Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Iraqi children born with defects due to US weapons

An Iraqi doctor has told Sky News the number of babies born with deformities in the heavily-bombed area of Fallujah is still on the increase.
Fifteen months ago a Sky News investigation revealed growing numbers of children being born with defects in Fallujah.
Concerns were that the rise in deformities may have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by US forces.
We recently returned to find out the current situation and what has happened to some of the children we featured.
In May last year we told the story of a three-year-old girl called Fatima Ahmed who was born with two heads.
When we filmed her she seemed like a listless bundle - she lay there barely able to breathe and unable to move.
Even now and having seen the pictures many times since I still feel shocked and saddened when I look at her.
But the prognosis for Fatima never looked good and, as feared, she never made it to her fourth birthday.
Her mother Shukriya told us about the night her daughter died.
Wiping away her tears, Shukriya said she had put her daughter to bed as normal one night but woke with the dreadful sense that something was wrong.
She told us she felt it was her daughter's moment to die, but of course that does not make the pain any easier.
Fatima's father had taken his little girl's hand but it was cold.
"She is gone," he had said to his distraught wife.

The above is from Lisa Holland's "The Truth Of Iraq's City Of Deformed Babies" (UK's Sky News via Information Clearing House). The damages done to future generations will continue to emerge and it's why Nouri's claims of a 'study' in Iraq 'finding' an increase in deaths related to smoking is so laughable. Iraq is a cancer ward and it's one due to the deployment (by the US and England) of various weapons which are now in the air everyone breathes. Yes, that means the 130,000 US service members still in Iraq are exposed as well. It's a toxic place and it should be studied and cleaned up. In May of 2003, Dave Lindorff's "America's Dirty Bombs" ran at CounterPunch:

Although the U.S. and Britain reportedly dropped as much as 2000 tons of depleted uranium weapons on Iraq, including in the center of densely populated Baghdad, a Pentagon spokesman last month told the BBC that it has "no plans to do a DU clean-up in Iraq."
Nor is the U.S. allowing inspectors from the U.N. environmental Program into Iraq to look for signs of DU contamination. It seems that just as the U.S. government doesn't want U.N. weapons inspectors to come into Iraq where they might undermine any U.S. claims to have found evidence of Saddam's WMDs, they don't want any U.N. environmental inspectors to come in and find evidence of U.S. use of a weapon that the U.N. has condemned as a weapon of mass destruction.
If U.N. estimates of the quantity of depleted uranium ordinance used in the current war in Iraq are correct, it would mean six times as much of the super-toxic and carcinogenic substance was used this time as in 1991, and already there are disturbing reports of dramatically higher incidences of cancer and birth defects in Southern Iraq following the 1991 war.

In the fall of 2005, he wrote "Radioactive Wounds of War" for In These Times:

Gerard Matthew thought he was lucky. He returned from his Iraq tour a year and a half ago alive and in one piece. But after the New York State National Guardsman got home, he learned that a bunkmate, Sgt. Ray Ramos, and a group of N.Y. Guard members from another unit had accepted an offer by the New York Daily News and reporter Juan Gonzalez to be tested for depleted uranium (DU) contamination, and had tested positive.
Matthew, 31, decided that since he'd spent much of his time in Iraq lugging around DU-damaged equipment, he'd better get tested too. It turned out he was the most contaminated of them all.
Matthew immediately urged his wife to get an ultrasound check of their unborn baby. They discovered the fetus had a condition common to those with radioactive exposure: atypical syndactyly. The right hand had only two digits.
So far Victoria Claudette, now 13 months old, shows no other genetic disorders and is healthy, but Matthew feels guilty for causing her deformity and angry at a government that never warned him about DU's dangers.
U.S. forces first used DU in the 1991 Gulf War, when some 300 tons of depleted uranium--the waste product of nuclear power plants and weapons facilities--were used in tank shells and shells fired by A-10 jets. A lesser amount was deployed by U.S. and NATO forces during the Balkans conflict. But in the current wars in Afghanistan and, especially, Iraq, DU has become the weapon of choice, with more than 1,000 tons used in Afghanistan and more than 3,000 tons used in Iraq. And while DU was fired mostly in the desert during the Gulf War, in the current war in Iraq, most of DU munitions are exploding in populated urban areas.
The Pentagon has expanded DU beyond tank and A-10 shells, for use in bunker-busting bombs, which can spew out more than half a ton of DU in one explosion, in anti-personnel bomblets, and even in M-16 and pistol shells. The military loves DU for its unique penetration capability--it cuts through steel or concrete like they're butter.
The problem is that when DU hits its target, it burns at a high temperature, throwing off clouds of microscopic particles that poison a wide area and remain radioactive for billions of years. If inhaled, these particles can lodge in lungs, other organs or bones, irradiating tissue and causing cancers.
Worse yet, uranium is also a highly toxic heavy metal. Indeed, while there is some debate over the risk posed by the element's radioactive emissions, there is no debate regarding its chemical toxicity. According to Mt. Sinai pathologist Thomas Fasey, who participated in the New York Guard unit testing, the element has an affinity for bonding with DNA, where even trace amounts can cause cancers and fetal abnormalities.

