Birth defects in Iraq linked to weapons used by Western Militaries

By SARAH MORRISON | THE INDEPENDENT | OCTOBER 15, 2012

It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujah’s homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their “City of Mosques” to “the polluted city” after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a “staggering rise” in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.

High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

There is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

US marines first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 after four employees from the American security company Blackwater were killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the street, with two of the corpses left hanging from a bridge. Seven months later, the marines stormed the city for a second time, using some of the heaviest US air strikes deployed in Iraq. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The new findings, published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology bulletin, will bolster claims that US and Nato munitions used in the conflict led to a widespread health crisis in Iraq. They are the latest in a series of studies that have suggested a link between bombardment and a rise in birth defects. Their preliminary findings, in 2010, prompted a World Health Organisation inquiry into the prevalence of birth defects in the area. The WHO’s report, out next month, is widely expected to show an increase in birth defects after the conflict. It has looked at nine “high-risk” areas in Iraq, including Fallujah and Basra. Where high prevalence is found, the WHO is expected to call for additional studies to pinpoint precise causes.

The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

The new research, which looked at the health histories of 56 families in Fallujah, also examined births in Basra, in southern Iraq, attacked by British forces in 2003. Researchers found more than 20 babies out of 1,000 were born with defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital in 2003, a number that is 17 times higher than recorded a decade previously. In the past seven years, the number of malformed babies born increased by more than 60 per cent; 37 out of every 1,000 are now born with defects.

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Iraq Invasion’s Atrocities, Unearthing the Unthinkable

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” François-Marie Arouet -“Voltaire” (1694-1778.)

 

Felicity Arbuthnot

I have a deeply held belief that the duty of a commentator is, to the best of one’s ability, to record, to shine light in often dark places, to act as a voice for those whose own voice, fears, plights might not be heard or known. To write about the emotions one sometimes feels when doing it, is an anathema and anyway a redundancy. The purpose is to attempt to draw attention to wrongs, not to whinge about the effects they can have – and any way, a private life should be just that. If politicians wish to strip themselves of their dignity and allude to everything from their sex life, to using private grief to gain sympathy votes, those with a shred of self-respect do not wish to emulate them. Here, I am breaking my taboo, for a reason.

Over the last several weeks I have again researched in depth, invasion’s atrocities in Iraq, unearthing the unthinkable, switching off emotion and reading of terror, torture, monstrous wickednesses, word after sickening word. Then, Fallujah revisited (1) with document after document revealing the depth of the darkest depravities towards others, which can be plumbed, by “some mother’s son” – or daughter. Indeed, some child’s father or mother, able to shoot the children, toddlers, babies of others, in cold blood, drive over them in tanks, leaving the pathetic remains to be eaten by stray dogs.

Photographs viewed have included many which even hardened investigators have deemed: “too disturbing to view.” This is not a view I hold. If family members who have survived, emergency workers (when not incinerated by U.S., troops themselves) medical staff, if not shot, imprisoned, tortured, or tied up with a bag over their head) can view, identify, bury with love and respect – or in the case of medical staff, carefully photograph, and note time, location of finding, then number, wrap and retain for a period, before burial, hoping a relative will claim the charred, mutilated, or worse, remains. It is a duty for those with any “voice”, from countries responsible for this first documentable U.S., U.K., genocide of the 21st century, to draw attention to it, in the memory of and in tribute to, the voiceless, nameless, uncounted victims, in the hope that eventually, legal recourse might result.

In fact it was compassion which over came all – bodies and faces burned near beyond recognition, or the eviscerated, the all with the eyes, often, still staring out in a desperate silent plea for help, combined with utter bewilderment. “We have the scumbags on the run”, wrote a marine on his website. “We lit them up”, wrote another, as many took photographs of these lost souls – and sent them to porn sites in exchange for free viewing. And between the U.S., occupiers (now, surreally, re-branded “advisors” – same car, new paint) and what Hussein al-Alak of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign has called: ” the U.S., imposed Vichy government, with their foreign passports ..”, who will fight for justice for the Iraqis?

And, as since 1991, this is also a war against the unborn, new born and under fives. After the bodies and the rubble, the gore, blood and limbs, there are the deformities. The fledgling life, born without eyes, brain, with one cyclops eye,  with no head, with two heads, with no limbs, or fingers – or too many. A biblical land turned to genetic and ecological Armageddon, for current and future generations, till the end of time. “Mission accomplished”, said George W. Bush, in his ridiculous little flying suit, on the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1st May 2003. “Let freedom reign”, he scribbled, after the first, corrupt, murderous, corpse-littered “elections”. Result: “Let genocide commence.”

