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"After the Fire, the Fire Still Burns": Horror Goes on for Victims of Iraq War Atrocities
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Written by Chris Floyd   
Monday, 15 October 2012 23:02

Years ago, I wrote several pieces about the savage decimation of Fallujah by American forces in 2004. Some of those pieces [here and here, for example] pointed to the highly credible evidence that chemical weapons were used against the people of Fallujah -- most of them non-combatants locked into the city by an American ring of steel. I pointed to testimony by Iraqi doctors -- including doctors working for the American-imposed occupation government -- and by American soldiers themselves involved in the fighting.

These posts -- and the sources they were based on -- were roundly criticized by some high-profile antiwar voices. We were told that this kind of "wild" atrocity story would give war hawks a weapon for undermining the credibility of the antiwar movement: "Look, them anti-war hippies are all a bunch of kooks; now they're claiming the US is using chemical weapons! You can't believe anything they say." However, the only "debunking" of the story at that time came solely from American officials denying that any chemical weapons at all were used in Fallujah. I always found it odd that antiwar figures who had done so much to expose the continuing lies of the aggressors were now taking the denials of these well-proven liars at face value. But that's how it was -- for awhile.

Later on, of course, the Pentagon itself finally admitted using white phosphorus shells in Fallujah -- a chemical weapon that can inflict hideous injuries on its victims. And in subsequent years, the evidence of the chemical weapons attacks on Fallujah has been growing stronger and more extensive -- not just for the confessed use of WP, but for other weapons as well.

As we have noted here many times, the invasion of Iraq is a war crime that goes on and on. The legacy of this "extraordinary achievement" (as Peace Laureate Obama once called it) continues to produce atrocities in the lives -- and bodies -- of innocent victims, planting seeds of horrendous suffering that will last for generations.

The Independent has the latest medical evidence on the American use of chemical weapons against the Iraqi people. You should read the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts:

It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujah's homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their "City of Mosques" to "the polluted city" after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a "staggering rise" in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.

High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

There is "compelling evidence" to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

US marines first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 ... Seven months later, the marines stormed the city for a second time, using some of the heaviest US air strikes deployed in Iraq. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

...The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

The new research, which looked at the health histories of 56 families in Fallujah, also examined births in Basra, in southern Iraq, attacked by British forces in 2003. Researchers found more than 20 babies out of 1,000 were born with defects in Al Basrah Maternity Hospital in 2003, a number that is 17 times higher than recorded a decade previously. In the past seven years, the number of malformed babies born increased by more than 60 per cent; 37 out of every 1,000 are now born with defects.

.. Dr Savabieasfahani said that for the first time, there is a "footprint of metal in the population" and that there is "compelling evidence linking the staggering increases in Iraqi birth defects to neuro-toxic metal contamination following the repeated bombardments of Iraqi cities". She called the "epidemic" a "public health crisis".

Dr Savabieasfahani said she plans to analyse the children's samples for the presence of depleted uranium once funds have been raised. She added: "We need extensive environmental sampling, of food, water and air to find out where this is coming from. Then we can clean it up. Now we are seeing 50 per cent of children being born with malformations; in a few years it could be everyone."

Although the wary pundits who criticized the early chemical weapons stories were wrong about this particular case, they were right about the overarching truth of the situation: the invasion and occupation of Iraq was ian horrific war crime in itself, regardless of what weapons or tactics were or were not used. Even without the chemical weapons, the death squads, the tortures of Abu Ghraib, the rapes and rampages, the deliberate empowerment of violent extremists, the endless barrage of lies, and the world-historical levels of corruption and war-profiteering that characterized the reality of the war, this act of aggression would still be a work of the most vile, most putrid, most irredeemable evil.

The destruction of Fallujah was like a black hole, where all the evil of the war was sucked in and concentrated with unbreakable force. So I think it's worth reiterating, once more, the actual context of this atrocity that is now reverberating through the twisted, tormented bodies of children born long after the guns have fallen silent. This is from a piece I wrote in 2010, quoting from an early post written during the attack itself.

I have written about Fallujah over and over for a long time. In many respects, these stories are like the ones I've written about the American-abetted horrors in Somalia: no one gives a damn. Well, I don't give a damn that no gives a damn. I'm going to keep ringing this bell until my arm falls off. We -- Americans -- have committed and countenanced a great evil in Iraq. I can't change that -- and it's obvious that I cannot prevent the "continuity" of such hellish atrocities by the progressive Peace Laureate now in the White House, and by whatever similar blood-soaked poltroon comes to lead the never-ending Terror War for Loot and Power after him. But by god I will not let it be said that I stood by and failed to bear witness to this raging filth.

From 2004 (see original for links):

"The inferno…is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space." -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

There is of course no space, nowhere to move or breathe in the sealed chamber of the American Infoglomerate – the vast entanglement of corporate media and government propaganda that smothers the body politic with hysterical outpourings of diversion, drivel and deadening white noise. Here, events occur in a total vacuum: they have no history, no context, no consequences. Stripped of the heft and scope of reality, they can easily be molded and distorted to fit the prevailing political and business agendas. Amnesia, ignorance, confusion and fear are left to rule the day: excellent fuel for the stokers of the inferno, who use the heat to work their alchemical magic – transforming human blood into gold.

"There are more and more dead bodies on the streets and the stench is unbearable. Smoke is everywhere. It's hard to know how much people outside Fallujah are aware of what is going on here. There are dead women and children lying on the streets. People are getting weaker from hunger. Many are dying are from their injuries because there is no medical help left in the city whatsoever. Some families have started burying their dead in their gardens."

This was a voice from the depths of the inferno: Fadhil Badrani, reporter for the BBC and Reuters, trapped in the iron encirclement along with tens of thousands of civilians. It was a rare breath of truth. The reality of a major city being ground into rubble was meant to be obscured by the Infoglomerate's wall of noise: murder trials, state visits, Cabinet shuffles, celebrity weddings – and, above all, the reports of "embedded" journalists shaping the "narrative" into its proper form: a magnificent feat of arms carried out with surgical precision against an enemy openly identified by American commanders as "Satan," the Associated Press reports.

One of the first moves in this magnificent feat was the destruction and capture of medical centers. Twenty doctors – and their patients, including women and children – were killed in an airstrike on one major clinic, the UN Information Service reports, while the city's main hospital was seized in the early hours of the ground assault. Why? Because these places of healing could be used as "propaganda centers," the Pentagon's "information warfare" specialists told the NY Times. ...

So while Americans saw stories of rugged "Marlboro Men" winning the day against Satan, they were spared shots of engineers cutting off water and electricity to the city – a flagrant war crime under the Geneva Conventions, as CounterPunch notes, but standard practice throughout the occupation. Nor did pictures of attack helicopters gunning down civilians trying to escape across the Euphrates River – including a family of five – make the TV news, despite the eyewitness account of an AP journalist. Nor were tender American sensibilities subjected to the sight of phosphorous shells bathing enemy fighters – and nearby civilians – with unquenchable chemical fire, literally melting their skin, as the Washington Post reports. Nor did they see the fetus being blown out of the body of Artica Salim when her home was bombed during the "softening-up attacks" that raged relentlessly – and unnoticed – in the closing days of George W. Bush's presidential campaign, the Scotland Sunday Herald reports.

I will not forget Artica Salim. I will not forget Fallujah. I will not "move on."  I will not become part of the inferno.

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