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.”

BP to blame in explosion, internal documents show

AP

The secret we all knew: BP cut corners days before platform explosion.

BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts and blunders that dramatically increased the danger of a destructive oil spill in a well that an engineer ominously described as a “nightmare” just six days before the blowout, according to documents released Monday that provide new insight into the causes of the disaster.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released dozens of internal documents that outline several problems on the deep-sea rig in the days and weeks before the April 20 explosion that set in motion the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day, and responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling mud efforts and the installation of key safety devices.

“Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense. If this is what happened, BP’s carelessness and complacency have inflicted a heavy toll on the Gulf, its inhabitants, and the workers on the rig,” said Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak.

The missteps emerged on the same day that President Barack Obama made his fourth visit to the Gulf, where he sought to assure beleaguered residents that the government will “leave the Gulf Coast in better shape than it was before.”

Obama’s two-day trip to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida represents his latest attempt to persevere through a crisis that has served as an important early test of his presidency. The visit coincides with a national address from the Oval Office on Tuesday night in which he will announce new steps to restore the Gulf Coast ecosystem, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to upstage the president’s announcements.

“I can’t promise folks … that the oil will be cleaned up overnight. It will not be,” Obama said after encouraging workers in hard hats as they hosed off and repaired oil-blocking boom. “It’s going to be painful for a lot of folks.”

But, he said, “things are going to return to normal.”

The breached well has dumped as much as 114 million gallons of oil into the Gulf under the worst-case scenario described by scientists — a rate of more than 2 million a day. BP has collected 5.6 million gallons of oil through its latest containment cap on top of the well, or about 630,000 gallons per day.

But BP believes it will see considerable improvements in the next two weeks. The company said Monday that it could trap a maximum of roughly 2.2 million gallons of oil each day by the end of June as it deploys additional containment efforts, including a system that could start burning off vast quantities as early as Tuesday. That would more than triple the amount of oil it is currently capturing — and be a huge relief for those trying to keep it from hitting the shore.

“It would be a game changer,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mark Boivin, deputy director for near-shore operations at a command center in Mobile. He works with a team that coordinates the efforts of roughly 80 skimming boats gathering oil off the coast.

Still, BP warned its containment efforts could face problems if hoses or pipes clog and engineers struggle to run the complicated collection system. Early efforts at the bottom of the Gulf failed to capture oil.

Meanwhile, congressional investigators have identified several mistakes by BP in the weeks leading up to the disaster as it fell way behind on drilling the well.

BP started drilling in October, only to have the rig damaged by Hurricane Ida in early November. The company switched to a new rig, the Deepwater Horizon, and resumed drilling on Feb. 6. The rig was 43 days late for its next drilling location by the time it exploded April 20, costing BP at least $500,000 each day it was overdue, congressional documents show.

As BP found itself in a frantic race against time to get the job done, engineers took several time-saving measures, according to congressional investigators.

In the design of the well, the company apparently chose a riskier option among two possibilities to provide a barrier to the flow of gas in space surrounding steel tubes in the well, documents and internal e-mails show. The decision saved BP $7 million to $10 million; the original cost estimate for the well was about $96 million.

In an e-mail, BP engineer Brian Morel told a fellow employee that the company is likely to make last-minute changes in the well.

“We could be running it in 2-3 days, so need a relative quick response. Sorry for the late notice, this has been nightmare well which has everyone all over the place,” Morel wrote.

The e-mail chain culminated with the following message by another worker: “This has been a crazy well for sure.”

BP also apparently rejected advice of a subcontractor, Halliburton Inc., in preparing for a cementing job to close up the well. BP rejected Halliburton’s recommendation to use 21 “centralizers” to make sure the casing ran down the center of the well bore. Instead, BP used six centralizers.

In an e-mail on April 16, a BP official involved in the decision explained: “It will take 10 hours to install them. I do not like this.” Later that day, another official recognized the risks of proceeding with insufficient centralizers but commented: “Who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.”

The lawmakers also said BP also decided against a nine- to 12-hour procedure known as a “cement bond log” that would have tested the integrity of the cement. A team from Schlumberger, an oil services firm, was on board the rig, but BP sent the team home on a regularly scheduled helicopter flight the morning of April 20.

