Three years after the US army occupied the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the local pediatrician Samila Alani began to notice strange phenomena in the obstetric ward: women gave birth to their internal organs exposed outside their belly, or the whole body seemed to be wrapped in a layer of snake skin. , Or a child whose legs stick together like a mermaid. No one knows what happened to these little babies, and of course almost no one bothered to find the cause. It was 2007, when the political and sectarian violence in Iraq reached its peak.
Fallujah, where Alani lives and works, is considered one of the most turbulent cities in the world. News about these babies spread from the hospital corridors to the city courtyards, appearing in the whispers of neighbors and three aunts and six wives. After a cousin returned from the maternity ward, Fallujah housewife Intisal Hussein learned about the deformed child. “There was a child with a tail, and another child with a rabbit face.” Hu Saiin recalled what his cousin told her. A sister-in-law of Hussein also gave birth to a dead baby. The child had no skull and could not protect the brain tissue; another sister-in-law had two miscarriages and then gave birth to a child with a swollen brain, which soon died.
Alani preached to patients about congenital malformations.
| Don’t dare to doubt |
Soon, Fallujah’s children became a hot spot for discussions between tribal meetings and local doctors’ alliances. Many residents suspect that these deformities may be related to the fierce American attacks on the city. The second offensive launched in November 2004 was the most deadly battle during the entire Iraq War. The six-week siege resulted in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and 82 Americans. Many parts of the city were turned into rubble and sewage. Flowing across the street, dogs bite the corpses scattered all over the city. The US military deployed white phosphorous bombs, a chemical weapon that can burn skin and muscles until bare bones are exposed. The invasion of the US military has drastically aggravated the hidden health and environmental problems in Iraq, but this suspicion has remained secretive. The U.S. Marine Corps patrolled the streets outside the Iraqi homes, and local residents feared that alluding to the United States would lead to evil consequences.
Americans are not the only factor that Fallujah must worry about. The Shiite-led Baghdad government is regarded by many as a puppet of Washington and Tehran, and is busy arresting, torturing, and politically punishing dissidents, especially in Sunni-majority areas like Fallujah. All parties and militia organizations in Iraq are fighting for power and trying to control the spread of news for their own purposes.
And at that time, the invasion of the US army triggered a wave of violence against doctors. In the context of rising factional struggles in Iraq, relatively wealthy doctors are easily targeted. In 2007, when Alani began to notice the high rate of abnormalities in Fallujah’s newborns, the Iraqi Medical Association estimated that half of the registered doctors had been forced to flee the country. Those who stay like Alani not only risk being arrested, kidnapped, and assassinated, but also face stretched working conditions, coping with shortages of medicines, medical equipment, and water and electricity.
“We noticed something was wrong, but there was nothing we could do,” she recalled. Alani’s colleague and fetal medicine expert Montaha Albani also believes something is wrong. Both of them have been working in hospitals since the late 1990s, and believe that the number of deformed children now far exceeds that before the US invasion. Alani records the cases quietly, while Alvani takes pictures of these small patients. Alani created a form to record the deformed newborn and distributed it in the hospital ward. Many of their colleagues have doubts about this. “Some people think that this will not help.” Alani said, “Of course they were wrong. Through the record, we have aroused the attention of the world.”
Alani’s temporary registry is the beginning of the recording and investigation of the most controversial medical mystery of the Iraq War, and this long-lasting exploration has not yet been completed. Local doctors said that since the United States invaded in 2003, the rate of birth defects in this city has continued to rise, and the local residents are still tortured today. The most important question is whether the activities of the US military in Fallujah have caused these congenital diseases, which has turned the public health issue in this region into an international political and scientific controversy. For many years, the fierce debate about Fallujah has focused on the use and impact of potential poisons in American weapons, especially depleted uranium, while ignoring the broader and possibly more troublesome issue, namely, the long-term impact of urban warfare on civilian public health. , And the danger of politicizing science and medicine in times of conflict.
The U.S. Department of Defense basically did not respond to allegations that Fallujah’s congenital deformity rate has increased due to the war. The “U.S. External Environmental Remediation Policy” stipulates that the U.S. Department of Defense will not invest funds to remediate the overseas environment or take action on environmental pollution caused by armed conflicts.
| Attention |
Today, the problem of Fallujah deformed children continues to bother Iraq, and almost every aspect has seen little improvement. Although the photos of the disabled and sick children of Fallujah have appeared in the Pentagon’s internal memos and anti-war march posters from the WHO lobby and medical journals to remind people of the long-term and irreversible terrorist consequences of the war, Alani and his colleagues still have no idea. Do not continue to operate in the narrow congenital malformation center with limited resources. The parents of those little patients were Iraqis who had experienced the invasion of the US army when they were young.
