Who Killed
Cock Robin?
A piece for a cappella choir [1979]

music and text by Martin Wesley-Smith

additional text by Peter Wesley-Smith

for more information, score etc, e-mail The Australian Music Centre

available on CD (The Song Company) from Tall Poppies Records (click here)

"this skilful and memorable piece"

internal links:
program note the text original song press clippings performances
external links:
about Rachel Carson
and "The Silent Spring"


program note


When I first read, as a teenager, Rachel Carson's book The Silent Spring, I was naive enough to believe that the world would heed her urgent warnings and act immediately to stop poisoning our environment and to implement effective conservation policies. But when, twenty years later, I started researching an idea for a piece based on an English folk-song I'd enjoyed as a child, I was shocked to find that the situation had deteriorated far beyond what Ms Carson had described. It became clear that the sparrow's bow and arrow was, in reality, a chemical that an uncle of mine, Brian Wesley-Smith, had campaigned against for years: DDT.

A prominent Australian composer wrote to me a few years ago to say that hearing Who Killed Cock Robin? gave him the courage to develop his own personality in his music and not to follow the currently-acceptable path. It was a break-through for me, too. Ridiculous though it may seem now, back then (1979) one simply didn't write tunes (not if one was to be considered a "serious" composer). But the basic idea of the piece, which I'd had about seven years earlier, demanded tunes for its realisation. I thought long and hard before taking the bull by the horns, prepared, all aquiver, to let the arrows fall where they may ...

The song I'm a Caterpillar of Society (Not a Social Butterfly) had been written earlier for a theatre piece (never completed) for bass clarinettist John Anderson. With a new third verse it was perfect for Who Killed Cock Robin? Later, it was borrowed for the full-length choral nonsense piece Boojum!.

Who Killed Cock Robin? was commissioned, and first performed, by what was then the Sydney University Chamber Choir (conductor: Nicholas Routley) with financial assistance from the Australia Council (the Federal Government's arts funding and advisory body).

Martin Wesley-Smith, Oct 1997

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

top the text bottom

(c) 1979
Martin Wesley-Smith, Peter Wesley-Smith

Cock Robin is dead.
He died early this morning after suffering from
loss of balance, tremors, and convulsions.
An enquiry is being held into the cause of death ...

Cock Robin is dead!
Cock Robin is dead!
Who killed Cock Robin?

Was it you? Not I, said the Fly

Was it you? Not I, said the Fish
Nor me, said the Caterpillar

Was it you? Not I, said the Owl,
and the Bull,
and the Wren,
and the Thrush,
and the Lark,
and the Dove,
and the Rook,
and the Sparrow

Was it you?

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin

Cock Robin is dead!
Cock Robin is dead!

Who saw him die?

I, said the Fly, with my little eye
I saw him die

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin

Flora the Fly

My name is Flora the Fly
Commonly known as Flo Fly the Blow Fly

It's nice to be a little fly
Zooming up into the sky
Or buzzing down into a rubbish bin
Then dragging filthy feet through someone's margarin

Ev'ry opportunity I seizes
To spread my wings and scatter vile diseases
It therefore really comes as no surprise
That people try to kill us little flies

(Flee Flo Fly away
Here comes a man with a can of spray)

We long ago developed a resistance
To pesticides that threatened our existence
Now we can digest them easily
I have them for my morning DDT

People often sterilise
Lots of harmless male flies
In the hope that with their filthy X-rays
They'll put us off our normal happy sex-ways

(Oh Flora, I jest adore ya
You are so divine - oh Flora, please be mine
You turn me on, baby, like no other fly does
Oh Flora, sweetie-pie, you give me such a buzz
Oh Flo Fly: blow fly sublime)

It's nice to be a little fly
Zooming up into the sky
There's really only one thing that I fear:


The swat!

Who'll do the analysis?

I, said the Fish, that is my wish
I'll do the analysis

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin

Freddie the Fish
[lyric by Peter Wesley-Smith]

Said Freddie the Fish
Were I granted a wish
I would make an official decree:
"I don't swim in your closet
So please don't deposit
Your untreated sew'age on me"

Cock Robin is dead!
Cock Robin is dead!

Who'll write the report?

I, said the Cat -
- erpillar, I'll do that
I'll write the report

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin

I'm a Caterpillar of Society (Not a Social Butterfly)
[Note: another version of this song appears in Boojum!]

I'm a Caterpillar of Society
(Not a Social Butterfly)
I can run, jump, fight, wheel a barrow, ride a bike
Let me explain the reason why:
I have a very healthy appetite
And I eat up all my greens
Such as cabbage, lettuce, peas and celery
Cucumbers and beans
Here I go:
Munch, crunch (ah, delicious!)
Chomp chomp (and so nutritious!)
Munch crunch
Here's a bean about to be a has-been
In you go!
You see, it's succulently juicy (ah, magnifico!)
See the dribble - it only takes a nibble
I'm red, black and yellow
A fine-looking fellow
All because I eat my greens

I'm a Caterpillar of Variety
I can juggle and sing and joke
As well as run, jump, fight, wheel a barrow, ride a bike
I am a clever kind of bloke
As a dancer I am dynamite
When I don my dancing shoes
I can disco, tango, jive and rock'n'roll
Just read my reviews
Here I go:
It's a beautiful waltz (on tippy-toe!)
It's beautiful schmaltz (what a show!)
I can do somersaults (magnifico!)
I can tap, I'm a clever kind of chap!
I'm red, black and yellow
A fine-looking fellow
All because I eat my greens

I'm a Caterpillar of Anxiety
For I am hunted like a thief
Though I can run, jump, fight, wheel a barrow, ride a bike
I have to hide beneath a leaf
It's because I'm so delectable
All the birds want me to eat
I have to watch out - SLURP!!