The U.S., appointed “Viceroy” in Iraq, J. Paul Bremer, dressed for the part, Hollywood style, in ridiculous desert, or army boots, depending on your perception, arrived shortly after the invasion, seemingly believing in population reduction. Reportedly asking what the population of Iraq was, he was told, about twenty five million. His response was allegedly : “Too many, try five.” But then, he had been Kissinger Associates’ man.

As I read, I listened to the great and the good in various world legal bodies discuss whether the Congo and Rwanda should be “classed” as genocide. In July 2004, as U.S., troops were training for the Fallujah massacre, the coming November, the U.S., House of Representatives passed a unanimous resolution calling the tragedy of Darfur: “Genocide.” They asked the administration to consider “Multilateral or even Unilateral” action, to end this genocide. Reluctance to take proactive steps to prevent further loss of human life was “criminal”, they opined.

Seemingly genocides these days are only committed by Africans or Eastern Europeans, not those great bastions of democracy, U.S., U.K., and the “only democracy in the Middle East”, ally Israel. The Israeli Defence Force, trained U.S., troops for the two week November 2004, Fallujah pogrom. (2) “If it moves, shoot it”, was the order of the day. As two world wars, as Korea, Vietnam, the face of liberation never changes.

“Their tactics basically involve massive fire power … bringing in tanks and helicopters to fire on targets … demolishing buildings, establishing snipers on roofs, smashing holes in walls (and) shooting anything that moved.” This in addition to:  ” … aerial bombardment and shell fire from large field guns.” The plight of Fallujah: “Was not fully understood in the West, save by some of the survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto … they were trapped (like) rabbits in a cornfield”, being circled to be mown down and dismembered by combine harvesters.(3)The photographs are testimony to the chilling description. The unsung heroes are those who determined to record them, so some time, some where, the crimes would be known and legal retribution sought. These terrible, pathetic images, are the silent testimony to the first known Western genocide of the 21st century. Sadly, it is a near certainty that Iraq and Afghanistan will, in time, produce proof of more.

On visits to Iraq during the embargo years, when there was the silent genocide over nearly thirteen years of the U.S.-U.K.,- driven U.N., embargo’s prohibition of all necessary to sustain the basics of life, with children dying of “embargo-related causes”, at an average of six thousand a month, witnessing the heartbreak, the bafflement at their plight, the terrible guilt was always leaving. One saw and shared to some extent, the unimaginable, being perpetrated in one’s name, then one left. Across the border, in Jordan, the lights were on, the towns bustled, clean water came out of the taps, and the illegal American and British bombs were not dropping. Yet so near, the children were dying, the people were dying, in the name of “We the people …”

Looking through the photographs, reading of the near incomprehensible depths of sadistic destruction of their fellow human beings, men and women in uniform can uniformly sink to, I could also escape at the end of the day. I could make a meal, go and listen to live jazz at a favorite jazz pub, or simply pour a glass of wine and listen to music, surrounded by numerous books, collected pictures and loved items, in a home I enjoy, before seeking the warmth of the duvet and a comfortable bed.

But if the conscious mind can switch off, clearly the sub-conscious does not. One night the nightmare, one was sure was not a nightmare, but reality, struck. In the surreal world of nightmares, I “woke”, to find myself saturated, blood pouring from under my arms. Wondering what was happening and what to do about it, I did, in nightmare-land, what I often do when working something out (though not usually at 3 a.m.,) and got the tools together and went out in to my garden. As ever, to trim and nurture plants, and bushes, mostly grown from tiny, often quarter inch cuttings, cosseted indoors, until clement weather, then planted outside, in sheltered warmth, and further fed and tended until suddenly seemingly overnight, a vibrant, colored addition, standing on its own roots, is ready to face all seasons. But my garden, with its protective hedges, (white flowers in summer, orange berries in winter and thorns to deter the trespasser …) had gone. There were just bulldozer tracks, deep, ruining, not a leaf, stem or bloom left – just a wasteland.

