Fallujah Under a Different Siege
- Forgotten Fallujah
Fallujah Under a Different Siege
by Ali al-Fadhily
FALLUJAH - Three years after a devastating United States-led siege of
the city, residents of Fallujah continue to struggle with a shattered
economy, infrastructure and lack of mobility.
The city that was routed in November 2004 is still suffering the worst
humanitarian conditions under a siege that continues. Although
military actions are down to the minimum inside the city, local and US
authorities do not seem to be thinking of ending the agonies of the
over 400,000 residents of Fallujah.
"You, people of the media, say things in Fallujah are good," Mohammad
Sammy, an aid worker for the Iraqi Red Crescent in Fallujah, told
Inter Press Service (IPS). "Then why don't you come and live in this
paradise with us? It is so easy to say things for you, isn't it?"
His anger is due to the fact that the embattled city is still
completely closed and surrounded by military checkpoints to make it
look like an isolated island. Those who are not genuine residents of
the city are not granted the biometric identification badge from the
US Marines, and are thus not allowed to enter the city.
Since the November 2004 US-led attack on the city, named Operation
Phantom Fury, which left approximately 70% of the city destroyed, the
US military has required residents to undergo retina scans and
finger-printing to gain a bar-code for identification.
"This isolation has destroyed the economy of the city that was once
one the best in Iraq," Professor Mohammad al-Dulaymi of al-Anbar
University told IPS. "All of the other cities in the province used to
do their wholesale shopping in Fallujah, but now they have to find
alternatives, leaving the city's businesses to starve," he explained.
All of the residents interviewed by IPS were extremely angry with the
media for recent reports that the situation in the city is good. Many
refused to be quoted for different reasons.
"Fallujah is probably the city that has had the most media coverage in
the history of the occupation," Hatam Jawad, a school headmaster in
Fallujah, told IPS. "People are tired of shouting and appearing on TV
to complain, without feeling any change in their sorrowful living
situation. Some of them are afraid of police revenge for telling the
Many residents told IPS that US-backed Iraqi police and army personnel
have detained people who have spoken to the media.
"I am not going to tell you whether it is good or bad to be a Fallujah
resident," 55-year-old lawyer, Shakir Naji, told IPS. "Why don't you
just ask what the prices of essential materials are and judge for
yourself? Kerosene for heating is almost US$1 per liter, a jar of
propane gas is $15, and it is not winter yet when the prices will
definitely be doubled."
Water and electricity services are at a minimum in the city. An Oxfam
International report released in July found that 70% of Iraqis do not
have access to safe drinking water.
Since the November 2004 siege, entire neighborhoods remain totally
destroyed, and with no water or electricity. Most of the businesses in
Fallujah remain closed.
"We depend on the private sector for electricity," Fatima Saed, a
woman whose husband was detained in 2005 and has not been released
yet, told IPS. "In my situation, to pay $50 a month [for electricity]
is a disaster because I have to cut it from the quantity and quality
of food that I buy for myself and my kids."
The Oxfam report also stated, "At the beginning of May 2007, the
Central Office for Statistics and Information Technology, part of the
Iraqi Ministry of Planning, released a survey highlighting the fact
that 43% of Iraqis suffer from "absolute poverty". The poverty of many
families "is rooted in unemployment, which affects probably more than
50% of the workforce".
Fallujah General Hospital, situated across the Euphrates River from
the city, is still functioning, but with a minimal number of
specialist doctors and medical supplies. The only doctor who would
speak to IPS did not want his name published.
"The manager of this hospital is a good man and he is trying hard to
improve the services, but the Ministry of Health in Baghdad still
treats us here as a bunch of terrorists. We are suffering both
corruption from the ministry and ignorance about al-Anbar province
from this [Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki] administration," he
explained. "We do not have enough medicines, and the equipment brought
to us by contractors is still in boxes and seems to be part of the
corrupt contracts of the province. It is impossible to work under such
People coming for treatment or surgery in the hospital appeared
desperate to get their essential needs met.
