On July 6th, 2010, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) released a study titled, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009." The study implicates the US military's use of depleted uranium munitions as causing similar but even worse damage to the people of Fallujah than fallout from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima did to the survivors of that bombing.
Friday, August 6th, marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the day the United States’ dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing some 140,000 people and bringing the second world war to a quick and brutal end. The anniversary was covered in The New York Times and many other major news outlets across the US. This years’ anniversary was especially notable because for the first time ever a US government official, US ambassador to Japan John Roos, attended the remembrance ceremonies in Hiroshima. Though the US government has never actually apologized for the bombing, some took ambassador Roos’ attendance as a symbol of reconciliation and hope for nuclear disarmament worldwide. However, there is another grimmer story that seems to contradict these dreams of peace that has received little if any news coverage within the United States.
On July 6th, exactly one month before the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) released a study titled, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009.” The study’s authors Chris Busby, Malak Hamdan, Entesar Ariabi and their team of researchers gathered data from household surveys of 711 homes in January and February of this year that revealed a tremendous spike in cancer rates and birth defects in the city of Fallujah within the last five years. Using cancer rates among similar populations in the neighboring nations of Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait as a standard for comparison the researchers’ made some disturbing discoveries in Fallujah including:
•38 times higher rates of Leukemia•10 times higher rates of breast cancer
•5 times higher infant mortality rates
•A wide range of birth defects
•unusual gender disparity in newborns of 860 boys per 1,000 girls
These results are shockingly similar, but even worse, than what researchers found among survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were exposed to radioactive fallout from the blasts. The first scientific study of Fallujah supports the anecdotal evidence of increased cancer related deaths and other mutations in the city that have been surfacing since the United States’ invasion of Iraq, but it begs the question: what’s poisoning the people of Fallujah?
The authors’ argue that to cause this sort of sudden and widespread mutagenic damage there had to have been some sort of recent catastrophic contamination in Fallujah. While they are not yet positive what this was as there are a number of incredible difficulties when conducting research in a war-zone, they have already identified one prime suspect: depleted uranium munitions (DU’s). In one of the bloodiest battles of the war the US military shelled Fallujah relentlessly with tons of DU shells killing untold numbers of armed Iraqis resisting the occupation as well as unarmed civilians in 2004. The US military often uses DU’s like those used in Fallujah because they are significantly denser than lead and make for much better armor-piercing rounds. DU’s are essentially made from spent nuclear reactor fuel. Typically, this sort of nuclear waste would be stored securely, probably somewhere far under ground, but in this case it is sold to munitions manufacturers for profit and a small amount is put into each DU round. The US government officially insists that DU’s are perfectly safe, but other independent sources violently disagree.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons was formed in 2003 just before the US siege on Fallujah and represents a coalition of more than 120 NGO’s worldwide that support banning DU’s. According to their website, DU shells release an incredibly noxious dust as they burst that is easily inhaled into the lungs, and furthermore:
From the lungs uranium compounds are deposited in the lymph nodes, bones, brain and testes. Hard targets hit by DU penetrators are surrounded by this dust and surveys suggest that it can travel many kilometres when re-suspended, as is likely in arid climates. The dust can then be inhaled or ingested by civilians and the military alike. It is thought that DU is the cause of a sharp increase in the incidence rates of some cancers, such as breast cancer and lymphoma, in areas of Iraq following 1991 and 2003. It has also been implicated in a rise in birth defects from areas adjacent to the main Gulf War battlefields.
This directly contradicts the position of the US government, but is supported by enough evidence that the coalition has convinced the EU’s Foreign Affairs Committee to advocate for EU support of a treaty that would ban DU’s. Unfortunately, even if successful, such a treaty will do little to help the people of Iraq generally and the residents of Fallujah specifically as such a treaty would have no bearing on the US. Despite what the US government may claim, the truth is that there is serious reason to believe that the US has used radioactive weapons thousands of times since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki- one DU shell at a time.
All the while when President Obama was speaking nobly of nuclear disarmament in Prague in 2009 or when Ambassador John Roos was attending remembrance ceremonies in Hiroshima this month the US army has been continuing to use DU weapons. Weapons that are very likely to be what are causing babies in Fallujah to be born looking like (warning: images are highly disturbing) this. The damage in Fallujah may not be as immediately visible as a mushroom cloud, but it is present and ongoing. The IJERPH’s study may well be just the first piece of scientific evidence that confirms what many have already suspected for several years: the US military committed at least one war crime in Fallujah in 2004 by using DU’s.
This is incredibly hard for some people in the US to believe as it runs directly contrary to the images of the US military in the mainstream media as heroic liberators in Iraq or at worst misguided heroes. It is impossible to know, but maybe this is why this important news simply hasn’t been reported within the US outside of the independent media. By almost any measure it would seem to be an incredibly significant story, but the corporate media within the US has entirely failed to cover it. Perhaps there are some things mainstream news sources simply can’t see because of their biases or can’t say because of their close proximity to power. This is not conspiratorial or even terribly surprising. In the same way you may not want to trust the Tehran Times for accurate news about popular protests in Iran, our major newspapers may not be the best source for accurate news about US wars. Moreover, while the US media remained silent the Tehran Times did in fact run a story about the IJERPH’s study. Considering how authoritarian many within the US believe the Iranian government to be as compared to the US this comparison is thought-provoking to say the least. The sad truth is that the people of Iran probably know more about the fallout in Fallujah than most Americans.