Sunday, November 15, 2009

What War Brings: birth defects and infant death

Photo is from the article in The Independent (UK) cited in this post. The boys are holding pieces of US rockets.

I thought I had finished up my series on WHAT WAR BRINGS to civilians, but I clearly missed at least one issue: birth defects. There has been stories about US troops coming home from combat and having a high rate of birth defects in their offspring, and I don’t know if that has been firmly established as an after-effect of war. There has also been stories about Vietnamese babies having a high rate of birth defects in areas that were treated with Agent Orange.

But today I read a report from the Independent (UK) about the extraordinary rise in birth defects and infant mortality in Fallujah, Iraq.

Toxic munitions 'may be cause' of baby deaths and deformities in Fallujah

In September this year, say campaigners, 170 children were born at Fallujah General Hospital, 24 per cent of whom died within seven days. Three-quarters of these exhibited deformities, including "children born with two heads, no heads, a single eye in their foreheads, or missing limbs". The comparable data for August 2002 – before the invasion – records 530 births, of whom six died and only one of whom was deformed.

This tells us two things right off:

  1. The birth rate at this hospital has gone way down. This may be because lots of local folks moved away (I know I would have, if I could), or there is a better hospital close by or that there is a fertility problem. The article does not make this clear.
  2. The rate of physical deformities and infant mortality has skyrocketed.

What it does not tell us is WHY this is happening, but we all know about the major event that happened in Fallujah between 2002 and 2009, and that was two major military offenses, the second one pretty much destroying the city.

The data was collected by British and Iraqi doctors, and people working for the UN. They suspect either white phosphorus or depleted uranium.

Fallujah General’s director said this:

"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies... There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of brain tumours."

This is a short article, and there is not a lot of information yet…. But it is coming out in bits and pieces that Iraq is experiencing a huge increase in cancer rates in areas that saw US military action.

Iraq cancer rates from Al Jazeera, via the Real News

Cancer sufferers in the province of Babil have risen by almost tenfold in just three years. Locals blame depleted uranium from US military equipment used in the 2003 invasion. But the link has been difficult to prove, prompting them to demand an investigation. In this part of Iraq 500 cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2004. That figure rose to almost 1,000 two years later. In 2008, the number of cases increased sevenfold to 7,000 diagnoses. This year, there have so far been more than 9,000 new cases ... and the number is rising.

I wonder how many of the anti-abortion folks in the USA, who seem so very concerned about unborn American children, were also war supporters of the invasion of Iraq….. and today, I bet they don’t give a rat’s ass about the unborn children of Fallujah.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: birth defects and infant death.


Report from Al Jazeera

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