War “Pollution” Equals Millions of Deaths

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Iraq War Pollution Equals 25 Million Cars

Burning Oil in Iraq

Photo: Burning oil fields in Iraq by Shawn Baldwin

The greenhouse gases released by the Iraq war thus far equals the pollution from adding 25 million cars to the road for one year says a study released by Oil Change International, an anti petroleum watchdog.  The group’s main concerns are the environmental and human rights impacts of a petroleum based economy.

The study, released last March on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, states that total US spending on the war so far equals the global investment needed through 2030 to halt global warming.

Of course skeptics and oil companies will be right to ask how these numbers were calculated.  The group claims Iraq war emissions estimates come from combat, oil well fires, increaesd gas flaring, increased cement manufacturing for reconstruction, and explosives.

The Report: A Climate of War

Source


“Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.” – 1992 Rio Declaration

The application of weapons, the destruction of structures and oil fields, fires, military transport movements and chemical spraying are all examples of the destroying impact war may have on the environment. Air, water and soil are polluted, man and animal are killed, and numerous health affects occur among those still living. This page is about the environmental effects of wars and incidents leading to war that have occurred in the 20th and 21st century.

Timeline of wars

Africa

“My hands are tied
The billions shift from side to side
And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
For the love of God and our human rights
And all these things are swept aside
By bloody hands time can’t deny
And are washed away by your genocide
And history hides the lies of our civil wars” – Guns ‘n Roses (Civil War)

In Africa many civil wars and wars between countries occurred in the past century, some of which are still continuing. Most wars are a result of the liberation of countries after decades of colonialization. Countries fight over artificial borders drawn by former colonial rulers. Wars mainly occur in densely populated regions, over the division of scarce resources such as fertile farmland. It is very hard to estimate the exact environmental impact of each of these wars. Here, a summary of some of the most striking environmental effects, including biodiversity loss, famine, sanitation problems at refugee camps and over fishing is given for different countries.

Congo war (II) – Since August 1998 a civil war is fought in former Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The war eventually ended in 2003 when a Transitional Government took power. A number of reasons are given for the conflict, including access and control of water resources and rich minerals and political agendas. Currently over 3 million people have died in the war, mostly from disease and starvation. More than 2 million people have become refugees. Only 45% of the people had access to safe drinking water. Many women were raped as a tool of intimidation, resulting in a rapid spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV-AIDS. The war has a devastating effect on the environment. National parks housing endangered species are often affected for exploitation of minerals and other resources. Refugees hunt wildlife for bush meat, either to consume or sell it. Elephant populations in Africa have seriously declined as a result of ivory poaching. Farmers burn parts of the forest to apply as farmland, and corporate logging contributes to the access of poachers to bush meat. A survey by the WWF showed that the hippopotamus population in one national park decreased from 29,000 thirty years previously, to only 900 in 2005. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed all five parks as ‘world heritage in danger’.

Ethiopia & Eritrea – Before 1952, Eritrea was a colony of Italy. When it was liberated, Ethiopia annexed the country. Thirty years of war over the liberation of Eritrea followed, starting in 1961 and eventually ending with the independence of Eritrea in 1993. However, war commenced a year after the country introduced its own currency in 1997. Over a minor border dispute, differences in ethnicity and economic progress, Ethiopia again attacked Eritrea. The war lasted until June 2000 and resulted in the death of over 150,000 Eritrean, and of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians. During the war severe drought resulted in famine, particularly because most government funds were spend on weapons and other war instrumentation. The government estimated that after the war only 60% of the country received adequate food supplies. The war resulted in over 750,000 refugees. It basically destroyed the entire infrastructure. Efforts to disrupt agricultural production in Eritrea resulted in changes in habitat. The placing of landmines has caused farming or herding to be very dangerous in most parts of the country. If floods occur landmines may be washed into cities. This has occurred earlier in Mozambique.

Rwanda civil war – Between April and July 1994 extremist military Hutu groups murdered about 80,000-1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. Over 2,000,000 people lost their homes and became refugees. Rwanda has a very rich environment, however, it has a particularly limited resource base. About 95% of the population lives on the countryside and relies on agriculture. Some scientists believe that competition for scarce land and resources led to violence prior to and particularly after the 1994 genocide. It is however stated that resource scarcity only contributed limitedly to the conflict under discussion. The main cause of the genocide was the death of the president from a plane-crash caused by missiles fires from a camp.

The many refugees from the 1994 combat caused a biodiversity problem. When they returned to the already overpopulated country after the war, they inhabited forest reserves in the mountains where endangered gorillas lived. Conservation of gorilla populations was no longer effective, and refuges destroyed part of the habitat. Despite the difficulties still present in Rwanda particularly concerning security and resource provision, an international gorilla protection group is now working on better conditions for the gorillas in Rwanda.

Somalia civil war – A civil war was fought in Somalia 1991. One of the most striking effects of the war was over fishing. The International Red Cross was encouraging the consumption of seawater fish to improve diets of civilians. For self-sufficiency they provided training and fishing equipment. However, as a consequence of war Somali people ignored international fishing protocols, thereby seriously harming ecology in the region. Fishing soon became an unsustainable practise, and fishermen are hard to stop because they started carrying arms. They perceive over fishing as a property right and can therefore hardly be stopped.

Sudan (Darfur & Chad) – In Sudan civil war and extreme droughts caused a widespread famine, beginning in 1983. Productive farmland in the southern region was abandoned during the war. Thousands of people became refugees that left behind their land, possibly never to return. Attempts of remaining farmers to cultivate new land to grow crops despite the drought led to desertification and soil erosion. The government failed to act for fear of losing its administrative image abroad, causing the famine to kill an estimated 95,000 of the total 3,1 million residents of the province Darfur. As farmers started claiming more and more land, routes applied by herders were closed off. This resulted in conflicts between farmers and rebels groups. In 2003, a conflict was fought in Darfur between Arab Sudanese farmers and non-Arab Muslims. The Muslim group is called Janjaweed, a tribe mainly consisting of nomadic sheep and cattle herders. Originally the Janjaweed were part of the Sudanese and Darfurian militia, and were armed by the Sudanese government to counter rebellion. However, they started utilizing the weapons against non-Muslim civilians. The tribe became notorious for massacre in 2003-2004. In December 2005 the conflict continued across the border, now involving governmental army troops from Chad, and the rebel groups Janjaweed and United Front for Democratic Change from Sudan. In February 2006 the governments of Chad and Sudan signed a peace treaty called the Tripoli Agreement. Unfortunately a new rebel assault of the capital of Chad in April made Chad break all ties with Sudan. The Darfur Conflict so far caused the death of between 50,000 and 450,000 civilians. It caused over 45,000 people to flea the countries of Sudan and Central Africa, into north and east Chad. Most refugees claim they fled civilian attacks from rebel forces, looting food and recruiting young men to join their troops.

America

Pearl Harbor (WWII) – When World War II began, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Consequentially, the United States closed the Panama Canal to Japanese shipping, and initiated a complete oil embargo. Japan, being dependent on US oil, responded to the embargo violently. On December 1941, Japanese troops carried out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, aimed at the US Navy stationed there. Despite the awareness that Japan might attack, the US was surprisingly unprepared for the Japanese aggression. There were no aircraft patrols, and anti-aircraft weapons were not manned.

For the attack five Japanese submarines were present in the harbor to launch torpedos. One was discovered immediately, and attacked by the USS Ward. All five submarines sank, and at least three of them have not been located since. As Japanese bombers arrived they began firing at US marine airbases across Hawaii, and subsequently battle ships in Pearl Harbor. Eighteen ships sank, including five battleships, and a total of more than 2,000 Americans were killed in action. The explosion of the USS Arizona caused half of the casualties. The ship was hit by a bomb, burned for two days in a row, and subsequently sank to the bottom. The cloud of black smoke over the boat was mainly caused by burning black powder from the magazine for aircraft catapults aboard the ship.

Leaking fuel from the Arizona and other ships caught fire, and caused more ships to catch fire. Of the 350 Japanese planes taking part in the attack, 29 were lost. Over sixty Japanese were killed in actions, most of them airmen.

Today, three battle ships are still at the bottom of the harbor. Four others were raised and reused. The USS Arizona, being the most heavily damaged ship during the attack, continues to leak oil from the hulk into the harbor. However, the wreck is maintained, because it now serves as part of a war memorial.

