Saturday, August 21, 2010

Patrick Cockburn: "Toxic Legacy of US Assault on Fallujah Worse than Hiroshima"

Military radioactive assaults on human beings and our planet did not stop after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the thousands of experimental nuclear bombings throughout the world over sixty decades. They continue today with the use of depleted uranium weapons.

Patrick Cockburn, Middle East Correspondent for The Independent, reported "the shocking rates of infant mortality and cancer in Iraqi city raise new questions" in "Toxic Legacy of US Assault on Fallujah 'Worse Than Hiroshima'" published July 26 :
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.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that "to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened".

US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions...

The study, entitled "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009", is by Dr Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, and concludes that anecdotal evidence of a sharp rise in cancer and congenital birth defects is correct. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. The report says that the types of cancer are "similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout".

Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. At Hiroshima survivors showed a 17-fold increase in leukaemia, but in Fallujah Dr Busby says what is striking is not only the greater prevalence of cancer but the speed with which it was affecting people.

Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed. In a normal population this is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but for those born from 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females. The sex-ratio is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls. A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct created when enriched uranium is separated for use in nuclear power and atomic weapons. The U.S. Department of Energy gives it to weapons manufacturers which use the radioactive heavy metal for the manufacture of armor and casings. The U.N. passed a resolution opposing its use because of discovery of health problems after its use during the first Gulf War between 1990 and 1991. The US, UK, and Israel have used depleted uranium weapons in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon.

Read the rest of Cockburn's report here and see the Democracy Now! interview with him, "Missing Billions in Iraq and Soaring Cancer & Infant Mortality Rates in Fallujah," here.

See also Dave Lindorff's 2009 "Depleted Uranium Weapons: Dead Babies in Iraq and Afghanistan are no joke," Don Monkerud's 2006 "The Case Against Depleted Uranium," and Kevin Zeese's 2005 "Depleted Uranium: States Take Action to Protect Their Soldiers and Veterans: An Interview with Bob Smith," all posted at CounterPunch.

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