Friday, September 16, 2005

Bombing children

Two recent news stories warranted more coverage than was given by the media.

One was the World Tribunal on Iraq, in Istanbul in late June, which examined issues such as the legality of the Iraq war, war crimes, the role of the UN and the role of the media.

The other story was the release on July 19 of the Iraq Body Count project's report on civilian casualties in Iraq. The report documents a tally of at least 25,000 civilian fatalities and over 42,000 wounded in two years since the invasion.

A disturbing detail contained in the report is that "children were disproportionately affected by all explosive devices, but most severely by air strikes and unexploded ordnance". Almost 10 per cent of fatalities were children under 18. Further down we read that 73.5 per cent of people killed by unexploded ordnance were children.

"Unexploded ordnance" includes cluster bombs, which a number of NGOs pleaded with the invading forces — before the invasion — not to use where there were civilians.

On this matter, a pertinent charge brought by the World Tribunal on Iraq against the Coalition of the Willing governments was that of "using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapon systems".

An open and shut case, really. Guilty as charged!

This item was originally published as a letter to the editor in The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia) on 25 July 2005, see here.

2005: A Space Obituary

Like many kids in the 1960s, I was enthralled with the Apollo program, and of course beguiled with Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrik’s bold vision, in their film 2001 A Space Odyssey, of a grand future for humanity in outer space.

Clarke may have pioneered the concept of communications satellites, which today we take for granted, but he was not quite so prescient with his prediction of scheduled Pan Am flights by 2001 plying the void between Earth and Moon.

Not only is Pan Am a blessed memory now missing from our grand vista, but NASA Administrator Mike Griffin recently made the startling, yet probably overdue admission that, after all this time, “We’re in the very early stages of learning how to do space flight. It’s just barely possible to do it.”

Another problem barely mentioned is that, due to the possibility of genetic damage from prolonged exposure to the cosmic radiation that rages beyond the protective layers of Mother Earth, space travelers may have to forfeit reproductive rights once they leave our fair blue firmament.

Colonising other worlds? Mastery of the Universe? Keep your feet on the ground, folks, because we can’t even master the problems of our poor wounded earthly home.

The only benefit that may accrue from advancing our present shambolic attempts at space travel would be the launching of an interplanetary Ark to convey an unhappy, residual band of human survivors to the next planet that will have to suffer our depredations.

Now, have a nice day, y'all.