World Trade Centre explosion – The so-called ‘War on Terrorism’ the United States are fighting in Asia currently all started with the event we recall so well from the shocking images projected on news bulletins. On September 11, 2001, terrorists flew airplanes into the buildings of the World Trade Centre. It is now claimed that the attack and simultaneous collapse of the Twin Towers caused a serious and acute environmental disaster.

We will live in the death smog for a while,
breathing the dust of the dead,
the 3 thousand or so who turn to smoke,
as the giant ashtray in Lower Manhattan
continues to give up ghosts.
The dead are in us now,
locked in our chests,
staining our lungs,
polluting our bloodstreams.
And though we cover our faces with flags
and other pieces of cloth to filter the air,
the spirits of the dead aren’t fooled
by our masks
.” Lawrence Swan, 05-10-2001

As the planes hit the Twin Towers more than 90.000 litres of jet fuel burned at temperatures above 1000oC. An atmospheric plume formed, consisting of toxic materials such as metals, furans, asbestos, dioxins, PAH, PCB and hydrochloric acid. Most of the materials were fibres from the structure of the building. Asbestos levels ranged from 0.8-3.0% of the total mass. PAH comprised more than 0.1% of the total mass, and PCBs less than 0.001% of total mass. At the site now called Ground Zero, a large pile of smoking rubble burned intermittently for more than 3 months. Gaseous and particulate particles kept forming long after the towers had collapsed.


Aerial photograph of the plume

The day of the attacks dust particles of various sizes spread over lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, for many miles. Fire fighters and medics working at the WTC were exposed, but also men and women on the streets and in nearby buildings, and children in nearby schools. In vivo inhalation studies and epidemiological studies pointed out the impact of the dust cloud. Health effects from inhaling dust included bronchial hyper reactivity, because of the high alkalinity of dust particles. Other possible health effects include coughs, an increased risk of asthma and a two-fold increase in the number of small-for-gestational-age baby’s among pregnant women present in or nearby the Twin Towers at the time of the attack. After September, airborne pollutant concentrations in nearby communities declined.

Many people present at the WTC at the time of the attacks are still checked regularly, because long-term effects may eventually show. It is thought there may be an increased risk of development of mesothelioma, consequential to exposure to asbestos. This is a disease where malignant cells develop in the protective cover of the body’s organs. Airborne dioxins in the days and weeks after the attack may increase the risk of cancer and diabetes. Infants of women that were pregnant on September 11 and had been in the vicinity of the WTC at the time of the attack are also checked for growth or developmental problems.

Asia

Afghanistan war – In October 2001, the United States attacked Afghanistan as a starting chapter of the ‘War on terrorism’, which still continues today. The ultimate goal was to replace the Taliban government, and to find apparent 9/11 mastermind and Al-Qaeda member Osama Bin Laden. Many European countries assisted the US in what was called ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’.

During the war, extensive damage was done to the environment, and many people suffered health effects from weapons applied to destroy enemy targets. It is estimated that ten thousand villages, and their surrounding environments were destroyed. Safe drinking water declined, because of a destruction of water infrastructure and resulting leaks, bacterial contamination and water theft. Rivers and groundwater were contaminated by poorly constructed landfills located near the sources.

Afghanistan once consisted of major forests watered by monsoons. During the war, Taliban members illegally trading timber in Pakistan destroyed much of the forest cover. US bombings and refugees in need of firewood destroyed much of what remained. Less than 2% of the country still contains a forest cover today.

Bombs threaten much of the country’s wildlife. One the world’s important migratory thoroughfare leads through Afghanistan. The number of birds now flying this route has dropped by 85%. In the mountains many large animals such as leopards found refuge, but much of the habitat is applied as refuge for military forces now. Additionally, refugees capture leopards and other large animals are and trade them for safe passage across the border.

Pollution from application of explosives entered air, soil and water. One example is cyclonite, a toxic substance that may cause cancer. Rocket propellants deposited perchlorates, which damage the thyroid gland. Numerous landmines left behind in Afghan soils still cause the deaths of men, women and children today.

Cambodia civil war – In 1966 the Prince of Cambodia began to lose the faith of many for failure to come to grips with the deteriorating economic situation. In 1967 rebellion started in a wealthy province where many large landowners lives. Villagers began attacking the tax collection brigade, because taxes were invested in building large factories, causing land to be taken. This led to a bloody civil war. Before the conflict could be repressed 10,000 people had died.

The rebellion caused the up rise of the Khmer Rouge, a Maoist-extremist organization that wanted to introduce communism in the country. In 1975 the organization, led by Pol Pot, officially seized power in Cambodia. The Khmer considered farmers (proletarians) to be the working class, as did Mao in China earlier. Schools, hospitals and banks were closed, the country was isolated from all foreign influence, and people were moved to the countryside for forced labor. People were obligated to work up to 12 hours a day, growing three times as many crops, as was usually the case. Many people died there from exhaustion, illness and starvation, or where shot by the Khmer on what was known as ‘The Killing Fields’.

The Khmer Rouge regime resulted in deforestation, caused by extensive timber logging to finance war efforts, agricultural clearance, construction, logging concessions and collection of wood fuels. A total 35% of the Cambodian forest cover was lost under the Maoist regime. Deforestation resulted in severe floods, damaging rice crops and causing food shortages. In 1993, a ban on logging exports was introduced to prevent further flooding damage.

In 1979 the Khmer Rouge regime ended with an invasion by Vietnam, and the installation of a pro-Vietnamese puppet government. Subsequently, Thai and Chinese forces attempted to liberate the country from Vietnamese dominance. Many landmines were placed in the 1980’s, and are still present in the countryside. They deny agricultural use of the land where they are placed. In 1992 free elections were introduced, but the Khmer Rouge resumed fighting. Eventually, half of the Khmer soldiers left in 1996, and many officials were captured. Under the Khmer regime, a total of 1.7 million people died, and the Khmer was directly responsible for about 750,000 of those casualties.

Hiroshima & Nagasaki nuclear explosions – Atomic bombs are based on the principle of nuclear fission, which was discovered in Nazi Germany in 1938 by two radio chemists. During the process, atoms are split and energy is released in the form of heat. Controlled reactions are applied in nuclear power plants for production of electricity, whereas unchecked reactions occur during nuclear bombings. The invention in Germany alarmed people in the United States, because the Nazi’s in possession of atomics bombs would be much more dangerous than they already where. When America became involved in WWII, the development of atomic bombs started there in what was called the ‘Manhattan Project’. In July 1945 an atomic bomb was tested in the New Mexico desert. The tests were considered a success, and America was now in possession of one of the world’s deadliest weapons.

In 1945, at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, nuclear weapons were applied to kill for the first time in Japan. On August 6, a uranium bomb by the name of Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima, followed by a plutonium bomb by the name of Fat Man on Nagasaki on August 9. The reason Hiroshima was picked was that it was a major military centre. The bomb detonated at 8.15 p.m. over a Japanese Army parade field, where soldiers were already present. Nagasaki was picked because it was an industrial centre. The bomb, which was much larger than that used on Hiroshima, exploded at 11.02 a.m. at an industrial site. However, the hills on and the geographical location of the bombing site caused the eventual impact to be smaller than days earlier in Hiroshima.

The first impact of the atomic bombings was a blinding light, accompanied by a giant wave of heat. Dry flammable materials caught fire, and all men and animals within half a mile from the explosion sites died instantly. Many structures collapsed, in Nagasaki even the structures designed to survive earthquakes were blasted away. Many water lines broke. Fires could not be extinguished because of the water shortage, and six weeks after the blast the city still suffered from a lack of water. In Hiroshima a number of small fires combined with wind formed a firestorm, killing those who did not die before but were left immobile for some reason. Within days after the blasts, radiation sickness started rearing its ugly head, and many more people would die from it within the next 5 years.

The total estimated death toll:
In Hiroshima 100,000 were killed instantly, and between 100,000 and 200,000 died eventually.
In Nagasaki about 40,000 were killed instantly, and between 70,000 and 150,000 died eventually.

