US Removes Radioactive Material from Iraq in Secret Airlift

What does the U.S. have to hide about radioactive materials flown out of Iraq?

| July 22, 2004

The U.S. has made yet another chilling contribution to the ongoing debacle in Iraq: according to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, the U.S. has secretly airlifted 'roughly 1000 highly radioactive sources' from Iraq. U.S. forces initially ignored the nuclear materials, leaving an enriched uranium storage facility unguarded while the U.S. government focused its energies on capturing oil production facilities. When they did pay attention to the toxic matter, U.S. military personnel broke seals that had been securing some of the radioactive substances for years. Because of this failure to secure the material during the invasion, hundreds of local residents were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactivity, leading to such disturbing spectacles as students at the Al-Majidat school for girls playing near large amounts of radioactive material.

The U.S. has kept the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the dark about Iraq's nuclear legacy. By ignoring IAEA regulations and requests for information, the U.S. is guilty of the very charges it leveled against Saddam Hussein as a justification for war. 'This is a job for the IAEA and the US ought to be setting an example of compliance with the full international regulations concerning nuclear weapons proliferation,' says Mike Townsley, leader of the Greenpeace team in Iraq. 'The US government has lied, bullied, and bullshitted their way into this war, and I see no reason why anyone should trust them to do the right or safe thing with nuclear materials.'

The U.S. is clearly obligated to deal with the nuclear materials in a more responsible way. In addition to threatening healthy biological functioning at home and abroad, U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi nuclear materials has helped compromise national security. In recent weeks, Iraq's glowing green stuff has been found in such disparate countries as the Netherlands and Turkey, indicating a prodigious flow of nuclear material from the country. Such lax monitoring of highly dangerous substances could provide terrorists with tools of destruction: though the materials cannot create a nuclear bomb, they can be packed around explosives to create a 'dirty bomb.' While the political, social, and economic fallout from the war is already potent, this particular error in empire building may be toxic for more than just international relations.
-- Brendan Themes

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