For a century, veterans and civilians all over the world have repeatedly warned about the impact of war on the health of future generations. Of course, conflict always poses risks to public health, but the rise of industrial warfare in the 20th century and the introduction of chemical weapons and nuclear deterrence have brought new risks of exposure to poisons, which may cause unprecedented terrible genetic consequences. In August 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killing more than 200,000 people, pushing the world into the nuclear age in one fell swoop. Since then, the possibility of modern warfare deforming future generations has aroused unprecedented attention and controversy.
In the next few decades, American veterans who participated in the Pentagon mustard gas test during World War II, veterans who were sent to the Marshall Islands in the late 1970s to remove toxic waste from American nuclear tests, and believed that 67 nuclear bomb explosions produced radioactive dust. The Marshallese civilians of the so-called “jellyfish babies” have all begun to speak out, drawing people’s attention to their infertility and children’s congenital abnormalities. But the US government has always believed that there is insufficient evidence to prove the connection between these tests and congenital abnormalities. After examining 75,000 newborns in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S.-Japan Radiation Impact Research Foundation concluded that there was no statistically significant increase in congenital malformations and other abnormal pregnancy outcomes among the survivors’ children. .
In 2004, during the second Battle of Fallujah, the US military launched an attack.
On May 3, 2003, Baghdad, the aluminum shell of a 30mm depleted uranium bomb appeared on the ground nearby after the US military air strikes the Iraqi Planning Department
In 1966, a US plane sprayed Agent Orange in southern Vietnam.
In 2003, a two-year-old girl and her family waited for a ration at a food distribution center in Baghdad.
Since the late 1970s, the American public began to face these nightmarish stories more and more frequently. Vietnam War veterans began to tell about their congenital deformed children on TV, and attributed them to the history of Agent Orange exposure during the war. That was the United States. A deadly poison spread by the air force in southern Vietnam. The Vietnam Federation of Agent Orange Victims said that as many as 3 million Vietnamese civilians across four generations are suffering from cancer, nerve damage, reproductive problems and other diseases related to it.
Earlier, the US government had objected to this, arguing that “there is insufficient and reasonable evidence to prove the relationship between congenital malformations and exposure to tactical herbicides.” However, some domestic and foreign studies have proven this chemical and some congenital malformations. the relationship between. Some American veterans sued chemical companies that make Agent Orange, including Dow Chemical Company and Monsanto, and won $180 million in damages in 1984. They also pushed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care system to bear the medical expenses for children with congenital spina bifida and some other congenital malformations. American veterans and their children with a history of exposure to this herbicide, as well as Vietnamese civilians and their offspring, are also continuing. Ask for compensation.
| Perseverance |
Over the years, Alani has published more than ten papers, questioned the World Health Organization, and went to the United States to ask former President Jimmy Carter to obtain information about the US campaign in Fallujah. She took out a copy of the letter and said that the hospital would send a letter to the Ministry of Health in Baghdad every month requesting new medical equipment, but to no avail, she will continue to work hard. Albany said that she never thought of using the baby pictures taken for political purposes. “I don’t like to spread people’s tragedies.” She said, “I want to solve problems, not copy them.”
Not long ago, Alani published the results of another case study in the Asian Journal of Medical and Health Case Reports. She analyzed a pair of twins who were born in Fallujah Hospital and they suffered from two different serious diseases. She wrote that a baby died when he was born, with a blue intestine showing his abdomen; another baby came to this world alive, but did not live long, his two tiny legs stuck together. At the end of the article, Alani concluded: In Fallujah, the high incidence of congenital malformations is damaging the health of the people and their ability to take care of surviving children; due to poor care during pregnancy, families with congenital malformations lack support, and the government lacks clear and rigorous measures. Plan to improve the sanitation system and purify the polluted post-war environment, and the problem has become more serious. She did not write down how the twins’ father became hysterical when he saw the children, and how he refused to allow them to undergo X-ray and ultrasound examinations. He took the child with sticky legs out of the hospital and wanted him to die at home. Alani is still recording the limited information she can collect, hoping that this incomplete record will one day benefit her patients.