The events of August 6 and August 9 can be translated into environmental effects more literally. The blasts caused air pollution from dust particles and radioactive debris flying around, and from the fires burning everywhere. Many plants and animals were killed in the blast, or died moments to months later from radioactive precipitation. Radioactive sand clogged wells used for drinking water winning, thereby causing a drinking water problem that could not easily be solved. Surface water sources were polluted, particularly by radioactive waste. Agricultural production was damaged; dead stalks of rice could be found up to seven miles from ground zero. In Hiroshima the impact of the bombing was noticeable within a 10 km radius around the city, and in Nagasaki within a 1 km radius.

Iraq & Kuwait – The Gulf War was fought between Iraq, Kuwait and a number of western countries in 1991. Kuwait had been part of Iraq in the past, but was liberated by British imperialism, as the Iraqi government described it. In August 1990, Iraqi forces claimed that the country was illegally extracting oil from Iraqi territory, and attacked. The United Nations attempted to liberate Kuwait. Starting January 1991, Operation Desert Storm began, with the purpose of destroying Iraqi air force and anti-aircraft facilities, and command and control facilities. The battle was fought in Iraq, Kuwait and the Saudi-Arabian border region. Both aerial and ground artillery was applied. Late January, Iraqi aircraft were flown to Iran, and Iraqi forces began to flee.

The Gulf War was one of the most environmentally devastating wars ever fought. Iraq dumped approximately one million tons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, thereby causing the largest oil spill in history (see environmental disasters). Approximately 25,000 migratory birds were killed. The impact on marine life was not as severe as expected, because warm water sped up the natural breakdown of oil. Local prawn fisheries did experience problems after the war. Crude oil was also spilled into the desert, forming oil lakes covering 50 square kilometres. In due time the oil percolated into groundwater aquifers.

Fleeing Iraqi troops ignited Kuwaiti oil sources, releasing half a ton of air pollutants into the atmosphere. Environmental problems caused by the oil fires include smog formation and acid rain. Toxic fumes originating from the burning oil wells compromised human health, and threatened wildlife. A soot layer was deposited on the desert, covering plants, and thereby preventing them from breathing. Seawater was applied to extinguish the oil fires, resulting in increased salinity in areas close to oil wells. It took about nine months to extinguish the fires.

During the war, many dams and sewage water treatment plants were targeted and destroyed. A lack of possibilities for water treatment resulting from the attacks caused sewage to flow directly into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Additionally, pollutants seeped from bombed chemical plants into the rivers. Drinking water extracted from the river was polluted, resulting in widespread disease. For example, cases of typhoid fever have increased tenfold since 1991.

Movement of heavy machinery such as tanks through the desert damaged the brittle surface, causing soil erosion. Sand was uncovered that formed gradually moving sand dunes. These dunes may one day cause problems for Kuwait City. Tanks fired Depleted Uranium (DU) missiles, which can puncture heavy artillery structures. DU is a heavy metal that causes kidney damage and is suspected to be teratogenic and carcinogenic. Post-Gulf War reports state an increase in birth defects for children born to veterans. The impact of Depleted Uranium could not be thoroughly investigated after the Gulf War, because Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate. Its true properties were revealed after the Kosovo War in 2001 (description below). DU has now been identified as a neurotoxin, and birth defects and cancers are attributed to other chemical and nerve agents. However, it is stated that DU oxides deposited in the lungs of veterans have not been thoroughly researched yet. It was later found that this may cause kidney and lung infections for highly exposed persons.

After the Gulf War many veterans suffered from a condition now known as the Gulf War Syndrome. The causes of the illness are subject to widespread speculation. Examples of possible causes are exposure to DU (see above), chemical weapons (nerve gas and mustard gas), an anthrax vaccine given to 41% of US soldiers and 60-75% of UK soldiers, smoke from burning oil wells and parasites. Symptoms of the GWS included chronic fatigue, muscle problems, diarrhoea, migraine, memory loss, skin problems and shortness of breath. Many Gulf War veterans have died of illnesses such as brain cancer, now acknowledged as potentially connected to service during the war.

Iraq & the United States – The war in Iraq started by the United States in 2003 as part of the War on Terrorism causes poverty, resulting in environmental problems. Long-term environmental effects of the war remain unclear, but short-term problems have been identified for every environmental compartment. For example, some weapons are applied that may be extremely damaging to the environment, such as white phosphorus ammunition. People around the world protest the application of such armoury.

Water
Damage to sanitation structures by frequent bombing, and damage to sewage treatment systems by power blackouts cause pollution of the River Tigris. Two hundred blue plastic containers containing uranium were stolen from a nuclear power plant located south of Baghdad. The radioactive content of the barrels was dumped in rivers and the barrels were rinsed out. Poor people applied the containers as storage facility for water, oil and tomatoes, or sold them to others. Milk was transported to other regions in the barrels, making it almost impossible to relocate them.

Air
Oil trenches are burning, as was the case in the Gulf War of 1991, resulting in air pollution. In Northern Iraq, a sulphur plant burned for one month, contributing to air pollution. As fires continue burning, groundwater applied as a drinking water source may be polluted.

Soil
Military movements and weapon application result in land degradation. The destruction of military and industrial machinery releases heavy metals and other harmful substances.

Read more on restoring water systems in Iraq

Israel & Lebanon – In July 2006, Hezbollah initiated a rocket attack on Israeli borders. A ground patrol killed and captured Israeli soldiers. This resulted in open war between Israel and Lebanon.

The war caused environmental problems as Israelis bombed a power station south of Beirut. Damaged storage tanks leaked an estimated 20,000 tons of oil into the Mediterranean Sea. The oil spill spread rapidly, covering over 90 km of the coastline, killing fish and affecting the habitat of the endangered green sea turtle. A sludge layer covers Beaches across Lebanon, and the same problem may occur in Syria as the spill continues to spread. Part of the oil spill burned, causing widespread air pollution. Smog affects the health of people living in the city of Beirut. So far problems limiting the clean-up operation of oil spills have occurred, because of ongoing violence in the region.

Another major problem were forest fires in Northern Israel caused by Hezbollah bombings. A total of 9,000 acres of forest burned to the ground, and fires threaten tree reserves and bird sanctuaries.

Russia & Chechnya – In 1994 the First Chechen War of independence started, between Russian troops, Chechen guerrilla fighters and civilians. Chechnya has been a province of Russia for a very long time and now desires independence. The First War ended in 1996, but in 1999 Russia again attacked Chechnya for purposes of oil distribution.

The war between the country and its province continues today. It has devastating effects on the region of Chechnya. An estimated 30% of Chechen territory is contaminated, and 40% of the territory does not meet environmental standards for life. Major environmental problems include radioactive waste and radiation, oil leaks into the ground from bombarded plants and refineries, and pollution of soil and surface water. Russia has buried radioactive waste in Chechnya. Radiation at some sites is ten times its normal level. Radiation risks increase as Russia bombs the locations, particularly because after 1999 the severeness of weaponry increased. A major part of agricultural land is polluted to the extent that it can no longer meet food supplies. This was mainly caused by unprofessional mini-refineries of oil poachers in their backyards, not meeting official standards and causing over 50% of the product to be lost as waste. Groundwater pollution flows into the rivers Sunzha and Terek on a daily basis. On some locations the rivers are totally devoid of fish. Flora and fauna are destroyed by oil leaks and bombings.

Vietnam war – The Vietnam War started in 1945 and ended in 1975. It is now entitled a proxy war, fought during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union to prevent the necessity for the nations to fight each other directly. North Vietnam fought side by side with the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam with the United States, New Zealand and South Korea. It must be noted that the United States only started to be actively involved in the battle after 1963. Between 1965 and 1968 North Vietnam was bombed under Operation Rolling Thunder, in order to force the enemy to negotiate. Bombs destroyed over two million acres of land. North Vietnam forces began to strike back, and the Soviet Union delivered anti-aircraft missiles to North Vietnam. The ground war of US troops against the Viet Cong began. The United States would not retreat from Vietnam until 1973, and during those years extremely environmentally damaging weapons and war tactics were applied.

A massive herbicidal programme was carried out, in order to break the forest cover sheltering Viet Cong guerrillas, and deprive Vietnamese peasants of food. The spraying destroyed 14% of Vietnam’s forests, diminished agricultural yield, and made seeds unfit for replanting. If agricultural yield was not damaged by herbicides, it was often lost because military on the ground set fire to haystacks, and soaked land with aviation fuel en burned it. A total of 15,000 square kilometres of land were eventually destroyed. Livestock was often shot, to deprive peasant of their entire food supply. A total of 13,000 livestock were killed during the war.