Then, in nightmare-world, in my nightclothes, blood covered, I realised I had no keys to get back in. What if anyone found me in this state? I turned to the front door to try and figure a plan – but the building had gone. I was alone, bloody, near undressed and all had vanished, turning back to other familiar buildings, suddenly there was nothing. Just ruin, rubble and wasteland, as far as the eye could see. My life, my books, my comfort zone, were no more. Just the bloodied clothes I stood in remained.

Like walking away, I, of course, woke up – soaked and shivering. To a hot bath, a washing machine and a warm airing cupboard full of clean bed linen – my garden still intact. The people of Iraq, with their destroyed homes and gardens, fruit groves, date palm groves, or their vibrant plantings on balconies or flat roofs; the Palestinians, suffering the same plight for sixty two interminable years, and the people of Afghanistan in their flattened compounds, destroyed with their scented groves and gardens of blossoms and apricots, live a nightmare from which they never awake.

I thought again of the Iraqi child, whose parents had a beautiful garden, who showed a friend and I her drawing book, before the invasion. One picture had an abundance of flowers, carefully colored, in numerous hues,  on the side were American soldiers – shooting at the flowers. “Why are the soldiers shooting the flowers?” We asked. “Because Americans hate flowers”, she replied solemnly. It was a deeply saddening moment, that she represented so many children, who saw American as representing only wrath, fear and deprivation. She knew nothing of those Americans who had worked tirelessly to reverse the situation. If she has survived, she will be a young adult. She is unlikely to have changed her views.

In the U.K., Scottish parliamentarian, Dr Bill Wilson (4) is ploughing a determined path to bring Tony Blair to justice. In furtherance of this, he has now written to Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond and Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, calling for Scotland to adopt the recently agreed international definition of the crime of aggression into its legislature. His letter reads:

“The International Criminal Court’s Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala (5) earlier this year adopted a resolution by which it amended the Statute so as to include a definition of the crime of aggression and the conditions under which the Court could exercise jurisdiction with respect to the crime.  The actual exercise of jurisdiction is subject to a decision to be taken after 1 January 2017 by the same majority of States Parties as is required for the adoption of an amendment to the Statute.  However, I believe that there is now no legal obstacle to individual countries adopting the new definition of the crime of aggression into their own legislatures.  I hope you will agree with me that it would be to Scotland’s credit if we could be one of the first countries to do this, and it would be a fine legacy for the present Scottish Government to leave as it nears the end of its term.”

He commented that, further, since the The International Criminal Court has now  agreed on a definition of the crime of aggression: “I believe that although the ICC itself cannot prosecute on the basis of this for the time being, there is no impediment to individual countries adopting the definition into their own legislatures immediately.  If Scotland did so, it would be an excellent example to the rest of the world and would send the clear message that we respect international law here.  It would also create a powerful incentive for present and future UK Governments to think carefully before embarking on warfare.

“I think most Scots would not wish to see a repeat of the tragedy we have seen unfold in Iraq. This might be a way of preventing such misguided ventures in the future.” Dr Wilson, is adamant: Scotland is in a position to: “… lead ethically in adopting the crime of aggression definition”, and has legal advise which concurs. Dr Wilson plans to use Fallujah as an example of this aggression, but also points out there there are surely numerous others, undocumented, as yet.

As John Pilger reminds, Blair promised that the (illegal) invasion of Baghdad would be ” … without a bloodbath and that Iraqis in the end would be celebrating … In fact, the criminal conquest of Iraq smashed a society, killing up to a million people, driving four million from their homes, contaminating cities such as Fallujah with cancer-causing poisons and leaving a majority of young children malnourished in a country once described by Unicef as a ‘model.’ ” (New Statesman, 30th September, 2010.)

As Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, now seem to be in would be imperial sights, a precedent which will flag a up a warning sign to leaders of ill intent, is surely needed. Dr Gideon Polya, who’s work on excess deaths from invasions since 1950, states, in Afghanistan: “The annual death rate is 7% for under-5 year old Occupied Afghan infants, as compared to 4% for Poles in Nazi-occupied Poland, and 5% for French Jews in Nazi-occupied France.”

The U.S., and U.K., whose leaders have trumpeted the dangers of the latest “new Hitler” in the countries they planned to decimate, have outdone the Nazis. Enough.

Notes

1. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=212121

See also : http://www.billwilsonmsp.org

2. “War Crime or Just War”, Nicholas Wood, South Hill Press, 2005.

