Fallujah – a poisoned city
Unreported in the New Zealand media and virtually unreported in the United States was the release of a report by public health academics who studied the cancer rate, infant mortality and the birth to sex ratio of children in Fallujah, Iraq. The authors concluded that the findings, “show increases in cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”
The following article was first published at Socialist Aotearoa and brings together some commentary and international opinion on depleted uranium and the siege of Fallujah.
A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but MORE merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain....
...If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--for ever.
If you were to walk into any travel agency office today and ask the sales rep to plan a trip for you to whatever city in the world best fitted this description there’s a pretty good chance you’d soon find yourself with a ticket to Fallujah, Iraq. Fallujah is a picture of the future.
Although Fallujah has been a site of human civilisation for thousands of years and was once the site of a Jewish school of philosophy and religion it is known around the world as the site of the 2004 battles between the Iraqi resistance and the US military.
The conflict between US occupation forces and the people of Fallujah began just five days after US soldiers arrived in the town on April 28, 2003, “when a demonstration calling for the soldiers to leave turned violent. According to protesters, U.S. soldiers fired on them without provocation, killing seventeen people and wounding more than seventy."
According to the U.S. military, the soldiers returned precision fire on gunmen in the crowd who were shooting at them. At a protest in town two days later, a U.S. military convoy opened fire killing three persons and wounding another sixteen. Again the military said it had come under armed attack, which the protesters denied. That same night, grenades were thrown into a U.S. base in al-Falluja, injuring seven U.S. soldiers. An attack a month later, on May 28, killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded nine. This and other attacks in late May and early June killed four U.S. soldiers and wounded twenty-one.
The demonstration on April 28 is described in detail in the report by Human Rights Watch however it is worth noting that, “Human Rights Watch did not find overwhelming sympathy for Saddam Hussein following the collapse of his government. Many al-Falluja residents told Human Rights Watch that they considered themselves victims and opponents of his repressive rule.” ... “According to participants in the demonstration, the protest was peaceful and no one had guns. They chanted slogans like "God is great! Muhammad is his prophet!" They also chanted a slogan heard often at protests around Iraq: "No to Saddam! No to the U.S.!"”
A year later Iraqi insurgents killed four military contractors from the notorious Blackwater company. The insurgents burnt the bodies and left them dangling on a bridge. In response the US launched an unsuccessful attack in May ’04 and then a successful attack in November ’04 to destroy the insurgent forces in control of the city.
During the siege of Fallujah US human rights violations were widely reported. Journalist Dahr Jamail interviewed refugees in the wake of the conflict who recounted murder and brutality beyond belief.
“I saw so many civilians killed there, and I saw several tanks roll over the wounded in the streets,” said Aziz Abdulla, 27 years old, who fled the fighting last month. Another resident, Abu Aziz, said he also witnessed American armored vehicles crushing people he believes were alive.
Tom Eley’s excellent article on the lead up to the November assault notes that in wake of the failed May attack,
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.
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.”
After the US had taken control of the citya security apparatus was put in place that used biometric identification and tracking of all residents and the division of the city into areas controlled by roadblocks. The soccer fields became cemeteries to cope with the hge intake of bodies. In 2008 Jamail would report,
“Unemployment, and lack of medical care and safe drinking water in the city 60 km west of Baghdad remain a continuous problem. Freedom of movement is still curtailed.”
“The brutal destruction of Fallujah by the American army was not followed by any reconstruction, as if the city is being punished for its attitude against the occupation,” said an engineer in Fallujah, Kaltan Fadhil.
Water and electricity supply, health facilities and roads were provided “in a way that only made some people who collaborated with Americans richer,” he said.
Unreported in the New Zealand media and virtually unreported in the United States was the release of a report by public health academics who studied the cancer rate, infant mortality and the birth to sex ratio of children in Fallujah. The authors concluded that the findings, “show increases in cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”
You can read the full report here and the authors' press release summarises the main findings,
Results of a survey in Jan/Feb 2010 of 711 houses and more than 4000 individuals in Fallujah show that in the five years following the 2004 attacks by USA-led forces there has been a 4-fold increase in all cancer. Interestingly, the spectrum of cancer is similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionizing radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout. By comparing the sample population rates to the cancer rates in Egypt and Jordan, researchers found there has been a 38-fold increase in leukaemia (20 cases) almost a 10-fold increase in female breast cancer (12 cases) and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults.
Based on 16 cases in the 5-year period, the 12-fold increases in childhood cancer in those aged 0-14 were particularly marked. The cancer and leukaemia increases were all in younger people than would normally be expected. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1000 births which compares with a value of 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. An important result is that the sex-ratio, which in normal populations is always 1050 boys born per 1000 girls was seriously reduced in the group born immediately after 2005, one year after the conflict: in this group the sex ratio was 860.
The report is astounding. It shows that the residents of Fallujah have been collectively poisoned and genetically damaged since 2004. An entire city turned into a radioactive and toxic metropolis. The brain damaged, the deformed and the disabled babies who will be the living victims of this were not even born as the bombs rained on the city and the bullets tore the population apart in 2004.
The cause of this “worse than Hiroshima” legacy is undoubtedly depleted uranium or DU. As Dahr Jamail reported in 08, “depleted uranium (DU) munitions, which contain low-level radioactive waste, were used heavily in Fallujah. The Pentagon admits to having used 1,200 tonnes of DU in Iraq thus far.”
DU has been used by the US and UK occupation forces in Iraq. The Coalition to Ban DU summarise why, “Depleted Uranium itself is a chemically toxic and radioactive compound, which is used in armour piercing munitions because of its very high density. It is 1.7 times denser than lead, giving DU weapons increased range and penetrative power.”
The effect of using DU in ammunition is like something out of a science fiction film a substance that travels through the air and then the body to end up lodged in the brains of victims.
The DU oxide dust produced when DU munitions burn has no natural or historical analogue. This toxic and radioactive dust is composed of two oxides: one insoluble, the other sparingly soluble. The distribution of particle sizes includes sub-micron particles that are readily inhaled into and retained by the lungs. From the lungs uranium compounds are deposited in the lymph nodes, bones, brain and testes. Hard targets hit by DU penetrators are surrounded by this dust and surveys suggest that it can travel many kilometres when re-suspended, as is likely in arid climates. The dust can then be inhaled or ingested by civilians and the military alike.
"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."
Holiday in Fallujah
The destruction of Fallujah, once an ancient university town, now a radioactive, bombed out, corrupt, open air prison gives a chilling vision of what happens when the US military decides to punish a population for resisting occupation. Fallujah is the archetypal dystopian city brought into existence by US imperialism.
John Key in April 2003 told the Rodney Times that “New Zealand troops should be alongside their British and United States allies as they continue their invasion of Iraq”. In May 2010 he said “I’m not prepared to send troops to places that I’m not prepared to go to myself.”
So the question needs to be asked. When will John Key be taking a holiday in Fallujah?