The application of 72 million litres of chemical spray resulted in the death of many animals, and caused health effects with humans. One chemical that was applied between 1962 and 1971, called Agent Orange, was particularly harmful. Its main constituent is dioxin, which was present in soil, water and vegetation during and after the war. Dioxin is carcinogenic and teratogenic, and has resulted in spontaneous abortions, chloracne, skin and lung cancers, lower intelligence and emotional problems among children. Children fathered by men exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War often have congenital abnormalities. An estimated half a million children were born with dioxin-related abnormalities. Agent Orange continues to threaten the health of the Vietnamese today.

“Drafted to go to Vietnam
To fight communism in a foreign land.
To preserve democracy is my plight
Which is a God…Given…Right.
Greenery so thick with hidden enemies
Agent Orange is sprayed on the trees.
Covering me from head to toe
Irate my eyes, burns through my clothes.
Returned home when my tour was done
To be told “You have cancer, son”.
Agent Orange is to blame
Government caused your suffering and pain.
Fight for compensation is frustrating and slow
Brass cover-up, not wanting anyone to know.
From cancer many comrades have died
Medical Insurance have been denied.
Compensation I now receive
My health I hope to retrieve.
In Vietnam , I was spared my life
Just to be stabbed with an Agent Orange knife” Yvonne Legge, 2001

Today, agriculture in Vietnam continues to suffer problems from six million unexploded bombs still present. Several organisations are attempting to remove these bombs. Landmines left in Vietnam are not removed, because the Vietnamese government refuses to accept responsibility.

Europe

Kosovo war – The Kosovo war can be divided up in two separate parts: a conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, and a conflict between Kosovo and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The first conflict originated in 1996 from the statement of Slobodan Milocevic that Kosovo was to remain a part of Serbia, and from the resulting violent response of Albanian residents. When Serbian troops slaughtered 45 Albanians in the village of Racak in Kosovo in 1999, the NATO intervened. NATO launched a 4-month bombing campaign upon Serbia as a reply to the massacre at Racak.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) investigated the environmental impact of the Kosovo war. It was concluded that the war did not result in an environmental disaster affecting the entire Balkan region. Nevertheless, some environmental hot spots were identified, namely Belgrade, Pancevo, Kragujevac, Novi Sad and Bor.

Bombings carried out by the United States resulted in leakages in oil refineries and oil storage depots. Industrial sites containing other industries were also targeted. EDC (1,2-dichloroethane), PCBs en mercury escaped to the environment. Burning of Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM) resulted in the formation of dioxin, hydrochloric acid, carbon monoxide and PAHs, and oil burning released sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead and PAHs into the air. Heavy clouds of black smoke forming over burning industrial targets caused black rain to fall on the area around Pancevo. Some damage was done to National Parks in Serbia by bombings, and therefore to biodiversity. EDC, mercury and petroleum products (e.g. PCBs) polluted the Danube River. These are present in the sediments and may resurface in due time. EDC is toxic to both terrestrial and aquatic life. Mercury may be converted into methyl mercury, which is very toxic and bio accumulates. As a measure to prevent the consequences of bombing, a fertilizer plant in Pancevo released liquid ammonia into the Danube River. This caused fish kills up to 30 kilometres downstream.

In 1999 when NATO bombed Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, the resulting environmental damage was enormous. Petrochemical plants in suburbs started leaking all kinds of hazardous chemicals into air, water and soil. Factories producing ammonia and plastics released chlorine, hydrochloric acid, vinyl chloride and other chlorine substances, resulting in local air pollution and health problems. Water sources were polluted by oil leaking from refineries. The Danube River was polluted by oil more severely, but this time hydrochloric acid and mercury compounds also ended up there. These remained in the water for a considering period of time and consequently ended up in neighbouring countries Rumania and Bulgaria.

Clean drinking water supplies and waste treatment plants were damaged by NATO bombings. Many people fled their houses and were moved to refugee camps, where the number of people grew rapidly. A lack of clean drinking water and sanitation problems occurred.

Like in the Gulf War, Depleted Uranium (DU) was applied in the Kosovo War to puncture tanks and other artillery. After the war, the United Kingdom assisted in the removal of DU residues from the environment. Veterans complained of health effects. It was acknowledged by the UK and the US that dusts from DU can be dangerous if inhaled. Inhalation of dust most likely results in chemical poisoning.

World War I: Trench Warfare – In 1914, the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary resulted in the First World War, otherwise known as The Great War, or WWI. It started with Austria-Hungary invading Serbia, where the assassin came from, and Germany invading Belgium. The war was mostly in Europe, between the Allies and the Central Powers.

Allies: France, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania, Albania, Greece, Portugal, Finland, United States, Canada, Brazil, Armenia, Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Liberia, China, Japan, Thailand, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama
Central Powers: Austria-Hungary, Germany, Turkish Empire, and Bulgaria

The war was fought from trenches, dug from the North Sea to the border of Switzerland. In 1918 when the war was over, empires disintegrated into smaller countries, marking the division of Europe today. Over 9 million people had died, most of which perished from influenza after the outbreak of the Spanish Flu (see environmental disasters). The war did not directly cause the influenza outbreak, but it was amplified. Mass movement of troops and close quarters caused the Spanish Flu to spread quickly. Furthermore, stresses of war may have increased the susceptibility of soldiers to the disease.

In terms of environmental impact, World War I was most damaging, because of landscape changes caused by trench warfare. Digging trenches caused trampling of grassland, crushing of plants and animals, and churning of soil. Erosion resulted from forest logging to expand the network of trenches. Soil structures were altered severely, and if the war was never fought, in all likelihood the landscape would have looked very differently today.

Another damaging impact was the application of poison gas. Gases were spread throughout the trenches to kill soldiers of the opposite front. Examples of gases applied during WWI are tear gas (aerosols causing eye irritation), mustard gas (cell toxic gas causing blistering and bleeding), and carbonyl chloride (carcinogenic gas). The gases caused a total of 100,000 deaths, most caused by carbonyl chloride (phosgene). Battlefields were polluted, and most of the gas evaporates into the atmosphere. After the war, unexploded ammunition caused major problems in former battle areas. Environmental legislation prohibits detonation or dumping chemical weapons at sea, therefore the cleanup was and still remains a costly operation. In 1925, most WWI participants signed a treaty banning the application of gaseous chemical weapons. Chemical disarmament plants are planned in France and Belgium.

World War II: – World War II was a worldwide conflict, fought between the Allies (Britain, France and the United States as its core countries) and the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan as its core countries). It started with the German invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1939, and ended with the liberation of Western Europe by the allies in 1945.

Estimates for the total casualties of the war vary, but most suggest that some 60 million people died in the war, including about 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.

World War II: Hunger winter – In late 1944, the allied troops attempted to liberate Western Europe. As they reached The Netherlands, German resistance caused the liberation to be halted in Arnhem, as allied troops failed to occupy a bridge over the River Rhine. As the Dutch government in exile in Britain called for railway strikes, the Germans responded by putting embargo on food transport to the west. This resulted in what is now known as the Hunger Winter, causing an estimated 20,000-25,000 Dutch to starve to death. A number of factors caused the starvation: a harsh winter, fuel shortages, the ruin of agricultural land by bombings, floods, and the food transport embargo. Most people in the west lived off tulip bulbs and sugar beet. Official food rations were below 1000 cal per person per day. In May 1945 the Hunger Winter ended with the official liberation of the west of The Netherlands.

Source

The there is this.  So what do they do with weapons of mass destruction?  Coming to an Ocean Near YOU! The cost in dollars for the pollution caused by war is staggering. The cost to human life is horrendous. The price of war to the Environment is deadly.  This is of course a Global problem.  What you don’t see can hurt you.  If you don’t know it is only because they don’t want you too. They will never tell you the true unless we as a Global community force them to. This will affect our children for many years to come. War is probably one of the worst polluters on the planet.  Stopping the WAR MACHINE is in everyone’s best interest.

Here you find tons of weapons that were dumped into the oceans among other things.

Depleated Uranium Information

The US Dumps staggering amounts of Chemical weapons in the oceans.