3. See 2.

4. See 1.

5.http://www2.icc-cpi.int/menus/icc/press%20and%20media/press%20releases/review%20conference%20of%20the%20rome%20statute%20concludes%20in%20kampala

US War Crimes: Cancer Rate in Fallujah Worse than Hiroshima

By Tom Eley

The Iraqi city of Fallujah continues to suffer the ghastly consequences of a US military onslaught in late 2004.

According to the authors of a new study, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009,” the people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by US atomic bomb strikes in 1945.

The epidemiological study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH), also finds the prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah to be many times greater than in nearby nations.

The assault on Fallujah, a city located 43 miles west of Baghdad, was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. After the population resisted the US-led occupation of Iraq—a war of neo-colonial plunder launched on the basis of lies—Washington determined to make an example of the largely Sunni city. This is called “exemplary” or “collective” punishment and is, according to the laws of war, illegal.

The new public health study of the city now all but proves what has long been suspected: that a high proportion of the weaponry used in the assault contained depleted uranium, a radioactive substance used in shells to increase their effectiveness.

In a study of 711 houses and 4,843 individuals carried out in January and February 2010, authors Chris Busby, Malak Hamdan, Entesar Ariabi and a team of researchers found that the cancer rate had increased fourfold since before the US attack five years ago, and that the forms of cancer in Fallujah are similar to those found among the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors, who were exposed to intense fallout radiation.

In Fallujah the rate of leukemia is 38 times higher, the childhood cancer rate is 12 times higher, and breast cancer is 10 times more common than in populations in Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait. Heightened levels of adult lymphoma and brain tumors were also reported. At 80 deaths out of every 1,000 births, the infant mortality rate in Fallujah is more than five times higher than in Egypt and Jordan, and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Strikingly, after 2005 the proportion of girls born in Fallujah has increased sharply. In normal populations, 1050 boys are born for every 1000 girls. But among those born in Fallujah in the four years after the US assault, the ratio was reduced to 860 boys for every 1000 female births. This alteration is similar to gender ratios found in Hiroshima after the US atomic attack of 1945.

The most likely reason for the change in the sex ratio, according to the researchers, is the impact of a major mutagenic event—likely the use of depleted uranium in US weapons. While boys have one X-chromosome, girls have a redundant X-chromosome and can therefore absorb the loss of one chromosome through genetic damage.

“This is an extraordinary and alarming result,” said Busby, a professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Ulster and director of scientific research for Green Audit, an independent environmental research group. “To produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened. We need urgently to find out what the agent was. Although many suspect uranium, we cannot be certain without further research and independent analysis of samples from the area.”

Busby told an Italian television news station, RAI 24, that the “extraordinary” increase in radiation-related maladies in Fallujah is higher than that found in the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the US atomic strikes of 1945. “My guess is that this was caused by depleted uranium,” he said. “They must be connected.”

The US military uses depleted uranium, also known as spent nuclear fuel, in armor-piercing shells and bullets because it is twice as dense as lead. Once these shells hit their target, however, as much as 40 percent of the uranium is released in the form of tiny particles in the area of the explosion. It can remain there for years, easily entering the human bloodstream, where it lodges itself in lymph glands and attacks the DNA produced in the sperm and eggs of affected adults, causing, in turn, serious birth defects in the next generation.

The research is the first systematic scientific substantiation of a body of evidence showing a sharp increase in infant mortality, birth defects, and cancer in Fallujah.

In October of 2009, several Iraqi and British doctors wrote a letter to the United Nations demanding an inquiry into the proliferation of radiation-related sickness in the city:

“Young women in Fallujah in Iraq are terrified of having children because of the increasing number of babies born grotesquely deformed, with no heads, two heads, a single eye in their foreheads, scaly bodies or missing limbs. In addition, young children in Fallujah are now experiencing hideous cancers and leukemias…

“In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital had 170 newborn babies, 24 percent of whom were dead within the first seven days, a staggering 75 percent of the dead babies were classified as deformed…

“Doctors in Fallujah have specifically pointed out that not only are they witnessing unprecedented numbers of birth defects, but premature births have also considerably increased after 2003. But what is more alarming is that doctors in Fallujah have said, ‘a significant number of babies that do survive begin to develop severe disabilities at a later stage.’” (See: “Sharp rise in birth defects in Iraqi city destroyed by US military”)

The Pentagon responded to this report by asserting that there were no studies to prove any proliferation of deformities or other maladies associated with US military actions. “No studies to date have indicated environmental issues resulting in specific health issues,” a Defense Department spokesman told the BBC in March. There have been no studies, however, in large part because Washington and its puppet Baghdad regime have blocked them.