In fact he was a Caterpillar of Adversity
He was getting iller ev'ry day
No longer could he run, jump, fight, wheel a barrow, ride a bike
For him the skies were always grey
It was because of all the pesticides
That were sprayed on all his greens
Such as DDE, DDA, DDD, and DDT ...

Post-mortem report:

Petroica phoenicia, male, commonly known as Cock Robin.
Cause of death: insecticidal poisoning.
Analysis of body tissues revealed large quantities of
1, 1, 1-trichloro-2, 2-di (four chlorophenyl) ethane,
commonly known as DDT.
Also present were measurable amounts of:

maleic hydrazide
benzene hexachloride

and CIPC
RIP !!

All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin
When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin


internal links:
program note the text original song clippings

top press clippings bottom

Greenfield, American Record Guide, February 1997:

"Things get better the rest of the way. Martin Wesley-Smith's Who Killed Cock Robin? is a clever, often hilarious little cantata that parades the murder suspects in diverse musical styles; a goofy waltz, 50s rock, some barbershop, and a nifty soft-shoe danced by a falsely accused caterpillar. Turns out it was pesticides that got the little birdy, and the fearsome names of those chemical substances are belted out in nasty dissonances as the piece draws to a close."

Andrew Ford, 24 Hours (Australia), April 1996:

"... Wesley-Smith's approach works wonderfully well. The original Victorian parlour ballad is treated to a variety of styles, ranging from a chromatically perverse musical-hall novelty song with an injection of 1950s doo-wop, to barbershop, to a climactic, slow-motion pile-up of Ligetian dissonances during the final recital of the list of insecticides that ultimately killed 'poor Cock Robin'. It's a small masterpiece."

click here for full review (below)

David Vance, The Sydney Morning Herald, Mon June 29 1981:

"Martin Wesley-Smith's amusing polemic on the dangers of pesticides - Who Killed Cock Robin? - proved a clever piece of music theatre and black comedy: its catalogue of nasty chemicals in the woodshed is a particularly powerful piece of writing after the vampy torch song of a leggy caterpillar."

David Vance, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 27 1981:

"... a witty adaptation of the nursery rhyme, drawing much of its fun from the theatrical antics of a fetching fly and a garrulous caterpillar who succumb to DDT along with Cock Robin."

Roger Covell, The Sydney Morning Herald, Mon Nov 28 1983:

"Martin Wesley-Smith's Who Killed Cock Robin?, a highly-eclectic show-piece and a riotous send-up carrying an environmental message for good measure ... this skilful and memorable piece ..."

most recent performances of which I've heard:

Sunday Sept 18 2005, Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, by the Sydney Chamber Choir conducted by Brett Weymark

Sat Aug 28 2004, Edmonton and Camrose AB, Canada, by Edmonton choir Ensemble de la Rue, conducted by Bill Kempster ("it went off a treat (as I am sure it always does!)"). See review below.

Sat May 10 2003, Iwaki Auditorium, ABC's Southbank Centre, Melbourne, by the Australian Boys Choir and The Vocal Consort conducted by Noel Ancell

top text of original song bottom


Who killed Cock Robin?
"I," said the Sparrow,
"With my bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin."
Who saw him die?
"I," said the Fly,
"With my little eye,
I saw him die."
Who caught his blood?
"I," said the Fish,
"With my little dish,
I caught his blood."
Who'll make his shroud?
"I," said the Beetle,
"With my thread and needle,
I'll make his shroud."
Who'll dig his grave?
"I," said the Owl,
"With my spade and trowel,
I'll dig his grave."
Who'll be the parson?
"I," said the Rook,
"With my little book.
I'll be the parson."
Who'll be the clerk?
"I," said the Lark,
"I'll say Amen in the dark;
I'll be the clerk."
Who'll be chief mourner?
"I," said the Dove,
"I mourn for my love;
I'll be chief mourner."
Who'll bear the torch?
"I," said the Linnet,
"I'll come in a minute,
I'll bear the torch."
Who'll sing his dirge?
"I," said the thrush,
"As I sing in the bush
I'll sing his dirge."
Who'll bear the pall?
"We," said the Wren,
"Both the cock and the hen;
We'll bear the pall."
Who'll carry his coffin?
"I," said the Kite,
"If it be in the night,
I'll carry his coffin."
Who'll toll the bell?
"I," said the Bull,
"Because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell."
All the birds of the air
Fell to sighing and sobbing
When they heard the bell toll
For poor Cock Robin.

To all it concerns,
This notice apprises,
The Sparrow's for trial,
At next bird assizes.

