'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, January 08, 2010

Depleted Uranium in Iraq 

From New America Media:

Forget about oil, occupation, terrorism or even Al Qaeda. The real hazard for Iraqis these days is cancer.

Cancer is spreading like wildfire in Iraq. Thousands of infants are being born with deformities. Doctors say they are struggling to cope with the rise of cancer and birth defects, especially in cities subjected to heavy American and British bombardment.

Here are a few examples. In Falluja, which was heavily bombarded by the US in 2004, as many as 25% of new- born infants have serious abnormalities, including congenital anomalies, brain tumors, and neural tube defects in the spinal cord.

The cancer rate in the province of Babil, south of Baghdad has risen from 500 diagnosed cases in 2004 to 9,082 in 2009 according to Al Jazeera English.

In Basra there were 1885 diagnosed cases of cancer in 2005. According to Dr. Jawad al Ali, director of the Oncology Center, the number increased to 2,302 in 2006 and 3,071 in 2007. Dr. Ali told Al Jazeera English that about 1,250-1,500 patients visit the Oncology Center every month now.

Not everyone is ready to draw a direct correlation between allied bombing of these areas and tumors, and the Pentagon has been skeptical of any attempts to link the two. But Iraqi doctors and some Western scholars say the massive quantities of depleted uranium used in U.S. and British bombs, and the sharp increase in cancer rates are not unconnected.

Robert Fisk has previously written on this subject in relation to the 1991 Gulf War and the Bosnian conflict in 1996:

Only a few weeks earlier, a team of UN scientists – sent to Kosovo under the set of UN resolutions that brought Kfor into the province – had demanded to know from Nato the location of DU bombings in Kosovo. Nato refused to tell them. Nor was I surprised. From the very start of the alliance bombing campaign against Serbia, Nato had lied about depleted uranium. Just as the American and British governments still lie about its effects in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. US and British tanks had fired hundreds of rounds – thousands in the case of the Americans – at Iraqi vehicles, using shells whose depleted uranium punches through heavy armour and then releases an irradiated aerosol spray.

In the aftermath of that war, I revisited the old battlefields around the Iraqi city of Basra. Each time, I came across terrifying new cancers among those who lived there. Babies were being born with no arms or no noses or no eyes. Children were bleeding internally or suddenly developing grotesque tumours. UN sanctions, needless to say, were delaying medicines from reaching these poor wretches. Then I found Iraqi soldiers who seemed to be dying of the same "Gulf War syndrome" that was already being identified among thousands of US and British troops.

At the time, The Independent was alone in publicising this sinister new weapon and its apparent effects. Government ministers laughed the reports off. One replied to Independent readers who drew the Ministry of Defence's attention to my articles that, despite my investigations, he had seen no "epidemiological data" proving them true. And of course there was none. Because the World Health Organisation, invited by Iraq to start research into the cancers, was dissuaded from doing so even though it had sent an initial team to Baghdad to start work. And because a group of Royal Society scientists told by the British authorities to investigate the effects of DU declined to visit Iraq.

Tragically, Iraqis will continue to pay the price for the 1991 and 2003 invasions for decades. One hopes that the Iranians will avoid a similar fate.

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