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 US troops and insurgents.Here's Derrick Jensen on depleted uranium, writing before the 2003 escalation in Iraq:
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 neighbouring 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".
Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad[, said] that the US commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the US 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."
So-called depleted uranium is what's left of natural uranium after the "enriched uranium"--the fissionable isotope uranium 235--has been separated to produce fuel for nuclear reactors. The term depleted uranium is something of a misnomer in that it implies that the remaining uranium has become significantly less dangerous, more, well, depleted. But depleted uranium--99.8 percent uranium 238--is just as toxic...as natural uranium...He goes on and it gets worse. "Worse" in the sense of the next paragraph containing a quote from someone who has seen "death squads in Haiti" and "the wholesale butchery of Rwanda" who "thought [he] had a strong stomach [but] nearly lost [his] breakfast" at a children's hospital in Iraq.
The United States has made a lot of it, well over a billion pounds. Beginning in the 1950s, the feds started trying to figure out what they were going to do with all this stuff. Providentially, uranium is extremely dense--about 1.7 times heavier than lead--and so can be used to make an artillery shell that easily penetrates steel. Even better, it's pyrophoric, meaning heat from the impact causes it to vaporize, releasing huge amounts of energy. If you don't mind toxifying and irradiating the surrounding countryside and its human and nonhuman inhabitants, depleted uranium makes a tank-busting shell extraordinaire.
What this means in practice is that leaders of government and industry solved the problem of disposing of U-238 in typical win-win (for them) fashion by giving it away free to both national and foreign arms manufacturers...
The list of countries using or purchasing weapons or shells made with depleted uranium is long, and includes, among others, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, the monarchies in the Persian Gulf, Taiwan, South Korea, Pakistan, and Japan.... And they are used often. In 110,000 air rads against Iraq during the so-called First Gulf War...USA-10 Warthog aircraft fired about 940,000 DU projectiles. When a depleted uranium projectile hits a target, about 70 percent of the round vaporizes into (hot) dust as fine as talcum powder, as does part of the target, which may also have been constructed of depleted uranium. Three hundred tons of DU are estimated to be blowing in the wind from this particular desert storm...
...DU has probably already harmed 250,000 Iraqis. The same can be said for residents of Bosnia, and soon we'll be saying the same for the people of Afghanistan. Leukemias and cancers have gone up by 66 percent in recent years in southern Iraq, with some locales experiencing a 700 percent increase. And there have been birth defects. Oh, how there have been birth defects. One doctor began her report, "In August we had three babies born with no heads. Four had abnormally large heads. In September we had six with no heads, nine with large heads, and two with short limbs. In October, one with no head, four with big heads and four with deformed limbs or other types of deformities." [from Endgame vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization, pages 61-63]
The United States is in Iraq because of its insatiable thirst for energy in the form of oil (Jensen takes great pains to remind us that by far the largest part of this thirst is the province of industry, commerce, and war, rather than individual people), and it is doing this unimaginable evil with the byproducts of its thirst for energy in the form of nuclear power. The combination of the two is even more deadly than either in isolation would be.
I was going to comment further, maybe say something about the intrinsic needs of a society focused on relentless capitalistic expansion, but I can't find any words that work better than the ones ASP used to close her post: "I mean... fuck. What else is there to say about this? Fuck fuck fuck. Fuck everything. Fuck us and fuck them and fuck everyone else. Just, fuck."