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War and its Aftermath... a Real Killer for TourismTim King Salem-News.com
Learning lessons in Iraq, Mexico, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Israel. Wars remove, often permanently, tourism and economic stimulation.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Continuing conflicts, religious quarrel, economic failure, political strife... people are so distracted today that they fail to consider the magnitude of this reality. War robs us of so much, including the ability to enjoy many of the places people once explored and enjoyed.
Today many are pits of seething devastation that no human in their right mind would visit. This is something the Occupy Wall Street supporters almost certainly consider when viewing the corporations that have brought this world into the age of uncertainty.
I would be hesitant to try to name all of the places that war and it residue has ruined and closed off on our otherwise amazing and thriving planet, due to the greedy ambitions of our corporate, militaristic world.
The reasons... greed, hate, dictatorships, colonization, fundamentalist religious ambitions, narco terrorists, military juntas; the list is long. It isn't distinguished, and it is shameful.
Not all, but the the majority of the damage has been a result of weaponry manufactured by what used to be the world's two largest superpowers, the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union.
It doesn't matter what excuse is used, there is no excuse for what has taken place, and what continues to take place.
There is no taking it back, as contaminated zones can easily remain that way for a thousand years or more, according to Dr. Phil Leveque, a Forensic Toxicologist and Professor of Pharmacology, who writes for Salem-News.com.
That 'thousand year' figure applies to domestic U.S. military bases too, as we have learned through our research of the heavily contaminated Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California.
It is a heavily contaminated EPA 'Superfund' site where chemicals like TCE (trichloroethylene), PCE (perchloroethylene) and benzene - a minor description of the myriad contaminants and health-related issues related to these bases, cause terrible suffering among Marine veterans.
The health problems also impact Marine families in base housing, civilian workers on the base; virtually anyone who drank the water or lived or worked at El Toro, was probably unable to avoid some level of exposure, and the Marine Corps has done nothing but drag its heels the whole time.
The damage from El Toro flows directly out to Laguna Beach, one of California's most popular destinations, and coastal North Carolina is also a popular location in regard to tourism.
Cancer, leukemia, male breast cancer (very unusual unless you're a Marine from Camp Lejuene), many dead, many dead children, many infant deaths at Camp Lejeune during the Vietnam War, it goes on and on. And the worst part of that is the the Marines are the smallest of the military groups in the U.S. and it increasingly looks like all of the Air Force and Navy bases are probably contaminated also. There just wasn't good environmental stewardship in the old days, and there is very little in the military today.
Americans sitting in their warm homes who vote for war and its carnage that is always, inevitably, cast upon civilians, either intentionally or by mistake, and the politicians who like seeing it inflicted on so-called enemies, should really consider the results of their casual support of war and military and political conflict.
Afghanistan has the distinction of being the having the largest number of unexploded land mines on its soil, thanks to the decade-long civil war and Russian invasion.
I watched soldiers with the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) on ordinance detail wearing the heavy armor protective plates, pulling these things out of the ground and sometimes working with the fear of God in their eyes.
Like depleted uranium, these are the results of war and devastation that keep on giving, long after the last shot is fired.
One person who knew a great deal about this is the late Princess Diana, who made the eradication of land mines a top priority.
She knew about their devastating impact on Afghan people, and you can not go far in Afghanistan without seeing the results of these land mines.
Prosthetic devices aren't easy to come by, so most of the victims are on crutches, or in wheelchairs because they lack even one leg.
These people lose far more than their limbs, they often lose their ability to work and earn a living to provide for their families which is crucial in third world environments.
Life is very difficult in the cold, high country of Afghanistan, which is tribal in nature and challenging even when wars aren't raging, and three decades of death and destruction have stripped Kabul in particular, of everything that people need to live.
The Russians left thousands of military vehicles behind which are now rotting on the landscape of Afghanistan.
On the ranges outside of the Kabul Military Training Center, the ANA's basic training or 'boot camp', are row after endless row of old derelict Soviet tanks, armored personnel carriers, smaller vehicles, trucks, etc.
It isn't just at KMTC either, it is everywhere you go here; at Bagram there are aircraft, others that are surrounded by land mine fields and parked exactly where they were when last flown, many many years ago.
