Remember Fallujah

It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.

It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long term and severe damage to the natural environment.

Geneva Conventions, 1977 Amendment, Article 35, Protocol 1

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Brother and sister, Fallujah, Iraq. Photo: PressTV, “Fallujah Cancer Spike”

In a hospital in Fallujah, Dr. Samira Alani records new cases of birth defects and cancer.  She’s seen a sharp increase in the number of miscarriages and babies with birth defects like hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), neural tube defects (“open back”), extra limbs, tumors, elongated heads and other deformities, some that don’t even have a name. Since 2009 she’s recorded 699 cases of congenital birth defects. The numbers are highest in areas that were targeted in bombing raids.

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Dr. Samira Alani. Image by Dahr Jamail/Al Jazeera

What’s the cause? Studies point to depleted uranium, lead and mercury left behind by bullets and bombs.

A toxicologist writes: “Our research in Fallujah indicated that the majority of families returned to their bombarded homes and lived there, or otherwise rebuilt on top of the contaminated rubble of their old homes. When possible, they also used building materials that were salvaged from the bombarded sites.”  She and other scientists tested hair, teeth and blood of children living in areas bombarded in 2004 and found elevated levels of lead and mercury in children with birth defects.

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Hole left by a shell that killed a four year old in Fallujah. Photo from IndyMedia UK, 10/4/04

With no official system for registering cancers and birth defects, and no support from the Iraqi government, Dr. Alani works pretty much alone, documenting a tragedy. “I will not leave this subject,” she told a reporter. “I will not stop.”

The war in Iraq might be officially over, but its legacy will haunt us for decades.

Sources:

Iraq Records Huge Rise in Birth Defects

Iraq’s Legacy of Cancer

 Fallujah Babies: Under a New Kind of Siege

Living with No Future: Iraq 10 Years Later

 Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities

27 comments

    • Yeah, environmental contamination is probably not at the top of peoples’ list of worries. Many left during the siege, and returned to find everything gone. About 70% of homes and buildings in town were destroyed or damaged, 100 mosques, 9 government buildings. There are a lot of people homeless, unemployed and struggling.

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      • I’ve been watching the reports of the drifting contaminated smoke and air caused by the burn pits in Irag — I believe this is going to have long range affects on the citizens. Have you followed this information. Our gov. is attempting to keep it hushed. Of course the VA doesn’t want to treat our service members that are coming home with repository problems and what about those left behind?

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        • No, I haven’t followed that story. You’re probably right about long term effects. Too bad VA. Medical care for service men and women is high on everyone’s priority list, outside the government anyway.

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  • war is full of horrors and the aftermath cluttered as well….often the victims of the war are not the combatants but the people who live in the war zone. I hope one day mankind will learn to settle its differences peacefully without resorting to violence and intimidation.

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    • We can always hope … In the meantime, I hope that we keep aftermath like this on the front burner. I remember when there was a to-do in the press around 2005 or 2006 about the use of depleted uranium in weapons manufacturing. US military spokesmen assured us that its safe enough to eat it for breakfast, and the fuss died down, here anyway. I for one, forgot about it.

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  • That is horrible. Is there any agency coming in to clean up the toxic debris?
    Thanks for bringing it to the party. It is good to know what is going on over there.

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    • No agencies yet. The Iraqi government and the US governments haven’t acknowledged that there is toxic debris, and there aren’t clinical studies to show exactly what’s causing the problems. Wish I had a happier take. Wish I could give that doctor a hand.

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  • Hello Julia – We need to read these stories and pass them on. One can only keep hoping that someday the madness will end. We have family in Aleppo, Syria so are only too familiar with the tragedy that is the Middle East. Thanks for posting this.
    On a lighter note, Susie sent me and it’s nice to be connected with you through such a fine citizen of the world!
    http://patriciasands.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/5-joy/

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  • Thanks for posting this on Susie’s blog today. This might be the saddest post on the blog, but it’s also one of the most important. Some of my best aquaintences are from “enemy” lands. Too bad we can’t see people as people.

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  • That was my feeling as I read about these children. Why were we there? Does anyone remember? What did we accomplish? Remember all the press Fallujah got while the battle raged? Now, nothing. The city is rubble, with very little infrastructure or money to rebuild. The Internet brings home what we used to be able to ignore. It’s a heartbreak.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. Sorry to be the sad sack at the party.

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  • No…the U.S. government and Iraq wouldn’t lie to us. Yeah, right. And here we’re worried about land mines. Now, it isn’t safe to breathe. That situation is horrific! Besides those dear victims in Iraq, wait until we see more of the fallout from the nuclear waste that was dumped by Japan and the eathquake. The radiation is out there. It doesn’t just disappear. Do you think the government wants us to know about that? And then there’s fracking. It never seems to end. Ah, thanks Julia for keeping this in front of us. We can’t pretend as if it will all go away. You have a huge heart girl! 🙂

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  • The rate of birth defects in Basra and Fallujah is 14 times higher than it was in Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It sounds pretty awful.

    On we go. Not much we can do I guess, but keep it out there. (Hey talk about big hearts! Thanks for visiting.)

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  • She does sound amazing. I can’t imagine. Birth defects are 14 times higher, proportionately, in Fallujah and Basra, than they were in Japan after Hirsoshima and Nagasaki.

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  • I always wondered what was going on with the civilians during the Iraq war.

    Pretty sad and that work of the Iranian doctor is very important both for raising public awareness and evidence to change standard/practices for rebuilding….as well as the long term effects of war.

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  • It’s hard to read about what we’re leaving behind. I hope Dr. Alani gets the help and respect she and that community needs.

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  • The report by Savabiesahani always was suspect since she pretended to have been a University of Michigan researcher and the report is now cited as reference #2 of Iraqi Ministry of Health report “Summary of the Prevalence of reported Congenital Birth Defects in 18 Selected Districts in Iraq” that found no excessive incidence of birth defects in Fallujah. All of you who believe otherwise are easily influenced by propagandists – the report is here – http://tinyurl.com/IraqCBD

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  • What prohibited weapons were allegedly used at Fallujah? Real ones, not imaginary ones put out by the propagandists.

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  • Your link doesn’t connect, so I re-checked to see if the World Health Organization study on birth defects in Fallujah and Basra has been released yet. It doesn’t look like it, but reports continue to appear on an unusually high number of birth defects in the cities. Savabiesahani is indeed a toxicologist, cited in several University of Michigan studies (http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/78725)

    From where I sit in the comfort of the U.S. it is always a challenge to determine what is true and what isn’t in a war zone on the other side of the world. I will continue to watch reports on this issue. Thanks for your comment.

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