It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.
It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long term and severe damage to the natural environment.
Geneva Conventions, 1977 Amendment, Article 35, Protocol 1
In a hospital in Fallujah, Dr. Samira Alani records new cases of birth defects and cancer. She’s seen a sharp increase in the number of miscarriages and babies with birth defects like hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), neural tube defects (“open back”), extra limbs, tumors, elongated heads and other deformities, some that don’t even have a name. Since 2009 she’s recorded 699 cases of congenital birth defects. The numbers are highest in areas that were targeted in bombing raids.
What’s the cause? Studies point to depleted uranium, lead and mercury left behind by bullets and bombs.
A toxicologist writes: “Our research in Fallujah indicated that the majority of families returned to their bombarded homes and lived there, or otherwise rebuilt on top of the contaminated rubble of their old homes. When possible, they also used building materials that were salvaged from the bombarded sites.” She and other scientists tested hair, teeth and blood of children living in areas bombarded in 2004 and found elevated levels of lead and mercury in children with birth defects.
With no official system for registering cancers and birth defects, and no support from the Iraqi government, Dr. Alani works pretty much alone, documenting a tragedy. “I will not leave this subject,” she told a reporter. “I will not stop.”
The war in Iraq might be officially over, but its legacy will haunt us for decades.