You also see broken disabled Russian tanks along all of the major highways, sometimes with little kids playing on them, sometimes just sitting like behemoth testimonies to the stupidity of the violence and bloodshed, the fear that these machines once represented.
I'm not sure about the particular Soviet MiG-21 and SU fighters I have seen left behind from earlier years in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but I know that a MiG-25 Soviet jet fighter has serious radioactivity emanating from the nose cone that really lights up the Geiger counter.
These planes are deposited all over this country in places and also in Iraq, not apparently worthy of saving or disposing of.
It's the litter of occupation; the leftovers that were expensive weapons of war at one time, and of no value today.
As I reported from this place in 2007, this old junk military hardware is not easily recyclable, and this, in a place where the U.S. Army bans Afghan civilians from picking up the brass shell casings from the target ranges. I couldn't understand that one.
To an Afghan a shell casing is valuable brass that you can make something out of, and their combing the ground of this military garbage didn't hurt a fly, it was automatic recycling, but it its infinite wisdom that has little to do with public relations or environmental concern, the U.S. military banned this logical activity. - Soviet Tank Graveyard in Afghanistan A Haunting Reminder
It is obvious that Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter of which was a serious destination for hippie travelers in particular in the 1960's and 70's, have had their tourism industries all but shut down, and that is something we can lament in endless ways. They are, like Palestine and Israel and Iran, some of the world's most historic places in terms of archaeology and evolution.
They are extremely significant and so is Mexico, along with other Central American countries, but have you known anyone buying travel tickets for Mexico lately? Acapulco, once one of the world's prime tourist destinations, particularly during Spring Break, has watched the flow of young, vibrant turistas shrink to a trickle.
Schools there closed a month ago after drug traffickers demanded that teachers begin handing over half their salaries. Mexico has established military patrols to protect the educators but they are staying home and 100 schools in Acapulco remain closed.
The AP has a story just published today, with the sub head stating: "The bullet-riddled, bound bodies of seven men were dumped Sunday at a downtown bus stop in the Pacific resort town of Zihuatanejo, police said, as drug violence claimed at least 20 people this weekend along a stretch of coastal tourist destinations."
A few days ago Mexican police found what Acapulco is now famous for, not cliff diving, but human heads left in a sack. The AP reports that these were located outside of one of the city's primary schools.
In other cases, bodies of suspected drug traffickers have been dumped in tourist areas, and it seems clear that the cartels could care less about how badly they hurt Mexico, which is already crippled in terms of tourism since the advent of Bush's Homeland Security Dept. and landlocked Americans to the point that they can't leave their own country without first getting a passport.
Just to visit Mexico and Canada.
Perhaps the death of tourism is part of the goal of the military/industrial complex.
It certainly dumbs the population down when they can't travel and gain worldly experience. I feel so fortunate to have lived in the 1980's when world travel was still taking place frequently among young people. I didn't partake then, I wished I could as my friends buzzed around the world bringing back great stories and ambitions born from these travels.
I hope plenty of young people today still have the desire to get out and see this place we call earth.
No environmental damage committed in the name of liberty and American values rivals Vietnam when you consider the impacts of Agent Orange, the chemical compound made by Monsanto that was sprayed over the jungles to thin them out, so that Americans in aircraft with deadly bullets and explosive bombs could more easily slaughter their enemies on the ground.
The defoliant contacted many people on the ground, many were American and many were Vietnamese.
I am from the generation that followed Vietnam, but that hasn't spared me from having to watch two very close friends, Jim Cliver and Bill 'Red' Cheers (Love you guys), suffer the effects of Agent Orange and die miserable deaths from cancer.
There is a young man in Portland who is the son of one of my best friends, who was a Marine in Vietnam. Due to my friend's contact with Agent Orange, his son barely made it through his childhood, with very serious health issues. He is autistic but one of the greatest people in the world, but how could he have deserved his limitations?
Just as our writer, Chuck Palazzo in Da Nang, who also was a Marine in Vietnam, discussed in an article last year about the children of the contaminated, the children of those who were affected have severe problems.
Many are stillborn and many are born with massive, incredible deformities. It is a manifestation of America that few even can look at for an extended period of time.
