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Fallujah: the forgotten scandal of babies affected by depleted uranium

FallujahIraq: Crimes against Humanity. The Babies Will Haunt Us By Kelley B. Vlahos Global Research, December 18, 2012 It was like walking through a nightmare: drifting in an out of hospital rooms, down the long hallways, her contact with shock-ravaged Iraqi parents interrupted only by glimpses of their physically deformed and terminally sick babies who in many cases, would never see the outside of Fallujah’s main hospital, ever.

Then, the more than vague sense that she must apologize. The words thick like molasses were hard to form. “I felt inadequate,” said Donna Mulhearn. “What was so hard was, what do you say to these people other than saying sorry, which I said over and over again. You just wanted to offer more.”

Donna Mulhearn is a name we need to remember, as she is one of a small but dedicated group of citizen activists who, after most of us have said the long goodbye to Iraq in the rear-view mirror, are taking on the environmental and humanitarian legacy of the Iraq War as a personal cause. Right now, she is doing what the western mainstream has so far failed to do, which is report on the horrifying number of miscarriages, deaths, birth defects and congenital illnesses among babies in urban Fallujah, the site of some of the most intense U.S bombing (2004) during the war.

A generation of women in this Sunni Iraqi city, which at one point was
considered an insurgent “breeding ground” during the war, is now
unable to have consistently healthy babies, according to anecdotal
reports and scientific studies. It’s so bad that hospital officials
are quietly telling women there to stop getting pregnant. Why? Many
think it is because of the war pollution — due to everything from
heavy metals from exploded ordnance to radiation left behind by
depleted uranium used on U.S ammunition and tanks — inhaled by
Fallujah’s residents, seeped into the ground water, flowing in the
nearby Tigris River, choking the air they breathe.

“This is a toxic legacy, in which I would include, is the legacy of
warfare,” Mulhearn told in a recent Skype interview from
her home in Australia. “In the last 10 years we’ve had a good focus on
remnants of war that are visible — like land mines and cluster
munitions, things that go boom and explode. We need to now look at
those toxic remnants of war that are not visible but are extremely
harmful to communities.”
“Harmful” seems like such an understatement for the things the doctors
in Fallujah have been seeing in recent years. Thanks to Google, you
can see it too, but we warn you it is not for the squeamish. Some of
the more common defects on the rise in Fallujah General Hospital:
Gastroschisis (babies born with their intestine protruding outside
their small bellies), Hydrocephalus (babies born with “water on the
brain, abnormal brain swelling), Encephalocele ( neural tube defect in
which babies are born with sac-like protrusions from their heads),
Macrocephaly (babies with abnormally large heads), spina bifida
(backbone and spinal canal are not closed before birth, creating
gaping hole in the babies’ backs) and cleft lip and palate.
There have also been numerous reports — and photos do not lie — of
infants born without eyes, missing limbs, extra limbs, covered in
tumors, missing genitalia, severe brain damage. Back in 2010, the
BBC’s Mark Simpson reported seeing a baby with three heads as he
toured a clinic in Fallujah. When I wrote “Children of War” for The
American Conservative in March 2011, doctors were reporting two birth
defects a day, compared to two every two weeks in 2008.

When Mulhearn made her trip in July, she was told that there are still
two a day on average and the desperation all around her seemed to be
getting worse. “It hit me pretty hard, I cried a lot. You met a baby
who was about an hour old and she had a big fleshy hole in her back,
and it was a common issue — spina bifida — her grandmother was there
because the mother was still in shock.”

Because of the lack of interest and resources, few studies have been
done to identify the scope and cause of what is being called a crisis
by advocates like Mulhearn and health specialists familiar with what
is going on in Fallujah, as well as the city of Basra, which has been
dealing with both congenital defects and high rates of childhood
cancer (Basra has been at the center of heavy artillery warfare dating
back to the Iran-Iraq War in 1982).

Dr. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital
who has been a stalwart voice on the issue for the last few years,
told al Jazeera in early 2012 that she had recorded 699 birth defects
since 2009. In December 2010, the International Journal of
Environmental Research and Public Health issued a study that said that
since 2003, congenital malformations were found in 15 percent of all
births in Fallujah (population 326,471). Track that with 3 percent of
babies born in the United States with birth defects — 6 percent
worldwide — and the problem appears even more stark and alarming……

December 19, 2012 - Posted by | depleted uranium, health, Iraq


  1. […] Fallujah: the forgotten scandal of babies affected by depleted uranium ( […]

    Pingback by Iraq war infant birth defects | Dear Kitty. Some blog | December 27, 2012 | Reply

    • What is remarkable about that study – showing metal contamination affecting the babies, is that it did not include RADIATION as a cause of the birth defects. This makes me think that the study was part of World Health Organisation Research. On May 28, 1959, at the 12th World Health Assembly, WHO drew up an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. A clause of this agreement says the WHO effectively grants the right of prior approval over any research it might undertake or report on to the IAEA – a group that many people, including journalists, think is a neutral watchdog, but which is, in fact, an advocate for the nuclear power industry. Its founding papers state: ”The agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity through the world.”

      Comment by Christina MacPherson | December 27, 2012 | Reply

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