The tenth anniversary of the Iraq War came and went recently, passing us all by with little comment from above.
Americans have a problem with remembering history, partly because our government encourages us not to, but also because we just don’t want to. It’s easier not to question patriotic fervor and not think of Vietnam, and Kuwait, and all of the other wars we’ve been suckered into over the decades of American military might. Easier not to think about the American veterans psychologically and physically scarred by being paid and trained to kill. And most of all, easier not to think of the millions of civilians — men, women, and children — who will be killed in massive bombings or will be cited as collateral damage in reports. It just makes things simpler for the next war.
But the legacy of the Iraq War is not just in the graveyards, but now in the living as well. According to prominent toxciologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, 2,000 tons of depleted uranium (DU) weapons were used in Iraq, including ammunition made of DU; not only this, but white phosphorus munitions were used as well, a property that is highly toxic when inhaled orally. Because of this use of toxic materials at a scale far greater than in previous use in Kuwait, ten years later, the effects on the public have trickled in.
Cancer rates in Iraq have at least doubled since 1995. And Savabieasfahani, studying the two Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Basra, has found a massive increase birth defects in hundreds of children, with fifteen percent of newborns showing defects. I have seen pictures of some of these children in other articles; one has an extra head in the back of his neck. Another has extra limbs sprouting from his body. Others have blood disorders, spina bifida, and other massive issues. I have two little siblings, one four and another seven. If their places had been switched with an Iraqi child, they could have similar and terrifying circumstances.
I do not blame the American soldiers; to do so would be naïve and unfair to many suffering from PTSD, paralysis, and shrapnel injuries. I blame the oligarchs, politicians, and oilmen who pushed this war, who happily lied and backed death and destruction for their own profit and to boost American power. People, whether American or Iraqi, bleeding for the sake of their dollars, are forgotten and easy to sacrifice. They will never be prosecuted for their crimes, because it just wouldn’t do. Their freedom is worth more than the life of the seven year old with cerebral palsy, or the newborn with respiratory problems.
I do not know what else to say, except that I am sorry. I am sorry that my government is based on greed and violence. I am sorry that that violence continues in drone strikes. I am sorry that so many people have died. I am sorry for the children whose legacy from America is literally physical and mental damage. I am sorry that my government hurts people rather than helps them, and that I don’t know if I can do anything to make it stop. I am so, so sorry.