View Full Version : The Children of Fallujah - the hospital of horrors

02-05-2015, 08:15 AM

Robert Fisk: The Children of Fallujah - the hospital of horrors

Special Report day two: Stillbirths, disabilities, deformities too distressing to describe - what lies behind the torments in Fallujah General Hospital?

A*A+450By*ROBERT FISKThursday 26 April 2012

The pictures flash up on a screen on an upper floor of the Fallujah General Hospital. And all at once, Nadhem Shokr al-Hadidi's administration office becomes a little chamber of horrors.

A baby with a hugely deformed mouth. A child with a defect of the spinal cord, material from the spine outside the body. A baby with a terrible, vast Cyclopean eye. Another baby with only half a head, stillborn like the rest, date of birth 17 June, 2009. Yet another picture flicks onto the screen: date of birth 6 July 2009, it shows a tiny child with half a right arm, no left leg, no genitalia.

"We see this all the time now," Al-Hadidi says, and a female doctor walks into the room and glances at the screen. She has delivered some of these still-born children.
"I've never seen anything as bad as this in all my service," she says quietly. Al-Hadidi takes phone calls, greets visitors to his office, offers tea and biscuits to us while this ghastly picture show unfolds on the screen. I asked to see these photographs, to ensure that the stillborn children, the deformities, were real. There's always a reader or a viewer who will mutter the word "propaganda" under their breath.
But the photographs are a ****ing, ghastly reward for such doubts.

January 7, 2010: a baby with faded, yellow skin and misshapen arms.
April 26, 2010: a grey mass on the side of the baby's head. A doctor beside me speaks of "Tetralogy of Fallot", a transposition of the great blood vessels.
May 3, 2010: a frog-like creature in which – the Fallujah doctor who came into the room says this – "all the abdominal organs are trying to get outside the body."
This is too much. These photographs are too awful, the pain and emotion of them – for the poor parents, at least – impossible to contemplate. They simply cannot be published.

There is a no-nonsense attitude from the doctors in Fallujah. They know that we know about this tragedy. Indeed, there is nothing undiscovered about the child deformities of Fallujah. Other correspondents – including my colleague Patrick Cockburn – have visited Fallujah to report on them. What is so shameful is that these deformities continue unmonitored.

One Fallujah doctor, an obstetrician trained in Britain – she left only five months ago – who has purchased from her own sources for her private clinic a £79,000 scanning machine for prenatal detection of congenital abnormalities, gives me her name and asks why the Ministry of Health in Baghdad will not hold a full official investigation into the deformed babies of Fallujah.
"I have been to see the ministry," she says. "They said they would have a committee. I went to the committee. And they have done nothing. I just can't get them to respond."

Then, 24 hours later, the same woman sends a message to a friend of mine, another Iraqi doctor, asking me not to use her name.

If the number of stillborn children of Fallujah is a disgrace, the medical staff at the Fallujah General Hospital prove their honesty by repeatedly warning of the danger of reaching conclusions too soon.
"I delivered that baby," the obstetrician says as one more picture flashes on the screen. "I don't think this has anything to do with American weapons. The parents were close relatives. Tribal marriages here involve a lot of families who are close by blood. But you have to remember, too, that if women have stillborn children with abnormalities at home, they will not report this to us, and the baby will be buried without any record reaching us."
The photographs continue on the screen.

