The Human Cost of American Imperialism in Iraq

M. Junaid Alam redjaguar at
Sun Feb 23 17:38:03 MST 2003

For those interested in the consequences of depleted uranium and
sanctions in Iraq, an excerpt from John Pilger's 'The New Rulers of the

A People Betrayed
by John Pilger
Independent (London)
February 23, 2003

Dr  Al-Ali  is a cancer specialist at Basra's hospital and a member of
Britain's  Royal  College of Physicians. He has a neat moustache and a
kindly, furrowed face. His starched white coat, like the collar of his
shirt, is frayed.

"Before the Gulf War, we had only three or four deaths in a month from
cancer,"  he  said. "Now it's 30 to 35 patients dying every month, and
that's  just  in  my  department. That is a 12-fold increase in cancer
mortality.  Our  studies  indicate  that  40  to  48  per  cent of the
population  in this area will get cancer: in five years' time to begin
with, then long afterwards. That's almost half the population.

"Most  of my own family now have cancer, and we have no history of the
disease.  We  don't  know  the  precise  source  of the contamination,
because  we  are  not allowed to get the equipment to conduct a proper
survey,  or  even test the excess level of radiation in our bodies. We
strongly suspect depleted uranium, which was used by the Americans and
British  in  the  Gulf  War  right  across  the southern battlefields.
Whatever the cause, it is like Chernobyl here; the genetic effects are
new to us.

"The  mushrooms  grow  huge, and the fish in what was once a beautiful
river  are  inedible.  Even  the  grapes in my garden have mutated and
can't be eaten."

Along  the corridor, I met Dr Ginan Ghalib Hassen, a paediatrician. At
another  time,  she  might  have  been  described  as  an effervescent
personality;  now  she, too, has a melancholy expression that does not
change; it is the face of Iraq. "This is Ali Raffa Asswadi," she said,
stopping  to  take the hand of a wasted boy I guessed to be about four
years old. "He is nine. He has leukaemia. Now we can't treat him. Only
some  of the drugs are available. We get drugs for two or three weeks,
and  then  they  stop  when  the shipments stop. Unless you continue a
course,   the   treatment   is  useless.  We  can't  even  give  blood
transfusions, because there are not enough blood bags."

Dr  Hassen  keeps  a photo album of the children she is trying to save
and  those  she  has  been  unable to save. "This is Talum Saleh," she
said,  turning  to  a  photograph of a boy in a blue pullover and with
sparkling  eyes.  "He  is five-and-a-half years old. This is a case of
Hodgkin's  disease.  Normally  a  patient with Hodgkin's can expect to
live  and  the  cure  can  be  95  per  cent. But if the drugs are not
available,  complications  set  in,  and death follows. This boy had a
beautiful nature. He died."

I  said,  "As we were walking, I noticed you stop and put your face to
the  wall." "Yes, I was emotional ... I am a doctor; I am not supposed
to  cry,  but I cry every day, because this is torture. These children
could live; they could live and grow up; and when you see your son and
daughter  in  front of you, dying, what happens to you?" I said, "What
do  you  say  to  those  in  the  West who deny the connection between
depleted  uranium and the deformities of these children?" "That is not
true.  How  much  proof  do they want? There is every relation between
congenital  malformation  and  depleted  uranium.  Before 1991, we saw
nothing  like  this  at all. If there is no connection, why have these
things  not  happened  before?  Most  of these children have no family
history of cancer.

"I  have  studied what happened in Hiroshima. It is almost exactly the
same here; we have an increased percentage of congenital malformation,
an increase of malignancy, leukaemia, brain tumours: the same."


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