Thanks for the oil, Iraq, here’s some cancer

Thanks for the oil, Iraq, here’s some cancer

Turns out depleted uranium (DU) munitions are a great thing to use when you’re going to war, so long as you plan on terrorizing people for generations to come. Military-related pollution is suspected of causing a huge spike in birth defects and all kinds of cancer in Iraq since the start of the Gulf War more than 20 years ago.

The last 10 years of the Iraq War, especially, cost a lot of money that we could’ve done way better things with and also killed 190,000 people directly, but that doesn’t cover the full extent of the damage.


An American soldier in front of an oil-field fire near Kirkuk in 2006.

“Official Iraqi government statistics show that, prior to the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people,” Al Jazeera reports. “By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and, by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.” That’s potentially a more than 4,000 percent increase in the cancer rate, making it more than 500 percent higher than the cancer rate in the U.S.

More from Al Jazeera:

As shocking as these statistics are, due to a lack of adequate documentation, research, and reporting of cases, the actual rate of cancer and other diseases is likely to be much higher than even these figures suggest.

“Cancer statistics are hard to come by, since only 50 per cent of the healthcare in Iraq is public,” Dr Salah Haddad of the Iraqi Society for Health Administration and Promotion told Al Jazeera. “The other half of our healthcare is provided by the private sector, and that sector is deficient in their reporting of statistics. Hence, all of our statistics in Iraq must be multiplied by two. Any official numbers are likely only half of the real number.”

Dr Haddad believes there is a direct correlation between increasing cancer rates and the amount of bombings carried out by US forces in particular areas.

“My colleagues and I have all noticed an increase in Fallujah of congenital malformations, sterility, and infertility,” he said. “In Fallujah, we have the problem of toxics introduced by American bombardments and the weapons they used, like DU.”

One researcher said Fallujah had been found to have “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.” Another is calling for “large scale environmental testing to find out the extent of environmental contamination by metals and DU.”

A 1977 amendment to the Geneva Conventions prohibits weapons and methods of warfare that cause unnecessary suffering. But who cares about the Geneva Convention anyway? Certainly no one with uranium.

And lest we forget why we dropped all that depleted uranium in the first place, oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz reminds us at CNN:

Oil was not the only goal of the Iraq War, but it was certainly the central one, as top U.S. military and political figures have attested to in the years following the invasion.

“Of course it’s about oil; we can’t really deny that,” said Gen. John Abizaid, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq, in 2007. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan agreed, writing in his memoir, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Then-Sen. and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same in 2007: “People say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are.”

And it only took CNN 10 years to figure it out!

Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for



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Thanks for the oil, Iraq, here’s some cancer

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