THE DEADLINESS BELOW

The US  still air testing bombs in the US.
US Air Testing Bombs

This to is a form of pollution a very deadly one.

Injuries and Deaths From Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance in Afghanistan, 2002-2006

This is part of the war pollution as well.
Uranium Mining, Grand Canyon now at Risk, Dangers, Pollution, History

Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US

US Nuclear Weapons accidents – 1981 report

Added January 9 2009

Israel killing their own by Using Deadly Weapons of Mass Destuction again Gaza

Added November 18 2009

Doctors report “unprecedented” rise in deformities, cancers in Iraq (Photos)

Added January 9 2010

Cancer and Deformities – The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq

NATO bombings: Aftermath takes toll on Serbia, now left with DU Poisoning (Radiation and DU fallout maps included.)

Addiction is also part of war pollution. Because of the NATO and US invasion in Afghanistan, Heroin addiction has grown like wildfire around the world. Millions are now addicted to Heroin.

Afghanistan: Troops Guarding the Poppy Fields

Hush’ over Afghan mission must end

Switzerland’s explosive war effort threatens environmental disaster

Pentagon’s Role in Global Catastrophe: Add Climate Havoc to War Crimes and War Pollution

“Military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under U.S. law and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Added January 3 2010

Gaza sees more newborns of malformation

Added January 24 2010

Study finds: Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination

Added March 1 2010

2.5 million Iraqi women were widowed by Iraq war

Added March 17 2010

Another Gulf War Syndrome? Burn Pits

Added March 18 2010

More Toxic waste for Veterans to deal with.

Erroneous Reports Deny our Veterans Benefits

Added July 22 2013

Najaf: A toxic “health catastrophe” – US weapons blamed for Iraq’s birth defects

Global gamble: the fightback begins…

October 9 2008

The world’s central banks and governments appear to be running out of ammo in the face of a financial crisis that has been intensifying by the hour.

Even the unprecedented global interest-rate cut of half a percentage point yesterday had only the most limited effect, while the IMF called the credit crisis “the most dangerous shock in mature financial markets since the 1930s” and warned of a recession in the UK and elsewhere next year.

The government action was, as one analyst summed it up, “like throwing a pistol at the problem once you’ve emptied the chamber”.

The longest day in the global economy started at first light in Downing Street as Gordon Brown and the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, went public to announce up to £500bn of new capital to prop up Britain’s ailing banks. Within an hour of the opening of trading, the FTSE 100 index had fallen by 7 per cent,

Then, at lunchtime, news broke that the Federal Reserve, with the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and the central banks of China, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland had cut their interest rates by a half a percentage point. In Britain, that meant a cut in the base rate from 5 to 4.5 per cent – a day sooner than expected; and the first time such an emergency move has taken place since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

As a result, the US Dow Jones and other indices did rally. But not for long, as trading soon returned to its characteristically febrile, volatile state.

The Dow now stands some 33 per cent below its peak last year and the US Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, warned yesterday: “One thing we must recognise – even with the new Treasury authorities – is that some financial institutions will fail.”

Late last night, it emerged that the US Federal Reserve had agreed to provide the insurance giant American International Group (AIG) with a loan of up to $37.8bn (£21.8bn) on top of another for $85bn made last month.

By now, Americans have lost some $2trln (£1.15trln) from their retirement funds – they are “disappearing faster than you can count” in the words of Barack Obama. He echoed the words of Ronald Reagan’s election campaigns, when he asked the voters to ask themselves if they were better off than they were four years ago: “The rate things are going you should ask whether you’re better off than you were four weeks ago.”

The Bank of England’s move and the Treasury’s £500bn package have also failed to reassure in any sustained sense. The FTSE 100 index finished the day extending the huge losses already witnessed this week and this year; down another 5.8 per cent, completing the global round of losses that saw the Tokyo index down 9.4 per cent to a five-year low. Trading in Indonesia and Russia was so chaotic the exchanges were suspended. France’s Cac 40 index ended 6.3 per cent lower and Germany’s Dax lost 5.9 per cent.

In London, traders and investors were encouraged by the sheer scale of the package – £500bn, of which some £400bn can be counted as “new money”, but still fretted that it would not be enough. The Prime Minister told a Downing Street news conference: “Extraordinary times call for the bold and far-reaching solutions that the Treasury has announced.” He said the plan would be funded through increased borrowing but added: “All these are investments being made by the Government which will earn a proper return for the taxpayer.”

Speculation was mounting in Washington last night that Mr Brown and other leaders would join finance ministers for their G7 meeting at the IMF in Washington tomorrow for an impromptu global economic summit.

Some of the most beleaguered British banks reacted well to the news that up to £50bn will be available in the form of government loans and purchases of shares, the price and terms subject to negotiation with the Treasury. Halifax Bank of Scotland, the UK’s largest home lender and the subject of wave after wave of pressure, ended up 24.5 per cent, and Royal Bank of Scotland was 0.8 per cent higher. But shares in Lloyds TSB, due to buy HBOS, fell 7 per cent and Barclays was down 2.4 per cent – all this despite a further £100bn being available in short-term loans from the Bank of England’s Special Liquidity Scheme, on top of the existing outlay of £100bn and an extra £250bn in loan guarantees to encourage banks to lend to each other. Banks will also be made to subscribe to a Financial Services Authority agreement on executive pay.

Yesterday’s unparalleled peace-time extension of state ownership and control, and the interest-rate cut was given only a nervous welcome. Researchers at Capital Economics said: “The provision of massive amounts of liquidity and enhanced depositor protection are all very well, but they do not get to the root of the problem. We are dealing with a crisis of solvency that is not going to disappear until banks are adequately recapitalised. The UK Government has finally got the message, albeit late in the day. But this is not a domestic problem. It is a global problem. And until the financial sector in the world’s largest economy is recapitalised, there will be negative spill-over effects in equity markets around the world.”

Pressure is growing on the US Treasury to take more equity stakes or make more loans to the large American banks and even other, non-bank corporations.

Yet such measures may not be enough to prevent recession and further financial meltdown.

Yesterday was a day when the world woke up to the historic nature of the times, and the realisation that the downturn will almost certainly now turn into recession and may even turn into a slump of a kind not seen since the Great Depression. The real fear is that no bank rescue plan or internationally co-ordinated interest-rate cut or programme of tax reductions and public spending can do much now to stave off the inevitable unemployment and company failures as the credit crunch spreads. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook said “the major advanced economies are already in or close to recession” with “a cascading series of bankruptcies, forced mergers and public interventions” battering the West’s banks.

Perhaps the only bright news is the belief that inflation will soon peak and then decline rapidly. Few disagreed with yesterday’s Bank of England statement that: “Inflation is likely to rise further, to above 5 per cent in the next month or two. But inflation should then drop back, as the contribution from retail energy prices wanes and the margin of spare capacity in the economy increases.” On the back of such an upbeat assessment, many City economists see interest rates falling to as low as 2.5 per cent, their lowest since 1951. For those in secure, well-paid work and with good credit ratings, the credit crunch may not hurt too much; for everyone else, the pain will be intense.

The rescue plan at a glance

* Gordon Brown unveils a £500bn package of measures aimed at rescuing the banking system.

* The Bank of England cuts interest rates, from 5 to 4.5 per cent.

* The Government confirms that all UK savers with accounts in the closed Icelandic internet bank Icesave will get all their money back.

* The IMF predicts the UK economy will contract by 0.1 per cent next year. Unemployment will rise to 6 per cent.

* European stock markets close down as investors remain unconvinced that the co-ordinated rate cuts and bank rescues will solve the financial crisis.

Source

US Spending and mismanagement was a contibuter to this problem.

How Britain’s banks will never be the same again

By Sean Farrell

October 9 2008

The party’s over. Yesterday’s extraordinary set of Government measures to bolster the banking system will change how the sector operates, firmly closing the door on the era of excess in the financial industry.

After more than a year of telling the banks to put their own houses in order, the authorities were finally forced by tumbling share prices and seizure in the money markets to come to the industry’s rescue.

There will be the widely expected industry-wide recapitalisation, with the big seven banks plus Nationwide boosting their safety buffers by about £25bn this year.

