Today we cranked up the "cath lab" for the first time ever in the city of Fallujah.
It's a great honor for everyone on the team to be here; it's history in the making everywhere we go and expectations are high. People are warm, welcoming, and excited about what we're doing. This is not the Fallujah you've heard about on the news.
As much as we hate to relive the past, the significance of our invitation to Fallujah can only be understood in the context of recent years. At the beginning of the 2003 war, Fallujah was known as a support base for Saddam Hussein's regime. On the birthday of Saddam Hussein, who was still at large, crowds gathered and protested US soldiers encamped in a local school. Shots were fired and the resulting chaos left 17 dead, including women and children, and 70 injured. The incident set the tone for years of local intransigence against US troops.
A year later, four private American contractors were killed and mutilated by mobs in the street, their bodies were hung from the "Brooklyn Bridge" on the west end of town.
Further hostilities, attacks, and vitriolic sermons finally gave way to the Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
As the smoke cleared in the years that followed, Sunnis across the Anbar province began joining the "Awakening" movement—an alliance against terrorism. Terrorism decreased significantly and life returned to normal in Fallujah.
But everything was not as normal as it seemed. In local hospitals, people like Dr. Samira al-Ani (Alani) were collecting data that would ultimately make its way into peer-reviewed journals claiming that nearly 1 in 7 children were being born with birth defects.
Although Dr. Samira and her colleagues never made explicit claims or accusations of causality, residents naturally began to associate the rise in birth defects with U.S. weapons—both white phosphorous and depleted uranium. No research exists to substantiate such claims.
But their claims were enough to catch my attention. And that, in large part, is why we're here today.
I’m excited that we—you included—finally have the chance to save lives in Fallujah! Stay tuned for more information about the groundbreaking work we’re doing...