Scientist: Bombs, bullets and military hardware abandoned by U.S. forces have left Iraq “toxic for millennia”
By David Masciotra
The political and moral culture of the United States allows for bipartisan cooperation to destroy an entire country, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process, without even the flimsiest of justification. Then, only a few years later, everyone can act as if it never happened.
In 2011, the U.S. withdrew most of its military personnel from Iraq, leaving the country in ruins. Estimates of the number of civilians who died during the war in Iraq range from 151,000 to 655,000. An additional 4,491 American military personnel perished in the war. Because the bombs have stopped falling from the sky and the invasion and occupation of Iraq no longer makes headlines, Americans likely devote no thought to the devastation that occurred in their name.
With the exception of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is currently polling at or below 2 percent, no candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has consistently addressed the criminality, cruelty and cavalier wastefulness of American foreign policy. Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the race, not only supported the war in Iraq — despite his recent incoherent claims to the contrary — but as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee acted as its most effective and influential salesman in the Democratic Party.
The blasé attitude of America toward the death and destruction it creates, all while boasting of its benevolence, cannot withstand the scrutiny of science. Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan and recipient of the Rachel Carson Prize, has led several investigative expeditions in Iraq to determine how the pollutants and toxic chemicals from the U.S.-led war are poisoning Iraq’s people and environment. The health effects are catastrophic, and will remain so long after the war reached its official end.
Average Americans, even many who opposed the war in Iraq, seem to believe that once the military campaign is over the casualties of war stop accumulating. What is the purpose of your general research regarding the toxicity of the Iraqi environment resulting from American bombs, munitions and other materials? How does the American invasion and occupation continue to adversely affect the health of Iraqis?
“Bombs and bullets have been used on an extreme scale in Iraq. Dropping tons of bombs and releasing millions of bullets leaves toxic residues the in air, water and soil of the targeted population. These pollutants continue to poison those populations years after the bombing stops.
“What’s more, the United States imported thousands of tons of military equipment into Iraq to use in their occupation. They include, tanks, trucks, bombers, armored vehicles, infantry weapons, antiaircraft systems, artillery and mortars — some of which are coated with depleted uranium, and much more. These eventually find their way into U.S. military junkyards which remain across Iraq.
“There are unknown numbers of military junkyards scattered across the Iraqi landscape.
“Fluctuations in temperature facilitates the rusting and weathering of military junk, releasing toxic pollutants [including radioactive uranium compounds, neurotoxic lead and mercury, etc.] into the Iraqi environment.
“Uranium and its related compounds remain toxic for millennia and poison local populations through food, air and water contamination.
“The exposure of pregnant mothers to the pollutions of war, including uranium and thorium, irreversibly damages their unborn children. We found thorium, a product of depleted uranium decay, in the hair of Iraqi children with birth defects who lived in Nasiriyah and Ur City, near a U.S. military base.
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