An article in the London Independent by Patrick Cockburn was a rare exception to the mainstream media near-blackout of news about a new scientific study showing soaring rates of cancer and other indicators of mutagenic disorders in Fallujah, the city the U.S. obliterated in 2004.[1]  --  Cockburn's story adds nothing to what was previously reported, except to say that "British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties.  'During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city,' recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.  --  He added that the U.S. commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the U.S. general in command."  --  John Simpson of the BBC broadcast an excellent two-minute segment highlighting the epidemiological study, adding that it in a visit to Fallujah the news organization had independently confirmed the existence of "large numbers of birth defects" there.[2]  --  "Some of the cases were too dreadful for us to show," BBC said.  --  What they shows was dreadful enough.  --  (Unfortunately the Google News search engine does not pick up the BBC report, though it does pick up the Independent article.  --  It picks not a single mention in an American news soruce; we have not been able to find any.  --  Not a word in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times.  --  It would be interesting to know why this study is not considered newsworthy.)  --  The website Crosscurrents also reposted a hastily written commentary by Phil Dickens.[3]  --  (See the link for very disturbing unsourced photographs of malformed "DU babies.")  --  COMMENT:  In Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote:  "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?  --  That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?  --  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just:  that his justice cannot sleep for ever." ...



Middle East


By Patrick Cockburn

** The shocking rates of infant mortality and cancer in Iraqi city raise new questions about battle **

Independent (London)
July 24, 2010

Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer, and leukaemia [NOTE: leukemia is a form of cancer. --H.B.] in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by U.S. Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.

Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs.  They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between U.S. troops and insurgents.

Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s.  Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighboring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.

Dr. Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects.  He added that "to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened."

U.S. Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned.  After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions.  U.S. forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.

In the assault U.S. commanders largely treated Fallujah as a free-fire zone to try to reduce casualties among their own troops.  British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties.  "During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city," recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.

He added that the U.S. commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the U.S. general in command.  Dr. Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form.  He said:  "My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside."

The survey was carried out by a team of 11 researchers in January and February this year who visited 711 houses in Fallujah.  A questionnaire was filled in by householders giving details of cancers, birth outcomes, and infant mortality.  Hitherto the Iraqi government has been loath to respond to complaints from civilians about damage to their health during military operations.

Researchers were initially regarded with some suspicion by locals, particularly after a Baghdad television station broadcast a report saying a survey was being carried out by terrorists and anybody conducting it or answering questions would be arrested.  Those organizing the survey subsequently arranged to be accompanied by a person of standing in the community to allay suspicions.

The study, entitled "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009", is by Dr. Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, and concludes that anecdotal evidence of a sharp rise in cancer and congenital birth defects is correct.  Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait.  The report says that the types of cancer are "similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout."

Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer, and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumors in adults.  At Hiroshima survivors showed a 17-fold increase in leukaemia, but in Fallujah Dr. Busby says what is striking is not only the greater prevalence of cancer but the speed with which it was affecting people.

Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed.  In a normal population this is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but for those born from 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females.  The sex-ratio is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls.  A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.

The U.S. cut back on its use of firepower in Iraq from 2007 because of the anger it provoked among civilians.  But at the same time there has been a decline in healthcare and sanitary conditions in Iraq since 2003.  The impact of war on civilians was more severe in Fallujah than anywhere else in Iraq because the city continued to be blockaded and cut off from the rest of the country long after 2004.  War damage was only slowly repaired and people from the city were frightened to go to hospitals in Baghdad because of military checkpoints on the road into the capital.



Middle East



Cancer, leukaemia, and infant mortality [NOTE: leukemia is a form of cancer. --H.B.] are all increasing in the Iraqi town of Fallujah, which saw fierce fighting between US forces and Sunni insurgents, a new survey says.

Still one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, doctors have been reporting a large number of birth defects since the 2004 offensive.

John Simpson reports.



By Phil Dickens
July 23, 2010
(see this version for links)

Doctors in Fallujah have been reporting a rise in birth defects since 2004. Alongside this, a new survey has found that cancer, leukaemia, and infant mortality [NOTE: leukemia is a form of cancer. --H.B.] are all on the increase as well.

According to the report's abstract, "There have been anecdotal reports of increases in birth defects and cancer in Fallujah, Iraq blamed on the use of novel weapons (possibly including depleted uranium) in heavy fighting which occurred in that town between US led forces and local elements in 2004. In Jan/Feb 2010 the authors organised a team of researchers who visited 711 houses in Fallujah, Iraq and obtained responses to a questionnaire in Arabic on cancer, birth defects and infant mortality. The total population in the resulting sample was 4,843 persons with and overall response rate was better than 60%. Relative Risks for cancer were age-standardised and compared to rates in the Middle East Cancer Registry (MECC, Garbiah Egypt) for 1999 and rates in Jordan 1996–2001. Between Jan 2005 and the survey end date there were 62 cases of cancer malignancy reported (RR = 4.22; CI: 2.8, 6.6; p < 0.00000001) including 16 cases of childhood cancer 0-14 (RR = 12.6; CI: 4.9, 32; p < 0.00000001). Highest risks were found in all-leukaemia in the age groups 0-34 (20 cases RR = 38.5; CI: 19.2, 77; p < 0.00000001), all lymphoma 0–34 (8 cases, RR = 9.24;CI: 4.12, 20.8; p < 0.00000001), female breast cancer 0–44 (12 cases RR = 9.7;CI: 3.6, 25.6; p < 0.00000001) and brain tumours all ages (4 cases, RR = 7.4;CI: 2.4, 23.1; P < 0.004). Infant mortality was based on the mean birth rate over the 4 year period 2006–2009 with 1/6th added for cases reported in January and February 2010. There were 34 deaths in the age group 0–1 in this period giving a rate of 80 deaths per 1,000 births. This may be compared with a rate of 19.8 in Egypt (RR = 4.2 p < 0.00001) 17 in Jordan in 2008 and 9.7 in Kuwait in 2008. The mean birth sex-ratio in the recent 5-year cohort was anomalous. Normally the sex ratio in human populations is a constant with 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls. This is disturbed if there is a genetic damage stress. The ratio of boys to 1,000 girls in the 0–4, 5–9, 10–14 and 15–19 age cohorts in the Fallujah sample were 860, 1,182, 1,108 and 1,010 respectively suggesting genetic damage to the 0–4 group (p < 0.01). Whilst the results seem to qualitatively support the existence of serious mutation-related health effects in Fallujah, owing to the structural problems associated with surveys of this kind, care should be exercised in interpreting the findings quantitatively."