"We have to buy cotton, bandages, medicines and all we need from
private pharmacies," 35-year-old Muath Tahir, a teacher who had his
appendix removed three days earlier, told IPS. "Those who can manage
go to the private hospital for better treatment, but my $230 salary is
not even enough for my daily needs. This city has become impossible to
Ali al-Fadhily, Inter Press Services' correspondent in Baghdad, works
in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Services'
US-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region.
The Department of Defense announced today the death of soldiers who
were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sgt. Kenneth R. Booker, 25, of Vevay, Ind., died Nov. 14,
in Mukhisa, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive
device detonated near his vehicle. He was assigned to the 2nd
Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team,
2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
Sgt. Mason L. Lewis, 26, of Gloucester, Va., died in
Baghdad on Nov. 16, as a result of a non-combat related training
accident. He was assigned to the 26th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd
Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Sgt. Steven C. Ganczewski, 22, of Niagara Falls, N.Y.,
died Nov. 16, in Balad, Iraq, wounds suffered from a combat-related
incident. The incident is under investigation. He was assigned to the
3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.
Radioactive Ammunition Fired in Middle East May Claim More Lives Than
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
By Sherwood Ross
By firing radioactive ammunition, the U.S., U.K., and Israel may have
triggered a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East that, over time, will
prove deadlier than the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan.
So much ammunition containing depleted uranium(DU) has been fired,
asserts nuclear authority Leuren Moret, "The genetic future of the
Iraqi people for the most part, is destroyed."
"More than ten times the amount of radiation released during
atmospheric testing (of nuclear bombs) has been released from depleted
uranium weaponry since 1991," Moret writes, including radioactive
ammunition fired by Israeli troops in Palestine.
Moret is an independent U.S. scientist formerly employed for five
years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and also at the
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, both of California.
Adds Arthur Bernklau, of Veterans For Constitutional Law, "The
long-term effect of DU is a virtual death sentence. Iraq is a toxic
wasteland. Anyone who is there stands a good chance of coming down
with cancer and leukemia. In Iraq, the birth rate of mutations is
totally out of control."
Moret, a Berkeley, Calif., Environmental Commissioner and past
president of the Association for Women Geoscientists, says, "For every
genetic defect that we can see now, in future generations there are
thousands more that will be expressed."
She adds, "the (Iraq) environment now is completely radioactive."
Dr. Helen Caldicott, the prominent anti-nuclear crusader, has
written: "Much of the DU is in cities such as Baghdad, where half the
population of 5 million people are children who played in the
burned-out tanks and on the sandy, dusty ground."
"Children are 10 to 20 times more susceptible to the carcinogenic
effects of radiation than adults," Caldicott wrote. "My pediatric
colleagues in Basra, where this ordnance was used in 1991, report a
sevenfold increase in childhood cancer and a sevenfold increase in
gross congenital abnormalities," she wrote in her book, "Nuclear Power
is not the Answer"(The New Press).
Caldicott goes on to say the two Gulf wars "have been nuclear wars
because they have scattered nuclear material across the land, and
people---particularly children--- are condemned to die of malignancy
and congenital disease essentially for eternity."
Because of the extremely long half-life of uranium 238, one of the
radioactive elements in the shells fired, "the food, the air, and the
water in the cradle of civilization have been forever contaminated,"
Uranium is a heavy metal that enters the body via inhalation into the
lung or via ingestion into the GI tract. It is excreted by the kidney,
where, if the dose is high enough, it can induce renal failure or
kidney cancer. It also lodges in the bones where it causes bone cancer
and leukemia, and it is excreted in the semen, where it mutates genes
in the sperm, leading to birth deformities.
Nuclear contamination is spreading around the world, Caldicott adds,
with heaviest concentrations in regions within a 1,000-mile radius of
Baghdad and Afghanistan.
These are, notably, northern India, southern Russia, Turkey, Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Tibet, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Gulf emirates, and Jordan.
"Downwind from the radioactive devastation in Iraq, Israel is also
suffering from large increases in breast cancer, leukemia and
childhood diabetes," Moret asserts.
