In the aftermath of the alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government, it’s useful to note that the United States used chemical weapons in its attack on Fallujah and Basra. That’s right, the U.S. used white phosphorus, which burns when it contacts oxygen, and burns until it either runs out of oxygen or is completely depleted. U.S. forces also dropped depleted uranium in Iraq, and the results have been horrific.
Initially, the U.S. insisted that it had only used white phosphorus as an illumination device against enemy combatants. Then, when it became apparent that the U.S. had use phosphorus as a weapon, the government said that phosphorus wasn’t a chemical weapon under international law. This, despite the fact that the U.S. called white phosphorus a chemical weapon when Saddam Hussein used it against Kurds.
The fallout from the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus has been staggering to behold. In October 1995, the number of birth defects per 1,000 live births stood at 1.37 for Al Basrah Maternity Hospital. By 2003, after the assault on Basra, the rate stood at 23 per 1,000 live births. In Fallujah, the rate of birth defects was higher than that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after World War II.
For Basra, the increase represented a 17 fold uptick in birth defects. By 2009, the situation was even worse: Al Basrah Maternity hospital reported 48 birth defects per 1,000 live births. As of 2011, the rate had dropped to 37 birth defects per 1,000 live births, but the devastation was clear, as Dr. Samira Alani of Fallujah was reporting:
She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, babies being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye — really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects.
Though litigation was blocked in the United States under sovereign immunity, the Iraqis affected by the use of chemical weapons sued the United Kingdom, alleging its government had known of the use of phosphorus and depleted uranium in Fallujah and Basra.
The depleted uranium has left an astonishing increase in cancer rates, as Dr. Jawad Al-Ali has documented in his capacity as a cancer specialist at the Sadr teaching hospital in Basra:
Before the Gulf war, we had two or three cancer patients a month. Now we have 30 to 35 dying every month. Our studies indicate that 40 to 48% of the population in this area will get cancer: in five years’ time to begin with, then long after. That’s almost half the population. Most of my own family have it, and we have no history of the disease. It is like Chernobyl here; the genetic effects are new to us; the mushrooms grow huge; even the grapes in my garden have mutated and can’t be eaten.”
That’s the devastation our government left in Iraq, and its stands as a stark reminder of the hypocrisy of the U.S. position in Syria. When did our government’s own actions in Iraq cross the red line that the Obama Administration accuses President Assad’s forces of crossing? The architects of the Iraq War, and those who authorized the use of depleted uranium and phosphorus in Fallujah and Basra are all walking free.