January 19, 2010: a baby with tiny limbs, stillborn.
A baby born on 30 October, 2010, with a cleft lip and cleft palette, still alive, a hole in the heart, a defect in its face, in need of echocardiography treatment. "A cleft lip and palate are common congenital anomalies," Dr Samira Allani says quietly. "But it's the increased frequency that is alarming."
Dr Allani has documented a research paper into "the increased prevalence of birth defects" in Fallujah, a study of four fathers "with two lineages of progeny". Congenital heart defects, the paper says, reached "unprecedented numbers" in 2010.
The numbers continue to rise. Even while we are speaking, a nurse brings a message to Dr Allani. We go at once to an incubator next to the hospital delivery room. In the incubator is a little baby just 24 days old. Zeid Mohamed is almost too young to smile but he lies sleeping, his mother watching through the glass. She has given her permission for me to see her baby. His father is a security guard, the couple married three years ago. There is no family record of birth defects. But Zeid has only four fingers on each of his little hands.
Dr Allani's computer files contain a hundred Zeids. She asks another doctor to call some parents. Will they talk to a journalist?
"They want to know what happened to their children," she says. "They deserve an answer." She is right.
But neither the Iraqi authorities, nor the Americans, nor the British – who were peripherally involved in the second battle of Fallujah and lost four men – nor any major NGO, appears willing or able to help.
When doctors can obtain funding for an investigation, they sometimes turn to organisations which clearly have their own political predetermination. Dr Allani's paper, for example, acknowledges funding from the "Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War" – hardly a group seeking to exonerate the use of US weaponry in Fallujah. This, too, I fear, is part of the tragedy of Fallujah.The obstetrician who asked to be anonymous talks bleakly of the lack of equipment and training. "Chromosome defects – like Down's Syndrome – cannot be corrected prenatally. But a foetal infection we can deal with, and we can sort out this problem by drawing a sample of blood from the baby and mother.
But no laboratory here has this equipment. One blood transfer is all it needs to prevent such a condition. Of course, it will not answer our questions: why the increased miscarriages here, why the increased stillbirths, why the increased premature births?"

Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster who has surveyed almost 5,000 people in Fallujah, agrees it is impossible to be specific about the cause of birth defects as well as cancers. "Some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened," he wrote two years ago.
Dr Busby's report, compiled with Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, says that infant mortality in Fallujah was found in 80 out of every 1,000 births, compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and only 9.7 in Kuwait.
Another of the Fallujah doctors tells me that the only UK assistance they have received comes from Dr Kypros Nicolaides, the head of Foetal Medicine at King's College Hospital. He runs a charity, the Foetal Medicine Foundation, which has already trained one doctor from Fallujah. I call him up.
He is bursting with anger."
To me, the criminal aspect of all this – during the war – was that the British and the American governments could not go to Woolworths and buy some computers to even document the deaths in Iraq. So we have a Lancet publication that estimates 600,000 deaths in the war. Yet the occupying power did not have the decency to have a computer worth only £500 that would enable them to say "this body was brought in today and this was its name".

Now you have an Arab country which has a higher number of deformities or cancers than Europe and you need a proper epidemiological study. I'm sure the Americans used weapons that caused these deformities. But now you have a goodness-knows-what government in Iraq and no study.

It's very easy to avoid to doing anything – except for some sympathetic crazy professor like me in London to try and achieve something."In al-Hadidi's office, there are now photographs which defy words. How can you even begin to describe a dead baby with just one leg and a head four times the size of its body?


After the American “terror war elections” came the post-election U.S. terror attack in Iraq. George Bush figured he would celebrate his reelection with a bang: send the Marines into the Iraq rebel stronghold of Falluja and flush out the varmints. That would show the world that he means business.
At mid-day on Wednesday, November 3, Democrat John Kerry conceded the election in a phone call to the White House.

By Saturday, November 6, the assault on Falluja began.
U.S. rockets took out their first target: the Hai Nazal Hospital, a new facility that was just about ready to open its doors. A spokesman for the First Marines Expeditionary Force said, “A hospital was not on the target list.” But there it is, reduced to a pile of rubble.

Then on Sunday night the Special Forces stormed the Falluja General Hospital. They rounded up all the doctors, pushed them face down on the floor and handcuffed them with plastic straps behind their backs.
With the hospital occupied, those wounded by the U.S. aerial bombings headed to the Falluja Central Health Clinic.
And so at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, November 9, U.S. warplanes bombed that clinic as well, killing 35 patients, 15 medics, 4 nurses, 5 support staff and 4 doctors, according to a doctor who survived (The Nation, 13 December). U.S. fire also targeted an ambulance, killing five patients and the driver.

Doctors at Falluja General Hospital handcuffed and pushed to the floor when U.S. troops seize the facility, November 8.*(Photo: New York Times)

“The hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumors about heavy casualties,” when the U.S. attacked Falluja in April, wrote the*New York Times*(8 November).