Andrew Ford, 24 Hours, April 1996:

Martin Wesley-Smith's composer colleagues, myself included, secretly hate him. It's not a personal thing. He's a generous fellow, affable to a fault, and there are few people with whom I'd rather have dinner. But he seems to have misunderstood the whole point about being a contemporary composer. He writes music that audiences like. I don't mean they just respect it, or admire it, or find it powerful or deeply affecting; no, they really like it ... Wesley-Smith's music spans all the usual genres from chamber music to opera, and his work with electronics and computers seems to call for the adjective 'pioneering'. But the fact that audiences even like his electronic music (which surely can't be right) attests to the nature of his output. Even when he is being deadly serious, as in the chamber opera Quito [Tall Poppies TP111] ... Wesley-Smith continually undercuts the paths with black humour. I should stress that it's usually not applied humour, but rather a rich seam of irony, capable of descending into slapstick, but more generally insinuating itself with some subtlety. It's the musical equivalent of a raised eyebrow, from beneath which Wesley-Smith views the world and all its absurdities.

And so it is with Who Killed Cock Robin?, now 17 years old and available post-vinylly for the first time. As the disc's title suggests (The Green CD [Tall Poppies TP064]), its contents reflect the concern that some Australian composers feel at the destruction of the natural environment, and Wesley-Smith's piece, the 'classic' of the compilation, receives a compelling performance from an expanded Song Company under its director Roland Peelman. Indeed, the Song Company is in generally fine form here, As the topic for a musical work, the poisoning of the planet by pesticides is as grim as it's unlikely, but Wesley-Smith's approach works wonderfully well. The original Victorian parlour ballad is treated to a variety of styles, ranging from a chromatically perverse musical-hall novelty song with an injection of 1950s doo-wop, to barbershop, to a climactic, slow-motion pile-up of Ligetian dissonances during the final recital of the list of insecticides that ultimately killed 'poor Cock Robin'. It's a small masterpiece.

Bill Rankin, Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Canada, Aug 30 2004:

Ensemble de la Rue truly entertaining

... Ensemble de la Rue showed a completely different and sometimes rather silly side of itself with another kind of lament entirely. Martin Wesley-Smith's sometimes earnest, sometimes vaudevillian Who Killed Cock Robin? takes us into a Lewis Carroll-type world where silly is serious and serious is too silly.

John Brough's counter-tenor chant declaring the demise of Cock Robin began an imaginative choral pastiche, including hymn, elegiac barbershop quartet crooning, doo-wop, Stephen Foster folk, mildly irritating postmodern dissonance and theatrical portamento, insect buzzings, and even some mock-heroic violence from the conductor's podium as Kempster took the swatter to poor Flora Fly. Flora was charmingly portrayed with a blithe innocence by soprano Jolaine Kerley. Robert Kelly's Caterpillar, proud of his appetite for green vegetables, but ultimately a victim of the pesticides that help those vegetables grow, was impressive both for his swagger and for how badly he managed to sing the part. One of the most difficult things for a good singer to do must be to sing really awfully and Kelly sang awfully badly as the tragic insect.

All and all, between the entertaining but sad tale of poor Cock Robin and the various educational and delightful digressions, musical and otherwise, which composer Wesley-Smith included in his version of Who Killed Cock Robin?, the listeners got something they probably didn't expect from a chamber choir concert. The members of Ensemble de la Rue pulled it off energetically and with considerable technical aplomb. And they looked like they were having a good time doing it, although it also looked like work.

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

DDT wallpaper

"Our family knows of something much more dangerous than arsenic in the public aquifers: trichloroethylene, or TCE, a known carcinogen in laboratory animals and the most widespread industrial contaminant in American drinking water."
Sunaura Taylor & Astra Taylor, Military Waste in Our Drinking Water, Alternet, Fri Aug 4 2006

re the use of depleted uranium in American weapons:
"Both the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defence officially deny that there is any significant danger from exposure to DU ammunition. And whilst it is conceivable that the US led attacks on Iraq's nuclear power stations could be a contributory factor, most reseachers point to DU as the most likely source of both deformities and cancers. The rising number of cases in Iraq, particularly in the South where the greatest concentration of DU was fired, is simply staggering. Iraqi physicians have never encountered anything like it, and have made the perfectly reasonable point that similar increases in cancer and deformities were experienced in Japan after the two US atomic bomb attacks. Cancer has increased between 7 and 10 fold; deformities between 4 and 6 fold."
Extreme Birth Deformities (warning: shocking photographs of children with horrendous birth deformities on this site)

See The Morality of Weapons Systems, by Paul Likoudis, chapter 19 in Neoconned!, D. L. O'Huallachain & J. Forrest Sharpe (eds), IHS Press, Vienna, Virginia, 2005

more re the use of depleted uranium in American weapons:
"It's time to listen ... to people like Jooma Khan, a grandfather who lives in a village in Laghman Province, in northeastern Afghanistan ... 'When I saw my deformed grandson,' he told an interviewer in March of 2003, 'I realized that my hopes of the future have vanished for good. (This is) different from the hopelessness of the Russian barbarism, even though at that time I lost my older son Shafiqullah. This time, however, I know we are part of the invisible genocide brought on us by America, a silent death from which I know we will not escape.'"
Robert C. Koehler, Silent Genocide, Tribune Media Services, March 25 2004