For those who've forgotten or arrived late to the party, after the yelling ended and someone broke a lamp, it was the response by In These Times to his article that led Dave Lindorff to leave ITT after writing for the publication from its inception:

It begins with an article I wrote ("Radioactive Wounds of War") on Sept. 19 of this year, on the military's expanded use of depleted uranium as a weapon of choice in Iraq. Depleted uranium, the byproduct of nuclear weapon and nuclear fuel production, turns out to be a super penetrator, able to pierce the thickest steel armor and concrete wall. During 1991, the first time it was deployed by the U.S. military, over 300 tons of the extraordinarily toxic and radioactive material, which vaporizes on contact when fired, was used in the Kuwaiti and southern Iraq desert, mostly in the form of 30 mm rounds fired by A-10 attack aircraft and of tank shells.
My article in ITT explained how in the current war, as much as 10 times that much DU has been fired off. The article, based in part on an interview with Dr. Doug Rokke, a Pentagon whistleblower who in the mid-1990s was placed in charge of a Pentagon "Live Fire" test program of DU ordnance to determine how to use DU munitions safely, told how in this war, instead of the DU being expended in remote desert battles, it was being used in urban warfare in highly populated areas of Iraq and Afghanistan, and in much vaster quantities. I also wrote of how some American troops who returned and who had been subsequently tested for DU contamination because of symptoms they were showing, were testing "hot," and how one man's wife had already had a daughter born with a suspected radiation-caused deformity.
The article struck a nerve and was widely read on the ITT website.
It also attracted, as do most such DU exposes, attacks from a well-oiled Pentagon-based disinformation campaign. Military officials, hiding their identities, wrote in slandering Dr. Rokke, for example claiming that he had never headed a Pentagon DU testing program (he did, and I have the documents to prove it), and claiming that he was only a lieutenant, not a captain (he not only was a captain, but I have his letters of rank advancement recommendations and letters of commendation). Another letter came to ITT from a Jack Cohen-Joppe, a self-described anti-nuke activist with has an Ahab-like obsession with attacking articles critical of DU weapons use.

Rod Nordland has an essay at the New York Times entitled "Where Ghosts Are a Reassuring Presence to Those in Need of One" and this is the opening:

Soldiers believe in ghosts. I know this because when I am with soldiers, it is the only time I believe in ghosts. Not surprisingly, soldiers never talk about this for fear of sounding foolish. Instead, they invest their surroundings with memorials and mementos.
They name their DFACs (Dining Facilities, once known as mess halls), and their MWRs (Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers, or gyms) and any other semi-permanent structures after the fallen. Even the roads in the big forward operating bases, like this one outside Baquba, in Diyala Province, sometimes take on the names of ghosts. Camp Warhorse, for example, named its Faulkenburg Theater after Command Sgt. Maj. Steven W. Faulkenburg, who died fighting in Falluja in November 2004.
The ghosts of the dead become a reassuring presence -- so the living know they themselves will not be forgotten -- and also a sobering one, so everyone can see how often death has visited.

He's got the opening chapter to his Iraq book if he decides to write it. And he probably won't, which is a real shame. Dexy Filkins -- military boy toy -- writes a bad book. The reporters for the paper who had anything worth saying? Nothing. James Glanz could write the book on corruption in the reconstruction. Sabrina Tavernise could write the book that ripped America's heart apart. Damien Cave could do a darkly comic look at the horrors of the war and occupation where every day started with promise but ended at the same starting point -- the occupation as Sisyphus. We don't get those books, we just get war propaganda from Dexy. Check out Norland's essay.

