"Depleted-uranium weapons are an unacceptable threat to life, a violation of international law and an assault on human dignity. " - Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the U.S. PHOTOS: http://www.einswine.com/atrocities/du/
"The use of depleted uranium in the Gulf War has been particularly effective. Radiation levels in Iraq are appallingly high. Babies are born with no brain, no eyes, no genitals. Where they do have ears, mouths or rectums, all that issues from these orifices is blood.' - HAROLD PINTER A $19 trillion price tag since 1940 for past, present, and future wars reveals our addiction to war and bloodshed. " - Philip Berrigan "The United States has conducted two nuclear wars. The first against Japan in 1945, the second in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991." -Dr. Helen Caldicott
Fadel, 7 years old, came from Basra, South of Iraq. Depleted uranium, with it metal toxicity and radiation, has damaged her liver and kidneys. A needle was injected into her body to draw out the abdominal dropsy. She died soon after the painful injection.
LEST THE READER BE MISLED BY THIS ARTICLE'S TITLE, LET IT BE SAID: There WAS no trial of depleted uranium. The four of us who took action last December to protest this horrific evil were indicted, charged, convicted, and imprisoned. As for depleted uranium itself: No indictment, no trial. Nor is there likely to be.
Yet depleted uranium has been part of the U.S. arsenal for over ten years. A byproduct of nuclear reactors, depleted uranium is only slightly less radioactive than raw uranium. As a heavy metal, it has so dense a structure that bullets coated with it can pierce protective covering, and shells containing a depleted uranium rod can penetrate tanks and armored vehicles. Upon impact, these shells pulverize, scattering radioactive particles up to twenty-five miles-- to be breathed or ingested--or to contaminate the soil for the next 4.2 billion years.
At last the military alchemists have succeeded in compressing the gap between nuclear and conventional weapons. The United States has used these nuclear weapons in Iraq and in Yugoslavia--a violation of international law--but there will be no trial.
No trial, despite a staggering total of dead in Iraq--as high as two million since 1991--the harvest of U.S.-led international sanctions and depleted uranium. No trial, despite the deaths of over four hundred U.S. veterans of Desert Storm--victims of cancer, or of respiratory, liver, or kidney failure.
No trial, despite the chronic illnesses of 110,000 veterans, none of them told about the deadliness of depleted uranium.
No trial, despite the pitiable appearance of grossly deformed babies, born to Iraqi, British, and American soldiers exposed to depleted uranium.
No trial, despite the Pentagon's refusal to clean up an estimated three hundred to eight hundred tons of depleted uranium in Kuwait and Iraq.
No trial, despite U.S. giveaways of depleted uranium to a score of "friendly" nations--a blank check to build their own nuclear weapons, fight their own nuclear wars, and further contaminate the planet with radioactivity.
No trial by the media, no trial in pulpits, no trial on campuses, no trial by politicians, no trial by public opinion. A little noise over depleted uranium from veterans' groups and the peace movement, but overall, no trial. And especially, no trial by widespread nonviolent civil resistance. The volume of silence over these hellish weapons is surreal, numbing, stupefying. How to explain it?
Certainly, in their fifty-five-year love affair with the bomb, Americans have not measured the cost of this idolatry: spiritual numbing, social denial, moral paralysis. A $19 trillion price tag since 1940 for past, present, and future wars reveals our addiction to war and bloodshed. ("Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.")
The War Department has become a master, as far back as the invasion of Grenada, at suppressing the media. ("Control the media and win the war.") We continue to bomb Iraq--monasteries, grain fields, shepherds and their flocks--but few of us know about it. The war-makers understand that suppression of key facts, along with dissemination of lies and disinformation, leaves the public uncertain and confused--especially about what to do.
What to do, there's the rub. Something that will witness to Christ's victory over death and God's sovereignty over life. How about enacting the "swords into plowshares" prophecy of Isaiah 2:4, which states that only the weaponless can climb God's mountain and achieve union with God?
How about "loving enemies" as Christ did, even as we realize that we must protect our enemies in order to love them? How about reminding sick and dying Gulf War veterans, in fact all GIs, that the Pentagon judges them expendable?
