Monday, November 23, 2009

A Brighter Future for Iraqis

Last Saturday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told a parade of Australian troops who had 'served' in Iraq in Operation Catalyst (2003-2009), our 'contribution' to Operation Iraqi Freedom, that they were the "Anzacs of today," and that "[i]n our name and under our flag, they risked their lives to provide others with a brighter future."

In fact, one such glorious Anzac, Major-General Jim Molan, even became chief of operations of the Iraq multinational force, and in that capacity played a special part in providing said brighter future to the residents of Falluja in 2004 (see my 4/10/09 post Operation Get Goldstone).

A glimpse of same was thoughtfully provided by the Sydney Morning Herald on the very day the PM spoke:

"Zainab Abdul Latif moves wearily between her 3 children, wiping their foreheads and propping them up in their wheelchairs. 'Every day they need intensive care', the Falluja mother, 29, says. Neither her 2 sons, Amar, 5, and Moustafa, 3, or her daughter Mariam, 6, can walk or use their limbs. They speak 2 words - 'mama, baba' - between them. And all are in nappies. Zainab is one of many faces of Falluja's postwar years, overwhelmed by a workload that she has no means to change. 'They cannot eat or drink by themselves, and every day I have to take Mariam to the hospital. She is very sensitive to flu and regularly gets diarrhoea and other ailments. The doctors have told me they are mentally retarded and have nerve paralysis. They say it is congenital. I really can't take care of them like this and I need help'. One of the few people she can turn to is Bassem Allah, the senior obstetrician who is the chief custodian of Falluja's newborns. During medical school he had to search Iraq for case studies of an infant with a birth defect... 'Now, every day in my clinic... there are large numbers of congenital abnormalities or cases of chronic tumours... Now, believe me, it's like we are treating patients immediately after Hiroshima'. Across Falluja neonatal wards and centres for disabled people are facing such an influx of infants or children aged under 5 with chronic deformities that they are fast running out of space and staff to help... [Falluja] was the site of the 2 most savage and prolonged battles in Iraq during the past 6 years. The potentially toxic residue of precision munitions that rained on the city for up to 2 months in 2004 has left many medical professionals questioning the long-term impact of modern weaponry, although few are willing, so far, to directly blame the war." (Battered city's youngest victims, Martin Chulov, Guardian)

Futures don't come much brighter than that now, do they?

Hm... those munitions that were rained on the city? Sounds like depleted uranium (DU) weapons to me. We know that they were widely used by coalition forces in Iraq, and we know that they end up as a radioactive dust which can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through wounds. In fact, DU weapons were also used in Iraq in the earlier Gulf War -with interesting consequences: "In February 1991, more than 300 tons... of DU weapons were used in southern Iraq. After 5-to 6-year latent periods, increases in childhood cancers and birth defects were documented in the Basra governate. The most recent data indicate a fourfold increase in congenital malformations compared to 1990, the year preceding the war." (World Tribunal on Iraq: Making the Case Against War, ed Muge Gursoy Sokmen, 2008, p 210)

With stuff like DU dust swirling around Falluja (and who knows where else in Iraq), the PM's talk of a brighter future for Iraqis is, if anything, understated. Given that the shelf-life of DU is around - oh - 4.5 billion years, he could have described it as an eternally glowing future.

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