But the most important elements were the doubling of the Bank of England’s Special Liquidity Scheme to £200bn and the acceptance of a wider range of collateral and – especially – the Government’s offer to guarantee up to £250bn of their debt. Lack of liquidity was the biggest concern for the banks and if increasing their capital ratios is the price they have to pay for the Government’s largesse then so be it.

The initial £25bn capital boost would take the big eight’s average tier one capital ratio from 9.1 to 10.3 per cent, Keefe Bruyette & Woods analysts calculate. All the big lenders have agreed to get their capital ratios up to the required level, but not necessarily by taking the Government’s money.

HSBC, Abbey Santander and Standard Chartered all said they were participating, but that they would either raise the money internally or in the market. Barclays is also understood to believe it can raise the money from existing investors by issuing preference shares on the same terms the Government would have demanded.

But whether or not they take the Government’s money – paying a reported coupon of 9-12 per cent – the banks will have to hold more capital and will face greater scrutiny of their business risk by the Financial Services Authority, which is throwing its weight around after being caught napping during the boom years.

The Government has not set a common ratio, and instead the FSA will negotiate with – or tell – individual banks about what levels of capital they should hold. They will also have to pay more for the Government’s guarantee of their debt if their business models are judged to be risky – another incentive to toe the line.

Is this the socialisation of the banking system? Not really. But the measures will add to existing pressures that will constrain banks’ businesses and reshape the sector.

Alex Potter, banking analyst at Collins Stewart, says the Government’s drive to improve capital ratios is correct and has echoes of banking regulation under the Bank of England when each bank was given guidance over its capital levels. That system gave way to a free-for-all in recent years where both the level and quality of banks’ capital buffers was allowed to slip as lenders lent more and more against their reserves, moved assets off balance sheet and replaced top-notch shareholder equity with new debt instruments.

“The Government is taking more interest in the banking system and is saying if you want access to these funds you will have to run less risky business models. I’m not sure we are going back to a more boring banking system, but we are going to a system that is not going to get any more interesting,” Mr Potter says.

Banks used to act simply as middle men between depositors with excess funds and borrowers who wanted to buy houses or invest in their businesses. This “maturity transformation” plays a vital role in the economy by using short-term funding for longer term purposes.

But to boost profitability in what is naturally a mature, slow-growth banking market, Britain’s lenders spent the last 10 years gearing up their balance sheets. This meant expanding lending massively and using the booming wholesale markets to offload assets and raise fresh funds. Northern Rock securitised mortgages and used short-term funding to the point where only a quarter of its loans were supported by old-fashioned deposits. Banks with big corporate and markets arms, like Royal Bank of Scotland, expanded in leveraged lending and parcelling up mortgages into structured products that could be sold to investors.

The Government wants to be seen to be bringing the banking industry into line after the years of excess. Shareholders and bosses will be penalised while ordinary taxpayers will be rewarded. The Government said it “will need to take into account dividend policies and executive compensation practices and will require a full commitment to support lending to small businesses and home buyers”.

Paul Niven, head of asset allocation at F&C, says the Government intervention was inevitable and welcome in the short term but that the longer-term implications for the sector are less rosy.

“Banks will have to operate within a much tighter framework. What kinds of loans are they going to have to make and to which businesses and on what criteria? Will it be profitable lending? What is the benefit to a lot of these banks that have investment banks which have generated large profits on the back of proprietary trading? Maybe it is not in the taxpayer’s interests to have them punting their balance sheets around.”

Simon Gleeson, a partner at the law firm Clifford Chance, argues that in the furore over the Government’s capitalisation and liquidity plans the market has missed the more important changes lurking in the banking reform Bill, published yesterday. Because retail depositors will take precedent over commercial lenders to a troubled bank, UK banks will have a far higher cost of borrowing in commercial markets.

“What we end up doing is breaking up the industry,” Mr Gleeson says. “You will have deposit takers which do little else but take deposits and make personal loans, and separate unregulated or lightly regulated entities which do what used to be called investment banking. The 1980s have been declared a mistake.”

The change could threaten the universal banking model in the UK, which is back in fashion in the US after JPMorgan bought Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch was forced to sell itself to Bank of America. The main British banks that will have to grapple with this problem will be Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland, which have built up large debt-focused investment banks on top of their core retail banking activities.

Experts warn the Government’s intervention could backfire if it does not secure a similar response from other major global regulators in a new international settlement for the financial system. Giorgio Questa, professor of Finance at Cass Business School, says: “The Government is trying to get political mileage out of using the taxpayer to make good for their mistakes in the last 10 years. They have been abysmal in the conduct of supervision and now they want to interfere again. If England tries to do its own regulation separately from global regulation, it can kiss goodbye to London as a global financial centre.”

Bosses’ pay to be curtailed

After years of cosying up to the City of London, the Labour Government is clamping down on pay in the banking sector. The Treasury said explicitly yesterday that the authorities would look at banks’ pay when deciding whether to support banks with capital injections.

Financial authorities in the US and the UK believe the high pay and bonus culture at banks contributed to the sector’s reckless practices by offering massive rewards for short-term profit. Bonuses in the millions for chief executives and traders alike helped turn the stolid industry of banking into a casino of proprietary trading, overstretched balance sheets and warehousing of dodgy securities.

Those practices created massive profits for banks in the boom years but many have now lost all the gains and the wider economy is paying the price. Yet though their companies may have gone to the wall or come close to oblivion, individual bankers have kept the bonuses that rewarded their excess.

Sir Fred Goodwin, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, earned £4.1m last year, including a bonus for the bank’s acquisition of ABN Amro, which the bank now admits it overpaid for. Andy Hornby, the boss of HBOS, earned £1.9m in 2007 but his bank was forced to sell itself to Lloyds TSB last month to avoid going bust.

Lloyds own chief executive, Eric Daniels, was paid £2.4m last year.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that the Financial Services Authority would draw up a code covering executive pay at the banks. The move will formalise measures announced earlier this year when the FSA said it would include pay schemes when assessing the riskiness of a bank’s business model.

Watchdogs already exercise control over pay in regulated industries such as the energy sector, Stella Brooks, director at Inbucon, the pay consultant, says. It is easier for those regulators because they control pricing and companies know that excessive pay can be punished with lower prices.

Banks are also more complicated because their chief executive’s pay is often vastly outstripped by earnings of top traders or merger advisers. The most high-profile disclosed bonus in the City is that of Bob Diamond, the president and investment banking chief at Barclays. Mr Diamond earned £250,000 in salary last year but was paid a £6.5m cash bonus, with share options taking his total remuneration to £18.5m.

Peter Hahn, a fellow at Cass Business School, argues that changing banks’ pay structure to ward against short-term excess is simple. Simply align chief executives’ pay more closely to risk and they will do the rest of the work to make sure they get a bonus at the end of the year.

The banks have insisted for years that they operate in international markets and that their chief executives are in constant danger of being poached by US banks for far higher rewards. But that argument is harder to make with banks in the US reporting massive losses and a big backlash against excessive pay and pay-offs for chief executives.

“If banks try to use that argument now, that is when the regulator turns round and says, ‘Fine’,” Ms Brooks says.

Critics of the Government have said that its claim to be clamping down on City pay is political posturing that will be conveniently forgotten because the country relies on financial services’ pay to drive the economy and provide tax revenue. The Centre for Economic and Business Research has forecast that City-type bonuses will fall to £5bn this year, from £8.5bn in 2007. That spells bad news for the UK’s finances, which CEBR calculates could have received about £3bn from last year’s bonus pool.

Source

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 11:11 am  Comments Off  
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Council millions at risk in Icelandic banks

By Joe Sinclair
October 9, 2008

Britain’s local authorities came under fire today after it emerged that millions of pounds of council taxpayers’ money invested in Icelandic banks is at risk.

Critics branded the investments an “absolute disgrace” and said those responsible should consider their positions.

One authority – Kent County Council – has £50 million deposited in Icelandic banks while more than 20 others are thought to have exposure running into millions of pounds.

Barnet Council in north London is thought to have in the region of £27 million deposited and Westminster Council said it had £17 million with Icelandic institutions.

Transport for London said it has a £40 million deposit with Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, which has been placed into administration.

Mark Wallace, campaign director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “People will be shocked that the councils had this money stashed away in the first place.

“Every year we hear that councils don’t have enough money and need to raise taxes but it seems they have had sufficient excess tax to salt tens of millions of pounds away.

