Iraq lies in shambles. More than nine years of war and devastation by the US and its imperialist allies have transformed the area of the world known as the ‘Cradle of Civilization’ into a raw, wounded land. From the beginning of George Bush’s ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ in March 2003, to Barack Obama’s recent so-called ‘US troop withdrawal’, the Iraqi people have suffered, are suffering, and will continue to suffer as a result of this genocidal war.
Millions of pages still cannot cover the deceit and failures of this war. ‘Weapons of mass destruction’ is now such a taboo term that the former leaders in Washington who first made this claim keep pointing the blame to one another in their dry memoirs. But now it doesn’t matter, does it? The invasion went ahead; the military occupation forces set up camp and took the Iraqi people through the hell of murders, checkpoints and Abu Ghraibs, not to mention the full-scale attack on their schools, hospitals, electrical and water system that would have provided some sort of infrastructure for the people. It is estimated that 1.5 million Iraqis fell to the bullets and bombs of the occupation forces, another 1.3 million were internally displaced and 1.6 million became refugees abroad.
But of all the problems in Iraq, the main crisis for the US was its inability to establish itself in the country. Throughout every stage of its plan, from toppling the government of Saddam Hussein to suppressing Iraq’s self-determination by directly occupying the country to plundering its oil wealth and placing itself in a more strategic military position in the Middle East, it met opposition in every town and city in Iraq. The success of the US mission would be at the expense of the Iraqi people. But they were determined to not let this happen. Ultimately, no amount of occupation forces could stop the striking Iraqi workers, the demonstrations and armed attacks on unwelcome soldiers.
The US military machine attacked most fiercely the areas that showed the most resistance to the occupation, and nobody knows the devastation and suffering caused by the US military more than the heroic people of Fallujah. They have paid an extremely high price for standing up to the strongest military the world has ever seen.
Fallujah: A City of Resistance
Fallujah lies roughly 70 kilometres west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River. Known as the ‘city of mosques’, for its 200 mosques found in the city and surrounding areas, its 350,000 residents were already all too familiar with the destructive nature of Western imperialist armies. During the Gulf War of 1991, it suffered one of the highest tolls of civilian casualties at the hands of US and British Forces.
After the US and its allies dug their heels into Iraqi soil in 2003, occupation forces no longer had to contend with the Iraqi military, but with an Iraqi population and resistance determined to rid their land of these invaders. Fallujah would become a hot spot for them. While US soldiers had menaced the local population for months - including the murder of 17 people who were protesting the transformation of a school into a US military headquarters - Fallujah made headlines on March 31st, 2004, when four US Blackwater contractors were killed and their bodies burned on the bridge over the Euphrates River. In retaliation, the US launched ‘Operation Vigilant Resolve’ against the city, a heavy military offensive that was supposed to be jointly operated with the new Iraqi National Guard. Too bad for them that their new Iraqi recruits took off their uniforms and deserted the morning of the raid. Despite two months of fighting and heavy casualties, the US eventually had to give up and declare a ceasefire.
The US military could not let Fallujah go. They continued airstrikes on the city, increasing these attacks in October 2004 in preparation for another large-scale assault. On November 7th, 2004, the offensive was publicly authorized by Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi Prime Minister whose puppet strings stretched all the way to White House, as well as another one against the people of Ramadi, who were fighting their own battle another 40 kilometres down the river.
Dubbed ‘Operation Phantom Fury’, the US and its allies stormed Fallujah's western outskirts the next day. For more than six weeks, the city engaged in a heavy battle between Iraqi resistance and the imperialist allied forces. The sophisticated weaponry employed by the US included white phosphorous, despite the fact that its use contravened the Geneva Convention. Later it was discovered that depleted uranium and other secret weaponry were also used by the US. For the US military, the Battle of Fallujah brought back memories of Vietnam and the heavy urban combat they faced there before they were kicked out by the Vietnamese. But by the end of December 2004, the US assault had flattened the city. US officials reported that “more than half of Fallujah’s 39,000 homes were damaged, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed.” Along with this damage to infrastructure, more than 6,000 Iraqi men, women and children were killed.
Casualties are Born Every Day
While the Battle of Fallujah saw the highest number of civilian casualties than any other offensive during the occupation of Iraq, eight years later the numbers of dead and wounded continues to grow. Fallujah’s children now fill hospitals and cemeteries. This is the legacy that the US and its allies left in Fallujah with their own sophisticated ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
Researchers have found links connecting the weaponry used in Fallujah to a nightmarish drop in its residents’ health. In a study titled “Cancer, Infant Mortality And Birth-Sex Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009”, conducted by Dr. Christopher Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, it concluded that the dramatic rise in infant mortality, cancer and leukemia exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bomb catastrophe in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The researchers discovered that infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births, compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan, and 9.7 in Kuwait. A very significant finding was that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed. Typically, the ratio is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but since 2005 there was an 18 percent drop in male births, to 850 boys born to 1,000 girls. This is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls, similar to the sex-ratio found in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Dr. Samira Alani, a paediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, reported that between October 2009 and January 2012, she had personally logged almost 700 cases of birth defects. Not even medical terms can describe some of the conditions and most die within 20-30 minutes of being born. Scanning some of the cases coming out of Fallujah’s hospitals brings up images of babies with multiple tumours, babies with their digestive system outside their body and a baby born with two heads - images that must be even harder to look at for all the expecting parents in Fallujah who don’t know if their child will survive their first day.
In adults, the researchers also found a 38-fold increase in leukemia, a ten-fold increase in breast cancer, and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours.
Suspiciously, the findings conducted by more of Dr. Busby’s research indicate, not the presence of depleted uranium, but slightly enriched uranium—most likely the product of a new secretive weapon that the US military experimented with on the people of Fallujah. Dr. Busby is currently conducting more research in to the devastating effects of US weapons on Fallujah and the likelihood of newer, more destructive radioactive weapons.
NO CHOICE BUT TO LEAVE!
The bloodbath that the US military created in Iraq follows a common path taken by the US government in that country. The US has no good record in Iraq. It can never repay the Iraqi people for the devastation of the first Gulf war, nor for the 13 years of crippling sanctions it imposed through the United Nations. No amount of reconstruction can repair the damage they inflicted through the March 2003 invasion and resulting occupation.
While Fallujah is a strong case study on the impacts of the US war drive in Iraq, it is not alone. Baghdad, Al Basrah, Mosul, Kirkuk - the list goes on. No area of that country was left untouched by the destructive force of US imperialism. Depleted uranium, and now the findings of other forms of uranium, has seeped into the soil, air and water of that great land. With a half-life longer than the earth’s existence, this radioactive element will now always be a part of Iraq.
While Barack Obama proclaims that US troops have left Iraq, he cannot hide the fact that they left behind at least 1,500 soldiers, the largest military embassy in the world with a staff of 15,000 people, and at least 15,000 mercenary contractors from the former Blackwater clique. Let’s not forget the unmentionable secret military bases throughout the country. The US never left Iraq; its presence was only reduced and they maintain the capacity to re-intervene if the new Iraqi government and military can’t do the job for them.
The US has no choice but to leave Iraq completely and unconditionally. It must do this not because it is right thing to do, but also because the proud and resilient people of Iraq will force them out, just as they have been working towards ever since the first bombs dropped on their country. The collective voice of people all over the world needs to echo their demands, and the future generations of Iraqis who have yet to be born should inherit a land that can rival its rich history...free from foreign domination.
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