Meanwhile Natalia Antelava (BBC News) reports that the abandoned Nigerian embassy in Baghdad has been turned into "the Academy of Peace through Art, a school created under the umbrella of Iraq's national Symphony Orchestra." She quotes the director Karim Wasfi stating, "We offer space, teachers, the instruments and a chance to be exposed to a bit of civilisation, something that everyone in Iraq deserves. Straight away I tell students: you have a choice in life. You can choose a weapon, a Kalashnikov, or you can try a musical instrument." Also in Baghdad, Anne Barker (Australia's ABC News) reports that "four security officers have been sentenced to death for their part in a multi-million dollar banks robbery in Baghdad." She's referring to the July 28th bank robbery in which 8 security guards were killed and millions were stolen as US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was visiting Iraq. (The two are not unconnected. When US dignitaries visit, security is channeled towards that and you often see a spike in store and bank robberies.) BBC adds, "The judges gave the condemned men one month to appeal the sentence. They all proclaimed their innocence during the proceedings. Correspondents say the case has potential for major political fallout despite Mr Abdel Mahdi's denials of any involvement of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council to which he belongs." And Kirit Radia (ABC News) reports Blackwater's contract to guard the US State Dept in Iraq has been extended (it "was due to expire this month").

Turning to the United States, Meredith Rodriguez (Kansas City Star) reports Iraq War veterans Josh Stieber and Conor Curran will be in Kansas City today as one stop on the Contagious Love Experiment. From eight in the morning until noon, the two will be at Bishop War High School, at Avila College from two in the afternoon until 3:15 and this evening (starting at six) American Friends Services Committee. Peace, Earth & Justice News notes the following:

Many people think that U.S. Imperialism is going to leave sometime soon, as indicated by President Barack Obama. This is not the case. A status of forces agreement was approved by the Iraqi government in late 2008. "U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011." (Wikipedia). This is more smoke and mirrors than real policy. In reality there will be plenty of permanent military bases outside of Iraqi cities and a gigantic new U.S. embassy, all to assure that Iraqi "sovereignty" stays within very well circumscribed limits. What are the limits? The desires and interests of American Imperialism. As Global Security notes, "U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 "enduring bases," long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years" (of course, longer!). Global Security.
The Iraq war is a war of aggression thrust upon the American and Iraqi populations through lies spread by a very well oiled propaganda machine, that is, the U.S. media. The Nazis were tried at Nuremberg for just such an offense. And the principle was established that all the crimes committed on behalf of the war effort flow from the war being designated as aggressive. All of the evil is contained in this initial crime.
George W. Bush and Co., the people responsible for the criminal war in Iraq, need to stand trial for war crimes, for the criminal act of an aggressive war.
The American people, in spite of being diverted by the devastation of the economy with its foreclosures and high unemployment, etc., will have an opportunity to demonstrate their opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in cities all over the United States on October 17.
Bring the Troops Home Now!
Money for Jobs Not War!

Lastly, independent journalist David Bacon is a photographer with tremendous gifts and an exhibit of his work is currently running in Santa Rosa through October 10th.


Journalist and documentary photographer David Bacon highlights the difficult issues that are critical to California's indigenous farm workers. He explores the unique challenges that indigenous communities face, while celebrating the culture and community spirit that sustains them.

For the first time, this exhibition includes both color images from the Living Under the Trees traveling show, and black-and-white prints from the earlier photodocumentary project,

1501 Mendocino Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95401



Opening Reception with Danza Mexica Coyolxauhqui

Panel Presentation - "Immigrant Workers Speak"

Community Forum and Cultural Program
"Living in Sonoma County: Housing for the Immigrant and Farm Workers Communities"

Guest Lecture · David Bacon
"Living Under the Trees"

Cultural Presentation and Poetry Reading
Ballet Sonatlan and Armando Garcia-Davila

Mexican Independence Celebration with MeChA
Quad in front of the Frank P. Doyle library, SRJC

Panel Presentation
"Immigration and California Farm Workers"

Guest Lecture · Dr. David Montejano
"The Border as History: Immigration Debates, Past and Present"

Student Presentations
"Immigration Policy Proposal

Living Under the Trees is a cooperative project with California Rural Legal Assistance and the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales.

For more articles and images on immigration, see

See also Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award.

The e-mail address for this site is

Kirit Radia