America’s attempted liberation of Iraq in the first decade of the 21st century was an occupation that cost the American government trillions of dollars as well as losing 4489 American lives and physically wounding over 100,000. The price Americans paid was high for this occupation. And Americans are still paying the price over ten years later, with a surreal increase in returned soldier suicide rates, now at 18 Veterans a day. Iraq will be remembered as a conflict as costly as Vietnam for decades to come.
On the other side, the damage done to the Iraq population has been investigated as well. Having their country torn apart by war for over a decade has left tragic consequences. The most devastating that is still largely unaddressed is the use of radioactive substances in Fallujah, a City 70km west of Baghdad.
Fallujah since 2004 has experienced a 12 time increase in ALL types of cancers in children under the age of 14, as well as a huge increase in child mortality rates. Complicating these child mortality rates is the rate of birth defects in children being born post 2004. In a comparison, Fallujah is finding 14 times more cases of birth defects, such as congenital malformations, than Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the Atomic bombs were dropped. Fallujah also experienced a 38 fold increase in leukemia rates and a ten-fold increase in breast cancer. These statistics are hugely out of place in relation to Iraq’s middle-eastern neighbors.
These increases in cancer and birth defects/mortality rates have recently been undoubtedly linked to the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by the United States in their “liberalization” of Iraq. As you can see in the video below, Al Jazeera reporter Dahr Jamail has been investigating the topic over the ten year period and the images he presents are truly horrific. What I find the most troubling in this video is the fact that this radiation will last in Fallujah and Iraq for thousands of years, with the half-life of depleted uranium being 4.5 billion years. This means the cradle of civilization, where societies that shaped the world today have existed for over 10,000 years will now be a radioactive wasteland.
Radiation in Fallujah
In using depleted uranium in ammunition casings and white phosphorus smoke grenades the American government broke all laws in the Geneva Convention in regard to chemical warfare. America has poisoned a country indefinitely and currently is denying any allegations that long-term illness is a problem in the area, even though returned soldiers are coming home with increased rates of cancer, after being in the proximity of depleted uranium and white phosphorus.
As if it could not get any worse for the Iraqi population, the Iraqi people also lost their entire history in the occupation. In 2003, the Baghdad museum was bombarded and looted. Naomi Klein and Robert Fisk have both done some incredible reporting on this matter. (Naomi Klein – Shock Doctrine. Robert Fisk – articles cc.2003) Naomi Klein describes in her book “Shock Doctrine” how American Soldiers were in a position to stop the looting but were under orders not too. This is interesting as Andrew Lawler uncovered that months prior to the American invasion, American antiquity collectors met with the Department of defence, here they pushed Bush in weakening the Iraqi laws that were in place to stop their physical history being taken overseas. Of the items stolen were 4,795 cylinder seals as well as one of the oldest copies of the Koran in the world. These seals age from anything from 500 years ago to
3000 years ago, and their price varies, yet prior to the invasion one seal was sold for $424,000.
The American occupation cost hundreds of thousands of lives and ruined millions more. Even though the occupation is over now, entire cities in Iraq face an uncertain future. When the civilian populations living in these cities realize the severity of this situation, I am sure the majority of those able will flock from the city as refugees. With the land radioactive there will be no sustained growth for hundreds of years, leaving the people without means to clean food or water. It is truly tragic that the population that is being most affected is the young. Not only being severely physically disadvantaged, the children of Iraq have lost their history. This unfortunately is proving increasingly harder to track down as more time lapses since the looting. The fate of Iraq is perilous. It will take more than sympathy from developed countries to help them back on their feet; and at this point in the early 21st Century it looks unlikely to happen in the short term.
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