war in iraq


"Collateral Damage" new report on consequences of war on Iraq

Physicians' Report forecasts large death toll, long-term health, environment Damage

January 31, 2003

Washington -- A US-led attack on Iraq could kill between 48,000 and 260,000 civilians and combatants in just the first three months of conflict, according to a study by medical and public health experts. Post-war health effects could take an additional 200,000 lives.

The report, Collateral Damage: The Health and Environmental Costs of War on Iraq, was issued by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, and produced by Medact, the organization's United Kingdom affiliate. It is being released today by IPPNW member groups in more than a dozen nations, including Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in the US.

Amy Sisley, MD, a Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical System, explained the report's findings, "In an era where images of combat are beamed from aircraft, it is too easy to forget about the direct, physical consequences of war. Bombs deafen, blind and blow apart people, riddling them with shrapnel, glass and debris. They collapse buildings on victims and destroy infrastructure vital to finding and treating the wounded. Unexploded ordinance left behind kills and maims, and battlefield toxins can contaminate the environment for decades."

Collateral Damage is based on projections from the 1990-91 Gulf War, which led to nearly 200,000 casualties. It analyzes current US combat scenarios and concludes that a new conflict will be much more intense and destructive than the first Gulf War. If nuclear weapons were used, the death toll would rise into the millions.

PSR Executive Director Robert K. Musil, PhD, MPH, summarized the public health impacts identified in the report. "Even so-called 'high tech' war wrecks a society's human service systems and physical infrastructure by disrupting delivery of food, water, medicine and energy supplies. The loss of these necessities of life leads to infection, disease, malnutrition, and starvation on a massive scale."

The aftermath of a US-led attack could include civil war, famine, epidemics, millions of refugees and economic collapse, according to the report. Dr. Victor W. Sidel, a Professor of Social Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City who advised the report authors, added, "As documented in Collateral Damage, a 'pre-emptive' attack would exacerbate the disastrous levels of death, disease, disability and despair already present in Iraq. At the same time, it would weaken the United Nations, weaken international law, weaken efforts to reduce terrorism and weaken the United States itself." Dr. Sidel is Past President of the American Public Health Association and held similar positions at IPPNW and PSR.

IPPNW Executive Director Michael Christ offered the group's recommendations to "prevent a human catastrophe":

  1. First Do No Harm -- the need to ensure that Iraq is disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction does not warrant an attack which will result in massive civilian and military casualties.
  2. Prevent Further Suffering -- a plan must be in place to ensure the supply of food, water and basic services such as health care to the people of Iraq who, more than anyone else, have suffered under Saddam Hussein.
  3. Prohibit Pre-emptive Military Action -- the US should not launch a pre-emptive, unilateral war against Iraq, nor should the UN Security Council condone pre-emptive military action.
  4. Support Effective Inspections -- provide sufficient resources and backing to UN teams to ensure that the Iraqi regime is disarmed.

Christ concluded, "Neither Iraq's suspected weapons programs nor Saddam Hussein's tyranny provide moral or military justification for risking the lives of massive numbers of innocent civilians. We urge all nations to spare the innocent in favor of full and effective inspections."

Source: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War


war in iraq