The Children of Fallujah: The Nightmares Never End
You may not really want to read this; I didn’t really want to write it, but I needed to. I think it’s arguably our moral duty as Americans to bear some small witness to the atrocities done to others in our names. As painful as it is for us, it’s a mere mote in our eyes compared to the endless suffering, now proving likely to be multi-generational, to those we’ve waged war upon. As TarheelDem put it so succinctly, as the US and NATO are soon to be ostensibly ‘between wars’, other enemies are being sought to justify that alliance’s expansion and goals. These hideous deeds will continue apace unless our citizenry rallies sufficiently to put a stop to the madness that is war without end, hidden in lies, but cynically waged covertly in the name of Empire and Profit.
The reports Robert Fisk has brought this week are only the most recent chronicles of the massive increase in stillbirths, deformities, disabilities and life-threatening conditions among the infants born to parents in Fallujah since Operation Phantom Fury which began on November 7, 2004.
You’ll likely remember it was the second major attack on Fallujah in retaliation for the insurgent killings of four Blackwater (insert any profanity here) employees who were dragged from their vehicle, burned, and their bodies hung over a bridge across the Euphrates River. Revenge. Retaliation. Annihilation in perpetuity.
The assault began in the early hours of November 8, 2004 with an intense bombing that included the next-generation napalm, white phosphorus which turned people into human fireballs, depleted uranium ‘bunker-busting’ bombs that destroyed most of the buildings in the city of over 300,000, and left the soil, water and air deadly. Apparently, upon hitting a tank or bunker, they disintegrate, with up to 40 per cent of the uranium, which is still radioactive, turning into fine powder.
Roger Coghill, who conducts research on the subject at laboratories in Gwent, said:
‘The particles are so small that they don’t fall back to earth, they hang around in the atmosphere and are still very deadly years after the conflict.’
The dust particles are not only poisonous, they can enter the bloodstream and become lodged in the lymph glands from where they emit radiation that could cause cancer”.
Many Iraqis had been invited to leave before the assault; figures vary on percentages that fled from 70-90%, but over 200,000 are said to be part of the Iraqi Diaspora even now.
The US military claims over 2,000 ‘insurgents’ were killed; Iraqi figures counted 6,000 civilians killed outright, many more maimed and disfigured.
During the long and bloody seige of the city, howitzers and other machines of death pounded the place with shells and bullets made with depleted uranium. Trash piles in Iraq have been notorious for children picking through the debris for usable items; the military claims it has begun to bury the debris. Kind of them.
As part of his recent series, Fisk visited Fallujah General Hospital to see if the reports from Alexander Cockburn and others were accurate; he wondered where the pictures were, dismayed that the US press is so loth to cover the story, and why more studies aren’t being done to discover what’s going on with the children of Fallujah.
“The pictures flash up on a screen on an upper floor of the Fallujah General Hospital. And all at once, Nadhem Shokr al-Hadidi’s administration office becomes a little chamber of horrors. A baby with a hugely deformed mouth. A child with a defect of the spinal cord, material from the spine outside the body. A baby with a terrible, vast Cyclopean eye. Another baby with only half a head, stillborn like the rest, date of birth 17 June, 2009. Yet another picture flicks onto the screen: date of birth 6 July 2009, it shows a tiny child with half a right arm, no left leg, no genitalia.
“We see this all the time now,” Al-Hadidi says, and a female doctor walks into the room and glances at the screen. She has delivered some of these still-born children. “I’ve never seen anything as bad as this in all my service,” she says quietly. [snip] I asked to see these photographs, to ensure that the stillborn children, the deformities, were real. There’s always a reader or a viewer who will mutter the word “propaganda” under their breath.
But the photographs are a damning, ghastly reward for such doubts. January 7, 2010: a baby with faded, yellow skin and misshapen arms. April 26, 2010: a grey mass on the side of the baby’s head. A doctor beside me speaks of “Tetralogy of Fallot”, a transposition of the great blood vessels. May 3, 2010: a frog-like creature in which – the Fallujah doctor who came into the room says this – “all the abdominal organs are trying to get outside the body.”
This is too much. These photographs are too awful, the pain and emotion of them – for the poor parents, at least – impossible to contemplate. They simply cannot be published.”
