Socialist Worker

Depleted uranium: the silent killer stalks streets of Fallujah

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2106

The US military is attempting to cover up a great crime taking place in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Every week an average of five children are born there with major congenital malformations, including heart defects, cleft lip or palate, Down’s syndrome, limb defects and eye deformities. One child was born with two heads.

Meanwhile cemetery workers in the city speak of burying half a dozen stillborn babies every day – many of them with severe deformities.

These are the victims of a silent killer unleashed on Fallujah during savage bombardments in 2004 when the city in the Anbar province rose in rebellion against the occupation.

Medical officials in Fallujah are reluctant to speak out, and the US military and its Iraqi allies have blocked attempts to open an investigation.

But all the evidence points to the use of depleted uranium weapons. These are made out of the waste product from enriched uranium, and are favoured by the military because shells can punch through steel armour and reinforced concrete.

As it hits its target, it vaporises creating a toxic, radioactive cloud of uranium oxides. These particles are blown into the air and can be carried hundreds of miles by winds.

They contaminate wounds and can be inhaled or ingested. In the longer term these particles seep into the soil and contaminate water supplies – turning areas into toxic wastelands.

The US has admitted to dropping around 1,200 tonnes of depleted uranium on Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

It has refused to confirm that it used these weapons during its assault on Fallujah. But one US soldier who took part in the fighting described the final days of the battle to GI Special, the anti-war bulletin for US troops:

“Occasionally, on the outskirts of the isolated impact area, you could hear tanks firing machine guns and blazing their cannons. It was amazing that anything could survive this deadly onslaught. Suddenly a transmission came over the radio approving the request for ‘bunker busters’.

“Apparently, there were a handful of insurgent compounds that were impenetrable by artillery. I was told that the incredibly massive explosions were a direct result of these ‘final solution’ type missiles.”

Bunker busters – bombs capable of penetrating 20 feet of concrete – have depleted uranium tips.

Evidence of the use of depleted uranium weapons is hard to come by.

But one Iraqi witness told independent journalist Dahr Jamail that following the 2004 battle in Fallujah US troops began to remove the top soil from certain sites, while leaving others untouched. Others told him that soldiers hosed down certain streets.

Both US and British governments deny that depleted uranium causes any long term health risk. These denials have been rubbished by every serious scientific survey into its impact.

According to a report by the United Nations, “ingestion could occur in large sections of the population if their drinking water or food became contaminated with depleted uranium.

“In addition, the ingestion of soil by children is also considered a potentially important pathway.”

A 2005 report by epidemiologists, who study patterns of disease, concluded that “the evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to depleted uranium”.

These weapons were first used extensively in the 1990-1 Gulf War – leaving a deadly legacy for Iraqis and coalition troops. Depleted uranium dust is widely blamed for “Gulf War Syndrome”, the severe illness affecting thousands of veterans that is also blamed for birth defects in their offspring.

Now cases of depleted uranium-related illnesses are being reported among a new generation of US troops.

In Fallujah doctors are struggling to deal with the consequences of these weapons. The parents of one deformed infant said, “It’s the flagrant aggression they launched against us. God knows what they dropped on us in Fallujah.”


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News
Tue 17 Jun 2008, 18:38 BST
Issue No. 2106
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