Tuesday, October 16, 2012








The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang & Jesse James & the Northfield Raid 1876 comes out later this month. The author is Sean McLachlan, most famous for A Fine Likeness, who was an archaeologist before he became a full time author. He is currently in Baghdad and, at his blog (Civil War Horror), he posts a photo and notes, "Above is a photo of yours truly with a fellow writer -- the Sumerian scribe DuDu, who we know from an inscription on the back of his statue lived in Lagish around 2400 BC. I'd be willing to live with the name Dudu in exchange for my work to still be read four thousand years after my death." He's in Iraq to write a piece on the country for the travel outlet Gadling.
Lagash. Enyclopedia Britannica explains, was "one of the most important capital cities in ancient Sumer, located midway between the Tirgris and Euphrates rivers in southeastern Iraq. [. . .] Lagash was endowed with many temples, including the Eninnu, 'House of the Fifty,' a seat of the high god Enil. Architecturally the most remarkable structure was a weir and regulator, once doubtless possessing sluice gates, which conserved the area's water supply in reservoirs." The University of Chicago has a slide show of Lagash here. The Louvre houses a statue of Lagash's Prince Gudea. The statue is thought to date back to 2120 BC. Another statue of Gudea can be found at the Detroit Institute of Arts and this one is thought to date back to 2141-2122 BC. It is near this area that the first recorded war was fought -- Sumer's war with Elam (modern day Iran) back in 2700 BC (the war would have been fought in what is now Basra). In antiquities news, Al-Shorfa notes that yesterday Iraq and Italy "signed a memorandum of cooperation" regarding the restoration of archaeological sites in Iraq.
If another part of Iraq, Falluja, was excavated centuries from now, what would they find? Most likely evidence of massive birth defects as a result of the Iraq War. Falluja was twice assaulted in 2004. First, briefly in April and then a much more prologned assault immediately after the US presidential election in November. It was duing the second assault that Dexter Filkins, then a New York Times 'reporter,' wrote his rah-rah bit of nonsense. We called it out when the paper ran it on the front page November 21, 2004. But a lot of people like their war porn. Which is why 'reporter' Dexter won a little award for that piece. Someone reading it today, after the admission by the US military that white phosphorus was used in that attack on Falluja, would probably first notice how Dexy missed that. But even back then there was something fishy about a report about actions on November 15th that carried a dateline of November 18th and ran November 21st. Apparently, the military that vetted 'embed' Dexy's copy wasn't too concerned about print deadlines.
Reporter Dahr Jamail reported on Iraq during the same period Dexy churned out press releases for the military. In his book Beyond The Green Zone: Dispataches From An Unembedded Journalist In Occupied Iraq, Dahr explores what happened during the second assault on Falluja:
The humanitarian disaster in Fallujah worsened as the U.S. military continued to refuse entry to the Iraqi Red Crescent (IRC) convoys of relief supplies. I was told at the Red Crescent headquarters in Baghdad that they had appealed to the UN to intervene, but once again the UN proved its impotence in all matters. While there, I also heard that Iraqi Army members, under U.S. control, engaged in the supervised looting of Fallujah General Hospital during the first week of the siege.
Inside Fallujah, the U.S. military allowed some bodies to be buried by residents, but others were being eaten by dogs and cats in the streets, as reported both by refugees coming out of the city and residents still trapped there. The military claimed that there was no need for the IRC to deliver aid to people inside Fallujah, since there were no more civilians inside the city. (Later, officials acknowledged that thirty thousand to fifty thousand residents had remained in the city.)
While speaking to survivors of the assault, Dar encountered Abu Sabah who told him, "They used these weird bombs that first put up smoke in a cloud and then small pieces fell from the air with long tails of smoke behind them. These exploded on the ground with large fires that burned for half an hour. They used these near the train tracks. When anyone touched those fires, their body burned for hours."
Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.
Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, said, "The corpses of the mujaheddin which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."
Dexy couldn't report any of that truth. And when even the US military stopped denying the truth, it was left to Scott Shane (in November 2005, a year later) to mop up after Dexy with "Defense of Phosphorus Use Turns Into Damage Control" (Shane was speaking of the US government's damage control but so intwined are the Times and the US government that it also spoke to the paper's previous 'reporting'):
After the Italian documentary was broadcast, the American ambassadors to Italy, Ronald P. Spogli, and to Britain, Robert H. Tuttle, echoed the stock defense, denying that white phosphorus munitions had been used against enemy fighters, let alone civilians. At home, on the public radio program "Democracy Now," Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, an American military spokesman, said, "I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus."
But those statements were incorrect. Firsthand accounts by American officers in two military journals note that white phosphorus munitions had been aimed directly at insurgents in Falluja to flush them out. War critics and journalists soon discovered those articles.
In the face of such evidence, the Bush administration made an embarrassing public reversal last week. Pentagon spokesmen admitted that white phosphorus had been used directly against Iraqi insurgents. "It's perfectly legitimate to use this stuff against enemy combatants," Colonel Venable said Friday.
While he said he could not rule out that white phosphorus hit some civilians, "U.S. and coalition forces took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties in Falluja."
And now a new study by the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology is getting attention from the press. The study is entitled "Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities." Early on, the study's authors point out, "It is old knowledge that exposure to chemicals can harm human reproduction. Ancient Romans were aware that lead (Pb) poisoning can cause miscarriage and infertility (Gilfillan 1965; Retief and Cilliers 2006). Today it is well established that human pregnancy and fetal development are susceptible to parents' environmental exposure to chemical, biological and physical agents (Mattison 2010)." The war -- specifically the weapons -- contaminated Iraq and led to a skyrocketing in the number of birth defects. Press TV explains:

