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A Different Kind of Gas Mask Scare: One of the disturbing images from Takashi Morizumi's new book.

Nüz

Another Nuclear War?

Drop Bu$h not Bombs." "No War for Oil." "Free Palestine." As hundreds of thousands send their antiwar messages to the Bush administration--which responds by continuing to dispatch tens of thousands of troops to Iraq--fears are mounting that a war on Iraq is imminent, even though the American public is increasingly demonstrating itself to be against that idea.

And as reports come in of warheads in Baghdad, and of South Koreans demonstrating for a nuclear-free peninsula, it's worth remembering that the United States has already conducted not one, but two nuclear wars--the first against Japan in 1945, the second in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991.

While the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are well known, the fallout from the Gulf War continues to reveal itself slowly, making another attack on the depressed region all the more unthinkable--at least to those who know about the long-lasting effects of our previous little military adventure.

Beyond the lack of medicine and medical equipment, and childhood malnutrition and diarrhea, there has been an enormous increase in childhood deaths due to leukemia and other cancers in Iraq, which are increasingly being link to the Gulf War.

Photographer Takashi Morizumi, who has been documenting Iraqi children since 1998, thinks the most likely explanation is the use of depleted uranium munitions, DU being a radioactive by-product of the manufacture of nuclear weapons and fuel for power reactors.

"Twelve years after the Gulf War, destroyed tanks still lie abandoned in the desert along the border of Iraq and Kuwait," writes Morizumi in A Different Nuclear War: Children of the Gulf War, his shocking collection of photographs that document the consequences of the Gulf War on that most vulnerable group, the children of Iraq.

Morizumi's photographs are so shocking that local resident and high school teacher Jenn Laskin was scared to show them to her students at Renaissance High School when she first came across his book.

"But I'm glad I did, because their reactions have been so strong," says Laskin, whose student Bridgette Madrigal was inspired to write a report in which she detailed how DU explodes on impact, ends up in soil, lungs and water and has a half-life of 500,000 years.

"I found out that the children got cancers and leukemia, and that birth defects went up, and that many mothers die giving birth," says Madrigal, who discovered that during Desert Storm 400,000 soldiers were exposed to DU, which was also used in Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

"Since its 'discovery' during the Manhattan Project era, over 700,000 tons have been dispersed throughout the U.S.," says Laskin, noting that DU is used as ammunition for penetrating metal armor ("They cover missiles in it"), as armor plating in tanks ("The density prevents penetration by conventional weapons") and as a ballast in cruise missiles and aircraft.

"It is believed that Gulf War Syndrome is due in large part to DU exposure. 50,000-80,000 U.S. Gulf War veterans are afflicted with Gulf War syndrome. 39,000 have been dismissed from the military. 2400-5000 have died," she says, adding that many veterans seeking treatment have had trouble getting accurate diagnoseis or further testing for radiation sickness.

"They have been told it is 'stress related,'" she says. Laskin is currently trying to mount a campaign to declare the use of DU weapons a crime against humanity. For info, email leeps@mindspring.com or nagasaki-heiwa2nifty.com.

The only way to fix the budget ...

If city councilmembers were skating judges, they would give Gov. Davis' recent state budget a full set of zeros.

Under Davis' current proposal, cities will lose funding from vehicle license fees, which means a potential $3.5 million loss for Santa Cruz by the end of the 2003-04 fiscal year.

Lifelong Democrat Ed Porter said he was "ashamed that the proposal comes from someone who calls himself a Democrat," and Vice Mayor Scott Kennedy blamed the mess on the guvnor's lack of political courage in the past, while Tim Fitzmaurice saw it as a fight for sovereignty.

"We have been bullied into an incredible situation, but our local reps are going to try to reverse this plan," said the Fitz, even as Cynthia Mathews talked about an "aggressive campaign to not only hang onto but fully restore the state's licensing fee."

But Mike Rotkin felt that "no amount of playing funny games with money or putting the burden on the backs of local municipalities will solve the underlying structural problem. The cuts will mean direct impact on services that people need to live, but since Prop. 13 was passed in 1978, there's been no way for municipalities to realistically raise taxes."

So what would he do if he were Davis?

"The current situation requires a willingness to fight. You can't run a state that's one-fifth the size of the whole country without taxes or at the lowest tax rate. Clearly, we have a problem, but it doesn't have to be communities that pay the price. I'm hoping that political will and pressure will make things change."

Meanwhile, Assemblymember John Laird, while stressing his support for reversing Davis' plan, reminded everyone that "the Governor's budget is but the first pitch in a nine innings game."

But Kennedy said the city can't afford to hesitate--"we're "looking at $1-2 million in cuts by June, so we are now embarking on a very painful series of actions and must act decisively"--while Mayor Reilly insisted the city will prevail by holding onto essential values.

"The city is not going away , nor is it going to lose the joy, energy and positive vibrations that make this place so pleasant. And we're not talking about losing the Civic Auditorium at this point," she said.

Preliminary plans include a 911-fee, an increase in parking fees in the Beach flats--and a gutting of the controversial Citizen Police Review Board.

CBRB chair Mark Halfmoon says the commission "won't be able to function" if the council approves a plan to ax $60,000 from its budget, while Donna Hendrix, one of two city staffers assigned to the CPRB part time, has already been given a March 4 notice--a move she calls "sad and disappointing," while Halfmoon doubts that the independent auditor model the city plans to adopt instead "will be cheaper and more effective."

Replies the as yet unflappable Reilly , "The city must cut back on the demand all council-appointed commissions make on city staff--and we're expecting the CPRB to come back with a counter proposal."

... is comic relief?

"Recovering Republican" Catherine Austin Fitts will be in town Jan. 29, along with co-host Caroline Casey, host of the Visionary Activist radio show on Berkeley's KPFA-FM (94.1), to talk about "money and magic."

"The situation is so dire, we cannot afford the luxury of realism," jokes Casey, who apparently isn't afraid to personally face the facts. "Our economy is dependent on organized warfare. We have an addiction. So, are we gonna wait until we hit rock bottom before we face the facts?" she asks, while Fitts, who used to track money and fraud--including Enron's dirty dealings--will talk about how "the forces of good can attract money back to their side."

"If you bank with Citibank, you're voting in the marketplace for genocide and war," she says.

Jan. 29, Vets Hall, 834 Front St., Santa Cruz, 7:30pm. $20.


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From the January 22-28, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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