This chemical ravages people and the company responsible for it, Monsanto, has never bore responsibility for what they did, because in the military/industrial complex, they are high on the food chain, the white shark of America's murky, corporate waters.
The Veterans Administration has also made matters extremely difficult for veterans seeking justice for this wartime poisoning. -
It is interesting that Vietnam, a former enemy of the United States, would be the only location referenced where tourism has seen a genuine resurgence.
The restrictions have lessened as years passed, and more and more of America's corporate spirit has popped up in Vietnam's landscape.
Still, the communist country continues to grow and thrive, and all they ever wanted was for the Japanese, French and Americans, to leave them alone.
Chuck Palazzo explained his his article, Victims of Victims:
"I realized, first hand, that what we did as an American Nation was wrong. The effects of Agent Orange immediately manifested themselves on the environment here so many years ago.
"Sprayed by the US on the jungles, on the rice fields, the river banks, on the people – spilled onto the runways, the tarmacs, the storage facilities. Leached into the water supply, the food supplies.
"The crops, the animals and the humans – the children, the adults, the elderly. Plants and trees withered quickly, just to die and never to return to normalcy again. The toll on the animals and sea life were next – it was slow, but gradual and deadly.
"The water supply was contaminated early on – but the lies from the US Government as well as from Monsanto and Dow were told with such convincing and straight-faced language, the people of this country, as well as I and my fellow veterans believed it.
"'Agent Orange is not harmful or deadly to human beings', said the liars.
"'In fact, you can drink it and nothing would happen to you', was stated time and time again by these greed filled and soul-less people. The lies continued over the years and remain so to this day. My own government refuses to accept responsibility. The chemical companies continue to lie. All of them continue to fill their bank accounts."
After seeing the damage in Baghdad while covering the war there in 2008, I knew that my country had taken a peaceful beautiful city and turned it into a nightmare.
Try to imagine Chicago or LA just getting firebombed and obliterated, with thousands of tons of deadly and in some cases, radioactive bombs, civilians dying in large numbers left and right; power outages, water shortages, more bombs, more fires, schools shut down, police killed, firefighters killed, parents killed, children, grandparents.
What can anyone really say about this that makes sense? An unscrupulous writer from the New York Times named Judith Miller took advantage of the rules of reportage to concoct a convincing story about Iraq having 'weapons of mass destruction' - a term of propagandists led by a U.S. President and his administration Hell bent on waging a war in Iraq.
Ever since that time, Iraq has been one big series of explosions. The Iraq war only was allowed to take place because the NY Times published fiction.
The Americans may have mercilessly bombed and wiped out the civilians of Baghdad and so many other places, and enforced curfews that blocked delivering mothers from reaching hospitals, but the resistance has been blowing Americans up ever since, along those Iraqis who side with occupational U.S. led forces, and don't think it has stopped.
When I was in Iraq U.S. casualties were low, in the summer of '08, but there were lots and lots of Iraqi soldiers dying and also Iraqi civilians.
Iraq is a place that has seen far too much death and Baghdad is one thing, the Americans did something even worse at Fallujah; a place I visited briefly, that today is seeing an unprecedented rate of birth defects since 2003.
Congenital malformations have increased to account for 15% of all births in Fallujah, Iraq. Congenital heart defects have the highest incidence, followed by neural tube defects. Similar birth defects were reported in other populations exposed to war contaminants.
The doctors say many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and fetal development. The devastating reproductive health effects of dioxins (the major contaminant of Agent Orange) on the Vietnamese people is well known. Data is also accumulating on increased rates of reproductive diseases in veterans of U.S. and U.K. wars during the last 20 years.
As environmental effectors, metals are potential good candidates to cause birth defects. Metals are also integral to modern ―augmented‖ and ―targeted‖ weapons. Metals, which are toxicants at relatively low concentrations, are highly persistent in the environment and in the body of exposed individuals, where they accumulate.
Metals can disrupt events associated with embryo/fetal development and can act synergistically with other metals and/or with other environmental toxicants to induce phenotypic changes at the level of the cell, and to disrupt tissue homeostasis.
