Monday, June 09, 2003

Let Them Eat Yellowcake

An upsetting story in the Sunday New York Times about the continuing horrors bestowed on the Iraqi people by the United States' failure to occupy and guard facilities that stored nuclear materials.

In Tuwaitha, the electricity went out and the water pumps didn't work. People needed water containers and those shiny ones from behind the barbed wire fence were available.
For nearly three weeks, hundreds of villagers who live in the shadow of the high earthen berm and barbed wire fences that surrounded the labyrinth of the Iraqi nuclear program here bathed in and ingested water laced with radioactive contaminants from the barrels.

The barrels, Iraqi and foreign experts say, had held uranium ores, low-enriched uranium "yellowcake," nuclear sludge and other byproducts of Mr. Hussein's nuclear research.

Some villagers fell ill with nausea. Others developed rashes that made them itch.

Although no qualified medical experts have examined them, some contracted ailments that they now attribute to radioactive contamination. It may take years to determine the health effects from the radiation poisoning that occurred here before American military forces arrived to seal off this nuclear complex.
Aside from the personal tragedy that may afflict the people of Tuwaitha for the rest of their lives, Washington's failure to secure these sites also has security implications.
Questions have been raised by international inspectors about why, despite Washington's assurances that allied forces had secured this facility, an army of looters roamed here freely for days, ransacking vaults and warehouses that contained ample radioactive poisons that could be used to manufacture an inestimable quantity of so-called dirty bombs.
I could have sworn that Bush and Rummy and Powell said that the reason we invaded Iraq had something to do with preventing terrorists from getting weapons of mass destruction. But, I'm getting older and my memory isn't as good as it used to be. We sure did a good job of securing those oil fields though. And didn't George the W look spiffy in his flight suit?