Oct
22
2012

U.S. Media Ignore Toxic Legacy of U.S. Weapons

Doctor examining a baby in a Fallujah hospital (photo: Larisa Epatko/NewsHour)

Doctor examining a baby in a Fallujah hospital (photo: Larisa Epatko/NewsHour)

The London Independent published a harrowing story on October 14, "Iraq Records Huge Rise in Birth Defects."

The piece focuses on the legacy of the U.S war in Iraq, in particular the two massive U.S. military invasions of the city of Fallujah in 2004.  The Independent reports:

High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiraling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

There is "compelling evidence" to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

The Independent notes:

The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10.


These findings, published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, seem to confirm earlier research on the subject, and a World Health Organization is expected next month.

What accounts for this dramatic public health crisis? The Independent reports:

The report's authors link the rising number of babies born with birth defects in the two cities to increased exposure to metals released by bombs and bullets used over the past two decades. Scientists who studied hair samples of the population in Fallujah found that levels of lead were five times higher in the hair of children with birth defects than in other children; mercury levels were six times higher. Children with defects in Basra had three times more lead in their teeth than children living in non-impacted areas.

The researchers point to the use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium weapons as other possible culprits. The U.S. military, as the Independent reports, admitted to using white phosphorous in Falljuah, but not depleted uranium.

This shocking account of birth defects in Iraq, which would seem directly related to the U.S-led war on that country, is not newsworthy in the United States. According to the Nexis news database, this story has been reported in the Times of India and the New Zealand Herald. It was also the topic of a column in the Toronto Star (10/21/12) by Haroon Siddiqui.

We could find no major U.S. media outlets that mentioned this research. Democracy Now! referred to the study on October 15.

As FAIR noted at the time (Extra! Update, 6/03), U.S. media were mostly unconcerned with the use of depleted uranium and cluster bombs in Iraq.

And the use of white phosphorous in Fallujah has long been a source of controversy. The press attitude towards to the chemical, as Seth Ackerman wrote in Extra! (3-4/06), seemed to depend on who was alleged to have been using it. Reports that the United States was using white phosphorous in Iraq were treated as irresponsible conspiracy-mongering.

One Washington Post reporter eventually admitted that "U.S. troops' use of white phosphorus in combat in Iraq has generated considerable attention in Europe, though little in the United States."

Now, as reports surface of the grave health effects of U.S. war on Iraq, the attention is once again coming from foreign media outlets.

 

 

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.