Last night, BBC News covered this story in more detail.  The report, though harrowing, is worth watching.

However, there is just one minor point to pick up on.  Namely, the idea that "fierce fighting between U.S. forces and Sunni insurgents" is at the root of this problem and that "the use of novel weapons (possibly including depleted uranium)" doesn't need to be overtly identified with either side.

In fact, what happened in Fallujah can only accurately be described as a war crime perpetrated by the United states military.  "Balance," as ever, only obfuscates this fact.

The U.S. Army National Ground Intelligence Center's report on the "Battle of Fallujah I," states that it "was not simply a military action, it was a political and informational battle whose outcome was far less certain" than military victory.  They were concerned that "the effects of media coverage, enemy information operations (IO), and the fragility of the political environment conspired to force a halt to U.S. military operations."

Reading the report, it soon becomes clear why:  "During the shaping operations, Regimental Combat Team-1 (RCT-1) from the First Marine Division established a cordon of traffic control points (TCPs) on major roads around Fallujah in order to isolate the city's defenders and prevent their escape.  Supplies of food and medicine were allowed in, but only women, children, and old men were allowed out.  Other MEF units simultaneously conducted aggressive counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the surrounding area (Ar Ramadi, Khaldiyah, Al Kharmah, and Northern Babil) in order to interdict and prevent insurgent groups outside Fallujah from interfering.  Civilians were warned to evacuate the city."

In other words, whilst the women and children were allowed to escape, the men were contained within the city walls to await their fate.

There is a strong parallel here with events in the Srebrenica Massacre during the Bosnian war.  There, Serb forces separated the men and boys from the broader group of Bosniak refugees at Potočari, busing out the women and children, and slaughtering the men.

As Noam Chomsky has commented, the only major difference is that "with Fallujah, the U.S. didn't truck out the women and children, it bombed them out."

Then, according to the NGIC report, "on 5 April 2004, Phase II kicked off":  "Two battalion task forces from RCT-1 assaulted Fallujah, about 2000 men in total, mostly light infantry supported by 10 M1A1 tanks, 24 AAVP-7 tracks, and a battery of M198 howitzers.  The 2d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (2/1) attacked from the northwest into the Jolan district while the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (1/5) attacked from the southeast into the industrial district (Shuhidah). The MEF" [sic]

During the campaign, at least one U.S. battalion had "orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not."  As a result, according to Iraq Body Count's analysis, "at least 572 of the roughly 800 reported deaths during the first U.S. siege of Fallujah in April 2004 were civilians, with over 300 of these being women and children."

The U.S. withdrew on May 1st, but went back in on November 8th.  This time, the consequences would be even starker.

Dahr Jamail was the first to report that "the U.S. military has used poison gas and other non-conventional weapons against civilians in Fallujah."  This was backed up by reports in the Washington Post that "some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water."

The March-April 2005 edition of Field Artillery ran a special on the assault, which stated quite candidly:  "WP [white phosphorous] proved to be an effective and versatile munition.  We used it for screening missions at two breaches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high-explosive].  We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out. . . . We used improved WP for screening missions when HC smoke would have been more effective and saved our WP for lethal missions."

Then there was the use of depleted uranium.  Deplete uranium is 1.67 times as dense as lead, giving bullets and shells tipped with it a higher pressure at the point of impact which leads to deeper penetration.

It is also known to have adverse health effects.  In 2001, it was reported that malignant diseases had increased by 200% in Kosovo since the 1998 NATO bombing campaign.  It has been linked to Gulf War syndrome and the increased likelihood of veterans to have children with birth defects.  At the same time, Iraqis have blamed it for the rise in cancer rates countrywide.

The latest survey from Fallujah seems to confirm that link.  This makes the campaign there part of a wider tradition going back through the use of Agent Organge in Vietnam to the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki : not only horrendous, destructive acts, but ones whose effect reaches far beyond the present.

This is what media outlets such as the BBC gloss over when they talk about "fierce fighting between U.S. forces and Sunni insurgents" or fail to identify who is behind "the use of novel weapons."

But this needs to be pointed out, and remembered.  The seige of Fallujah in 2004 was a horrendous war crime, and for the poor, wretched children being born there the horror of it is only just beginning.  By glossing over who the perpetrators of this attrocity are, we are only adding insult to injury.