Thursday, March 4, 2010

Birth Defects Ignored in Iraq, Who's the Bossier Now?

Dana Milbank
David Ignatius

About a year ago I wrote about the rising birth defect rate in Iraq, a subject that has been ignored by the press. Finally a reporter from the BBC went to Fallujah to investigate: "The Iraqi government line is that there are only one or two extra cases of birth defects per year in Fallujah, compared with the national average. But in the impressive new Fallujah General Hospital, built with American aid, we found a paediatric specialist, Dr Samira al-Ani, who told us that she saw two or three new cases every day. Most of them, she said, exhibited cardiac problems. When asked what the cause was, she said: "I am a doctor. I have to be scientific in my talk. I have nothing documented. But I can tell you that year by year, the number [is] increasing."

The specialist, like other medical staff at the hospital, seemed nervous about talking too openly about the problem. They were well aware that what they said went against the government version, and we were told privately that the Iraqi authorities are anxious not to embarrass the Americans over the issue."

The US has purposely not kept any records nor asked any Iraqi institution to begin any investigations. We are not talking about minor defects like a cleft palate or a third nipple, we are talking incredibly serious defects that result in gross deformity: "We heard many times that officials in Fallujah had warned women that they should not have children. We went to a clinic for the disabled, and were given details of dozens upon dozens of cases of children with serious birth defects. One photograph I saw showed a newborn baby with three heads. While we were at the clinic, people kept arriving with children who were suffering major problems - a little girl with only one arm, several children who were paralysed, and another girl with a spinal condition so bad I asked my cameraman not to film her."

People concerned over this rising problem claim that the defects are the result of depleted uranium from bombs, bullets, and the hardened lining in Humvees. Rubble from buildings and villages decimated gets bulldozed into rivers where it leaches into the water table. Sure, we get the kids with six toes or a missing arm, but there also are the more horrific children that look like they came from a classic horror film. And we continue to ignore it and sweep it under the rug. After all, we are supposed to be their saviors, not the instruments of pain and disfigurement. What soldier wants to come home with that on their conscience? Who would then step up and take some responsibility?

In the meantime, fellow Iraqis continue to blow the crap out of each other, this time aimed at creating havoc during the elections, which last through Sunday. I remember reading about, back in 2003, Muslim insurgents in Iraq refused to use bombs on another Muslim, now it seems they have no qualms whatsoever. Perhaps we have Iranian agents like Ahmed Chalabi to thank, he who sold the concept of WMD's to the gullible Bush administration. So maybe we could also thank Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld for commandeering that ship of fools...

So, are the birth defects from drinking radioactive water any worse than contracting cholera like every other person in Africa? It's been confirmed that the drinking water in almost every major city in the US has elements of metamphetamines and countless prescription drugs, and I am wondering if the concentration is higher in the water in Louisiana. Perhaps all of that black mold that settled in after Hurricane Katrina has induced paranoid fantasies or created psychedelic hallucinations: "The office of the Louisiana sheriff who's forming a citizen militia to defend the parish in the event of a terrorist attack says it has information about possible Islamic terrorist activity in its midst.

"We understand, based on some intelligence that we've collected over the last year, year and a half, that there have been cells and people operating even within our parish that have been trained as terrorists or went overseas to be trained as terrorists," Ed Baswell, a spokesman for the Bossier Parrish Sheriff's Office, told TPMmuckraker this morning.

"So this is not something that's far, far away," Baswell added. "This is something that is a possibility here in Bossier Parish." Sheriff Larry Deen has announced a plan to arm volunteers with shotguns, riot shields, batons, and a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a "war wagon," and has begun training them in "hand-to-hand combat" and other techniques, as part of a program to provide security in the event of a terrorist attack or civic unrest."
"Terrorists can tend to strike anywhere and everywhere... There's not a state of paranoia, or anything like that"
The thought of terrorists training in the middle of bumfuck, Louisiana isn't all that farfetched. the leader of the 9/11 terrorists, Mohammed Atta, lived and trained in rural Florida, took lessons at an flight school that was bought overnight by a foreign national and an Arkansas man with ties to organized crime. Atta himself blended in by drinking, using cocaine, going to strip clubs like any pious Muslim would, and even living for awhile with a prostitute to make him feel more at home, which was in Austria, not the Middle East.

Besides, martial arts training for us old men makes a lot of sense, especially if I get to man the machine gun. I guess it ties into the rampant paranoia that the Obama administration is going to take all of your guns away, even though there has been no evidence in word or deed to that effect. Here in Colorado, despite the high unemployment rate, high foreclosure rate, higher divorce and domestic abuse rates, the sales of guns went through the roof. Despite the fact that we had another Columbine imitation-style shooting at a middle school last week, when the University of Colorado announced that it was going to ban handguns on its campus, 97% of my fellow citizens felt that was a wrong choice. They felt it was wiser and safer allowing kids in the midst of puberty to strut around school with a loaded handgun strapped to their body. Careful, baby, I might go off... When I read in today's NY Times an opinion piece by Nicholas Kristoff, where he said that societies that are abusive to women tend to be more violent, I thought he was referring to places like Yemen, not Colorado Springs...

This is down in the swampland where anything goes
It's alligator bait and the bars don't close
It's the real thing down in Louisiana

Did you ever see a Cajun when he really got mad
When he really got trouble like a daughter gone bad
It gets real hot down in Louisiana

And now the stranger better move it or he's gonna get killed
He's gonna have to get it or a shotgun will
It ain't no time for lengthy speeches
There ain't no time for lengthy speeches

from Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight   by Rodney Crowell

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