“The fact that they have invested this money and seem to have lost it is even more shocking and is sadly yet another reminder of the poor financial management in local councils.

“In short, they should not have stashed this money in the first place and they simply weren’t equipped to try to be clever in the markets with it.”

He continued: “It’s an absolute disgrace. If the councils can’t get their money back, the people who took these excesses should seriously consider their positions as councillors.”

Edward Welsh, of the Local Government Association (LGA), insisted councils acted along “prudent lines” by spreading their money across several financial institutions at home and abroad. But he admitted the money was now “at risk”.

Mr Welsh told BBC Breakfast: “Councils are large employers, they have large wage bills to pay off, they collect large amounts of money in council tax.

“The reason why this money has been put in these banks is to try to reduce risk by putting their money in as many banks as possible .

“In a world where the global banking system is under such enormous pressure, it’s perhaps not surprising that a council has been caught out in this way.”

He said councils follow government guidance and use independent financial advice but the financial “world is changing as we speak”.

He said of the money: “We don’t know it’s lost, we know it’s at risk. That’s why we are speaking to the Treasury, that’s why we want to find out what we can do to try and get that money back.”

The LGA has urged Government to guarantee them against any losses.

Chancellor Alistair Darling announced yesterday he will protect the savings of private investors in Icelandic banks.

He said local authorities were “more of an informed investor”.

“But this situation is evolving, we are trying to sort the matter out with the Icelandic government,” he said

Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised legal action against the Icelandic authorities to recover the funds.

Conservatives said town halls faced a “massive financial shock”, threatening council tax hikes or cuts in local services.

The LGA insisted that frontline services should not be affected by any losses.

London public authorities are thought to face exposure of around £200 million, according the umbrella organisation London Councils.

At least eight borough councils in the capital are thought to be affected – Westminster (£17 million), Havering (£12.5 million), Sutton (£5.5 million), Barnet (£27 million), Brent (£15 million), Hillingdon, Haringey and Bromley.

London Councils’ chairman Merrick Cockell said: “It is essential that the Chancellor provides local authorities with a guarantee that their investments will be protected alongside personal investments.

“While nobody could have anticipated the collapse of what were once safe deposits, the Government must now act swiftly to safeguard these assets and protect London’s council taxpayers.”

Nick Chard, cabinet member for finance at Kent County Council, said the issue would have “no impact” on the council’s services – but warned smaller authorities might not be able to avoid cuts.

He said: “In Kent there will be no impact on council services but the concern I have is for some of the smaller authorities. It may well have some impact there.”

The council had “followed the protocols absolutely to the letter” in deciding, on professional advice, to invest in the banks, which were highly-rated until just a week ago, he said.

North East Lincolnshire Council has £2.5 million on deposit with Landsbanki out of a total of £90 million of investments, a spokeswoman said.

Alan Madin, executive director of corporate services, said: “The council and our treasury advisers are awaiting further information on the support for Landsbanki from the Icelandic government who are aware of the reputational risks should Iceland’s second largest bank default on foreign loans.

“It is clear that deposits due in the next few weeks are unlikely to be repaid on the due date but it is too soon to speculate on the size of any ultimate loss of capital.

“A delay in repayment is manageable without impact on council services and the council carries a level of self insurances that would help cushion a loss should any occur.”

Gateshead Council said it had money invested in a UK subsidiary of Landsbanki, but was unable to give an exact figure.

Derek Coates, strategic director of finance, said: “We are therefore seeking clarification from the administrators and our financial advisers about the situation.”

LGA deputy chief executive John Ransford said: “This is a very fast-moving situation. It is changing all the time, and we need to talk to Government to make sure we act sensibly in the interests of local taxpayers and making sure services are preserved.

“This is public money – it’s your money and my money – we need to treat this in exactly the same way as individual investors in these banks.”

Shadow local government secretary Eric Pickles said: “Councils have been actively encouraged, and indeed praised, by Whitehall to undertake these kinds of investment.

“Local government finances are now at risk and people will be concerned about their local services and council tax bills. The Government needs to stop dithering and clear up this uncertainty.”

Mr Pickles told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the sums involved could exceed £1 billion and some district councils had large proportions of their cash tied up in the banks.

Liberal Democrat local government spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy said: “The easiest way for the Government to reassure local taxpayers is to make clear how local authority funds will be protected.

“Ultimately this is council taxpayers’ money at risk and these are funds which are essential for the delivery of local services.”

North Lincolnshire Council said that it had £2 million invested with Landsbanki and and a further £3.5 million with its subsidiary, Heritable.

A spokeswoman said: “We invested the money in line with the council’s approved treasury policy and at a time when markets were much more stable.

“At this point in time we don’t know whether the money is totally lost, partly lost or secure and are awaiting confirmation. But it does not affect the council’s ability to pay staff and creditors.”

Hillingdon Council in west London said a total of £20 million was invested with Icelandic banks – £5 million with Landsbanki and £15 million with Heritable.

Westminster Council said its £17 million deposited in Icelandic institutions was a small percentage of total investment.

The council said it had £300 million-worth of investment at home and abroad with reserves of £70 million.

The council’s budget requirement is £224 million, with £48 million of that funded via council tax.

A spokesman said: “It’s very much business as usual at Westminster.

“Westminster Council has been awarded the highest accolades from the Audit Commission over recent years with regard to the standards of its front-line services, financial management and the value for money we offer our residents.”

Cornwall County Council said the £5 million invested with the Icelandic bank Landsbanki was from total investments of £360 million.

Dorset County Council has deposits in the form of temporary loans to Landsbanki and Heritable totalling £28.1 million.

The council made the fixed-term deposits months ago when the two banks had a high credit rating and repayment was due at various times over the next eight months.

The council said it would not cause “significant cash flow problems” in the short term but there would be budget implications if the cash is not recovered.

County council leader Angus Campbell said: “The council has followed Government guidelines and deposited its cash balances with a wide range of banks to ensure that any risk is minimised.

“We will continue to press the Government to protect our investment and take every possible step to recover this money.”

The county council manages the cash balances for itself and the Dorset County Pension Fund, which in total comprise £225 million.

Perth and Kinross Council said it has £1 million invested with Glitnir bank.

A spokeswoman said: “We have a short-term investment with Glitnir. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Source

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 10:56 am  Comments Off  
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NATO to consider talks with the Taliban?

An Afghan soldier holds his weapon at a check point in Arghandab district, recaptured from the Taliban militants, in Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday June 22, 2008. (AP / Musadeq Sadeq)An Afghan soldier holds his weapon at a check point in Arghandab district, recaptured from the Taliban militants, in Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday June 22, 2008. (AP / Musadeq Sadeq)

Oct. 8 2008

LONDON — When NATO defence ministers meet in Budapest on Thursday, they will face a worsening situation in Afghanistan and vexing questions about whether the war can be won.

Increasingly, military commanders and political leaders are asking: Is it time to talk to the Taliban?

With U.S. and NATO forces suffering their deadliest year so far in Afghanistan, a rising chorus of voices, including U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the incoming head of U.S. Central Command, have endorsed efforts to reach out to members of the Taliban considered willing to seek an accommodation with President Hamid Karzai’s government.

“That is one of the key long-term solutions in Afghanistan, just as it has been in Iraq,” Gates told reporters Monday. “Part of the solution is reconciliation with people who are willing to work with the Afghan government going forward.”

Gen. David Petraeus, who will become responsible for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan as head of U.S. Central Command on Oct. 31, agreed.

“I do think you have to talk to enemies,” Petraeus said Wednesday at an appearance at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, when asked about potential dialogue with the Taliban.

“You’ve got to set things up. You’ve got to know who you’re talking to. You’ve got to have your objectives straight,” he said. “But I mean, what we did do in Iraq ultimately was sit down with some of those that were shooting at us. What we tried to do was identify those who might be reconcilable.”

In terms of Afghanistan, he said: “The key there is making sure that all of that is done in complete co-ordination with complete support of the Afghan government — and with President Karzai.”

But entering negotiations with the Taliban raises difficult issues.

It is not clear whether there is a unified Taliban command structure that could engage in serious talks, and the group still embraces the hardline ideology that made them pariahs in the West until their ouster from power in 2001.

During its 1996-2001 rule, Afghan women and girls were barred from attending school or holding jobs, music and television were banned, men were compelled to wear beards, and artwork or statues deemed idolatrous or anti-Muslim were destroyed.

