The following is Takashi Morizumi's
introduction to the book Children of
the Gulf War:
Eleven years after the Gulf War, destroyed Iraqi tanks still lie
abandoned in the desert along the border of Iraq and Kuwait. Since
its invasion of Kuwait, Iraq has been subject to severe economic
sanctions. Its economic activities, heavily dependent on imports,
are virtually paralyzed. The people are exhausted, their lives a
continual ordeal, and the main victims are the Iraqi children.
I have been documenting the children of Iraq since 1998. Even at
large hospitals in Baghdad, medicines have vanished from pharmacy
shelves. Medical equipment is broken and unusable. When children
are malnourished, even common diarrhea or colds can lead to death.
But the most alarming phenomenon is the enormous increase in deaths
due to leukemia and other cancers. Iraqi hospitals are filled with
children suffering from leukemia, cancer and physical deformities.
To treat the enormous increase in patients, the two pediatric hospitals
in Baghdad had to build special wings for leukemia patients. However,
because of financial limitations, there is a severe shortage of
medication. Doctors are overwhelmed with the number of severely
ill patients. Deaths from cancer in Basra, the city in southern
Iraq closest to the battlefields, increased from 34 in 1988 before
the war to 219 five years later in 1996. Since then, they have continued
to soar. In 2000, the figure was 586 deaths, a 17-fold increase!
Why is this happening? The most likely explanation is the depleted
uranium munitions used by the multilateral forces. Depleted uranium
is a by-product of the manufacture of nuclear weapons and fuel for
nuclear power reactors. Although it contains only a low level of
uranium-235, which is required for nuclear fission, it does remain
a radioactive substance.
Taking advantage of the hardness and density of this material,
the defense'mdustry has developed a new type of armor-piercing shell,
which is fired at high speed against the target. The impact generates
intense heat and severe burning. Artillery penetrators and machine-gun
bullets made of depleted uranium were first used in the Gulf War,
a total quantity estimated at over three hundred tons. The shell
disintegrates into particles that permeate the air and soil of the
surrounding area and pollute the water. When this toxic metal penetrates
the body or is ingested, the incidence of cancer, leukemia, liver
and kidney disorders, tumors and birth defects is high. This
substance is thought responsible for the increases in leukemia and
The Gulf War saw the introduction of Tomahawk missiles and other
high-tech weapons. Now, it turns out, it was a new kind of "nuclear
war." In Bosnia and Kosovo, depleted uranium was also left
behind. In Afganistan, the likelihood that it was used is high.
The continual use of depleted uranium weapons in the future is extremely
dangerous to human beings and the environment.
The plight of Iraq's children is an alarm warning people about
the horror of this new nuclear warfare.