“It’s a center of propaganda,” a senior American officer said.

Rumors? Propaganda? Iraq Body Count, whose tallies of Iraqi dead since the invasion have been extremely conservative, has done a detailed analysis of all available figures, concluding that out of 800-plus persons killed during the U.S.’ April attack (336 buried in Falluja’s soccer stadium), some 600 were civilians, half of them women and children.

A hospital is a place where civilian casualties could receive treatment.

But according to the U.S. military spokesmen, there were “no civilian casualties,” so no hospital was needed.

Likewise, a hospital is a place where injured Iraqi insurgents might be treated.

But the objective of the assault on Falluja was to kill the insurgents, every last one, so again, no hospital was needed.

The Fourth Geneva Convention on Warfare declares in no uncertain terms, “Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.” That was written in 1949, after World War II. The Geneva Conventions also outlaw practices like torture of prisoners. But according to the White House legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, now promoted to Attorney General of the United States, the strictures of the Geneva Convention are outdated and “quaint.”

So doubtless after careful study by the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Pentagon’s first rule in its terrorist “war on terror” is now:*hit the hospitals first. There are to be no statistics about women and children killed, no pictures of maimed bodies, no medical care for the insurgent or civilian wounded.
The “born again” Christian George W. Bush goes by the mercenary motto, “Kill ’em all and let god sort ’em out.” But it isn’t just Republican Bush. In the 1999 war on Yugoslavia, by Democrat Bill Clinton, the U.S. deliberately bombed the Belgrade maternity hospital, all the while cynically claiming that no hospital was on the target list. (They also targeted the Chinese embassy, to teach Beijing a lesson, lamely claiming they got the address mixed up with a military warehouse.)

In short, the political and military commanders of the United States are rabid mass murderers and torturers, and conscious war criminals to boot. U.S. imperialism with its mad dog leadership is,*by far,*the greatest threat to humanity today. ....

..... What about the Iraqi insurgents and civilians killed in Falluja?
At the outset of the attack on Iraq in March 2003, U.S. commander Tommy Franks declared, “We don’t do body counts.” His reluctance was a legacy of the Vietnam War when the body counts of “VC dead” that were daily announced by General Wastemoreland, as he came to be known, were notorious for their lies.
Body counts or no, during the fighting in Falluja local commanders claimed that they had killed 3,000 insurgents, later reduced to 1,200. Reporters questioned the figure.
But were they rebel fighters? The*New York Times*(15 November) commented: “The absence of insurgent bodies in Falluja has remained an enduring mystery.”

So whose bodies were lying in the streets for days, “half-eaten by dogs”? Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, “said that he did not know of any civilian deaths,” according to the*Times*(20 November).

Yet the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that some 800 of those dead were civilians – i.e., the overwhelming majority – many of them buried alive when their homes were shelled by artillery or destroyed by the 500 and 2,000 lb. bombs that the Air Force has been dropping on neighborhoods day and night. The few pictures that have been released show a scene of utter devastation, an entire city laid waste. Over half the 100-plus mosques in Falluja were severely damaged or destroyed.

As the photos of hideous torture at Abu Ghraib prison became the symbol of the imperialists’ obscene torture of Iraq, the storming of Falluja was summed up in the video of a U.S. soldier murdering an unarmed and wounded Iraqi prisoner in a mosque. A righteous rage at the cold-blooded executioners swept Iraq and Near East as the scene was played at length on TV, over and over (only a snippet was shown in the U.S., blacking out the shots of the bullet hitting the prisoner’s head and blood splattering as “too gruesome”). Defenders of the imperialist war and colonial occupation cynically argued that perhaps the soldier was afraid for his life, who knows, and besides the Iraqi prisoners were “people without morals.” The cameraman who filmed it said the prisoner made no threatening moves, and it is likely that four other wounded prisoners in the mosque were killed at the same time.
He recounts that as the Marines emerged, a lieutenant asked “did you shoot them,” to which a soldier replied, “Roger that, sir.” Asked if the prisoners were armed, the Marine shrugged.

