White Phosphorus: Dramatic Increase in Iraq Birth Defects

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MEDIA ROOTS –  When Saddam Hussein used white phosphorous against his own people in March 1988, the United States labeled it a chemical weapon and considered it to be a weapon of mass destruction. This helped justify the American-lead invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, when coalition forces used the weapon in Fallujah the following year, it was classified as a permissible incendiary device. Like napalm, white phosphorous has well-known and predictable collateral effects such as fallout linked to birth defects. And according to international law, the thermal weapon is prohibited from use on civilians or in civilian areas. American defiance of this statute in 2004 not only warrants a war crimes investigation of the former Commander-in-Chief, the prolonged high-rate of birth defects in Fallujah makes plausible an investigation for crimes against humanity.

Since the invasion, birth defects in Fallujah have jumped dramatically from once every few months to several daily, according to many whom work at Fallujah General Hospital. The United States officially denies contributing to this increase and pundits continue to marginalize the effects of incendiary devices. But no matter how the story is spun, Fallujah now has a legacy of defects that is five-times the international norm, according to the news agency Al Jazeera in an investigative piece aired last week.

White phosphorous (WP) has been in the American arsenal since World War I. The use of “Willie Pete,” as it was referred to by American soldiers in Vietnam, was initially denied to have been used in Fallujah. However, the following year, United States General Peter Pace confirmed and defended its use for its ability to illuminate the battlefield and hide troop movements. The federal government today sells WP to allies such as Israel where it has been used numerous times against combatants in civilian areas.

Outcry for this injustice continues. The web page Birth defects in FGH was created in 2009 by a doctor at Fallujah General Hospital to help publicize the continued torture of the city’s newborns. Additionally the nonprofit The Justice for Fallujah Project has an advisory board that includes Doctors Noam Chomsky and Dahlia Wasfi and continues to fight for increased public awareness of this endemic.

Oskar Mosco


Al Jazeera English highlighted the increased birth defects occurring now in Fallujah

in half-hour segment that aired last week.


Fallujah – The Hidden Massacre


Photo provided by Flickr user Dapper Snapper.  

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