‘War Crimes in Fallujah’ at this site contains disturbing pictures, revelations of chemicals and radioactive metals used against Iraqis Try to look at the photos, and read some of the first-hand accounts. There are stories of cover-ups and military denials, including this piece American journalist Dahr Jamail wrote for Al Jazeera on 1/06/2011, who also quoted Dr. Alani:
“We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine,” Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.
As of December 21, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.
“There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we’ve never seen them until now,” she said. “So when I describe it all I can do is describe the physical defects, but I’m unable to provide a medical term.”
Dr Samira Alani, who has been working as a pediatrician at Fallujah General Hospital since 1997, has registered 699 cases of birth defects in Fallujah babies since late 2009.
“We have no system to register all of them, so we have so many cases we are missing,” she said. “Just yesterday a colleague told me of a newborn with thanatophoric dysplasia and she did not register it. I think I only know of 40-50 per cent of the cases because so many families have their babies at home and we never know of these, and other clinics are not registering them either.“
One entry on the website says:
“February 26, 2005, the German newspaper Junge Welt published an interview with Dr. Mohammad J. Haded, a member of the medical staff of the Central Hospital of Fallujah, and Mohammad F. Awad, a member of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society who helped gather corpses in Fallujah for identification.
In that interview, Dr. Haded described Fallujah as “Dresden in Iraq” and Awad recounted the “remarkable number of dead people [who] were totally charred.”
Dr. Haded also described how U.S. forces “wiped out” the hospital in Fallujah, attacked rescue vehicles, and destroyed a makeshift field hospital.”
American documentary-maker Mark Manning has made similar observations; you can read his story of being embedded in Fallujah here.
The doctors at Fallujah warn that there haven’t been enough studies done to absolutely tie the hideous increase in birth defects to depleted uranium, but expert Christopher Busby has said that the culprit is more likely that than the ‘napalm derivative’, WP:
“…the uranium particles can also wreck the DNA of sperm and eggs produced by contaminated adults – causing a multitude of birth defects in any baby they conceive, and that “white phosphorus is not something that specifically damages the DNA, but depleted uranium, normal uranium and enriched uranium are all mutagens and cause birth defects at quite small concentrations.”
A study done by Busby and two other researchers two years ago showed a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks. The report also showed the sex ratio had declined from normal to 86 boys to 100 girls, together with a spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage similar to but of far greater incidence than Hiroshima.
Dr Alani visited Japan recently, where she met with Japanese doctors who study birth defect rates they believe related to radiation from the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
She was told birth defect incidence rates there are between 1-2 per cent. Alani’s log of cases of birth defects amounts to a rate of 14.7 per cent of all babies born in Fallujah, more than 14 times the rate in the affected areas of Japan.
Tragically, Fisk reports:
“What is so shameful is that these deformities continue unmonitored. One Fallujah doctor, an obstetrician trained in Britain – she left only five months ago – who has purchased from her own sources for her private clinic a £79,000 scanning machine for prenatal detection of congenital abnormalities, gives me her name and asks why the Ministry of Health in Baghdad will not hold a full official investigation into the deformed babies of Fallujah.
“I have been to see the ministry,” she says. “They said they would have a committee. I went to the committee. And they have done nothing. I just can’t get them to respond.” Then, 24 hours later, the same woman sends a message to a friend of mine, another Iraqi doctor, asking me not to use her name.”
In March of 2010:
US assault on Fallujah: Women Warned not to have babies
Oh, you Masters of War…
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins.
~ Bob Dylan
American dissident writer William Blum wrote at killinghope.org in 2010:
“… no American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured … the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives …
“More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up … an army of young Islamic men went to Iraq to fight the American invaders; they left the country more militant, hardened by war, to spread across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia … a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again.
“Unhappy the land that has no heroes …
No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes.”
~ Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo”
Ralph Nader and others instead want the heroic good guys honored, and wrote yesterday about the Ridenhour awards ceremony for truthtellers and whistleblowers, press coverage of which he says is nonexistent.
The least we can possibly do right now is imagine every suffering child in Fallujah and around the world, whether it be from birth defects, illness, poverty, homelessness, fear of the following days, inadequate parents…anything…might be able to hear this song we send them, and imagine being loved and comforted by absolute and unconditional love. And…keep some for yourselves; we all deserve it, whether we got it or not.