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Cancer – The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq

Jalal Ghazi

Forget about oil, occupation, terrorism or even Al Qaeda. The real
hazard for Iraqis these days is cancer. 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.

Here are a few examples. 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.

The cancer rate in the province of Babil, south of Baghdad has risen from 500 diagnosed cases in 2004 to 9,082 in 2009 according to Al Jazeera English.

In Basra there were 1885 diagnosed cases of cancer in 2005. According
to Dr. Jawad al Ali, director of the Oncology Center, the number
increased to 2,302 in 2006 and 3,071 in 2007. Dr. Ali told Al Jazeera
English that about 1,250-1,500 patients visit the Oncology Center every
month now.

Not everyone is ready to draw a direct correlation between allied
bombing of these areas and tumors, and the Pentagon has been skeptical
of any attempts to link the two. But Iraqi doctors and some Western
scholars say the massive quantities of depleted uranium used in U.S.
and British bombs, and the sharp increase in cancer rates are not

Dr Ahmad Hardan, who served as a special scientific adviser to the
World Health Organization, the United Nations and the Iraqi Ministry of
Health, says that there is scientific evidence linking depleted uranium
to cancer and birth defects. He told Al Jazeera English,
"Children with congenital anomalies are subjected to karyotyping and
chromosomal studies with complete genetic back-grounding and clinical
assessment. Family and obstetrical histories are taken too. These
international studies have produced ample evidence to show that
depleted uranium has disastrous consequences."

Iraqi doctors say cancer cases increased after both the 1991 war and the 2003 invasion.
Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of "Uranium in Iraq" told Al Jazeera English
that the incubation period for depleted uranium is five to six years,
which is consistent with the spike in cancer rates in 1996-1997 and


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There are also similar patterns of birth defects among Iraqi and Afghan
infants who were also born in areas that were subjected to depleted
uranium bombardment.

Dr. Daud Miraki, director of the Afghan Depleted Uranium and Recovery
Fund, told Al Jazeera English he found evidence of the effect of
depleted uranium in infants in eastern and south- eastern Afghanistan.
"Many children are born with no eyes, no limbs, or tumors protruding
from their mouths and eyes," said Dr. Miraki.

It's not just Iraqis and Afghans. Babies born to American soldiers deployed in Iraq during the 1991 war are also showing similar defects.
In 2000, Iraqi biologist Huda saleh Mahadi pointed out that the hands
of deformed American infants were directly linked to their shoulders, a
deformity seen in Iraqi infants.

Many US soldiers are now referring to Gulf War Syndrome #2 and alleging they have developed cancer because of exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq.

But soldiers can end their exposure to depleted uranium when their
service in Iraq ends. Iraqi civilians have nowhere else to go. The
water, soil and air in large areas of Iraq, including Baghdad, are
contaminated with depleted uranium that has a radioactive half-life of
4.5 billion years.

Dr. Doug Rokke, former director of the U.S. Army's Depleted Uranium
Project during the first Gulf War, was in charge of a project of
decontaminating American tanks. He told Al Jazeera English
that "it took the U.S. Department of Defense in a multi-million dollar
facility with trained physicists and engineers, three years to
decontaminate the 24 tanks that I sent back to the U.S."
And he added, "What can the average Iraqi do with thousands and
thousands of trash and destroyed vehicles spread across the desert and
other areas?"

According to Al Jazeera, the Pentagon used more than 300 tons of depleted uranium in 1991. In 2003, the United States used more than 1,000 tons.

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