The inescapable conclusion is that the soldiers were obeying orders or following standard operating procedure in shooting the prisoners. A journalist who had accompanied a Marine unit during the 2003 invasion immediately recognized the practice:

“Marines call executing wounded combatants ‘dead-checking.’
‘They teach us to do dead-checking when we're clearing rooms,’ an enlisted Marine recently returned from Iraq told me. ‘You put two bullets into the guy's chest and one in the brain.
But when you enter a room where guys are wounded you might not know if they're alive or dead. So they teach us to dead-check them by pressing them in the eye with your boot, because generally a person, even if he's faking being dead, will flinch if you poke him there. If he moves, you put a bullet in the brain…’.”–“Dead Check in Falluja,”*Village Voice, 24 November


Obama: New ISIS video horrific, barbaric
MSNBCMSNBC.com‎*-*2 days ago

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02-06-2015, 10:31 AM
Iraq: Government Attacking Fallujah Hospital

Barrel Bombs Hit Residential Areas

MAY 27, 2014

(Baghdad) –*Iraqi*government forces battling armed groups in the western province of Anbar since January 2014 have repeatedly struck Fallujah General Hospital with mortar shells and other munitions, Human Rights Watch said today.

The recurring strikes on the main hospital, including with direct fire weapons, strongly suggest that Iraqi forces have targeted it, which would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war.

... Six witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed, three of them hospital staff, gave credible accounts of repeated strikes by government forces on Fallujah’s main hospital since January that have severely damaged buildings and injured patients and medical staff.

An Iraqi government security officer based in Anbar, who spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity, said government forces have targeted the hospital with mortars and artillery on 16 separate occasions.

The three hospital employees said mortar shells and projectiles had at various times struck the emergency room, the intensive care unit, the central air conditioning unit, a trailer that housed Bangladeshi hospital staff, and other parts of the hospital. The attacks injured four Bangladeshi workers, three Iraqi doctors, and an unknown number of patients, they said.

Such accounts of repeated strikes over four months, corroborated by photographs of apparent damage to the hospital, strongly indicate the hospital has been targeted, Human Rights Watch said.

Two witnesses to the hospital attacks, one of them a hospital employee, said that non-ISIS anti-government fighters were guarding the hospital and that wounded fighters were receiving treatment there.

The Anbar-based government security official said that, according to information he received through his work and from hospital staff, ISIS has partly taken over the hospital, using the second floor to treat wounded fighters and administrative offices to detain high-level local officials.

All hospitals, whether civilian or military, are specially protected under the laws of war. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters. Under customary international law applicable to the fighting in Anbar, hospitals remain protected unless they are used to commit hostile acts that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. Armed groups should not occupy or use medical facilities.
Witnesses and residents of Fallujah also described indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks that have killed civilians, and damaged or destroyed homes, at least two mosques, and one school that were not being used for military purposes.Accounts from witnesses, residents and the government security official indicate that, since the beginning of May, these indiscriminate government attacks have included the use of barrel bombs, dropped from helicopters, on populated areas of Fallujah. The Anbar-based security official said the army has been using barrel bombs since about May 2 in Fallujah, as well as in the towns of Garma, Saqlawiyya, Ibrahim Ibn Ali, and surrounding areas. “They started using them [barrel bombs] because they want to cause as much destruction as possible,” he said. “My government … decided to destroy the city instead of trying to invade it.”...

..... The lack of functioning medical facilities and telecommunications, particularly in the Fallujah area, have hindered efforts to count the dead.
Anbar’s health directorate reported that 589 people were killed and 2,494 injured between December 31, 2013, and April 30, 2014.
The directorate gave no breakdown of civilian and combatant casualties.
The government security official in Anbar told Human Rights Watch he estimated more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, had died in government attacks on Fallujah, Garma and Saqlawiyya since January, but added that “there is no way to know an accurate number.”

The fighting in Anbar broke out in January between government forces and an array of Sunni anti-government armed groups, including ISIS and local “tribal” militias with longstanding grievances against the government.


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