Really are Living on the Dark Side of the Moon
Barbara Sumner Burstyn
friend Ben emailed me from Vancouver: "Dear Barbara, What happened to you?
You've become cynical. Why not look at the positive things happening in our
world. Especially in the environment. There are so many good things happening
I decide to try to view things through Ben's eyes, to look for, as he calls it,
the green shoots of change in our world. The same day I opened the Independent
and the headline "Pentagon spends millions seeking environmentally
friendly bullets" jumped out at me.
course. All that toxic lead, just lying around in hotspots like Iraq, can't be
good for the environment. Perhaps Ben was right.
article quoted Bob DiMichele, spokesman for the US Army's environmental centre.
With lead bullets, he said without the slightest hint of irony, there is a cost
in terms of human safety. Mr DiMichele called it green ammunition, one that can
kill you or that you can shoot a target with and that's not an environmental
felt Ben's optimism wavering. It's the kind of news that makes you wonder if
you're inside some kind of altered reality. A place of profound cognitive
dissonance where a lead-free green bullet is described as frangible and
extolled as environmentally sound and the vice-president of the company who
gained the Pentagon's US$5 million ($9.6 million) contract can say, also
without irony, that if lead were not toxic he would not be having this
the disconnect goes deeper. On the first day of the war against Iraq the US was
reported to be dousing Iraqi lines with napalm. Washington denied it. They were
adamant that napalm had not been part of their arsenal since 1993. But napalm's
first cousin the MK-77 firebomb was - and five months later the colonel, who
made the first denial, said if he'd been asked about MK-77s, he would have
confirmed their use.
the difference between these two devices? According to the Pentagon, while the
new mixture still coats its victims bodies in fuel gel before igniting, causing
untreatable third degree burns, a la Vietnam, it's less harmful to the
additive has significantly less of an impact on the environment," said
Marine spokesman Colonel Michael Daily.
that makes sense, first a PC bullet and now a PC version of Agent Orange.
Especially in light of the ongoing disastrous effects of the chemical spraying
in Vietnam. A report in the Guardian by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy
exposes horrendous deformities three generations after the country was
defoliated. They reveal that more than 650,000 people today suffer from an
array of baffling chronic conditions while another 500,000 have already died.
sadly the PC approach to warmongering is not across the board. In the breakdown
of law and order since the invasion the of Iraq, the US has failed to prevent
things such as the expected biological disaster from the releasing of thousands
of flies known as chrysomya bezziana (screw worms) which were bred by Iraq's
Nuclear Authority. Or the inadvertent looting of radioactive yellow cake by
impoverished civilians who saw the storage barrels as ideal water and milk
containers. Or the looming medical disaster for the people of Iraq from
radioactive depleted-uranium (DU). Even a DU bullet fragment no bigger than a
pencil eraser produces levels 1000 times the normal level of radiation and over
75 tons of DU is reported to have been dropped on Iraq.
then, last week, Iraq was put up for sale. Defoliated now of its
infrastructure, its morale, its educated and competent people and all
impediments to the new regime of a perfect free-market economy, the US
announced that all 192 state companies will be sold to foreigners, income tax
will be introduced for the (local) workforce and the entire country opened to
unlimited foreign investment.
new owners everywhere, they'll no doubt set about renovating, stripping out
what's left of the old and decorating in their own style. And the previous
owners, the Iraqis who will become no more than serfs in their own country? No
one's even bothered to do an official body count yet so it seems unlikely the
negative realities of their new lives will make even a news item, let alone a
I'm sorry Ben, I tried, but the green shoots just didn't stand a chance. Not
against a world that describes bullets as frangible, that turns the human
suffering of napalm into a plus for the environment, that destroys and steals a
country under the guise of liberating it.
I was a teenager, I loved the Pink Floyd song “Us and Them.” It caused in me an
inexplicable ache. Today that ache is back. I'm cynical yes, but my cynicism is
no match for theirs. We really are living on the dark side of the moon.
Burstyn is a freelance writer who commutes between Montreal, Quebec and
The Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. She writes a weekly column for the New Zealand
Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz), and has
contributed to a wide range of media. She can be reached at: email@example.com. Visit her
website to read more of her work: http://www.sumnerburstyn.com/.