"The American use of depleted uranium munitions in both Persian Gulf wars has unleashed a toxic disaster that will eclipse the Agent Orange tragedy of the Vietnam War, a former top Army official said Monday evening."
Warning of Toxic Aftermath from Uranium Munitions, Tues July 22 2003

"As Vietnamese continue to be born with Agent Orange defects stemming from the Vietnam War, their families are seeking justice in the US courts"
Living hell of the deadly cocktail from the heavens, The Age, Sat May 15 2004

"A huge number of children in Vietnam are suffering birth defects and deformities from their parents' exposure to Agent Orange and other chemical agents. The Vietnamese are asking: 'How many generations will be facing these birth defects?'"
Three decades later, Agent Orange still ravages Vietnam, GIs, May 13 2006

see Depleted Uranium: Dirty Bombs, Dirty Missiles, Dirty Bullets by Leuren Moret in SF Bay View ("A Japanese professor, Dr. K. Yagasaki, has calculated that 800 tons of DU is the atomicity equivalent of 83,000 Nagasaki bombs. The U.S. has used more DU since 1991 than the atomicity equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombs ... No wonder our soldiers, their families and the people of the Middle East, Yugoslavia and Central Asia are sick. But as Henry Kissinger said after Vietnam when our soldiers came home ill from Agent Orange, 'Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used for foreign policy.'")

see The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but the scourge of dioxin contamination from a herbicide known as Agent Orange did not, BBC News, June 14 2004:
"Between 1962 and 1970, millions of gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed across parts of Vietnam ... 'a massive violation of human rights of the civilian population, and a weapon of mass destruction' ... since the end of the Vietnam War, Washington has denied any moral or legal responsibility for the toxic legacy said to have been caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam."

from The secret nuclear war by Shaheen Chughtai, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, September 17 2004:
"Illegal weapons of mass destruction have not only been found in Iraq but have been used against Iraqis and have even killed US troops. But Washington and its allies have tried to cover up this outrage because the chief culprit is the US itself, argue American and other experts trying to expose what they say is a war crime. The WMD in question is depleted uranium (DU) ..." (read more)

from Daughter of Soldier Contaminated with Depleted Uranium in Iraq Born with Deformities, Thurs Sept 30 2004:
"Specialist Gerard Darren Matthew tested positive for uranium contamination after he returned from Iraq. Shortly after he returned home, his wife became pregnant ..."

from Of Pynchon, Thanatos and Depleted Uranium by Walter A. Davis, counterpunch, Oct 9-10 2004:
The US CODE, TITLE 50,CHAPTER 40 Sec. 2302 defines a Weapon of Mass Destruction as follows: "The term 'weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism, or (C) radiation or radioactivity."

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

from Uranium pollution in Iraq damaging by Hina Alam, Nov 2 2004:
"We went there to 'free' those people and we ended up imprisoning them in a lifetime of ill health. And for generations to come ..."

Tests on returning troops suggest serious health consequences of depleted uranium use in Iraq (In These Times, Aug 25 2005)

Bob Nichols: Radioactive Tank No. 9 comes limping home (San Francisco Bay View, Nov 20 2005)

Bob Nichols: Considering the tons of depleted uranium used by the U.S., the Iraq war can truly be called a nuclear war (San Francisco Bay View, December 21 2005)

Kim Hawkins, Gulf War Veteran:
"I took an oath when I joined the Navy. I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Nowhere does it state that I must blindly follow the orders of unjust or immoral leaders. This is the reason that I am compelled to speak out against our use of Depleted Uranium. It is the biggest, invisible danger that our troops and the Iraqi people face and most insidious. What we are committing is a silent genocide of both planet and people."

Irving Wesley Hall: Depleted Uranium for Dummies (

Jessie King, Vietnamese Wildlife Still Paying a High Price for Chemical Warfare, The Independent (UK), Saturday July 8 2006:
"... the effects of the massive amounts of chemical defoliants sprayed from the air to destroy the jungle hiding places of the Vietcong guerrillas are still being felt ... Between 1961 and 1971, more than 20 million gallons of herbicides, the most notorious being 'Agent Orange', were sprayed by the US to defoliate forests, clear growth along the borders of military sites and eliminate enemy crops ... Some of the herbicides also contained dioxins - compounds potentially harmful to people and wildlife - while one, 'Agent Blue' - used mainly for crop destruction - was made up mainly of an organic arsenic compound. Repeated applications of the chemicals "sometimes eradicated all vegetation", according to the study ..." (read more)

The Cedars of Lebanon Weep:
"The Cedars of Lebanon Weep. These trees who have seen so much suffering, so much destruction, so much death. Now they weep for the children of Lebanon as the depleted uranium bombs and shells fall and spread their death across the land, the people, the future ..." (more)

Stephen Lendman, Omissions In the Iraq Study Group Report, Information Clearing House, Dec 17 2006:
"One-third or more of the 696,841 military personnel who served in the Gulf from August 2, 1990 to July 31, 1991 have filed claims for or have been reported by the Veteran's Administration (VA) to be on some form of disability in 2004, most likely from the deadly effects of depleted uranium (DU) or other toxic poisoning the Pentagon tries to suppress and deny. Today the situation is far worse, but it'll be years before the final human toll is known. The effects of DU poisoning alone may be much more devastating now than in the Gulf war. In this conflict, the DU used in munitions is much more toxic than the kind used earlier. In addition to U-238 used earlier, today's DU weapons contain plutonium (the most toxic of all known substances), neptunium, and the highly radioactive uranium isotope U-236. According to a 1991 study by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, these elements are 100,000 times more dangerous than the U-238 in DU. It takes only the most minute, nearly unmeasurable, amount of this substance in one's body (that can easily be inhaled or otherwise ingested) to be fatal." (more)

