The US occupation military forces in Iraq recently detained Dr. Huda Sali Mahdi Ammash, a Iraqi scientist. South End Press, the publishers of Dr. Huda Ammash, in a press release has suggested that “there may be political motivation for her detention.” Dr. Ammash published a peer-reviewed paper, “Toxic Pollution, the Gulf War, and Sanctions,” in an anthology Iraq Under Siege (South End Press, undated edition, 2002), edited by Anthony Arnove. Co-publisher of the anthology, Alexander Dwinell said: “We are outraged at the U.S.’s extra-legal detention of Dr. Ammash and its plans to interrogate her. We demand that Dr. Ammash be released immediately.” He added: “The US government is trying to silence Dr. Ammash’s outspoken criticism of the US role in causing cancers and other illnesses in Iraq through its own use of biologically hazardous weapons such as radioactive deleted uranium.”
In her paper, “Toxic Pollution, the Gulf War, and Sanctions,” Dr Ammash examines the effects of United States’ use of depleted uranium during the first Persian Gulf War, the spread of electro-magnetic fields in the environment, chemical pollution, and massive destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure on public health. Her assessment of the overall effect is that US actions are largely responsible for the deterioration of public health in Iraq. She writes: “Iraqi death rates have increased significantly, with cancer representing a significant cause of morality, especially in the south and among children.” This view is shared by other scientists and experts.
According to biographical details that are available from various sources, Professor Ammash was born on 1953 in Baghdad. He obtained her B.Sc., in Biology from University of Baghdad in 1975 and her M.S., in Microbiology from Texas University, Denton, Texas. In 1983 she obtained her Ph.D., in Microbiology from University of Missouri at Columbia, Missouri, USA. She elected a Fellow of Islamic Academy of Science (IAS) in 2001. She has had a distinguished academic and professional career in Iraq. She served as Dean of College of Education for Women, University of Baghdad and as Dean of College of Science (1995-1997). Her publications include, “Impact of Gulf War Pollution in the Spread of Infection Diseases in Iraq” (Soli Al-Mondo, Rome 1999) and “Electronic, Chemical, and Mircobial Pollution Resulting from War and Embargo, and its Impacts on the Environment and Health,” (Journal of the [Iraqi] Academy of Science, 1997).
The US occupation forces had listed Dr. Ammash among the 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials. Dr. Ammash is the daughter of Saleh Mahdi Ammash, a former vice-president, defense minister and member of the Baath party’s leadership. He was reportedly executed on Saddam Hussein order in 1983.
The US authorities have not given any reason for Dr. Ammash’s detention. She was shown on Iraqi television on March 27th sitting next at the same table as Saddam Hussein. That cannot be sufficient ground for detention. Attending a meeting with a dictator of a country under attack by a foreign superpower is not a crime. Donald Rumsfeld had no qualms about attending a meeting with Saddam Hussein at the height of the regime’s brutality.
The US has been unable to find any concrete evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The arrests of Iraqi scientists and technicians may be an attempt to (a) concoct some circumstance evidence of an Iraqi program for developing weapons of mass destruction, (b) mute criticism of United States’ occupation by Iraqi scholars and scientists, and (c) stifle Iraqi’s technological and scientific potential for years to come. Since the US has offered no reasons of Dr. Ammash’s detention, one can only speculate about its reasons for her detention.
However, occupation authorities have an obligation under international law to follow the rules and procedures of Geneva Convention. The US has shown a consistent pattern of disregarding international laws and norms unless it suits its purpose. Hence, it is up to the people of the United States to compel the US occupation authorities to at least abide by minimum acceptable standards of civilized nations. The progressive community should demand the unconditional release of Dr. Huda Ammash as part of its campaign to end the illegitimate US occupation of Iraq.