How about allowing our actions to speak our conviction of the absolute necessity of disarmament? How about a public expression of faith and sanity in a society that appears to have lost both? Such concerns impelled four of us to cut into the Warfield Air National Guard base in East Baltimore on December 19, 1999, to symbolically disarm, with household hammers and our own blood, two A-10 Warthog fighter planes. These "tank busters" fired 95 percent of the depleted uranium munitions during our twin wars in Iraq and Yugoslavia, using a twenty-millimeter, seven-barrel Gatling gun that spews out thirty-nine hundred shells per minute.
In a battlefield context, Warthogs are arguably the most devastating weapons system yet fashioned. Even in the company of other terrible engines of war, they are a monstrosity. Imagine one of them strafing a village: It makes a pass and leaves a trench--people dead, buildings blasted, trees and vegetation splintered, the air, soil, and water infected with radioactivity. The Warthog is an engine of hell. It has no right to exist.
Therein lies the bottom line: Who will protest its existence? Who will resist this killing by others? Millions of decent people will not kill, but few will prevent others from killing, especially when those others lurk in governments and the military, in transnationals and banks--the quiet, well-manicured terrorists who kill under the law.
Do we desire a taproot for peace? Then we must stop the killing--killing in war, killing on death row, killing the weak and the powerless. The commandment "Thou shalt not kill!" is absolutely elementary and pivotal. Until we honor the image of God in the neighbor, until we eliminate our sins of omission (our failure to protect others), until we understand that we can't believe or love unless we stop the killing, then the pursuit of disarmament, justice, and peace is a melodrama of contradiction and futility.
Perhaps depleted uranium requires no trial. God's law has already found it guilty. International law has already found it a war crime. When Americans find the faith to stop the killing, the prophecy of Isaiah and the Sermon on the Mount will become the ultimate political statement. Only then will we outlaw depleted uranium, dumping it, along with other nuclear weapons, into the dust-bin of history.
Maj. Doug Rocke is probably the world's foremost expert on the toxic metal generally called depleted uranium and on its use as a weapon. Rocke has studied the metal for most of his professional life as a scientist and as a soldier. He was in charge of the so-called "clean-up" of depleted uranium in Gulf War I (1991). Depleted uranium has made Doug Rocke sick and most of the men under his command.
The U.S. refuses to treat them and pretends that there are no symptoms ... just as it does for most Gulf War Vets. What Rocke has to say about depleted uranium is bad. What he has to say about toxic morality of the military command is worse. Rocke reveals these stories in a riveting and inspiring interview with Dennis Bernstein on the Flashpoints show on KPFA, an East Bay radio station (you can hear it at <http://www.flashpoints.net/>www.Flashpoints.net for the Friday, December 6 show).
Even in Vietnam, Rocke relates, the central responsibility of the command was professed to be to "take care of the troops." However, beginning with Gulf War I, the military understood that modern warfare necessarily produces a toxic battlefield. Any human exposed to this environment automatically builds up a toxic and radioactive load that inevitably will compromise, and then destroy, their health.
This applies to soldiers as well as the intended civilian victims. When the next Gulf War starts, the troops will be deliberately sent into a toxic battlefield with the knowledge that they will get sick. The military, of course, continues to deny that depleted uranium has any serious health effects. During Gulf War I, the military blew up thousands of tons of weapons, plastics, toxic materials, bioagents, insecticides, and chemicals of all types -- even the Sarin nerve gas.
The mad scheme was to blow it all up, just to show the world. Many military people fought this reckless action as completely unnecessary public relations grandstanding that could only harm the troops. So, during the days of the great oil-field fires, the military just went ahead and blew it all up anyway.
Rocke condemns the military command for forsaking the soldier's welfare through gross negligence and deliberate policy. Depleted uranium, it seems, is a horrendous weapon that the military just can't put down. In Gulf War I, they shot off 352 tons of the stuff in anti-vehicle shells that weighed up to 10 pounds a piece!
Today, Rocke estimates that over 2,000,000 people have been sickened in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from radioactive exposures. Rocke notes that exposures of people in the United States have been almost continuous since 1943. Even at that time the military was quite clear on how harmful depleted uranium was to the human body.
For years, uranium was processed into munitions in Concord, Mass -- the birthplace of the American Revolution. The city, like virtually every other location where uranium processing has gone on, is a cancer center. When a shell hits a vehicle it explodes into a cloud of toxic radioactive dust that is so fine that it is almost permanently suspended in the air for a radius of 80 feet. In his important interview, Rocke raises the demand that the use of uranium emission in warfare is never justifiable. You can find out more about depleted uranium at www.ngwrc.org or www.traprockpeace.org.