Evan Shapiro, Blowin' in the Wind, New Matilda, Oct 26 2005:
"When you leave the cinema after seeing David Bradbury's new documentary Blowin' in the Wind it's hard not to be enraged. While working on a documentary exploring the use of depleted uranium in US weaponry, David Bradbury discovered that a 20-year agreement was signed last year between the United States and Australia, the specific terms of which are secret, but which allows the US military to train and test its latest weapons in Australia."

Deborah Hastings, Are Depleted Uranium Weapons Sickening U.S. Troops?, Associated Press, Aug 12, 2006:

It takes at least 10 minutes and a large glass of orange juice to wash down all the pills - morphine, methadone, a muscle relaxant, an antidepressant, a stool softener. Viagra for sexual dysfunction. And Valium for his nerves.

Four hours later, Herbert Reed will swallow another 15 mg of morphine to cut the pain clenching every part of his body. He will do it twice more before the day is done.

Since he left a bombed-out train depot in Iraq, his gums bleed. There is more blood in his urine, and still more in his stool. Bright light hurts his eyes. A tumor has been removed from his thyroid. Rashes erupt everywhere, itching so badly they seem to live inside his skin. Migraines cleave his skull. His joints ache, grating like door hinges in need of oil.

There is something massively wrong with Herbert Reed, though no one is sure what it is. He believes he knows the cause, but he cannot convince anyone caring for him that the military's new favorite weapon has made him terrifyingly sick. [more]

"Poison DUst - a must-watch video - tells the story of young soldiers who thought they came home safely from the war, but didn't. Of a veteran's young daughter whose birth defect is strikingly similar to birth defects suffered by many Iraqi children. - Every American who cares about our troops should watch this film. Everyone who cares about the innocent civilians who live in the countries where these weapons are used should watch this film."

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

James Randerson, Study Suggests Cancer Risk From Depleted Uranium, The Guardian UK, May 8 2007:

"Depleted uranium, which is used in armour-piercing ammunition, causes widespread damage to DNA which could lead to lung cancer, according to a study of the metal's effects on human lung cells. The study adds to growing evidence that DU causes health problems on battlefields long after hostilities have ceased ..." [more]

Craig Etchison, Ph.D, Depleted Uranium: Pernicious Killer Keeps on Killing, February 19 2007:

"... the numbers suggested that something insidious happens when DU munitions are used. How to explain the exploding rates of cancer, birth defects, and radiation poisoning among Iraqis in the Basra region? How to explain a Department of Veterans Affairs study of 21,000 veterans of the Gulf War that found rates of birth defects were twice as great for male vets and three times as great for female vets who served in the Gulf War compared to vets who did not? How to explain a Washington Post report in January of 2006 that 518,00 of the 580,000 Gulf War veterans were on disability, over half on permanent disability. How to explain over 13,000 dead Gulf War veterans when only 250 were killed and 7,000 injured in the war itself?" [more]

film poster

"Forty-three years after her death, (Rachel) Carson is still cited as an inspiration across the environmental spectrum, by endangered-species advocates and anti-pesticide groups and researchers concerned about hormone-mimicking pollutants", writes David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post, Friday 18 May 2007 (An Environmental Icon's Unseen Fortitude). May 27 2007 is the 100th anniversary of her birth.

from The Case Against Agent Orange and All Mutagenic Weapons, by Willem Malten:
"Around 10,000 US war veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange receive disability benefits for various types of cancer and other serious health problems that have been linked to dioxin. 'American victims of Agent Orange will get up to $1,500 a month. However, most Vietnamese families affected receive around 80,000 dong a month - just over $5 - in government support for each disabled child,' says Professor Nhan." [more]

Agent Orange case back in US court: "Representatives of more than 3,000 Vietnamese who say they were poisoned by the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War have returned to court in the US to appeal an earlier ruling that blocked their bid for compensation."

from War Illnesses Fester, by Thomas D. Williams, Wednesday 05 September 2007:
"The environmental hazards foreign civilians and US and allied service members have been exposed to and sickened by are largely generated by US and allied bombings, munitions and even medicines aimed at protecting service members. They include: radioactive dust from depleted uranium munitions, deadly chemical warfare gases released by US bombings of Iraqi bunkers, oil well fires during the first Gulf War, pollution of European and Middle Eastern foreign air and water supplies from wartime explosions and fires, pesticides, fumes from specialized military vehicle paint, and disease carrying insects.

"The Pentagon's and the British military's mandatory use of the controversial anthrax vaccine and other experimental drugs, including US use of pyridostigmine bromide pills to protect against gas attacks, on troops have resulted in thousands of adverse reactions, many serious ones, some even listed on drug labels as possible but not provable fatal reactions." [more]

from Through the Forest, a Clearer View of the Needs of a People, by Christie Aschwanden, The International Herald Tribune, Tuesday 18 September 2007:
"... An invisible poison clings to the soil beneath the cow's muddy hoofs. During a short stretch of the Vietnam War this patch of ground served as an American Special Forces air base, and while the soldiers departed long ago, a potent dioxin from the Agent Orange that they stored and sprayed here lingers still.

