Effect Measure

Bagdad Hack and cannon fodder

The Bagdad Hack is neither a journalist nor a clever trick to get something done in Iraq. It’s a cough. And reading about it is dismaying and maddening. As someone who did a lot of work on unexplained illness following the Gulf War of 1991 — illnesses steadfastly denied by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs — when these same folks djinned up the steaming pile of shit we call the War in Iraq they had plenty of time to plan for prevention. But when I inquired of colleagues (I was by then no longer involved) if there were any pre-deployment plans to establish baselines and surveillance to alert them that something similar might be happening, they answer was “no.” My informants were as incredulous as I was. And now it’s happening again with the Bagdad Hack:.

They call it the Baghdad Hack. According to one recent estimate by Navy doctors, more than two-thirds of soldiers coming back from Iraq experience at least one episode of respiratory illness, and 36 troops have come down with a rare and sometimes fatal condition known as acute eosinophilic pneumonia. In only a handful of cases have symptoms been pinned to an infectious agent. (According to Asmahan Alshubaili, a Kuwaiti physician, it is rare to find a local family in nearby Kuwait without a case of bronchial asthma.)

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research reported three cases of severe pneumonia caused by Q fever, transmitted by dust containing the rickettsia-like bacterium Coxiella burnetti. The dastardly dust has also found its way into medical and dental equipment at frontline treatment facilities, which may be one reason why, since the start of the war, hundreds of wounded soldiers have had their limbs and lives threatened by “Iraqibacter,” the antibiotic-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, following injuries. (Brendan Borrell, The Scientist)

We’ve known since the Gulf War that the dust in that area was respirable, that is, had components so fine they could penetrate deeply into the lungs. This isn’t news. They are also loaded with micro-organisms, some of them fairly exotic. A team of microbiologists at the Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi used genetic technology to reveal six genera of bacteria and seven of fungi in hundreds of isolates.

“Some organisms were generally located just about everywhere,” [cell biologist Mark] Lyles says, “but some organisms were specific to some areas.” The samples included strange organisms like Cryptococcus ubeqistanis and the rare Bacillus mojavensis. Lyles also found plenty of known pathogens, including Staphylococcus and Neisseria, a species of which has been implicated in meningitis outbreaks following dust storms in sub-Saharan Africa (see They came from above). He has also found possible strains of Acinetobacter, not yet confirmed by DNA analysis. Lyles also noticed that different organisms populate different sizes of dust particles, and different sizes vertically segregate in the airstream.

Three years ago Lyles reported findings to the Navy Surgeon General, recommending N95 dust masks and dust mitigation measures. He doesn’t know if hsi recommendations were ever considered or acted upon. The reporter from The Scientist repeatedly asked the Navy Surgeon General’s office for comment but got no response. None.

“Sometimes you come up with a lot of things and they get filed away,” Lyles says, “It is a war zone.”

Yes, it’s a war zone. And soldiers are just cannon fodder


  1. #1 K
    December 24, 2008

    Depleted Uranium can cause respiratory problems as well as many other problems. The last thing they want is to talk about DU


    What Are The Symptoms of DU Exposure?

    Depleted uranium has two different effects on the body, chemical poisoning and radiation poisoning. Symptoms are similar to those described as Gulf War Syndrome. DU may also cause respiratory problems and is known to elevate the risk of lung cancer and leukemia.

    * Chronic Fatigue
    * Neurological signs or symptoms
    * Signs or symptoms involving upper or lower respiratory system
    * Menstrual disorders
    * Kidney problems

  2. #2 Marcie Clark
    December 24, 2008

    In the summer of 2003 the dust in the air in Baghdad tested at 50% for animal feces. Would seem that this knowldedge alone would have prompted some precautions. Of course when you prescribe the precaution you have admitted there is a problem.

    For the first two years into the Iraq War it was policy in the military hospitals to NOT look for Traumatic Brain Injury so that they wouldn’t have to pay for it.

    The MDRAb strains that continue to threaten life and limb via the military evacuation system from Iraq match those from Europe where the medical equipment was shipped to the field hospital Dogwood.

    There may be Acinetobacter strains in the dust in Iraq but the notion that continues to be promoted that the MDRAb the military has spread far and wide originated in the dust has been disproven by the military. It is very convenient for them to allow this notion to promoted rather than be forced to clean up their health system.

    There are links to these reports on my site at http://www.leishmaniasis.us and at http://www.epinews.com.

    Our Vietam Veterans grace the obituary pages in numbers and at ages that I find alarming. Their children and grandchildren suffer from a myriad of strange diagnoses. Our Gulf War Veterans and their families still suffer from undiagnosed illnesses.
    Our Iraq War Veterans are already suffering from and spreading MDRAb, leishmaniasis, DU, likely many of those listed in Revere’s post, and those we haven’t learned of yet.

    I’ve been looking a for the term that applies when our military turns against it’s own people. I think it applies here.

    My previously military husband is having a hard time coming up with one but then he was at Walter Reed in 2003 when TBI was never considered a possiblity from a blast injury.

  3. #3 Steph
    December 24, 2008

    Marcie, I couldn’t find an old word (you’d think there’d be a word that’s been around a long time because I’m sure this sort of thing is pretty ancient), but I did find this:

    Rummel’s Law

    Rummel’s Law states that the less freedom a people have, the more likely their rulers are to murder them.

    American columnist Arnold Beichman named the “law” after American historian and sociologist R. J. Rummel. Beichman says that Rummel’s research:

    “has shown that more people in the 20th century have been killed in cold blood by their own dictatorial governments right and left 3 times as many than have been killed in the heat of battle.”