PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Recovering from this Age of Toxicity: A Note to Iraq by peaceprobe
January 23, 2007, 9:00 am
Filed under: Philippines

Dear Friends in Iraq,

I am traveling now in the Philippines where news of
increased troop levels and warfare in your land
reaches us. My travels here took me into brief tours
of former American military bases that were once the
forward logistical supply routes for the wars in this
part of Asia. Although it has been many months since I
was with you in Baghdad where I listened to the
stories of detainees I have a clear image of the
increased burden of violence now upon you. I imagine
with horror the columns of military vehicles weaving
their way in narrow streets where homes and
storefronts of your neighborhoods abound. As I write I
remember vividly my conversations with medical
professionals and citizens in Iraq about another toxic
product of the modern warfare, depleted uranium,
arising from the use of ammunition shells containing this
dangerous substance as a super hardening agent that
could penetrate heavy armor.

This brings me back to the Philippines. Last week I
walked among the deserted and deteriorating concrete
magazines in the US bases at Subic and Clark where
ammunition bound for a war front, was once stored. The
grass that is growing above these empty hulls, planted
there decades ago to disguise the magazine’s purpose
is now deepening its roots and will someday overcome
the concrete and iron roofs. I thought of you,
especially the families friends and religious leaders
who supported the thousands of detainees in your land. I
thought of the great volumes of explosive material
that has been expended in Iraq.

I wish you could have been with me when I met Mr.
Dino, 76, who carries in his body the imprint of his
long years of work at Subic Naval Base. . Mr. Dino’s
humor is infectious as he describes moving ammunition
shipments about the vast storage area. As he tells his
story I learn that his body is heavily infected with
asbestos, a construction material now long determined
to be dangerous. When the war of Southeast Asia waned
he was rotated out of the magazine to another
construction and maintenance site of the Subic Naval
Base. He is one of a1000 former base workers in his
town, Olongapo whose condition, asbestos poisoning in
the lungs, has been confirmed by medical tests
including x-rays. Some of his colleagues have died.
Many will have their lives cut short by the infection
within their bodies.

Mr. Dino took me to meet three of his friends who
suffer similar conditions. Carlos Marta, 59 was
sleeping in his chair under a metal roof shade him
when we arrived. His wife awakened him. With labored
breathing Carlos struggled to join our conversation,
his body visibly in pain. His condition has worsened
markedly in the last six months. Carlos and two other
colleagues described the difficulty they have
experienced in getting medical help from either their
former American employers or the Philippine
government. Neither government wants to assume responsibility or
liability. As I listened to their stories I saw you
beside them reaching out for a fair measure of time in

At the former Clark Air Force Base, a facility once
the size of the nation of Singapore now being
transformed into a development zone, I met several
women who described miscarriages, persistent
headaches, and other infections related to residual
discarded military waste that has not been properly
cleaned up at the former base and communities that
border the base. Heroic efforts to identify the
problems have been carried out by local groups
including the Task Force on Bases Clean Up.

The former US bases here are monuments to the toxicity
of modern warfare. I hope that even in the midst of
your darkest hours in Iraq you might have the
opportunity of sending an official or unofficial
delegation here to the Philippines to visit these
abandoned military facilities so that grass roots
victims here can show you how firm and vigilant you
have to be in dealing with nations who install foreign
bases in your country. What has been learned here is
that the toxic damage is carried in the bodies and the
surrounding environment for generations and leads to
early death and enormous pain in the earth, in the
animals, the vegetation and among people. I know that
you will someday be left alone to recover from the
nightmare that you are now going through. Long after
the final explosions some of you, my friends, will be
left with the lonely task of cleaning up from the war
that you are now witnessing. You don’t deserve this
but history has handed this dreadful burden to you.

I am very much aware thatdepleted
uranium, one newer strand of
toxic material has accompanied your war. Your medical doctors and citizens have
experienced and documented this weapon’s potential
for mass destruction for almost a generation. I know
that American authorities have taken no responsibility
for this new plague of toxicity . Your willingness to
speak out will be a gift for humanity everywhere and a
special contribution to a world inviting moral
leadership. Thank you for the sacrifice and risk you
will carry as you assume this additional burden. Be
assured that many of us will share in the hard work of
scientific research, and agitation to alert the world
to the price that will inevitably be paid to restore
our earth and its civilization to health. We hope that
our work together might install a binding legal
mechanism upon the whole earth that will prevent this
scourge from being visited on future generation.


Gene Stoltzfus


2 Comments so far
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I met Gene when I studied at the Urban Life Center in Chicago three decades ago. I met him again on a few trips to that city and once again in Nicaragua in 1983 as the idea for WITNESS FOR PEACE was first spawned.

I am sorry that he has passed away but he lived a full life, educated many, and influenced the lives of many more through his work and efforts.

Kevin Stoda

Comment by eslkevin



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