Less than 12 hours later, the rig exploded.

BP also failed to fully circulate drilling mud, a 12-hour procedure that could have helped detect gas pockets that later shot up the well and exploded on the drilling rig.

Asked about the details disclosed from the investigation, BP spokesman Mark Proegler said the company’s main focus right now is on the response and stopping the flow of oil. “It would be inappropriate for us to comment while an investigation is ongoing,” Proegler told AP. BP executives including CEO Tony Hayward will be questioned by Congress on Thursday.

The letter from Waxman and Stupak noted at least five questionable decisions BP made before the explosion, and was supplemented by 61 footnotes and dozens of documents.

“The common feature of these five decisions is that they posed a trade-off between cost and well safety,” said Waxman and Stupak. Waxman, D-Calif., chairs the energy panel while Stupak, D-Mich., heads a subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

British Petroleum Disaster: An Insider’s Account

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 13, 2010

As The Real Agenda has reported, the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill goes beyond a few thousand gallons a day and chemical dispersants.

Oil industry insiders who have revealed first-hand information that could make the manliest human being tremble like jello.  The most prominent of these insiders, Pastor Lindsey Williams, who worked closely with heads of the oil industry for several years, appeared on talk radio to share his testimony on what is really going on in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The details are neither easy nor pleasant to understand.

Williams’ account begins with what a former oil industry CEO told him with regard to the Deep Water Horizon disaster.  According to him, the reason for the oil disaster was that BP may have drilled into something known as a batholith, which is a gigantic well usually filled with magma, but that this time seemed to be full of crude.  After drilling into the chamber, the pressure was so high that the Deepwater Horizon’s platform and its structure, weren’t able to withstand it causing the explosion and the consequent disaster.  Why didn’t the platform sustain the pressure generated from the crude coming out?  Pressures experienced after drilling an oil well vary, but maximum numbers usually hit 1500 pounds of pressure per square inch.  In the case of the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the pressure reached up to 70,000 pounds of natural pressure per square inch.  Williams said: “No structure built by man could have withstood such force.”  Does this mean the explosion was an accident?  Not necessarily.  As we have reported, Deepwater Horizon workers said in their testimony that BP’s heads knew of the lack of capacity the platform had to take on the well’s pressure, but forced the workers to continue the drilling process.  He added that the kind of oil contained in the gigantic well is not of the fossil type, but of another one known as Abiotic oil.  This oil is produced during chemical processes, deep down into the Earth’s core.  Williams said some of the most important oil deposits in the world are replenishing themselves through this process and therefore the peak oil idea is false.  On this side topic, Pastor Williams is supported by what can be called the Russian oil rush.  In the last few years, Russia has dug at least three oil wells such as the one apparently found in the Gulf of Mexico down to depths of 20,000 to 30,000 feet into the ground.  Other projects of the sort are located closer to the United States than anyone could think.  Just as Russia dug such deep wells on land, the United States granted BP permission to dig a 5,000 feet deep well in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Big mistake says Williams.  The fact the drilling was being done from a floating platform, only stabilized by propellers, may have played a determinant role on what happened next.

During the interview, Williams said that two sources from British Petroleum confirmed that not only had the company gone down 5,000 feet to the sea floor through sea water, but had drilled 25,000 feet into the sea bed down to the Earth’s crust.  His sources also confirmed that 3 hours before the explosion, BP had sent executives, geologists and other personnel to the region in order to witnessed what the result of the drilling would be.  Williams emphasized that the explosion was not done on purpose, but that it was all an accident due to the unexpected pressure that came together with the abiotic oil.  “The pressure was so great that no human manufactured device could have stopped the flow,” said Williams.  He also confirmed through his BP sources the allegation that BP high-ups collaborated in a way with the accident.  “A platform worker told the foreman that the fail safe valve was broken and needed to be replaced, but the foreman replied there was no time for that.”