"Boi, a lively, passionate man whose enormous smile rarely leaves his face, has dedicated his career to repairing the ecological damage left by what people here call the American War. And while he has had much success in the last 30 years, his task is far from over.

"When Boi began working here in 1975, he found an ecosystem decimated by war. Aerial spraying of defoliants like Agent Orange had destroyed large swaths of forest. Without live roots to anchor the soil, monsoon rains washed away the topsoil and its nutrients, allowing invasive grasses to take over and prevent forest regeneration.

"A botanist by training, Boi's initial goal was to reforest the denuded land. But he soon realized the forest ecosystem was not the only thing struggling to recover from Agent Orange." [more]

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

from Alive in Baghdad:
"Alive in Baghdad takes you to the children's ward of Baghdad Hospital, to make visible the plight of some very sick children, stricken with cancer by the presence of Depleted Uranium munitions, left over from the last two US wars in Iraq ..." [see movie]

from "Safe" Uranium That Left a Town Contaminated, by David Rose, The observer, UK, Sunday 18 November 2007:
They were told depleted uranium was not hazardous. Now, 23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers and residents have cancer - and experts say their suffering shows the use of such weapons may be a war crime. [more]

VIDEO: Bud Deraps, an 82 year old WWII Navy veteran, speaks out against Depleted Uranium

from Culling the herd by Sheila Samples, Online Journal, December 19 2007:
With the release of thousands of tons of depleted depleted uranium in both Bush Gulf wars and Afghanistan, they have poisoned food, water and air, and turned the entire region into massive radioactive death camps. Without fear of accountability, they have ensured the slow, agonizing extermination of entire populations, to include the American military, whom Kissinger views as "dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy" -- and their families -- that will continue for many generations.

from From Hiroshima to Iraq, 61 years of uranium wars: A suicidal, genocidal, omnicidal course by Leuren Moret, San Francisco Bay View, Tuesday, 26 December 2006:
The conduct of secret nuclear wars since 1991, through the use of depleted uranium weaponry by the United States and Great Britain with their allies, has taken place in the Middle East, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Lebanon. It has been carried out for the express purpose of destroying the public health and mutilating the genetic future of vast populations in oil rich and/or pipeline regions.

Carpet and grid bombing with depleted uranium weaponry in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan has guaranteed permanent radioactive terrain contamination. The recent discovery that U.S. depleted uranium bombs dropped by Israel on Lebanon in 2006 contained enriched uranium suggests covert testing of fourth generation nuclear weapons.

The United States and its allies are fully aware that this weaponry violates the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the 1925 Geneva Poison Gas Protocol. It meets the definition of WMD in the U.S. Code in two out of three categories. And its use violates U.S. military law since the U.S. is a signatory to The Hague and Geneva Conventions. [more]

from US Herbicides Exact High Toll on Indigenous Populations by Thomas D. Williams, Saturday 02 February 2008:
Despite years of ongoing, critical public health controversies in Colombia and Ecuador over the US-assisted aerial herbicide spraying of coca and poppy crops while trying to reduce illegal cocaine and heroin production, US State Department officials are pursuing that very same spraying strategy today.

In fact, a couple of months ago, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's administration temporarily cast aside the latest of several State Department exhortations to begin massive herbal spraying operations on poppy crops producing heroin there.

Colombian aerosol dusting of a mix of Roundup Ultra, Cosmo-Flux and other plant-penetrating agents began seven years ago. (In 2006 alone, the United Nations reported the spraying of approximately 172,025 hectares of coca crops, producing cocaine. That equals a bit over 664 square miles.)

In the meantime, untold thousands of Colombians and Ecuadorians have become sick from the blended chemical spray. Studies have shown the environmental dangers of inhalation and skin and eye saturation of the floating mist. And critically valuable maize, yucca and plantains have been destroyed in large swaths of the fertile country. [more]

from The Depleted Uranium Threat by Thomas D. Williams, Wednesday 13 August 2008:
Initially, the Army worked for months on a major cleanup. Then in late 1991, the second and final phase of hazardous equipment removal was assigned to the Environmental Chemical Corporation. And the Pentagon's investigation report said: "Personnel packing the drums with DU penetrators wore surgeon's caps, safety glasses, half face protective masks, coveralls, butyl rubber aprons, rubber surgeon's gloves with cotton inserts, and rubber 'booties' over their normal work boots. A total of eight drums were filled with about 250 DU penetrators." [more]

from Agent Orange Continues to Poison Vietnam by Marjorie Cohn, Monday 15 June 2009:
From 1961 to 1971, the US military sprayed Vietnam with Agent Orange, which contained large quantities of Dioxin, in order to defoliate the trees for military objectives. Dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man. It has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen (causes cancer) and by the American Academy of Medicine as a teratogen (causes birth defects) ...

Several treaties the United States has ratified require an effective remedy for violations of human rights. It is time to make good on Nixon's promise and remedy the terrible wrong the US government perpetrated on the people of Vietnam. Congress must pass legislation to compensate the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange as it did for the US Vietnam veteran victims.

