Gulf Vets call for an End to Civilian Casualties in Iraq

Erik K. Gustafson,
Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
747 10th Street SE, Suite 2,
Washington, DC 20003
202-543-6176; 202-546-5103 (fax);
EPICenter@igc.org 

(Washington)

The National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC), the largest Gulf War veterans organization in the country, has come out against economic sanctions which "prevent or otherwise hamper nations from maintaining the public health of their people." Comprising over 54 member groups from around the country, the NGWRC works to be a resource for information, support, and referrals for all those concerned with the complexities of Gulf War issues, especially Gulf War illnesses. Already successful in passing a comprehensive bill to ensure better health care for sick veterans, the NGWRC is now focusing on Depleted Uranium (DU) and protecting both U.S. troops and civilians from DU exposure. In a resolution that was passed by the Board of Directors on December 20, 1998, shortly after the December air strike, the NGWRC urges that further civilian casualties in Iraq be avoided. "As soldiers, we were trained to abide by international laws relating to the treatment and protection of civilian populations. Economic sanctions which prevent or otherwise hamper nations from maintaining the public health of their citizens, are in violation of these international laws, including Geneva Protocol 1, Article 54, which prohibits the 'starvation of civilians as a method of warfare.' The UN and the U.S. must work toward an immediate end to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq."

Full text of this precedent-setting resolution follows:

National Gulf War Resource Center Statement Gulf War Veterans Express Concern About Recent Developments in the 8-Year War

The United States (U.S.) became involved in the Gulf War with the passage of Public Law 102-1, still in effect, that allows the President to use military force against Iraq in order to enforce Iraqi compliance with United Nations (UN) resolutions.

The National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC) believes the following important lessons must not be forgotten regarding the Gulf War, a war that continues to impact millions of lives.

Iraq possessed and deployed chemical warfare agents up to 1991.

In 1991, with the U.S. military destruction of Iraq's chemical weapons (CW) facilities, tons of agents were released, possibly exposing up to 100,000 American servicemen and women, according to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The U.S. uses depleted uranium (DU) in anti-tank ammunition. Scientists have associated DU, a radioactive toxic waste, with many adverse health effects. Since 1990, thousands of American troops have been exposed to DU, as have millions of Iraqis. The World Health Organization plans to investigate the possible link between a reported sharp increase in cancer incidents in Southern Iraq and DU exposure.

The U.S. DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs have estimated that 110,000 American Gulf War veterans are ill as a result of their wartime service, many from exposures to CW, DU, pollution from oil well fires, experimental vaccines, and anti-nerve agent pretreatment pills, among other toxins.

The economic sanctions on Iraq now result in serious shortages of food, clean water, and medicine. Water and sanitation systems have collapsed, fueling an epidemic of diseases. Denis J. Halliday, the former UN head of the oil-for-food program, estimates that over 5,000 Iraqi children under five are dying each month from malnutrition and disease directly related to the sanctions. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government remains untouched and firmly entrenched.

Therefore, the National Gulf War Resource Center Board of Directors, after careful and thorough deliberation, urges the following steps be taken to ensure the protection of American forces and civilians in the Persian Gulf region. No active duty service man or woman should ever have to go through what so many Gulf War veterans and their families have had to go through.

Due to the likely exposure to CW, DU, and other hazardous toxins, the NGWRC demands that the best training and protective gear be provided to American forces deployed in the Persian Gulf region, as well as the best health care, both while deployed and upon their return home. American soldiers should return in a timely fashion, safely, and in good health.

The NGWRC strongly believes that further civilian casualties in Iraq must be avoided. As soldiers, we were trained to abide by international laws relating to the treatment and protection of civilian populations. Economic sanctions which prevent or otherwise hamper nations from maintaining the public health of their citizens (as opposed to targeted military and diplomatic sanctions), are in violation of these international laws, including Geneva Protocol 1, Article 54, which prohibits the "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare." The UN and the U.S. must work toward an immediate end to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

With recent air strikes, the Gulf War continues. THE NGWRC is deeply concerned about the safety of the 30,000-40,000 American service members in the Gulf region and civilians in the combat zone. The NGWRC will follow events closely and work to ensure the veterans of Desert Shield, Storm, and Fox receive proper protection, health care and benefits for their war time service.

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