Doug Rokke, formerly the top U.S. Army DU clean-up officer and now
anti-DU crusader, says Israeli tankers fired radioactive shells during
the invasion of Lebanon last year. U.S. and NATO forces also used DU
ammunition in Kosovo. Rokke says he is quite ill from the effects of
DU and that members of his clean-up crew have died from it.
As a result of DU bombardments, Caldicott writes, "Severe birth
defects have been reported in babies born to contaminated civilians in
Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan and the incidence and severity of
defects is increasing over time."
Like symptoms have been reported among infants born to U.S. service
personnel that fought in the Gulf Wars. One survey of 251 returned
Gulf War veterans from Mississippi made by the Veterans Administration
found 67% of children born to them suffered from "severe illnesses and
Some were born without brains or vital organs or with no arms, hands,
or arms, or with hands attached to their shoulders.
While U.S. officials deny DU ammunition is dangerous, it is a fact
Gulf War veterans were the first Americans ever to fight on a
radioactive battlefield, and their children apparently are the first
known to display these ghastly deformities.
Soldiers who survived being hit by radioactive ammunition, as well as
those who fired it, are falling ill, often showing signs of radiation
sickness. Of the 700,000 U.S. veterans of the first Gulf War, more
than 240,000 are on permanent medical disability and 11,000 are dead,
published reports indicate.
This is an astonishing toll from such a short conflict in which fewer
than 400 U.S. soldiers were killed on the battlefield.
Of course, "depleted uranium munitions were and remain another
causative factor behind Gulf War Syndrome(GWS)," writes Francis Boyle,
a leading American authority on international law in his book
"Biowarfare and Terrorism," from Clarity Press Inc.
"The Pentagon continues to deny that there is such a medical
phenomenon categorized as GWS---even beyond the point where everyone
knows that denial is pure propaganda and disinformation," Boyle writes.
Boyle contends, "The Pentagon will never own up to the legal,
economic, tortious, political, and criminal consequences of admitting
the existence of GWS. So U.S. and U.K. veterans of Gulf War I as well
as their afterborn children will continue to suffer and die. The same
will prove true for U.S. and U.S. veterans of Bush Jr.'s Gulf War II
as well as their afterborn children."
Boyle said the use of DU is outlawed under the 1925 Geneva Convention
prohibiting poison gas.
Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute,
writes in his "The Sorrows of Empire"(Henry Holt and Co.) that, given
the abnormal clusters of childhood cancers and deformities in Iraq as
well as Kosovo, the evidence points "toward a significant role for DU."
By insisting on its use, Johnson adds, "the military is deliberately
flouting a 1996 United Nations resolution that classifies DU
ammunition as an illegal weapon of mass destruction."
Moret calls DU "the Trojan Horse of nuclear war." She describes it as
"the weapon that keeps killing." Indeed, the half-life of Uranium-238
is 4.5-billion years, and as it decays it spawns other deadly
Radioactive fallout from DU apparently blew far and wide. Following
the initial U.S. bombardment of Iraq in 2003, DU particles traveled
2,400 miles to Great Britain in about a week, where atmospheric
But it is in the Middle East, predominantly Iraq, where the bulk of
the radioactive waste has been dumped.
In the early Nineties, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority
warned that 50 tons of dust from DU explosions could claim a half
million lives from cancer by year 2000. Not 50 tons, but an estimated
two thousand radioactive tons have been fired off in the Middle East,
suggesting the possibility over time of an even higher death toll.
Dr. Keith Baverstock, a World Health Organization radiation advisor,
informed the media, Iraq's arid climate would increase exposure from
its tiny particles as they are blown about and inhaled by the civilian
population for years to come.
The civilian death toll from the August, 1945, U.S. atomic bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been put at 140,000 and 80,000,
respectively. Over time, however, deaths from radiation sickness are
thought to have claimed the lives of another 100,000 Japanese civilians.
Sherwood Ross is a Miami, Florida-based free-lance writer who covers
military and political topics. Reach him at sherwoodr1@.... Ross
has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and several wire
services and is a contributor to national magazines.
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