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Archive for August 28th, 2012

Fallujah burns

“Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fallujah . . .

And so it turns out that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though not until we arrived and started using them.

Along with whatever else we did to Fallujah — exacted collective punishment on a defiant city (a war crime) in November 2004, killed thousands of civilians, shattered the infrastructure (nearly six years later, the sewage system hasn’t been repaired and waste flows in the streets) — we also, apparently, nuked the city, leaving a legacy of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and genetic abnormality.

Freedom isn’t free. Remember when that was the go-to phrase of the citizen war zealots among us, their all-purpose rebuttal when those of us appalled by this insane war cited civilian casualty stats? Discussion over. Thought stops here.

This is the power of language. Call it “war” and along come glory, duty, courage, sacrifice: the best of humanity writ large. The word is impenetrable; it sets the heart in motion; God makes an appearance, blesses the troops, blesses the weapons. Operation Iraqi Freedom: They’ll greet us with open arms.

At what point do we learn our lesson, that “war” is a moral cesspool of horrific consequences, especially, and most troublingly, unintended ones?

Thus last November, a group of British and Iraqi doctors petitioned the U.N. to investigate the alarming rise in birth defects at Fallujah’s hospitals. “Young women in Fallujah,” they wrote, “. . . are terrified of having children because of the increasing number of babies born grotesquely deformed, with no heads, two heads, a single eye in their foreheads, scaly bodies or missing limbs. In addition, young children in Fallujah are now experiencing hideous cancers and leukemias.”

The official U.S. response was that the doctors’ letter was anecdotal: There have been no studies to verify that anything is truly amiss in Fallujah, beyond the devastation caused by U.S. troops and bombs. Now that has changed.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has just published an epidemiological study, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009,” which has found, among much else, that Fallujah is experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.”

Read more here.

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