Recently, President Obama declared an end to the Iraq War—a war that claimed the lives of approximately 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis (mostly citizens), costing taxpayers an estimated $800 billion. But the cost and casualties of the war continue to mount both at home and abroad. We continue to pay for President Bush’s search for weapons of mass destruction with the lives of men, women and children. The effects of uranium-enriched munitions used in Iraq, in particular, are still killing children in Fallujah and our troops at home.
According to a January 2012 Al Jazeera news report, doctors, scientists and residents are blaming US weapons used in the 2004 bombing of Fallujah for what is described as “catastrophic” levels of birth defects and abnormalities.
British scientist Christopher Busby released a study that showed a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks. The report showed the spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage similar to, but far greater than, that of Hiroshima, Japan. Busby’s study found that the only element in excess in the sample population that is known to cause congenital diseases and cancer was uranium. “It’s been found by a coroner’s court that cancer was caused by an exposure to depleted uranium (DU),” Busby added. “In the last 10 years, research has emerged that has made it quite clear that uranium is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, certainly in the form that it takes when used in wars.”
Dr. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital is quoted as saying, “We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine.” Since Oct. 2009, and at the time of the report, Alani had logged 699 cases of birth defects but noted that the numbers only represents 40-50 percent of the cases in Fallujah, because many families have their babies at home. Alani photographed hundreds of babies born with cleft palates, elongated heads, overgrown limbs, short limbs, malformed ears, noses and spines; unfortunately most of these babies died within 20 to 30 minutes of being born.
The US and NATO forces used DU penetrator rounds in the Gulf War, the Bosnia War, the bombing of Serbia and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and in each case reports of increased birth defects and cancer emerged thereafter. And despite growing evidence, including complaints from our own military personnel, there is no international treaty banning the use of DU projectiles. We concern ourselves, rather, with the prospect of uranium falling into the wrong hands, failing to scrutinize our own use of uranium-enriched munitions; and innocent people continue to die from exposure all the while.
An international coalition of more than 155 non-governmental organizations requested a United Nations resolution banning the production and use of depleted uranium weapons, but when the resolution came to a vote in December 2010, the UK, US, Israel and France voted against it. The resolution passed by a vote of 148 to four, with 30 abstentions, but the UK, US, Israel and France were not bound by the resolution.
Depleted uranium munitions were used extensively in the Gulf War, and a study of 15,000 Gulf War Veterans found that fathers were 1.8 and mothers 2.8 times more likely to have children with birth defects. Examination of their children’s medical records two years later showed an increase in birth defects at a rate of more than 20 percent. Additionally, studies by the US Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute concluded that moderate exposure to either depleted uranium or uranium presents a significant toxicological threat. If our government is truly supportive of our troops, avoiding civilian casualties and preventing the proliferation and use of uranium-enriched weapons, then it must set the example—we must demand nothing less.
On February 20, 2007, Iraqi Veteran SPC Travis Bromfield of the 11th Armored Calvary was laid to rest at the National Cemetery of Riverside, California so that he could be close to his parents and four siblings. His father Terry Bromfield said, “…we’re convinced Travis was exposed to depleted uranium. It really hurts that our son went to war for this country, willfully gave his life, and our government won’t even acknowledge Travis as a casualty of war.”
I am disgusted with all the political rhetoric that espouses an undying love for this country and the principals for which it stands only to ignore scientific evidence and the pleas for help from the men and women who serve our country—hypocrisy that claims to care about human life. Casualties continue to mount because the power brokers refuse to acknowledge the use and effects of toxic munitions. How many more men, women and children must die before we put an end to the use of uranium-enriched weapons? We profess our love for our country, but what of our love for human life?
Maybe liberty, truth and the pursuit of happiness aren’t intended for those caught in the crossfire. Maybe someone should ask our presidential candidates how they feel about the use of UD munitions. What am I thinking? This is an election year—we won’t hear anything about uranium unless it is how to keep it out of the hands of others!