Scientist: Bombs, bullets and military hardware
abandoned by U.S. forces have left Iraq "toxic for
By David Masciotra
October 12, 2019 "Information
Clearing House" - The
political and moral culture of the United States
allows for bipartisan cooperation to destroy an
entire country, killing hundreds of thousands of
people in the process, without even the flimsiest of
justification. Then, only a few years later,
everyone can act as if it never happened.
In 2011, the U.S.
withdrew most of its military personnel from Iraq,
leaving the country in ruins. Estimates of the
number of civilians who died during the war in Iraq
range from 151,000 to 655,000. An additional 4,491
American military personnel perished in the war.
Because the bombs have stopped falling from the sky
and the invasion and occupation of Iraq no longer
makes headlines, Americans likely devote no thought
to the devastation that occurred in their name.
With the exception of
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is currently
polling at or below 2 percent, no candidate for the
Democratic presidential nomination has consistently
addressed the criminality, cruelty and cavalier
wastefulness of American foreign policy. Joe Biden,
the frontrunner in the race, not only supported the
war in Iraq — despite his recent incoherent claims
to the contrary — but as chair of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee acted as its most effective and
influential salesman in the Democratic Party.
attitude of America toward the death and
destruction it creates, all while
boasting of its benevolence, cannot
withstand the scrutiny of science. Dr.
Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an
environmental toxicologist at the
University of Michigan and
recipient of the Rachel Carson Prize,
has led several investigative
expeditions in Iraq to determine how the
pollutants and toxic chemicals from the
U.S.-led war are poisoning Iraq’s people
and environment. The health effects are
catastrophic, and will remain so long
after the war reached its official end.
previously interviewed Savabieasfahani about her
initial research, and recently acquired an update
regarding her team’s latest discovery that there is
a close correlation between proximity to a U.S.
military base and birth defects in Iraqi children.
Bombs and bullets have
been used on an extreme scale in Iraq. Dropping tons
of bombs and releasing millions of bullets leaves
toxic residues the in air, water and soil of the
targeted population. These pollutants continue to
poison those populations years after the bombing
What’s more, the United
States imported thousands of tons of military
equipment into Iraq to use in their occupation. They
include, tanks, trucks, bombers, armored vehicles,
infantry weapons, antiaircraft systems, artillery
and mortars — some of which are coated with depleted
uranium, and much more. These eventually find their
way into U.S. military junkyards which remain across
There are unknown
numbers of military junkyards scattered across the
temperature facilitates the rusting and weathering
of military junk, releasing toxic pollutants
[including radioactive uranium compounds, neurotoxic
lead and mercury, etc.] into the Iraqi environment.
Uranium and its related
compounds remain toxic for millennia and poison
local populations through food, air and water
The exposure of pregnant
mothers to the pollutions of war, including uranium
and thorium, irreversibly damages their unborn
children. We found thorium, a product of depleted
uranium decay, in the hair of Iraqi children with
birth defects who lived in Nasiriyah and Ur City,
near a U.S. military base.
The destruction of a
society does not stop after U.S. bombs stop falling.
Environmental contamination which the U.S. leaves
behind continues to destroy our environment and
poison our people decades after the bombs have
stopped falling. The U.S. has a long history of
irreversibly destroying human habitats. That must
groundbreaking new research, you discover that the
teeth of Iraqi children have 28 times more thorium
if they live near a U.S. military base. What is the
significance of that conclusion, and what does the
presence of thorium indicate about a child's health?
What kinds of abnormalities and health problems will
The Iraqi population is
potentially contaminated with depleted uranium decay
products. Baby teeth are highly sensitive to
environmental exposures. Such high levels of thorium
simply suggest high exposure at an early age and
potentially in utero.
We found uranium and
thorium in these children’s teeth and hair. Uranium
and thorium were also in the bone marrow of
children, all of whom had severe birth defects. The
magnitude of public contamination caused by these
alpha-emitting radioactive compounds is a serious
question to be answered. Our bone marrow data is
still unpublished, but we hope to publish it
Thorium is an alpha
emitter and, once in the body, it can cause cancer
and other anomalies. Impacts can vary depending on
the timing and amount of exposure. Childhood
leukemia, which has been rising in southern Iraq, is
a verified outcome of thorium exposure.
In our study, children
with high levels of thorium had multiple birth
defects. Our studies show that, across Iraq,
children exposed to U.S. war contamination suffer
primarily from congenital heart defects and neural
after U.S. forces left Vietnam, there are still
Vietnamese babies born with birth defects from the
American military's use of Agent Orange. How long do
you believe Iraqis will continue to suffer from the
If left unmitigated, the
population will be permanently exposed to elevated
toxic exposures which can impact the Iraqi gene
Through the use
of the scientific method, you are gaining the
ability to identify a severe problem in Iraq.
Considering that the problem is a result of the U.S.
invasion, what could the U.S. do to solve or at
least mitigate the problem?
The U.S. must be held
responsible and forced to clean up all the sites
which it has polluted. Technology exists for the
cleanup of radiation contamination. The removal and
disposal of U.S.-created military junkyards would go
a long way towards cleaning toxic releases out of
the Iraqi environment.
You are a
scientist, not a political analyst, but you must
have some thoughts regarding the political
implications of your work. How do you react to the
lack of substantive conversation about the
consequences of war in American politics and the
press, and the American establishment's evasion of
responsibility on this issue?
I expect nothing from
the American political establishment or their
propaganda machines which masquerade as “news media”
and feed uncritically off State Department press
Fortunately, there is a
movement to criminalize environmental contamination
caused by war. Damage to nature and the human
environment must be considered a war crime.
Scientists are currently
asking international lawmakers to
adopt a fifth Geneva Convention which would
recognize damage to nature as a war crime, alongside
other war crimes. I hope that will make a difference
in our ability to protect human lives and our
This article was originally published by "Salon"-
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