American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
The Effects of War and
During the last 50 years, Iraq passed through many wars. The most destructive has been the 1991 war. In this war, factories, government buildings, bridges, and hospitals were destroyed. Allied forces used weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) extensively at the west parts of the city of Basrah. This depleted uranium has led to increased levels of radiation in the battlefield and the nearby cities and countryside. The levels of radiation in the area, measured by the department of environmental engineering at the University of Baghdad, ranged from hundreds to thousands of times the normal background levels in the Iraqi soil. This radiation and other factors like chemicals and poor nutrition caused many cancers, congenital malformations in children, kidney diseases, and infections.
Then the economic sanctions added to the suffering of the Iraqis. During the period of the sanctions, we lacked food and medicines. The death rate among children increased because of poor nutrition and infections; more than 5 million children died over the last 12 years. We were deprived of the recent advances in various sciences and technologies. Newly issued journals and published books were not allowed to reach Iraqi universities. We were pushed backward years behind the fast development of technology and we are now suffering the great lag of that period.
During the 2003 war, depleted uranium was again used extensively, around the cities of Baghdad, Babylon, Karbala, Najef, and Basrah, which was still suffering the effects of the depleted uranium of the 1991 war. I witnessed the A-10 planes for three days delivering the depleted uranium rounds against tanks and armored vehicles near Basrah airport and at southern parts of the city. By some estimates, the amount of DU used in 2003 exceeds the amount used in 1991.
The health consequences of these wars are evident mainly among the people in the south of Iraq. The rate of cancers is now ten times the rate in 1988. The death rate from cancers is 19 times the rate in 1988. Congenital malformations in newborns is seven times the rate in 1990. New and strange phenomena in cancers have appeared, like clustering of cancer in families, and double or triple cancers in one person.
We believe that the radiation introduced to our environment in 1991 is the
cause of these changes. To confirm this, we need to test the soil for
levels of radiation, evaluate the uranium particles in the tissues and urine of
patients, and perform chromosomal analysis and cytogenetic studies of
the affected people. We lack the equipment for these investigations.