Legacy of US Weapons-Caused Birth Defects Still Haunts Iraq

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Common Dreams

Legacy of US Weapons-Caused Birth Defects Still Haunts Iraq

by
Common Dreams staff

Still from video from The Guardian on hospitals in Falluja dealing with chronic deformities in infants

War's cruel legacy continues to unleash itself on the children of Iraq as weapons used by the U.S. have left Iraqi children with horrific birth defects, and the problem shows no signs of abating, Inter Press Service is reporting today.

"In 2004 the Americans tested all kinds of chemicals and explosive devices on us: thermobaric weapons, white phosphorous, depleted uranium...we have all been laboratory mice for them," hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi told Inter Press Service (IPS).

IPS notes that the Iraqi Health Ministry, in close collaboration with the WHO, is set to embark on its first ever study on congenital malformations in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Thi Qar, Suleimania, Diala and Basra this month.

Iraqi children being born with birth defects has been devasting families for years. A July 2010 study showed that increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the heavily bombarded city of Fallujah surpass those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

And the Guardian reported back in 2009 that Falluja doctors were "dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants, compared to a year ago, and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting."

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Inter Press Service: Those Laboratory Mice Were Children

FALLUJAH, Iraq - At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. "Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone," says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. "It’s all too shameful for them."

"We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more," says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.

Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, Hadidi says parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. "They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them. And it doesn’t help at all when some elder tells them it’s been ‘god’s punishment’."

The pictures are difficult to look at. And, those responsible for all this have closed their eyes. [...]

Researchers found there had been a 38-fold increase in leukaemia (17-fold in the Japanese locations). Reputed analysts such as Noam Chomsky have labelled such conclusions as "immensely more embarrassing than the Wikileaks leaks on Afghanistan."

Samira Alaani, chief doctor at Fallujah hospital, took part in a study in close collaboration with the World Health Organisation. Several tests conducted in London point to unusually large amounts of uranium and mercury in the hair root of those affected. That could be the evidence linking the use of prohibited weapons to the extent of congenital problems in Fallujah.

Other than the white phosphorus, many point to depleted uranium (DU), a radioactive element which, according to military engineers, significantly increases the penetration capacity of shells. DU is believed to have a life of 4.5 billion years, and it has been labelled the "silent murderer that never stops killing."

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The Independent: Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah 'worse than Hiroshima' (from 24 July 2010)

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.

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The Guardian: Huge rise in birth defects in Falluja (from 13 November 2009)

Doctors in Iraq's war-ravaged enclave of Falluja are dealing with up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants, compared to a year ago, and a spike in early life cancers that may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting. [...]

"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies," said Falluja general hospital's director and senior specialist, Dr Ayman Qais. "Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically." [...]

Other health officials are also starting to focus on possible reasons, chief among them potential chemical or radiation poisonings. Abnormal clusters of infant tumours have also been repeatedly cited in Basra and Najaf – areas that have in the past also been intense battle zones where modern munitions have been heavily used.

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