For nearly 12 years, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, some say gung-ho, Marine. For three years he trained fellow Marines in one of the most grueling indoctrination rituals in military life - Marine boot camp.
The Iraq war changed Massey. The brutality, the sheer carnage of the U.S. invasion, touched his conscience and transformed him forever. He was honorably discharged with full severance last Dec. 31 and is now back in his hometown, Waynsville, N.C.
- From"Atrocities in Iraq: 'I killed innocent people for our government"- By Paul Rockwell -- Special to The Sacramento Bee, May 16, 2004 (Excerpt)
Q: You mention machine guns. What can you tell me about cluster bombs, or depleted uranium?
A: Depleted uranium. I know what it does. It's basically like leaving plutonium rods around. I'm 32 years old. I have 80 percent of my lung capacity. I ache all the time. I don't feel like a healthy 32-year-old.
Q: Were you in the vicinity of depleted uranium?
A: Oh, yeah. It's everywhere. DU is everywhere on the battlefield. If you hit a tank, there's dust.
Q: Did you breath any dust?
Q: And if DU is affecting you or our troops, it's impacting Iraqi civilians.
A: Oh, yeah. They got a big wasteland problem.
Q: Do Marines have any precautions about dealing with DU?
A: Not that I know of. Well, if a tank gets hit, crews are detained for a little while to make sure there are no signs or symptoms. American tanks have depleted uranium on the sides, and the projectiles have DU in them. If an enemy vehicle gets hit, the area gets contaminated. Dead rounds are in the ground. The civilian populace is just now starting to learn about it. Hell, I didn't even know about DU until two years ago. You know how I found out about it? I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine. I just started inquiring about it, and I said "Holy s---!"
Broadcast Exclusive: U.S. Soldiers Contaminated With Depleted Uranium Speak Out
Monday, April 5th, 2004
A special investigation by Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News has found four of nine soldiers of the 442nd Military Police Company of the New York Army National Guard returning from Iraq tested positive for depleted uranium contamination. They are the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
After repeatedly being denied testing for depleted uranium from Army doctors, the soldiers contacted The News who paid to have them tested as part of their investigation.
Testing for uranium isotopes in 24 hours' worth of urine samples can cost as much as $1,000 each.
In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, three of the contaminated soldiers speak out.
Army officials at Fort Dix and Walter Reed Army Medical Center are now rushing to test all returning members of the 442nd. More than a dozen members are back in the U.S. but the rest of the company, mostly comprised of New York City cops, firefighters and correction officers, is not due to return from Iraq until later this month.
After learning of The News' investigation, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) blasted Pentagon officials yesterday for not properly screening soldiers returning from Iraq.
Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she will write to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanding answers and soon will introduce legislation to require health screenings for all returning troops.
Depleted Uranium is considered to be the most effective anti-tank weapon ever devised. It is made from nuclear waste left over from the making nuclear weapons and fuel. The public first became aware the US military was using DU weapons during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. But it had been used as far back as the 1973 Yom Kippur war in Israel.
Amid growing controversy in Europe and Japan, the European Parliament called last year for a moratorium on its use.
· Sgt. Herbert Reed,
assistant deputy warden at Rikers Island with 442nd military police
company of New York Army National Guard. He did not test positive
for depleted uranium, but has uranium 236, a uranium isotope not
found in nature.
· Sgt. Agustin Matos, was deployed in Iraq with the 442nd Military Police. He is among the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
· Sgt. Hector Vega, among the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
· Dr. Asaf Durakovic, colonel in army reserves who served in first Gulf War. He is one of the first doctors to discover unusual radiation levels in Gulf War veterans. He has since become a leading critic of the use of depleted uranium in warfare. He tested the nine men at the request of the Daily News.
