Iraq's uranium children will have their revenge

Iraq's uranium children will have their revenge
Half of Fallujah's babies are born deformed, but the US refuses to recognise that its use of depleted uranium has led to this disaster. The people of this city will not forget.
3 min read
27 Nov, 2014
Thousands of children suffered deformities after the US-led war [Getty]

A child asks his mother about the people who burned his face and mutilated his body. The mother answers with bitterness: "The Americans." The child asks: "Where can I find them to take my revenge?" His mother answers: "You will find them when you grow up."

According to Fallujah residents, such questions are frequently asked. It it one of the effects of the US war against Iraqi children. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in 1996 that the deaths of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children from UN embargos and the war of 1991 was "worth it".

But not only is the embargo to blame - the effects of the US use of munitions such as depleted uranium have contributed to rates of cancer and deformities that reportedly exceed even those of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of their nuclear annihilation - also at the hands of the Americans.

Half of babies deformed

Samira al-Aani, a paediatrician in Fallujah, writes that parents of newborns now check for deformities before asking if they have a son or daughter. Studies in 2012 reported "abnormalities" among half of all babies born in the city.

     Parents of newborns now check for deformities before asking if they have a son or daughter.

International reports state that 440 tonnes of depleted uranium was used in areas populated by civilians in central and southern Iraqi cities. The IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, says depleted uranium is a chemically toxic, radioactive substance and a danger to health in large quantities. Other studies are more damning. The US, of course, denies that it is a long-term danger to health.

By 2006, Iraqis had discovered approximately 400 contaminated sites. Six years later, 143 countries voted in the UN General Assembly for a non-binding bill to help Iraq clean up the effects of depleted uranium.

However, the US refused to admit to its crimes and refused to disclose the areas in which it used depleted uranium. Furthermore, along with the UK, France and Israel, the US voted against the UN bill.

The world continues its attempts to pass a bill at the UN to press the users of depleted uranium to admit their crimes, apologise and help clean up the disaster they have caused in Iraq.

Activists are campaigning to press governments to pass the bill in the next UN General Assembly, due to be held in December.

A toxic legacy

Ben Griffin was a British soldier who served in Iraq and has seen the tragedy of Iraqis first hand.

"It makes me so angry that, for all of our promises of freeing Iraq, what we have left them is a toxic legacy that will last for generations to come," he said.

Griffin added that he and many other soldiers were unhappy they were made complicit in such acts.

The cleanup cost in Iraq is estimated at $40 million, a drop in the ocean when compared to the billions the US spends on its wars.

We Iraqis are not waiting for our rulers to condemn the use of depleted uranium against our children, as we do not expect them to demand the trial of those responsible in front of international courts.

However, we want our leaders to at least demand an apology from the Americans for their crimes. We remind the rulers of Iraq that when Iraqi children grow up, they will not forgive those who killed them and mutilated their bodies.

Those children will scream in the faces of their aggressors with the words of Pablo Neruda: "Oh killers, from every crime you have committed, a bullet is born that will one day land in your hearts."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.