Life today in blighted Iraq

Australian film-maker David Bradbury and Australian writer and activist Donna Mulhearn are currently in Iraq witnessing the devastation that the West has bought in the last decade. Here’s a message from Bradbury in the city of Fallujah:

Met two very interesting women doctors today. Dr Samira is the doctor at the frontline of birth defects here at Fallujah hospital. We saw one little chap this morning – Hassan – born two days ago with a small head. His birth defects don’t allow the brain to grow properly and therefore mental retardation and convulsive fits will be his future. Doctors will operate but problematic. They don’t even have a specialist ultra sound machine here that would allow doctors to diagnose in early pregnancy birth anomalies in the womb. That would give the doctors a big start to assemble and prepare a specialist team for the birth so they can do what is necessary to give the baby a better fighting chance at least upon birth. They can’t reverse the anomalies and genetic malformations the use of US weaponry brings to the life of these little ones. But at least ease the burden and do basic surgery if can do upon birth. As it is now, the poor bub comes out, the mother freaks out and they have to deal with it. Still many babies born at home with midwife. And quietly buried if they die after a few days. Big shame factor and denial for stunned parents who suddenly discover they have a ‘monster’ on their hands. Death is a blessing in most instances but many live with these birth defects causing hardship and tensions within the family. As well as shame. Imagine stepping into the market place with a baby with a big head, a cleft palate or club foot or twisted face or hunch back etc.

We met little Safe today. Same age as my darling little 3 year old Omar back home.… Safe is a sweet little boy. Normal face and arms etc. But at 8 months it became obvious he had problems. He still can’t sit up or walk. He can only crawl. He has no speech other than shrill noises. Seems a handful. His father completed his Masters in Islamic Science. He is a respectful, educated and humble man who holds his head high with dignity.

Safe’s parents told us of their entrapment in Fallujah by the Americans who wouldn’t let them out of the city when the heavy fighting began first in April 2004. Then again in November. Aerial bombardment by the Americans and door to door, street by street fighting with many civilians forced to stay in their homes as the fighting intensified. American snipers practised on little kids. The civilian casualties mounted as they were laid out in rows on the footpath. Hair samples taken in recent years gives the game away. Traces of enriched uranium, and other heavy metals. The Americans it is alleged used not only ‘depleted’ uranium which they used widely in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 but traces of the much more radioactive, potent concentrated uranium — enriched uranium which is the next stage of processing towards purifying uranium from which nuclear bombs and nuclear fuel rods for power plants are made.

Safe’s parents believe it was uranium weapons responsible for his deformities – though there is no way of proving it. Interestingly enough, the woman gyno told us this morning until they have the equipment to do the genetic testing (they have the trained people, they just can’t get the machines…), it’s speculation always whether it was genetic, chromosomal abnormalities or environmental pollution (which includes DU). So aside from ‘might makes right’ so like with Agent Orange there is no reciprocity on the American military or Pentagon in a World Court of Human Rights (which there should be in our modern times…), the American military manage to tough it out yet again and slide out from any responsibility to clean up the mess they left behind and make some token restitution for what they have done en masse to the Iraqi people and their environment.

Dr Muntaha, the sole gynocologist here is about 40, not married and lived through the siege of Fallujah too. She told us they have 14,000 babies born a year. 50 a day. 43 maternity beds. The mothers, whether they have natural birth or a caesar are obliged to be ‘tipped out’ after 8 hours in the hospital after birth…to make way for the next shift. They have 7 staff total to give birth and deal with any complications, lab testing etc. She says Fallujah is so big they need 3 children’s hospitals, not the one. Iraqis were a sophisticated and highly educated people in the 1980’s despite Saddam’s tyranical reign.…  Dr Muntaha said they lead the Arab world in so many areas, including medicine and health. Now she said with a tinge of bitterness they are at the bottom of the pile.

She got quite angry (fair enough) when she told us of her experience travelling to her fellow Arab countries where with her Iraqi passport, she is ‘treated like a dog’. Her words. Her Iraqi friends present their British gained passports and slip straight through. She has to wait and wait and be treated like a criminal or a ‘terrorist’ (my word, not hers) because she comes from Iraq. A highly educated, sophisticated, lovely, lovely warm woman. And so it goes on and on. Sound familiar?

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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