· Leonard Dietz, retired physicist from Knolls Atomic Laboratory in upstate New York. Pioneered the technology to isolate uranium isotopes.
is the culmination of a two-year investigation by the filmmakers. It answers questions about the Persian Gulf War using documents never before seen on television and backed by interviews with Desert-Storm Commander General Norman Schwarzkopf, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former UN Iraq Program Director Dennis Halliday, former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter and many others. "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" looks at the origins of the Gulf War crisis and challenges the official Western "party-line" view of a spontaneous crusade for "Freedom & Democracy". The documentary exposes the White House and US State Department's hidden agenda in the Gulf as well as the Pentagon's use of radioactive ammunitions made of uranium 238.
Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1576776.stm
The Gulf War took place between 1990 and 1991
The children of Gulf War veterans are almost twice as likely to be born with birth defects than those of other soldiers, research has found.
US researchers, sponsored by the Environmental Epidemiology Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs, surveyed 30,000 parents in the US Armed Forces.
Half had fought in the 1990 - 1991 Gulf War.
The researchers found children born to Gulf War veterans were more likely to have psychological and physical disabilities.
[This] seems to confirm what the Gulf veterans have always said and now it seems that their children are suffering in the same way
Female soldiers who had served in the conflict were almost three times more likely to have a child with a birth defect, compared to women who had not served in the Gulf.
Men who had served in the conflict were almost twice as likely to have a child with a defect.
Around 697,000 US servicemen and women travelled to the Gulf, compared to 53,000 personnel from the UK.
ABOVE: A new born with anencephaly. His shocked mother disappeared from the hospital. On the day, a baby with hydrocephalic was born. Some 3 percent of the newborn babies have congenital disorders. During one hour at the hospital that day, two babies with such disorders were born. (Alwia Maternity Hospital, Baghdad)
Gulf War veterans from the UK said there were many similar cases of children being born with deformations such as Down's Syndrome and other chromosome related disorders in this country.
Marie Rusling, of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association told BBC News Online: " We've thought there was a pattern for a long time.
"The illnesses and the disabilities are out there in the general population, but its a higher percentage in the Gulf community."
She added that the US research supported the veterans' argument that the drugs soldiers were given to counteract the threat of biological warfare have led to long-term illnesses and death.
UK research is currently underway to examine the health of children born to Gulf War veterans.
Professor Malcolm Hooper, chief medical adviser to the Gulf veterans said there were some significant deformations in British children born to Gulf veterans.
He added: "Some of the most severe involve the shortening of limbs and malformations to the ears and parts of the face.
"It seems to confirm what the Gulf veterans have always said and now it seems that their children are suffering in the same way.
"I know there are people here that have children who are hurting and damaged."
Professor Hooper, who also lectures in medicinal chemistry at Sunderland University, said proving a link in British veterans would be more difficult as fewer servicemen and women went, compared to the US.
He added that previous studies carried out in America which found there was no increased chance of deformation were unreliable.
But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence told BBC News Online this latest survey was of defects reported by the families themselves, rather than an actual clinical study.
She added: "We are aware of the report and are currently studying it.
"Previous reports from the
US have indicated that there was no increase in deformations in
children born to Gulf veterans."
Poisoned? Shocking report reveals local troops may be victims of america's high-tech weapons
By JUAN GONZALEZ
April 3, 2004
NY DAILY NEWS
Army Sgt. Hector Vega at his Bronx home.
Augustin Matos with his daughter Samantha
Four soldiers from a New York Army National Guard company serving in Iraq are contaminated with radiation likely caused by dust from depleted uranium shells fired by U.S. troops, a Daily News investigation has found.
They are among several members of the same company, the 442nd Military Police, who say they have been battling persistent physical ailments that began last summer in the Iraqi town of Samawah.
"I got sick instantly in June," said Staff Sgt. Ray Ramos, a Brooklyn housing cop. "My health kept going downhill with daily headaches, constant numbness in my hands and rashes on my stomach."
A nuclear medicine expert who examined and tested nine soldiers from the company says that four "almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded American shells manufactured with depleted uranium.
Laboratory tests conducted at the request of The News revealed traces of two manmade forms of uranium in urine samples from four of the soldiers.
If so, the men - Sgt. Hector Vega, Sgt. Ray Ramos, Sgt. Agustin Matos and Cpl. Anthony Yonnone - are the first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
The 442nd, made up for the most part of New York cops, firefighters and correction officers, is based in Orangeburg, Rockland County. Dispatched to Iraq last Easter, the unit's members have been providing guard duty for convoys, running jails and training Iraqi police. The entire company is due to return home later this month.
