CIA harassment of Iraq continues

The Central Intelligence Agency continues to fund operations to overthrow Iraqi president Saddam Hussein with $US 110 million spent over the last six years in the most expensive sustained failure of the agency history.

According to Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post, "The agency could not stop throwing money at the Saddam problem if it wanted to. Refusing to admit defeat, the White House orders this international embarrassment prolonged. The current covert operation, which will cost about $5 million this year, has dwindled into an ineffective propaganda effort carried out by two Arabic language radio stations in Jordan and Kuwait."

"The CIA is set to provide $4.8 million in covert funds to that group, the Iraqi National Accord (INA), again this year according to my sources. But it will be less than that if Jordan's King Hussein yields to Saddam's increasingly insistent demands to shut down the agency-financed, INA-run radio studio and transmitter, which broadcasts under the name the Voice of the Future".

In 1991 George Bush secretly ordered the agency to create the conditions for Saddam's downfall with a $40 million campaign . Much of that money went to buy and move a clandestine radio transmitter from Croatia and to finance a London-based propaganda operation that turned out fake Baghdad newspapers, television films and radio broadcasts.

About 15 American contract employees worked in London to produce the expensive propaganda. At one point, the agency used an unmanned aircraft based in northern Iraq to drop anti-Saddam leaflets across Iraq on the Saddam's birthday.

Publicly acknowledged annual funding was cut to $20 million in late 1992, and then to $15 million in 1994, after Bill Clinton came to the White House.

Gulf war illness caused by radiation poisoning

An American group accused the US Defense Department on May 6 of ignoring the possibility that exposure to the Army's depleted uranium shells may have caused unexplained illnesses suffered by Gulf War veterans. "We're here to demand an independent investigation," Sara Flounders, coordinator of the Depleted Uranium Education Project, said Tuesday.

The New York-based group has published a book, "Metal of Dishonor," which asserts that the Pentagon is endangering lives by using depleted uranium weapons. The Pentagon maintains American troops face no health risk from depleted uranium, which it uses in artillery shells and bombs designed to destroy tanks. Depleted uranium also is used on tank armor to protect U.S. tanks in battle.

At a news conference, anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott accused the Pentagon of a "huge cover-up" of the health risks of exposure to depleted uranium. "The Gulf War was actually a nuclear war," she contended. Low-level radioactivity of depleted uranium shells used during the 1991 war against Iraqi armored vehicles and in test firings in Saudi Arabia is causing cancer in veterans and may be responsible for other unexplained Gulf War illnesses, she said.

In its investigation of possible causes of Gulf War illnesses the Pentagon has focused mainly on troop exposure to Iraqi chemical weapons destroyed in the war's immediate aftermath. No firm connection has been established so far.

Carol Picou, an Army nurse in the Gulf War, said she fears she may have unknowingly inhaled or ingested depleted uranium dust when her unit came in contact with Iraqi vehicles demolished by the shells.

Speaking at the news conference, Ms. Picou said she has suffered total loss of bladder and bowel control since returning from the Gulf. "They never warned us of the hazards," she said, adding that the Pentagon refuses to help her.

UN acknowledges Iraq Civilians Suffer

BAGHDAD, Iraq- A top UN official said Thursday that Iraqi civilians were hungry despite a food-for-oil deal. The first food shipments arrived March 20, but so far no medicine has arrived.

Yasushi Akashi, head of the UN department of humanitarian affairs, is leading a team of experts that is assessing the food- for -oil agreement.

``What I saw was clear evidence of prevailing humanitarian suffering which is unmistakable,'' Akashi said. "I asked to visit some hospitals without any prior warning, and I saw clear signs of deep suffering," Akashi added.

The food -for oil agreement allows Iraq to sell up to two billion dollars in crude oil every six months so it can buy food and medicine under strict UN supervision. The deal expires in June and Iraq is asking the United Nations to renew the agreement and double the amount of oil sold to $US4 billion. Renewal of the oil-for-food deal must be approved by the 15-member Security Council.

Yasushi Akashi promised to speed up implementation ."In the days to come you will see much more speed in the arrival and distribution of humanitarian goods," Akashi told reporters as he wound up his six-day mission to Iraq.

Iraqi vice president Taha Yassin said Washington played a "deceitful" role in the committee, which decides which food and medicine contracts to approve for Iraq, and asked Akashi to "put an end to US hegemony."

"The US administration has clear political objectives and takes an attitude intended to prolong the embargo imposed on the Iraqi people," the vice president said, urging the United Nations to accelerate the implementation of the accord.

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