Iraq has WMD

M. Alam redjaguar at
Thu Jan 30 19:16:39 MST 2003

Deposited by American imperialism and resulting in genetic deformities,
that is. Enter: Depleted Uranium.
Letter from Iraq: The Children's Ward
Inside an Iraqi hospital, where the Gulf War's effects are still felt

Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003
Zainab is 40 days old and has spent her entire life at the Basra
hospital. After all this time, her doctors think she just might pull
through because she now weighs four and a half pounds. But even if she
survives, her future is bleak. Zainab was born with underdeveloped
limbs. Her mother Nazad says she knew the reason as soon as her newborn
daughter was shown to her. "It is because my womb is poisoned," she
said, rocking the tightly wrapped bundle of her child. "The baby became
sick and came out early."

Doctors have a different explanation, but Nazad's reasoning is close
enough. Her family lives in Al Zubair, a town on Iraq's border with
Kuwait. This area was heavily bombed during the Gulf War. According to
the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute, more than 900,000 depleted
uranium tipped bullets were fired. When they exploded, say experts,
toxic substances were released in the ground and air, and after four or
five years, entered the food chain, affecting human lives. Gulf War
syndrome has been reported in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and even among
American soldiers on the ground. (Washington denies that the illnesses
are caused by depleted uranium.) The Iraqi government has noted a
remarkable increase in cancer, reduced fertility, miscarriages and
children born with congenital defects. In the southern Basra province,
multiple congenital malformation cases have shot up from 37 in 1990 to
301 in 2002. "We have a generation of children that are going to die too
soon," says Dr. Jnana Ghalib Hassan, Zainab's pediatrician. "First the
Americans poisoned our land, and now we are being denied medicines to
help these people."

Dr. Hassan stalks through the cancer ward of the Basra hospital where
several children lie hooked up to intravenous drips. She shows hideous
photographs of damaged children, many of them little more than lumps of
meat. Those did not make it, but there are plenty that would survive if
only they had some medication. But these are poor people and cannot
afford medicines. Cancer drugs, for instance, fall under the dual use
category and are listed under UN sanctions. So, although medical
services are highly subsidized in Iraq, these children can have no
treatment. Leukemia patients are given a blood transfusion and
discharged. Other cancers are treated symptomatically. Everything is
available in Iraq, even medicines, but come at a heavy price in the
black market. A drug that the in the states would sell for around $80
U.S. can cost up to $80,000. "I know these children are going to die,"
says Dr Hassan. "But I don't say anything. I just send them home."

It's not just a shortage of drugs that is hurting the Iraqi medical
system. Dr. Murtada Hussan, Deputy Director of the Al Mansur Pediatric
Hospital in Baghdad says that supporting facilities like ventilation,
sewage disposal and elevators have disappeared because of a shortage of
spares. And Iraq's doctors, once considered the best in the Arab world,
no longer have access to advances in medical science because they have
no books, no Internet connections and barely any money to attend
international conferences. "They say we use everything for weapons," he
says bitterly. "But everything has a dual use. Even a kitchen knife can
cut vegetables or kill someone."

Yasmin brought her 12-year-old son Ahmed to Baghdad hoping that there
were more medicines in the capital than in the local hospital in
southern Iraq. But Owaid, who has blood cancer, is not getting any
better. He has clots in his eyes and his lips are bleeding. Yasmin says
that many kids in her village are falling sick. Most of them have the
same symptoms: fever and pain in their joints because of swollen lymph
nodes. Dr.Hussan walks past rows of sick beds, talking to desperate
parents and their children. "All these patients are the same," he says.
"They are all victims of the war."


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