"These are amazing results, especially since these soldiers were military police not exposed to the heat of battle," said Dr. Asaf Duracovic, who examined the G.I.s and performed the testing that was funded by The News.
"Other American soldiers who were in combat must have more depleted uranium exposure," said Duracovic, a colonel in the Army Reserves who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
While working at a military hospital in Delaware, he was one of the first doctors to discover unusual radiation levels in Gulf War veterans. He has since become a leading critic of the use of depleted uranium in warfare.
Depleted uranium, a waste product of the uranium enrichment process, has been used by the U.S. and British military for more than 15 years in some artillery shells and as armor plating for tanks. It is twice as heavy as lead.
Because of its density, "It is the superior heavy metal for armor to protect tanks and to penetrate armor," Pentagon spokesman Michael Kilpatrick said.
The Army and Air Force fired at least 127 tons of depleted uranium shells in Iraq last year, Kilpatrick said. No figures have yet been released for how much the Marines fired.
Kilpatrick said about 1,000 G.I.s back from the war have been tested by the Pentagon for depleted uranium and only three have come up positive - all as a result of shrapnel from DU shells.
But the test results for the New York guardsmen - four of nine positives for DU - suggest the potential for more extensive radiation exposure among coalition troops and Iraqi civilians.
Several Army studies in recent years have concluded that the low-level radiation emitted when shells containing DU explode poses no significant dangers. But some independent scientists and a few of the ?Army's own reports indicate otherwise.
As a result, depleted uranium weapons have sparked increasing controversy around the world. In January 2003, the ?European Parliament called for a moratorium on their use after reports of an unusual number of leukemia deaths among Italian soldiers who served in Kosovo, where DU weapons were used.
I keep getting weaker. What is happening to me?
The Army says that only soldiers wounded by depleted uranium shrapnel or who are inside tanks during an explosion face measurable radiation exposure.
But as far back as 1979, Leonard Dietz, a physicist at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory upstate, discovered that DU-contaminated dust could travel for long distances.
Dietz, who pioneered the technology to isolate uranium isotopes, accidentally discovered that air filters with which he was experimenting had collected radioactive dust from a National Lead Industries Plant that was producing DU 26 miles away. His discovery led to a shutdown of the plant.
"The contamination was so heavy that they had to remove the topsoil from 52 properties around the plant," Dietz said.
All humans have at least tiny amounts of natural uranium in their bodies because it is found in water and in the food supply, Dietz said. But natural uranium is quickly and harmlessly excreted by the body.
Uranium oxide dust, which lodges in the lungs once inhaled and is not very soluble, can emit radiation to the body for years.
"Anybody, civilian or soldier, who breathes these particles has a permanent dose, and it's not going to decrease very much over time," said Dietz, who retired in 1983 after 33 years as nuclear physicist. "In the long run ... veterans exposed to ceramic uranium oxide have a major problem."
Critics of DU have noted that the Army's view of its dangers has changed over time.
Before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a 1990 Army report noted that depleted uranium is "linked to cancer when exposures are internal, [and] chemical toxicity causing kidney damage."
It was during the Gulf War that U.S. A-10 Warthog "tank buster" planes and Abrams tanks first used DU artillery on a mass scale. The Pentagon says it fired about 320 tons of DU in that war and that smaller amounts were also used in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
In the Gulf War, Army brass did not warn soldiers about any risks from exploding DU shells. An unknown number of G.I.s were exposed by shrapnel, inhalation or handling battlefield debris.
Some veterans groups blame DU contamination as a factor in Gulf War syndrome, the term for a host of ailments that afflicted thousands of vets from that war.
Under pressure from veterans groups, the Pentagon commissioned several new studies. One of those, published in 2000, concluded that DU, as a heavy metal, "could pose a chemical hazard" but that Gulf War veterans "did not experience intakes high enough to affect their health."
Pentagon spokesman Michael Kilpatrick said Army followup studies of 70 DU-contaminated Gulf War veterans have not shown serious health effects.
"For any heavy metal, there is no such thing as safe," Kilpatrick said. "There is an issue of chemical toxicity, and for DU it is raised as radiological toxicity as well."
But he said "the overwhelming conclusion" from studies of those who work with uranium "show it has not produced any increase in cancers."