Our government must know that it cannot continue to use weapons that target and harm civilians. Indeed, the US military is using depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will poison those countries for incalculable decades. [more]

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

from Afghan War's Blowback for India's Children? by J. Sri Raman, Thursday 27 August 2009:
Children born with abnormally enlarged or small heads, disproportionately short arms and legs, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other complications. Increasing instances of infertility among women. A spurt in cases of lung cancer and intestinal ulcer.

Punjab, a state in India bordering Pakistan, has reason to be concerned about this scary picture emerging from surveys recently carried out in some of its areas. Not only Punjab, however. According to a section of the researchers particularly concerned with the cases of birth deformities, Punjab may be paying with the health of its people for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. More precisely, depleted uranium reportedly used in wars in these countries may be the cause of the deformities and disorders on the rise in India's northwestern state, according to a team based in the city of Faridkot. Winds from Afghanistan may have carried to the state a large quantity of highly toxic uranium, which has contaminated water and increased uranium in bodies to dangerous levels. This apprehension was raised at least five months ago by the team of the Baba Farid Center for Special Children, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), where some of the affected kids have been undergoing treatment ... [more]

from The Truth Of Iraq's City Of Deformed Babies by Lisa Holland, Sky News, September 01 2009:
An Iraqi doctor has told Sky News the number of babies born with deformities in the heavily-bombed area of Fallujah is still on the increase. Fifteen months ago a Sky News investigation revealed growing numbers of children being born with defects in Fallujah. Concerns were that the rise in deformities may have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by US forces ... [more]

If you agree, please sign the following petition (go to

To: President Obama and Members of Congress

On 2nd March 2009 the US Supreme Court denied the victims of Agent Orange, both American and Vietnamese, their petition seeking Justice against the manufacturers of Agent Orange headed by Monsanto and Dow Chemicals. Through that decision, over three million Vietnamese and thousands of American servicemen and women, and their children, will continue to suffer from the serious illnesses and disabilities caused by Agent Orange.

We draw your attention to the statement of Nguyen Duc made November 2006 to an American journalist. Duc and his late brother Viet both victims of Agent Orange were born conjoined in 1981.

"I find it ironic that on one hand you put Saddam Hussein on trial for using biological warfare, but in another country where you sprayed chemicals for warfare, you neglect your responsibility.

The United States must admit its responsibility and compensate the Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. It is your moral obligation. Sooner or later, it has to be done."

Mr President, Members of Congress, we urge you, despite the decision of the Supreme Court, to heed the words of Nguyen Duc, and accept your responsibilities and moral obligations to the victims of Agent Orange.


from Cancer - The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq, by Jalal Ghazi (New American Media, Jan 6 2010):
Cancer is spreading like wildfire in Iraq. Thousands of infants are being born with deformities. Doctors say they are struggling to cope with the rise of cancer and birth defects, especially in cities subjected to heavy American and British bombardment ... In Falluja, which was heavily bombarded by the US in 2004, as many as 25% of new- born infants have serious abnormalities, including congenital anomalies, brain tumors, and neural tube defects in the spinal cord ... [more]

from Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds, by Martin Chulov (The Guardian, Jan 22 2010):
... high levels of dioxins on agricultural lands in southern Iraq, in particular, were increasingly thought to be a key factor in a general decline in the health of people living in the poorest parts of the country ... soil has ended up in people's lungs and has been on food that people have eaten. Dioxins have been very high in those areas. All of this has caused systemic problems on a very large scale for both ecology and overall health ... [more]

from Silent Spring Has Sprung, by Randall Amster, March 19 2010:
"Silent Spring" is often credited with starting the modern environmental movement, yet today we are facing equivalent challenges and similar campaigns to conceal the potential dangers of toxic chemicals in our midst.

In particular, the pervasive use of the herbicide atrazine raises a host of ecological and political questions that are strikingly reminiscent of those confronted by Carson. Perhaps coincidentally, the widespread use of atrazine in American agriculture dates to almost precisely the time that "Silent Spring" was beginning to take shape as a withering indictment of the chemical industry's blatant disregard for emerging health warnings and its concomitant influence over politicians and regulators. While DDT was eventually banned for use as a pesticide in 1972, atrazine has enjoyed decades of unfettered use as (according to its maker, Syngenta) "one of the most effective, affordable and trusted products in agriculture." ... [more]

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

from Agent Orange and Vietnam's Forgotten Victims, by Geoffrey Cain, April 02 2010:
During the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed up to 18 million gallons of Agent Orange around Vietnam, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.

The Vietnamese government, meanwhile, estimates that as many as 400,000 Vietnamese have died from illnesses related to exposure to dioxin, such as cancer. It also claims that up to 500,000 children have birth defects, such as spina bifida, because their parents were exposed ... [more]

from The Suffering of Fallujah by Robert Koehler, Huffington Post, August 9 2010:
Along with whatever else we did to Fallujah ... we also, apparently, nuked the city, leaving a legacy of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and genetic abnormality ...

To help clean up our legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, for instance, Congress has appropriated $9 million since 2007. We sprayed 19 million gallons of this highly toxic defoliant on the country between 1962 and 1971, causing harm to at least 3 million Vietnamese in the process. Our sense of responsibility amounts to $3 per person. And such money becomes available only after decades of denial that we have any responsibility at all.

