Fault Line

Baker, Peter
March 2003
New Republic;3/10/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 9, p38
Explains negative foreign public of the United States in parts of Iraq. For as long as Nadum Hassan has been sick, Iraq has told his family the U.S. is to blame. The depleted uranium (D.U.) in U.S. munitions used during the Persian Gulf war, Baghdad says, affected his father, resulting in Nadum's cancer. Indeed, Iraq claims the detritus of D.U. munitions have led to an explosion of cancer, birth defects, and liver disease across the country. The United States says that no evidence has linked D.U. to these illnesses reported in Iraq. And outside doctors find it implausible that D.U. is responsible for the boy's condition. But, on the eve of another possible war, science matters less than belief in places like Safwan, the dusty town on Iraq's southern border where Norman Schwarzkopf brokered the cease-fire ending the Gulf war. After more than a decade of propaganda, it has become an article of faith among Iraqis that the Americans have poisoned the civilian population. If American soldiers expect ticker-tape parades once they conquer Iraq, my visit to Safwan suggests that might be overly optimistic. The Kurds and the Shia remember being abandoned by the first Bush administration. And economic sanctions have transformed Iraq into a beggar state. Struggling to make ends meet and influenced by propaganda like the uranium stories, many Iraqis buy the government line that the United States is threatening war either to punish Muslims or to gain access to oil.


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