Several European studies, however, have linked DU to chromosome damage and birth defects in mice. Many scientists say we still don't know enough about the long-range effects of low-level radiation on the body to say any amount is safe.
Britain's national science academy, the Royal Society, has called for identifying where DU was used and is urging a cleanup of all contaminated areas.
"A large number of American soldiers [in Iraq] may have had significant exposure to uranium oxide dust," said Dr. Thomas Fasey, a pathologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center and an expert on depleted uranium. "And the health impact is worrisome for the future."
As for the soldiers of the 442nd, they're sick, frustrated and confused. They say when they arrived in Iraq no one warned them about depleted uranium and no one gave them dust masks.
Experts behind News probe
As part of the investigation by the Daily News, Dr. Asaf Duracovic, a nuclear medicine expert who has conducted extensive research on depleted uranium, examined the nine soldiers from the 442nd Military Police in late December and collected urine specimens from each.
Another member of his team, Prof. Axel Gerdes, a geologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt who specializes in analyzing uranium isotopes, performed repeated tests on the samples over a week-long ?period. He used a state-of-the art procedure called multiple collector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry.
Only about 100 laboratories worldwide have the same capability to identify and measure various uranium isotopes in minute quantities, Gerdes said.
Gerdes concluded that four of the men had depleted uranium in their bodies. Depleted uranium, which does not occur in nature, is created as a waste product of uranium enrichment when some of the highly radioactive isotopes in natural uranium, U-235 and U-234, are extracted.
Several of the men, according to Duracovic, also had minute traces of another uranium isotope, U-236, that is produced only in a nuclear reaction process.
"These men were almost certainly exposed to radioactive weapons on the battlefield," Duracovic said.
He and Gerdes plan to issue a scientific paper on their study of the soldiers at the annual meeting of the European Association of Nuclear Medicine in Finland this year.
When DU shells explode, they permanently contaminate their target and the area immediately around it with low-level radioactivity.
DU: Cancer as a Weapon Radioactive War
http://www.counterpunch.org/du.html February 5, 2001
At the close of the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was denounced as a ferocious villain for ordering his retreating troops to destroy Kuwaiti oil fields, clotting the air with poisonous clouds of black smoke and saturating the ground with swamps of crude. It was justly called an environmental war crime.
But months of bombing of Iraq by US and British planes and cruise missiles has left behind an even more deadly and insidious legacy: tons of shell casings, bullets and bomb fragments laced with depleted uranium. In all, the US hit Iraqi targets with more than 970 radioactive bombs and missiles.
More than 10 years later, the health consequences from this radioactive bombing campaign are beginning to come into focus. And they are dire, indeed. Iraqi physicians call it "the white death"-leukemia. Since 1990, the incident rate of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent. The situation is compounded by Iraq's forced isolations and the sadistic sanctions regime, recently described by UN secretary general Kofi Annan as "a humanitarian crisis", that makes detection and treatment of the cancers all the more difficult.
"We have proof of traces of DU in samples taken for analysis and that is really bad for those who assert that cancer cases have grown for other reasons," says Dr. Umid Mubarak, Iraq's health minister.
Mubarak contends that the US's fear of facing the health and environmental consequences of its DU bombing campaign is partly behind its failure to follow through on its commitments under a deal allowing Iraq to sell some of its vast oil reserves in return for food and medical supplies.
"The desert dust carries death," said Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, an oncologist and member England's Royal Society of Physicians. "Our studies indicate that more than forty percent of the population around Basra will get cancer. We are living through another Hiroshima."
Most of the leukemia and cancer victims aren't soldiers. They are civilians. And many of them are children. The US-dominated Iraqi Sanctions Committee in New York has denied Iraq's repeated requests for cancer treatment equipment and drugs, even painkillers such as morphine. As a result, the overflowing hospitals in towns such as Basra are left to treat the cancer-stricken with aspirin.
This is part of a larger horror inflicted on Iraq that sees as many as 180 children dying every day, according to mortality figures compiled by UNICEF, from a catalogue of diseases from the 19th century: cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, e. coli, mumps, measles, influenza.
Iraqis and Kuwaitis aren't the only ones showing signs of uranium contamination and sickness. Gulf War veterans, plagued by a variety of illnesses, have been found to have traces of uranium in their blood, feces, urine and semen.