I think again about Fallujah. The city's suffering will haunt our national dreams for decades to come. It is our future. In a generation or so, our children will face the consequences of what we have done there; but in the meantime, we'll keep trying to buy "victory" and ultimate justification in multi-billion-dollar increments until our financial bankruptcy equals our moral bankruptcy. [more]

In an article published on Feb 2 2005 in S.F. Bay View, Bob Nichols wrote:
Heads roll at Veterans Administration
Mushrooming depleted uranium (DU) scandal blamed

Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, stated, "The real reason for Mr. Principi's departure was really never given, however a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of the 'Gulf War Syndrome' has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military ... this malady (from uranium munitions), that thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed ... Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number of 'Disabled Vets' means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!" The disability rate for the wars of the last century was 5 percent ... [more]

From Humanitarian Pays With Life for Feeding the Children of Iraq, by Katherine Hughes, truthout, March 13 2011:
During the Gulf War, more bombs were dropped on Iraq in a six-week period than were dropped in the whole of World War II ... Many types of bombs were used, including ones containing depleted uranium (DU), the waste matter from nuclear plants; hundreds of tons of DU ammunition now lie scattered throughout Iraq. The DU dust has entered the food chain through the soil and the water. As a result, many diseases formerly unseen in Iraq are now prevalent there. Many pregnant women delivered babies as early as six months, and many babies were born with terrible deformities. Cancer rates increased dramatically. These effects have been compounded by the current war ... ... [more]

program note text the song press clippings most recent performances DU etc TCCD in Vietnam Martin Wesley-Smith

From Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya With Depleted Uranium as They "Protect" Civilians?, by Dave Lindorff, truthout, March 23 2011:
The US military is fond of DU weapons because the material, made from uranium from which the fissionable U-235 has been removed, because it is extremely heavy, and, in alloy form, also extremely hard. Because of its mass, such projectiles can penetrate even the heaviest armor. Then, in the heat caused by the collision with an object, the uranium bursts into flame at extreme heat, causing an explosive (and toxic) inferno inside a tank or other vehicle, which usually also ignites any ammunition being carried. Soldiers inside a target vehicle are incinerated. The problem is that the resulting uranium oxide produced by such explosions, besides being highly toxic chemically, is also a microscopic alpha-emitter, which if inhaled or ingested by human beings is extremely carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Cities in Iraq where DU weapons were heavily used, such as Basra, Samara, Baghdad, Mosul and probably especially Fallujah, which was virtually leveled in a November 2004 Marine assault, are showing high rates of birth defects, many of which, along with unusually high rates of leukemia, medical experts say are emblematic of fetal radiation damage.

A University of Michigan peer-reviewed study of peer-reviewed study of births in Fallujah published in December 2010 found that of 547 births in Fallujah General Hospital in May of 2010, six years after the all-out US assault on that city of 300,000, in which DU weapons were reportedly used widely, 15% of babies had birth defects--a rate more than five times higher than the global average of 2-3%.

It would be a tragic irony if rebels in Libya, after calling for assistance from the US and other NATO countries, succeeded in overthrowing the country's long-time tyrant Gaddafy, only to have their country contaminated by uranium dust--the fate already suffered by the peoples of Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. ... [more]

From Fallujah Babies: Under a New Kind of Siege, by Dahr Jamail,, Al Jazeera, January 6 2012:
While the US military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as "catastrophic" levels of birth defects and abnormalities ... [more]

From U.S. Military Toxins: The Gift That Keeps on Killing - A tragic history of pollution continues in Iraq and Afghanistan. by Terry J. Allen, In These Times, Feb 1 2012:
Hey, Iraq, don't say we never gave you anything. In addition to hundreds of thousands dead and untold injured, the United States is leaving behind enough toxic waste sites to kill your rats.

"Open-air burn pits have operated widely at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Department of Veterans Affairs notes on its website. On hundreds of camps and bases across the two countries, the U.S. military and its contractors incinerated toxic waste, including unexploded ordnance, plastics and Styrofoam, asbestos, formaldehyde, arsenic, pesticides and neurotoxins, medical waste (even amputated limbs), heavy metals and what the military refers to as "radioactive commodities." The burns have released mutagens and carcinogens, including uranium and other isotopes, volatile organic compounds, hexachlorobenzene, and, that old favorite, dioxin (aka Agent Orange) ... [more]

From Ban neonicotinoids now - to avert another silent spring by George Monbiot, The Guardian, July 16 2014:
This pesticide is destroying life across the natural world: the evidence cannot be denied. Only a global moratorium will stop it.

Here's our choice. We wait and see if a class of powerful pesticides, made by Bayer and Syngenta, is indeed pushing entire ecosystems to oblivion, or suspend their use while proper trials are conducted. The natural world versus two chemical companies: how hard can this be?

Papers published over the past few weeks suggest that these neonicotinoids, pesticides implicated in killing or disabling bees, have similar effects on much of life on Earth. On land and in water, these neurotoxins appear to be degrading entire food chains. Licensed before sufficient tests were conducted, they are now the world's most widely used pesticides. We are just beginning to understand what we've walked into ... [more]



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