Many metals are weak mutagens but strong carcinogens, which implies that metals act more commonly at the epigenetic level leading to changes that are inherited by the progeny of cells. -
Attesting to the complications that accompany the rate of congenital heart defects in Iraq's children, was a U.S. Navy doctor I had the opportunity to interview named Lt. Commander Christina Williams, was was attached to the Marine Corps Air Station at al Asad in Anbar province.
She explained, as did the relatives of the Iraqi children I interviewed for my report, that there was no infrastructure in Iraq capable of providing the somewhat routine procedures that could save these kids. Routine if you're a heart surgeon in Israel.
And it was both Israel and Jordan that Christina Williams persuaded to help these kids, and while I don't know their outcomes, I suspect they very likely are still around due to the efforts of this incredible naval officer in a Marine uniform.
If the majority of people in the military and politics (and healthcare for that matter) approached problems the way she does, the world would be a far better place, and there
Dr. Williams, who lives in Oklahoma, said in regard to her role in assisting the kids, "I feel like I was in the right place at the right time. I think there is no mistake and that there is a higher power at work here, it's not just coincidence."
She shared one of her favorite stories that day in Iraq.
"There was this little boy who walking along the seashore and he was pelting these little starfish into the sea, and this man said: 'Don't you know there are thousands of starfish on this beach? You can't possibly make a difference?' And the boy just picked up another starfish and threw it in the sea and said: 'I just made a difference for that one.'" -
Even France still has farmers blowing up in farm fields, particularly around Verdun. When I visited this region of the old Western Front in 2000, my sons at home watched a History Channel documentary that explained how at that time, more people were dying in the Verdun area from unexploded artillery munitions than any other part of the world. It isn't the type of record any place wants.
And there are crazy things in the forests of France on the old battlefields of WWI; like boot-piercing spiked devices that Germans placed on the leaf-covered ground to slow the advance of American soldiers at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon.
My friend Jean Paul de Vries, of Romagne, has a privately-owned war museum with thousands of relics collected from the battlefields of every imaginable description. He can show you remnants of war recently collected from these places, that tell a story of pure tragedy from a war of attrition that dramatically reduced the populations of Europe.
The idea of farmers dying today while plowing their fields, being blown to shreds in some cases, is a reprehensible result of generals with cigars and red wine, who knew the results of their decisions were devastating humanity.
All of this, and it only took Europe 21 years to again be embroiled in a devastating world-level conflict that would claim even more lives than WWI and leave more debris, and lead to the deployment of not one, but two deadly radioactive atomic bombs on the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Israel and Palestine
One glaring human example of the lasting atrocities of war that land on the human side of the equation, can be found among Israel's military, where sperm counts in male soldiers has fallen dramatically due to exposure to depleted uranium (DU) weapons and trust me, we're not even scratching the surface of what we humans have done with our overbearing military hardware.
A study by Dr. Ronit Haimov-Kokhman released in November, showed a 40-percent decline in the concentration of sperm cells in Israeli sperm donors from 2004 to 2008, compared to samples taken between 1995 and 1999.
At the time of the report, sperm banks in Israel were turning away as many as two-thirds of potential donors, due to the low-quality sperm. In the past, around one-third of the potential donors were turned away.
Our photographer Dexter Phoenix covered Israel's 2006 assault on Lebanon, documenting the ensuing civilian casualties and Lebanese neighborhoods that were flattened by ambitious Israeli tank crews using DU rounds.
It is an unfortunate reality and not one in any way restricted to the Israeli Defence Forces. Almost without question, the second most affected military forces would be those of the United States.
The long-planned Israeli attack on Gaza known auspiciously as 'Operation Cast Lead that began in late 2008 with a devastating attack on a Palestinian police academy graduation ceremony, used not just DU but white phosphorous, which is absolutely illegal under international law, to ignite fires in Gaza's homes.
The use of illegal weapons does not just impact the victims of Israel, but the Israelis themselves, as we learn from their soldier's vastly reduced sperm motility.
Their warring ways will literally spell an end to the Jewish population, if they continue. The attack on Gaza was one of the most damaging acts any government in modern history has committed. More than 400 children perished along with nearly 1400 residents, mostly civilians.
