The Suffering of Fallujah

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fallujah . . .

And so it turns out that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though not until we arrived and started using them.

Along with whatever else we did to Fallujah
- exacted collective punishment on a defiant city (a war crime) in
November 2004, killed thousands of civilians, shattered the
infrastructure (nearly six years later, the sewage system hasn't been
repaired and waste flows in the streets) - we also, apparently, nuked
the city, leaving a legacy of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and
genetic abnormality.

isn't free. Remember when that was the go-to phrase of the citizen war
zealots among us, their all-purpose rebuttal when those of us appalled
by this insane war cited civilian casualty stats? Discussion over.
Thought stops here.

is the power of language. Call it "war" and along come glory, duty,
courage, sacrifice: the best of humanity writ large. The word is
impenetrable; it sets the heart in motion; God makes an appearance,
blesses the troops, blesses the weapons. Operation Iraqi Freedom:
They'll greet us with open arms.

what point do we learn our lesson, that "war" is a moral cesspool of
horrific consequences, especially, and most troublingly, unintended

last November, a group of British and Iraqi doctors petitioned the U.N.
to investigate the alarming rise in birth defects at Fallujah's
hospitals. "Young women in Fallujah," they wrote, ". . . 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."

official U.S. response was that the doctors' letter was anecdotal:
There have been no studies to verify that anything is truly amiss in
Fallujah, beyond the devastation caused by U.S. troops and bombs. Now
that has changed.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has just published an epidemiological study, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah,
Iraq 2005-2009," which has found, among much else, that Fallujah is
experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than
Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.

most eerily, the study, conducted by a team of 11 researchers this past
January and February, in 711 households, found a radical shift in the
ratio of female-to-male births. Under normal circumstances, the human
constant is approximately 1,050 boys born for every 1,000 girls. In
post-invasion Fallujah, 860 boys have been born for every 1,000 girls -
similar to a shift seen in Hiroshima after the atom bomb was dropped.

Chris Busby, one of the study's authors, said only "some very major
mutagenic exposure" could account for such an aberration. The most
likely culprit, he said, is depleted uranium, a dense metal with
extraordinary penetrating ability used in the manufacture of missiles,
shells and bombs. DU explodes on impact into an extremely fine,
radioactive dust that settles on the ground or is carried by the wind.
While the U.S. military continues to deny that breathing it is harmful,
many scientists insist that it is highly toxic and a likely contributor
to Gulf War Syndrome - that it is, in short, a nuclear weapon, with
fallout as dangerous as a nuclear bomb.

read about this is to grow increasingly sickened and disturbed at who
we are and what we are doing: still debating "the war," still dignifying
this ongoing hemorrhage of national values with the term; still
murdering civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and resolutely fleeing
from any responsibility for the ecocide we have committed in Iraq; and
still silently, inevitably, preparing for the next one.

Would that we could bring the suffering of Fallujah to the heart of America, or at least to the heart of Congress, which just OK'd another $59 billion to "fund the troops" (notice the delicacy of the Pentagon's phrasing) in Afghanistan.

future-devouring numbers turn over in Congress with such ease, if the
money is demanded by the war machine. Money dedicated to building the
future, or repairing the damage from old, dead wars, is another matter
entirely: Suddenly it's real, like a pound of flesh, and meted out only
with howls of anguish.

help clean up our legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, for instance,
Congress has appropriated $9 million since 2007. We sprayed 19 million
gallons of this highly toxic defoliant on the country between 1962 and
1971, causing harm to at least 3 million Vietnamese in the process. Our
sense of responsibility amounts to $3 per person. And such money becomes
available only after decades of denial that we have any responsibility
at all.

think again about Fallujah. The city's suffering will haunt our
national dreams for decades to come. It is our future. In a generation
or so, our children will face the consequences of what we have done
there; but in the meantime, we'll keep trying to buy "victory" and
ultimate justification in multi-billion-dollar increments until our
financial bankruptcy equals our moral bankruptcy.

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