Thursday, September 8, 2005

Unlikely that Arafat was assassinated

Last fall when Yasser Arafat died mysteriously, there was speculation over whether he was assassinated. Presumably some secret service might have developed a strange poison and administered it to him somehow, just like from a James Bond movie or some such.

At the time I made these two postings:

Was Arafat assassinated?

Arafat health records stay private

Today we have news of an independant review of Arafat's health records. Which leaves some puzzles, but answers a few questions.

Medical Records Say Arafat Died From a Stroke; Poisoning Unlikely (By STEVEN ERLANGER and LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, Published: September 8, 2005, nytimes.com) also published by the International Herald Tribune

The story that emerges is more about medical ineptitude than anything else. Or maybe the ineptitude has to do with the conditions under which Arafat was living, basically beseiged by the Israeli military in his compound. In any case it's clear he didn't get proper treatment until it was too late, but even then the doctors were unclear what was the illness they were treating.

For example his own physician did not arrive in Ramallah until just before Arafats evacuation to Paris. For example, blood and stool samples were taken and flown to Tunis, but those samples never arrived in Tunis.

The findings of the review say poisoning is highly unlikely, but the article describes an extreme illness (of some kind) coming on very suddenly after eating. Surely the poisoning theory stems from the sudden onset of mysterious symptoms.

The review describes his death as a stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unknown infection. The bleeding disorder, disseminated intravascular coagulation, was not recognized until late in his illness, when he arrived in Paris. His illness began on October 12, but he was not evacuated to Paris until October 29.

Troubling is the context in which this happened. Arafat had been beseiged in his Ramallah compound for three years. The Israeli leader, Ariel Sharon, had a long history of hatred towards Arafat and a desire to kill him. Yet official Israeli policy was to not harm Arafat, and therefore the official action was to isolate Arafat in Ramallah.

Sharon himself said he informed President George W. Bush on April 14, 2004, that he no longer felt bound by his promise to Bush in March 2001 not to harm Arafat...

"President Bush replied that it would perhaps be best to leave Arafat's fate in the hands of the Almighty. Sharon said that one should sometimes help Him."

In this context I can't discount the Palestinian theory that agents of Israel poisoned Arafat. Maybe the word "poison" is not accurate, as toxins tend to wash out of the body quickly and the effect of this illness lasted for nearly a month. If Arafats death were caused by nefarious agents, rather than simple food poisining, it would have involved some kind of organism introduced probably through his food.

At the same time this theory looks more remote. It's easy to see how his living conditions were not at all good, that he was an old man, and that old people tend to die of illnesses. Perhaps it's a simple case rather than a nefarious one?