As in Sri Lanka Genocide, there were instances of people being directed into particular areas for safety, and then being bombed in the same areas. Israel also specifically targeted dozens of Gaza schools including the elementary school on the United Nations compound which was in session, as the initial attack came in the middle of the day. Footage and photos of the attack show human beings torn to pieces, and ambulance drivers being shot by Israeli snipers.
One family that our Reporter Ken O'Keefe spent a great deal of time covering and aiding, the Samouni family, was Gaza's hardest hit. Israeli soldiers killed several of their children, and refused to allow them to remove the body of their four-year old child from the street where he had been shot. The soldiers used his body for target practice. This type of inhumanity has a lasting impact.
Everything to do with Israel's use of DU rounds impacts the Palestinians more than anyone else, though no studies exist to calculate the severity of the problem among that population which continues to see a healthy birth rate.
The horrible images of the Genocide committed against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka two years ago will haunt any and all tourism promotion efforts for this island nation. People's lives were literally ransacked and there appear to have been no quarter even for children; everyone died in certain areas. As shown in the shocking documentary 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' produced by Channel 4 in London, the Tamil people would be directed to an areas designated as a 'safe-zone' and then bombed without mercy. The civilians in this war were not collateral damage, they were targeted.
I have been following the developments in this story very closely and the reactions of Sri Lanka have been gravely disappointing, as the government led by President Majinda Rajapaksa and his brothers has until recent weeks, exclusively denied the war crime charges. Very serious actions are being taken by other governments, like Canada, and the war crime allegations that Sri Lanka initially dismissed are beginning to stick like glue. There is just too much evidence, too many grisly reminders and there should always be.
The damage to Sri Lanka itself does not compare to the damage inflicted on the Tamil people by mass slaughter, and while the planet will heal, the scars on the minds and bodies of the survivors, particularly the children, will likely never improve. Still, the damage to Lanka's environment is serious and will have lasting impacts.
Because the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked airplanes that were sent to attack the safe zones, the pilots counter-attacked, using banned phosphorus and cluster bombs against the LTTE.
In the final stages of the war, thinking they were attacking the LTTE around Puthumathalan, the Army used cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs against innocent civilians. There were many casualties on account of this. Around 400 – 600 died daily, and around 1,000 were injured. Did the Sri Lankan Army use cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs against civilians?
Sri Lanka's Army cut the heart out of this country's conscience and it all happened in the name of religious bigotry, as the Sinhalese Buddhist government has reduced and eroded the rights of the Tamil population which is mostly Hindu, partly Christian, since achieving independence from Great Britain in 1948. If in fact the LTTE actually forced people to be 'human shields' then they too are only part of the problem, however I believe those charges are greatly exaggerated.
I hope that Sri Lanka continues to be accountable for the terrible Genocide that claimed between 40,000 and 100,000 or more people. Maybe if it is their tourism industry can make a comeback.
This notion of killing tourism should be a discussion all over the world, it offers the missing perspective of what is so tragically wrong with war. The planet can not be replaced, it simply can't, and in a world where conservative strategists try to convince us that there are far too many people on this earth to adequately take care of, which is nothing but grade A bullshit in the opinion of any humanitarian, we have to raise our fists and declare that there will be no more wars of the nature we have been seeing, and instead launch a war against war... the last war. Even if those strategists were right, it is all the more reason we don't want to render regions uninhabitable, it starts sounding like a scene from a Planet of the Apes movie. End violence, end war, and that includes ending the drug war.
Consider Africa, Somalia in particular, if you want the ultimate example of an otherwise awesome place that is so dangerous that almost any visit could be fatal. It all comes down to one thing, and that is imbalance. The power is in the hands of those willing to wage war almost as a business principle, and not in the hands of the peacemakers.
Perhaps U.S. President Barack Obama had a chance of turning it around, but he is the president of corporate interests and he didn't even take down the stupidest of Bush's long list of restrictions on our liberties, and he didn't do enough to end Iraq, or anything to end the seemingly (and historically) unwinnable war in Afghanistan.
I can go on, the matter is deplorable and wrong to the hilt and I can not believe we let it spiral so far out of control.
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