AN EPIDEMIC OF THE GREATEST EVIL – Fallujah bombings condemned

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‘It’s not only in Fallujah, but all over Iraq that there are child deformities.

‘I’ve been in the medical profession for 30 years, I’ve never heard of or seen such congenital deformities as in Iraq today.’

Those were the words of Dr Safa Katfan, a member of the BMA, after reports surfaced yesterday of a ‘massive, unprecedented number’ of children with serious birth defects in the war-ravaged Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Local residents of Fallujah are very distressed by the abnormalities amongst children born in the city, which was devastated by American military attacks in 2004, with support from the British government and UK forces.

Depleted uranium munitions and white phosphorus was used against the city in two bloody assaults.

After the attack on Fallujah, rubble from damaged buildings was emptied into the River Euphrates.

Local residents say this has poisoned their water supply and this is what has caused the alarming number of birth defects.

Doctors report seeing ‘two to three’ cases of birth defects a day.

Babies have been born with multiple heads, multiple tumours, with heart defects, missing limbs, spinal deformities and nervous system problems.

‘We are talking about an epidemic of the greatest evil,’ retired trauma surgeon David Halpin said.

‘What has been reported there, from Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq, is extraordinary.

‘I demand that the use of these vile weapons cease immediately.

‘Secondly, that there is mitigation set underway, like spraying the sand with crude oil, to keep the dispersion by sand storms limited – and putting up warning signs and exclusion zones around known special hazards, like tank dumps, where there will be especially high concentrations of uranium 238. And it is reported that children play in these areas sometimes.

‘The third thing is to investigate it scrupulously, and the fourth is to bring the military and political leaders to the bar of the Hague – as soon as possible.’

Dr Kaftan also supported the call for war crimes charges to be brought.

The situation before the US-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to one local doctor, was about one case of birth defects every two months. Now there are cases every day.

The number of newborn babies with congenital heart defects is estimated at 95 per 1,000 births – 13 times the rate found in Europe.

Images broadcast by the BBC yesterday showed children with extra fingers and toes and deformed limbs.

There are others who are paralysed or have brain damage.

A paediatrician, Samira al-Ani, said she was seeing as many as two or three cases of birth defects every day.

She said that year by year, the number is increasing.

One local resident showed the BBC a photograph of a baby born with three heads.

And a researcher said she had seen images of babies, including one born with an eye in the middle of the forehead and another with the nose on the forehead.

The worst problems were in the neighbourhood of al-Julan, near the Euphrates river and the heart of the resistance to the American offensives of April and September 2004, when it was pounded with bombs and shells.

Local women have been advised not to have children, but the puppet government in Baghdad has denied there is a major catastrophe taking place.

Alastair Hay, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Leeds, told the BBC that any children’s specialist seeing these cases would be ‘extremely concerned’.

Dr Halpin added: ‘The whole world should be weeping for Iraq and I mean that.

‘It is as if the Nuremberg Principles were never enunciated and the trials there never took place, because we are seeing a deeper evil now than ever, and I say that because the rules have been set.

‘They were set after the loss of 50 million people in the Second World War and the most terrible suffering.

‘The Black Watch trapped the people of Fallujah like rats in a rat trap while the American forces pulverised them.

‘The BMA should call for the halt of these weapons and an urgent investigation in Iraq of these claims that children are being born deformed or miscarried because of deformity.

‘What comes out comes out secretly, because the doctors there are afraid to speak against their puppet masters in Baghdad.

‘But they say that children who are born live and free of deformity are said to become ill later and die from illnesses which are not easy to diagnose.

‘This also needs investigating.’

A spokesman for the Stop The War Coalition commented yesterday: ‘We said at the time that the Americans were using chemical and biological weapons in Fallujah in 2004 and the documentation of deformities has been available for several years now.

‘We think there should be a full investigation into war crimes that were committed in Fallujah by the Americans.’