According to the authors of “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah,” the Iraqi authorities attempted to scuttle their survey. “[S]hortly after the questionnaire survey was completed, Iraqi TV reportedly broadcast that a questionnaire survey was being carried out by terrorists and that anyone who was answering or administering the questionnaire could be arrested,” the study reports.

The history of the atrocity committed by American imperialism against the people of Fallujah began on April 28, 2003, when US Army soldiers fired indiscriminately into a crowd of about 200 residents protesting the conversion of a local school into a US military base. Seventeen were killed in the unprovoked attack, and two days later American soldiers fired on a protest against the murders, killing two more.

This intensified popular anger, and Fallujah became a center of the Sunni resistance against the occupation—and US reprisals. On March 31, 2004, an angry crowd stopped a convoy of the private security firm Blackwater USA, responsible for its own share of war crimes. Four Blackwater mercenaries were dragged from their vehicles, beaten, burned, and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River.

The US military then promised it would pacify the city, with one unnamed officer saying it would be turned into “a killing field,” but Operation Vigilant Resolve, involving thousands of Marines, ended in the abandonment of the siege by the US military in May, 2004. The victory of Fallujah’s residents against overwhelming military superiority was celebrated throughout Iraq and watched all over the world.

The Pentagon delivered its response in November 2004. The city was surrounded, and all those left inside were declared to be enemy combatants and fair game for the most heavily equipped killing machine in world history. The Associated Press reported that men attempting to flee the city with their families were turned back into the slaughterhouse.

In the attack, the US made heavy use of the chemical agent white phosphorus. Ostensibly used only for illuminating battlefields, white phosphorus causes terrible and often fatal wounds, burning its way through building material and clothing before eating away skin and then bone. The chemical was also used to suck the oxygen out of buildings where civilians were hiding.

Washington’s desire for revenge against the population is indicated by the fact that the US military reported about the same number of “gunmen” killed (1,400) as those taken alive as prisoners (1,300-1,500). In one instance, NBC News captured video footage of a US soldier executing a wounded and helpless Iraqi man. A Navy investigation later found the Marine had been acting in self-defense.

Fifty-one US soldiers died in 10 days of combat. The true number of city residents who were killed is not known. The city’s population before the attack was estimated to be between 425,000 and 600,000. The current population is believed to be between 250,000 and 300,000. Tens of thousands, mostly women and children, fled in advance of the attack. Half of the city’s building were destroyed, most of these reduced to rubble.

Like much of Iraq, Fallujah remains in ruins. According to a recent report from IRIN, a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Fallujah still has no functioning sewage system six years after the attack. “Waste pours onto the streets and seeps into drinking water supplies,” the report notes. “Abdul-Sattar Kadhum al-Nawaf, director of Fallujah general hospital, said the sewage problem had taken its toll on residents’ health. They were increasingly affected by diarrhea, tuberculosis, typhoid and other communicable diseases.”

The savagery of the US assault shocked the world, and added the name Fallujah to an infamous list that includes My Lai, Sabra-Shatila, Guérnica, Nanking, Lidice, and Wounded Knee.

But unlike those other massacres, the crime against Fallujah did not end when the bullets were no longer fired or the bombs stopped falling.

The US military’s decision to heavily deploy depleted uranium, all but proven by “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah,” was a wanton act of brutality, poisoning an entire generation of children not yet born in 2004.

The Fallujah study is timely, with the US now preparing a major escalation of the violence in Afghanistan. The former head of US Afghanistan operations, General Stanley McChrystal, was replaced last month after a media campaign, assisted by a Rolling Stone magazine feature, accused him, among other things, of tying the hands of US soldiers in their response to Afghan insurgents.

McChrystal was replaced by General David Petraeus, formerly head of the US Central Command. Petraeus has outlined new rules of engagement designed to allow for the use of disproportionate force against suspected militants.

Petraeus, in turn, was replaced at Central Command by General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who played a key planning role in the US assault on Fallujah in 2004. Mattis revels in killing, telling a public gathering in 2005 “it’s fun to shoot some people…. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.”