Another of Mr. Williams’ revelations was that the leak of crude oil from the sea bed of the Gulf of Mexico is not spewing thousands or hundreds of thousands of gallons a day, but millions of gallons a day.  He said his oil industry source confirm what other independent sources have claimed: “that the oil spill is letting out between 4 and 5 million gallons of crude a day.”  The explosion the Pastor said during an interview on the Alex Jones Show, caused the sea bed to turn unstable, and that is why there are more than a few leaks down there.  Williams was told there were oil leaks as far as 20 miles away from the location where the Deepwater Horizon structure once stood.  He was fast to address one of the options some people have suggested as a solution to end the oil leak: To nuke the place in order to stop the crude from coming into the Gulf’s waters.  He said his source confessed this may be the only option to stop the disaster once and for all, but that given the degree of difficulty of such operation, there was a big enough chance the explosion of a nuclear device would make the problem worse.  If not done correctly and precisely, the explosion could further destabilize the well and cause a major collapse that would release greater amounts of oil which could not be stopped.

How does Mr. Williams knows this?  As mentioned before, his source, a former oil industry Chief Executive Officer, provided him with this and other information for the past few years.  Why should we believe what he says?  His track record has been immaculate so far.  Pastor Williams appeared on radio shows several times detailing -beforehand- the rise and fall of oil prices, the devaluation of the dollar, the food crisis, and the fake oil scarcity agenda the oil industry has planted in the public’s mind.  All of this before it happened.

birds

Marine life, birds and humans will have to live with the consequences of the spill for years to come.

One of the questions raised during the interview was what else besides the oil is coming out of the oil gushers?  At the beginning of the disaster, it was thought the oil was accompanied by mud only, but now, just as the numbers of the leak have changed, the account of what is flowing into the ocean along with the crude has also changed.  It seems the oil leak is not the biggest problem at hand.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the existence of multiple plumes on the sea floor and these very plumes are releasing toxic gases that are ultimately the greatest danger for marine and human life.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed NOAA’s findings after carrying out independent tests of the underwater plumes.

According to the EPA report, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)are being emitted from the bottom of the ocean in amounts never seen before.  Below is the transcript of the report where it cites the VOC’s present, the levels at which they are safe for humans, and the amounts that were detected in the studies the EPA performed.  The

1. Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) emitted at a rate of 1,200 parts per billion(ppb) into the water and the air afterwards, once it surfaces.  Levels considered “safe” for humans round 5-10 ppb;

2. Benzene (C6H6) emitted at a rate of 3,000 ppb.  Human “safe” levels are said to be around 0-4 ppb

3. Methylene Chloride or dichloromethane CH2Cl2, emitted at a rate of 3,400 ppb.  Human tolerance is established to levels below 61 ppb.

Other gases cited during the interview as being emitted from the spill include vanadium, which according to our research is, in its pure form, a greyish silvery, soft and ductile metal used as an alloy in the manufacturing of cars.  According to the Mineral Information Institute, “it is found in magnetite (iron oxide) deposits that are also very rich in the element titanium. It is also found in bauxite (aluminum ore), rocks with high concentrations of phosphorous-containing minerals, and sandstones that have high uranium content.” It has 2 isotopes that occur naturally.  One of the isotopes is stable and one is radioactive.

The emission of these gases into the water and later into the air people breathe indeed confirms a nefarious slow-paced genocide of marine life and human life.  If exposure to low levels of benzene causes dizziness, and organ failure, imagine what it is doing and what it will do to people exposed to it at the concentration levels read by the studies made by the EPA.  Deformities, cancer, respiratory problems are just a few of the problems people will face in the short and long run due to exposure to benzene, hydrogen sulfide, methylene chloride and who knows what else is coming out of deep beneath the sea floor.  Suddenly, the disaster seems to move from ecological and marine  to the very survival of the people who leave on the coast of Louisiana, Florida, and possibly the whole East Coast of the United States.

To all this we can add, as the media has reported, that Goldman Sachs sold 44 percent of its BP stock just three days before the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon platform.  Additionally, Tony Hayward -BP’s CEO- also sold a third of his own shares right before the accident occurred for a total of 1.4 million pounds.  In the meantime, fishers and other workers who are now helping with the cleaning efforts reported sickness after being in and on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  As channel 6, WSDU, reported, workers are experiencing illness, strong stomachache, respiratory problems, coughing and other symptoms of intoxication due to the inhalation of fumes from both the chemicals and the gases emanating from the waters.