cites the Iraqi government as saying that almost 70 percent of critically injured patients die in the hospital because of lack of staff, drugs and equipment.
April 19th, 2007
Now that both the United States and Australia are ruled by those professing “family values,” the rulers of these two countries have found yet another way to advance the cause. They’ve reached agreement to swap refugees between the two countries to keep families apart, making emigration less desireable:
An agreement between the United States and Australia to swap refugees held in offshore detention centres breaks international law, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The exchange would involve genuine refugees held by Australia on the remote Pacific island of Nauru and those held by the United States at its naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
Human Rights Watch reports that, surprise, the agreement flouts international law:
“The only conceivable reason for this ‘refugee swap’ is to deter future asylum seekers from trying to reach the United States or Australia by boat,” said Frelick [of HRW].
“Yet international refugee protection principles hold that detention and similar measures should never be used solely as a deterrent to other would-be refugees.”
Speaking in moderate language:
Several opposition politicians and rights groups in Australia have described the agreement as “bizarre.”
April 19th, 2007