In an assault that provoked an international outcry, Taliban fighters blew up two giant statues of Buddha that had graced the ancient Silk Road town of Bamiyan for some 1,500 years.

Seven years after the U.S. invasion, what was originally considered a quick military success has turned into an increasingly violent counterinsurgency fight.

An unprecedented number of U.S. troops — about 32,000 — are in Afghanistan today, and the Pentagon plans to send several thousand more in the coming months. Gates is expected to press for additional troops and money for the fight in Afghanistan at this week’s NATO meeting.

At least 131 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan this year, surpassing the previous annual high of 111 in 2007. An additional 100 troops from other NATO countries have died in 2008.

Canada, which has some 2,500 troops in southern Kandahar province, has lost 23 soldiers so far this year.

NATO commander says peacemaking up to Afghan gov’t

Speaking in London on Monday, U.S. Gen. John Craddock, NATO’s supreme operational commander, said he is open to talks with the Taliban as long as any peacemaking bid is led by the Afghan government, not western forces.

“I have said over and over again this is not going to be won by military means,” Craddock said, adding that NATO’s goal is to create a safe environment so responsibility for security can be transferred to Afghan authorities.

The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, added his voice to the rising chorus, saying Tuesday it was “desirable” to have direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and offering to host any such meeting.

The problem, say some analysts, is identifying who within the Taliban can be a reliable negotiating partner.

“The Taliban are no longer a monolithic force; with whom do you negotiate if you want to talk with the Taliban?” asked Eric Rosenbach, executive director of the Center for International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Rather than high-level, high-profile negotiations, “the Afghan government should pursue talks with individual commanders and warlords” who have renounced violence, he said.

“This approach is much more likely to succeed, will further fracture the opposition, and will place the Afghan government in a position of strength for future negotiations.”

Charles Heyman, editor of Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, said there is widespread agreement that the original U.S. and British goal of building a liberal, western-style democracy in Afghanistan is not attainable because the Taliban never were routed or forced to disband.

“There is going to be an accommodation with the Taliban whether people like it or not,” he said. “Everyone knows this is going to be very, very difficult.”

He said the West’s long-term interest would be served by ensuring that al-Qaida doesn’t have a presence in Afghanistan. That would mean making sure any future Afghan leadership, even if it includes Taliban elements, understands that it will come under sustained attack if it allows al-Qaida to set up training camps there.

Ayesha Khan, an associate fellow at the Chatham House research group in London, said it is possible that clerics close to fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar could meet with Afghan government representatives.

“This desire to engage the Taliban started last year and has gained momentum,” she said. “The British government is involved in strategizing it. They are trying to separate the more moderate Taliban from the more extremist ones.”

Source

US military admits killing 33 civilians in Afghanistan air strike

October 9. 2008

The US military has admitted killing 33 civilians in an air strike on a village in Afghanistan in August, far more than it has previously acknowledged.

Following the attack on August 22 on Azizabad, in Heart province, the Afghan government claimed that 90 civilians, mainly women and children, were killed, a figure backed by the UN.

Until now the US has estimated that that no more than seven civilians died in the attack. It launched an inquiry after it emerged that film recorded on mobile phones showed rows of bodies of children and babies in a makeshift morgue.

The inquiry found that of the 33 dead civilians, eight were men, three women and 12 children. The 10 others were undetermined. It also claimed that 22 Taliban fighters were killed in the attack.

The inquiry dismissed the Afghan government’s estimate as over reliant on statements from villagers.

“Their reports lack independent evidence to support the allegations of higher numbers of civilian casualties,” the US report said. A spokesman for the Afghan government said it stood by its estimate.

The US expressed regret for the civilian losses but blamed the Taliban for having chosen to take up fighting positions near civilians.

“Unfortunately, and unknown to the US and Afghan forces, the (militants) chose fighting positions in close proximity to civilians,” the report said.

The acting commander of US forces in the Middle East, lieutenant general Martin Dempsey, said the attack was based on credible intelligence and was made in self defence.

“We are deeply saddened at the loss of innocent life in Azizabad. We go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties in Afghanistan in all our operations, but as we have seen all too often, this ruthless enemy routinely surround themselves with innocents,” he said.

US central command said its investigation was based on 28 interviews resulting in more than 20 hours of recorded testimony from Afghan government officials, Afghan village elders, officials from nongovernmental organisations, US and Afghan troops, 236 documents and 11 videos.

The issue of civilian deaths has outraged Afghans and strained relations with foreign forces in Afghanistan to help fight the insurgency. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has warned US and NATO for years that they must stop killing civilians on bombing runs against militants, saying the deaths undermine his government and the international mission.

Following the raid on Azizabad Nato’s commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, issued a revised tactics and procedures for air and ground assaults against insurgents.

Source

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 9:44 am  Comments Off  
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Bank of Canada among nations to cut interest rate

Oct. 8 2008

Major Canadian banks are not passing along the Bank of Canada’s half-point cut to the lending rate and instead are cutting their prime rates by just a quarter of a percentage point.

The move comes as a surprise, as the big banks normally always follow the central bank’s cuts, even if they say they can’t afford it.

Canada slashed its key lending rate to 2.5 per cent Wednesday, one of many central banks making the move around the world.

Toronto-Dominion Bank was the first institution in Canada to make a cut Wednesday, cutting their prime rate to 4.5 per cent. The other major Canadian banks followed throughout the day.

The snub of the federal government has not gone unnoticed.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has called for a news conference early Thursday morning, where it is believed he will take questions to address concerns about the economy.

Sherry Cooper, BMO Capital Markets chief economist, said that the big banks simply couldn’t afford the cut.

“We’re all hording cash and as soon as that happens there is very little that the central bank or government can do directly,” Cooper told CTV News.

She added it would take a year to 18 months before the effects of the rate cuts could be seen.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Switzerland, Sweden, China and Hong Kong also cut their lending rates Wednesday trying to bolster the wheezing global economy.

The unprecedented move came as markets around the world struggled to navigate the turbulent global economy, with many offering bailouts to try and keep their economies going.

Oliver Bernard, the International Monetary Fund’s Chief Economist, said that with the global moves to cut rates the “risk of a Great Depression is nearly nil.”

Markets close up

The Toronto stock market managed to close up 225.84 points Wednesday in its first positive showing in five days.

Canada’s S&P/TSX finished the day at 10,055.39 points. On Tuesday, the TSX had lost more than 400 points and on Monday, it lost 573 points, slipping below 10,000 for the first time in three years.

Despite gains made by the TSX on Wednesday, New York’s Dow Jones industrial index finished down 189.01 points to 9,258.1. The Nasdaq composite index lost 14.55 points to 1,740.33, and the S&P 500 index dropped 11.29 points to 984.94.

BNN’s Michael Kane said the rate cut move fits with efforts by many nations to shore up their banking institutions.

England, for example, partly nationalized its banks on Wednesday to help provide stability. The British government’s efforts cost $87.5 billion.

“The event that occurred here today with the co-ordinated interest rate cut should support what the Bank of England did by buying into its banks to stabilize that situation, and other governments are making similar moves as well,” Kane said.

However, he pointed out that inter-bank lending is still at a virtual standstill, and the interest rate for those loans has not yet been adjusted.

Adam Taylor of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Wednesday’s interest cut shows nations are now recognizing they need to combine forces to solve the problem.

“I think it’s recognition that the global economy needs all the countries in the global economy to come together, to work together when they need to, and this is a good move and one that should allay some of the fears that are out there,” he told CTV’s Canada AM.

Earlier Wednesday, Flaherty said the Bank of Canada has already taken steps to protect the economy, such as boosting the availability of funding to banks and widening the range of collateral it will accept — as well as the co-ordinated interest rate cut announced on Wednesday.

“This significant action will provide timely support for the Canadian economy,” Flaherty said.

“I welcome the strong international co-ordination that central banks have displayed throughout the financial crisis, most clearly expressed in the co-ordinated rate cut today. This same commitment to co-operation needs to be reflected by finance ministers.”

Early Wednesday, markets in Europe tumbled amid ongoing fears over credit markets.

And in Asia, the Japanese Nikkei had its worse day since the stock market crashed in 1987.

Source

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 9:20 am  Comments Off  
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