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Showdown Iraq: Nuclear Dangers

Aired November 7, 2002 - 12:26   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Bush administration has made it clear it suspects Saddam Hussein of trying to get nuclear weapons. But our next guest says the U.S. has already used what she calls nuclear weapons against Iraq, and she says the United States might do it again.
Dr. Helen Caldicott is a pediatrician, the author of a book, "The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military Industrial Complex." She's also the president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. She is joining us now live from Boston.

Dr. Caldicott, thanks so much for joining us.

A serious allegation you make that the United States already used nuclear weapons against Iraq. What you're referring to are these depleted uranium shells that were fired from U.S. tanks that were used during the Gulf War. Isn't that right?

DR. HELEN CALDICOTT, NUCLEAR POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Yes. They used up to 300 to 800 tons of uranium shells that are 1.7 times more dense than lead. So, they cut through a tank like a hot knife through butter, but they're (UNINTELLIGIBLE). So, when they hit the tank, they spontaneously burn, producing tiny particles of respiratory (ph) size. Hence, they can be inhaled into the terminal air passages.

They're radioactive and carcinogenic, and uranium 238 has a half- life of 4.5 billion years.

So, what's happened is, because children are 10 to 20 times more radiosensitive than adults and get cancer much more readily, the incidents of childhood cancer in Basra, where these weapons were used, has gone up 6 to 12 times. Little girls are even getting breast cancer at the age of 10.

And my colleagues, pediatricians, can't treat their patients because of the sanctions. They have no chemotherapeutic agents, no radio-therapy machines and no antibiotics.


BLITZER: The -- let me just interrupt -- Dr. Caldicott, let me interrupt and point out what the Pentagon has said repeatedly over these years. That in all of their testing of these depleted uranium shells, they found no evidence -- scientific evidence whatsoever that any rates of cancer, any kinds of cancer are higher when subjected to these areas as any other areas. And specifically, they point out in the Basra region of Iraq, the Iraqis themselves had blown up all sorts of oil fields in those areas, which theoretically could be the result of some higher incidence of cancer right now, having nothing to do with the tank shells that were used during the Gulf War.

CALDICOTT: Right. The Pentagon is lying, and if you refer to my book, "The New Nuclear Danger," you'll find in the chapter on Iraq, Pentagon documents that were written before they went into Iraq, warning that none of the troops should be exposed to radiation from these depleted uranium shells. They had to wear total body suits, respirators -- the whole thing. They shouldn't go near it, because it's carcinogenic, can cause cancer of the bladder, the lung, the kidney, and the like. And that's true. It's a heavy metal excretion through the kidney.

In fact, veterans from that war in America are excreting uranium in their semen. And what's in the semen? The sperm, and what's in the sperm? All future generations, genetics. And I treat...

BLITZER: All right...

CALDICOTT: ... the most common genetic disease, cystic fibrosis. There are 3,000 of them.

But I want to say one more thing, Wolf. The incidence of congenital deformities has doubled and tripled. Women are too scared to give birth now, because they're giving birth to babies with single eyes (UNINTELLIGIBLE) no brains or spina bifida. And this is well- documented in the medical literature from Iraq. Look at my book; it's all referenced.

BLITZER: The -- and let me just point out...

CALDICOTT: And the problem is...

BLITZER: Dr. Caldicott, let me just point out, though, that there are a lot of other factors in that southern part of Iraq that could have resulted in these kinds of problems. And the Pentagon also points out, the Bush administration also points out very, very strongly that the Iraqi regime itself is to blame for all of these problems. If they simply complied with U.N. Security Council resolutions and disarm, there would be no sanctions, there would be no problem getting medical supplies, doctor, pediatricians, to all parts of Iraq.

So, the Iraqi government itself is to blame. That's what they argument the Bush administration makes.

CALDICOTT: The Pentagon -- yes, the Bush administration always says that, but the real carcinogen in this area is uranium 238 (UNINTELLIGIBLE) small numbers of carcinogens but very dilute. The Pentagon wrote about it themselves and are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) them. They'll go again, they'll use these shells again. That's a war crime, to leave a radioactive area for the next 4.5 billion years or longer.

BLITZER: Let me ask you this question, Dr. Caldicott...

CALDICOTT: And I think there's a 50-50 chance...

BLITZER: Dr. Caldicott...

CALDICOTT: Yes -- I think there's a 50-50...

BLITZER: Dr. Caldicott, we don't have a lot of time, so let me just move on...


BLITZER: ... and ask you this very brief question.


BLITZER: You know the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. You know what Amnesty International...


BLITZER: ... a human rights watch, all of the U.N. human rights organizations have written, among other things, in their most recent Amnesty International document, they say this, and I'll just read a brief except. They say: "Torture is used systematically against political detainees in Iraqi prisons, detention centers. The scale and severity of torture in Iraq can only result from the acceptance of its use at the highest level."

Do you feel comfortable, in effect, going out there and defending the Iraqi regime?

CALDICOTT: No. He is a dictator, and he's done wicked things, and he did use poison gas on the Kurds, apparently, and on the Iranians, supplied to him, incidentally, by the Pentagon with the sanctions of Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Also he was supplied with botulinum toxin with anthrax spores by America during the Iran-Iraq War, and probably smallpox. That's why America is frightened, because they probably supplied him with smallpox.

Yes, it's true he does awful things, but he was also supported, armed and financed by the CIA during the Iranian-Iraqi War. But you don't kill children.

You know, every year, Wolf, since 1991, 5,000 children have died, A, from the sanctions, B, because America bombed the water supply system, the sewage supply systems. And the water-borne disease is incredible -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE), hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, dysentery. That is a war crime, and we mustn't kill children.

BLITZER: All right.

CALDICOTT: Up to 600,000 children have died, and it will happen again. I plead, as a pediatrician representing the medical profession, you don't go and murder children. That's not right, because there might be a bad dictator. Go and take him out by yourself (ph).

But you shouldn't be taking out leaders of other countries either. You should be working with the United Nations.

BLITZER: All right, and we have to unfortunately, Dr. Caldicott, leave it right there, because we are all out of time.

Let me just repeat what the U.S. government has said on many occasions. If the Iraqi regime were to comply with U.N. resolutions, none of these problems would exist. If the Iraqi government would not have invaded Kuwait in 1990, none of these problems would have existed.

We have to leave it right there, Dr. Helen Caldicott. Thanks for joining...

CALDICOTT: Read my book...


BLITZER: Thank you very much.

CALDICOTT: Thank you.


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