Iraq: A Depleted Generation
Photographs and text by J.B. Russell
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At the very best a moratorium on depleted uranium weapons should be put into place until we know for certain the real effects on people and the environment.

The border guard began insisting that I take the AIDS test. "But I’m leaving the country" I said. "And I have an exemption written on my visa in my passport". "Everyone must take the test", he said but..." I understood that he merely wanted the $50 charge that one must pay for taking the obligatory test, but I was out of money and I was tired of doling out baksheesh for everything. Just then a desert storm whipped up and without warning dust enveloped everything. The border guard turned and ran toward the building a few meters away which was no longer visible. My driver and I quickly jumped in the GMC suburban and hurredly drove off toward Amman.


Even more extraordinary, among these three families is the case of Ataalla Mohammed. He served in an artillery post that was repeatedly bombed during the war. He has four children. His eldest son, born before the war, is 12 years old and is perfectly healthy. All three of his subsequent children born after the war are blind. Mr. Mohammed also insisted on feeding me, though he didn’t threaten to kill me. While we ate the hastily prepared, delicious lunch he continuously apologized for serving me such a simple meal. He said that even when people came from the next village to visit they slaughtered a lamb. I had come all the way from Europe and he only offered me copious amounts of chicken, rice, vegetables, breads, yogurt and never ending supplies of chai. Despite being an American journalist, this was typical of the genuine hospitality that I found throughout Iraq.

As my finances began to dwindle, so too did my stay in Iraq. Once again I headed across the desert toward Jordan. Back at the border I saw my old, talkative friend working his baksheesh magic on another group of journalists. While one of his colleagues was rifling through my bags I thought about the four fingers and what I had seen through my camera’s lens. I thought about the haunting images of human suffering that I hadn’t bothered to photograph but remained in my mind’s eye. Despite all the conflicting things I had heard about depleted uranium, I had seen enough to believe that these weapons likely pose serious risk to human health.

To the health of the soldiers that use them, quite obviously to the health of the soldiers against whom they are used, but also long term hazards to civilian populations and to children who were not even born when the conflict took place. I had seen enough to be convinced that at the very least a comprehensive and independent study, like the one that has been called for by the WHO, should be conducted.

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