Between 2007 and 2010 in F[a]llujah, over half of all the surveyed babies were born with birth defects. Before the US-led invasion of Iraq, the figure was one in 10.
In Basrah's Maternity Hospital, over 20 babies out of 1000 were born with defects in 2003, which makes the figure 17 times higher than it was in the previous decade.

Al Arabiya adds that samples demonstrate residents of Falluja are exposed to extremely high levels of mercury, lead and other "poisonous metals." And when those are in the eco-system, exposure becomes highly common. RT offers, "According to the WHO, a pregnant woman can be exposed to lead or mercury through the air, water and soil. The woman can then pass the exposure to her unborn child through her bones, and high levels of toxins can damage kidneys and brains, and cause blindness, seizures, muteness, lack of coordination and even death." Sarah Morrison (Independent of London) notes:

The report's authors link the rising number of babies born with birth defects in the two cities to increased exposure to metals released by bombs and bullets used over the past two decades. Scientists who studied hair samples of the population in Fallujah found that levels of lead were five times higher in the hair of children with birth defects than in other children; mercury levels were six times higher. Children with defects in Basra had three times more lead in their teeth than children living in non-impacted areas. Dr Savabieasfahani said that for the first time, there is a "footprint of metal in the population" and that there is "compelling evidence linking the staggering increases in Iraqi birth defects to neuro-toxic metal contamination following the repeated bombardments of Iraqi cities". She called the "epidemic" a "public health crisis". "In utero exposure to pollutants can drastically change the outcome of an otherwise normal pregnancy. The metal levels we see in the Fallujah children with birth defects clearly indicates that metals were involved in manifestation of birth defects in these children," she said. "The massive and repeated bombardment of these cities is clearly implicated here. I have no knowledge of any alternative source of metal contamination in these areas." She added that the data was likely to be an "underestimate", as many parents who give birth to children with defects hide them from public view.
Professor Alastair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said the figures presented in the study were "absolutely extraordinary". He added: "People here would be worried if there was a five or 10 per cent increase [in birth defects]. If there's a fivefold increase in Fallujah, no one could possibly ignore that; it's crying out for an explanation as to what's the cause. A rapid increase in exposure to lead and mercury seems reasonable if lots of ammunition is going off. I would have also thought a major factor would be the extreme stress people are under in that period; we know this can cause major physiological changes."
This tracks with the findings from earlier studies -- such as the 2010 one. Last spring, Karlos Zurutuza (IPS) reported that in January alone, Falluja saw 672 children born with birth defects. Gene Clancy (Workers World) observed a year ago that "Fallujah sees at least 11 times as many major defects in newborns as world averages, research shows." At the start of this year, Dahr Jamail reported for Al Jazeera, "Most of these babies in Fallujah die within 20 to 30 minutes after being born, but not all." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) observes today, "The destruction of Fallujah was like a black hole, where all the evil of the war was sucked in and concentrated with unbreakable force."
The study finds that, of central nervous system defects, the most common since the start of the Iraq War has been anencephaly. The Center for Disease Control explains, "Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. It is a type of neural tube defect (NTD). These are birth defects that happen during the first month of pregnancy, usually before a woman knows she is pregnant. As the neural tube forms and closes, it helps form the baby's brain and skull (upper part of the neural tube), spinal cord, and back bones (lower part of the neural tube). Anencephaly happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. This often results in a baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebrum). The remaining parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin. Unfortunately, almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth." It is also known as an ONTD -- Open Neural Tube defect. St. Jude's Medical Center provides this means of reference, "Anencephaly and spina bifida are the most common types of ONTD, while encephalocele (in which there is a protrusion of the brain or its covering through the skull) is much rarer. Anencephaly occurs when the neural tube failes to close at the base of the skull, while spina bifida occurs when the neural tube fails to close somewhere along the spine."