Depleted uranium is a rather benign sounding name for uranium-238, the trace elements left behind when the fissionable material is extracted from uranium-235 for use in nuclear reactors and weapons. For decades, this waste was a radioactive nuisance, piling up at plutonium processing plants across the country. By the late 1980s there was nearly a billion tons of the material.
Then weapons designers at the Pentagon came up with a use for the tailings: they could be molded into bullets and bombs. The material was free and there was plenty at hand. Also uranium is a heavy metal, denser than lead. This makes it perfect for use in armor-penetrating weapons, designed to destroy tanks, armored-personnel carriers and bunkers.
When the tank-busting bombs explode, the depleted uranium oxidizes into microscopic fragments that float through the air like carcinogenic dust, carried on the desert winds for decades. The lethal dust is inhaled, sticks to the fibers of the lungs, and eventually begins to wreck havoc on the body: tumors, hemorrhages, ravaged immune systems, leukemias.
In 1943, the doomsday men associated with the Manhattan Project speculated that uranium and other radioactive materials could be spread across wide swaths of land to contain opposing armies. Gen. Leslie Grove, head of the project, asserted that uranium weapons could be expected to cause "permanent lung damage." In the late, 1950s Al Gore's father, the senator from Tennessee, proposed dousing the demilitarized zone in Korea with uranium as a cheap failsafe against an attack from the North Koreans.
After the Gulf War, Pentagon war planners were so delighted with the performance of their radioactive weapons that ordered a new arsenal and under Bill Clinton's orders fired them at Serb positions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. More than a 100 of the DU bombs have been used in the Balkans over the last six years.
Already medical teams in the region have detected cancer clusters near the bomb sites. The leukemia rate in Sarajevo, pummeled by American bombs in 1996, has tripled in the last five years. But it's not just the Serbs who are ill and dying. NATO and UN peacekeepers in the region are also coming down with cancer. As of January 23, eight Italian soldiers who served in the region have died of leukemia.
The Pentagon has shuffled through a variety of rationales and excuses. First, the Defense Department shrugged off concerns about Depleted Uranium as wild conspiracy theories by peace activists, environmentalists and Iraqi propagandists. When the US's NATO allies demanded that the US disclose the chemical and metallic properties of its munitions, the Pentagon refused. It has also refused to order testing of US soldiers stationed in the Gulf and the Balkans.
If the US has been keeping silent, the Brits haven't been. A 1991 study by the UK Atomic Energy Authority predicted that if less than 10 percent of the particles released by depleted uranium weapons used in Iraq and Kuwait were inhaled it could result in as many as "300,000 probable deaths."
The British estimate assumed that the only radioactive ingredient in the bombs dropped on Iraq was depleted uranium. It wasn't. A new study of the materials inside these weapons describes them as a "nuclear cocktail," containing a mix of radioactive elements, including plutonium and the highly radioactive isotope uranium-236. These elements are 100,000 times more dangerous than depleted uranium.
Typically, the Pentagon has tried to dump the blame on the Department of Energy's sloppy handling of its weapons production plants. This is how Pentagon spokesman Craig Quigley described the situation in chop-logic worthy of the pen of Joseph Heller.: "The source of the contamination as best we can understand it now was the plants themselves that produced the Depleted uranium during the 20 some year time frame when the DU was produced."
Indeed, the problems at DoE nuclear sites and the contamination of its workers and contractors have been well-known since the 1980s. A 1991 Energy Department memo reports: "during the process of making fuel for nuclear reactors and elements for nuclear weapons, the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant... created depleted uranium potentially containing neptunium and plutonium"
But such excuses in the absence of any action to address the situation are growing very thin indeed. Doug Rokke, the health physicist for the US Army who oversaw the partial clean up of depleted uranium bomb fragments in Kuwait, is now sick. His body registers 5,000 times the level of radiation considered "safe". He knows where to place the blame. "There can be no reasonable doubt about this," Rokke recently told British journalist John Pilger. "As a result of heavy metal and radiological poison of DU, people in southern Iraq are experiencing respiratory problems, kidney problems, cancers. Members of my own team have died or are dying from cancer."
has a half-life of more than 4 billion years, approximately the
age of the Earth. Thousand
of acres of land in the Balkans, Kuwait and southern Iraq have
been contaminated forever. If George Bush Sr., Dick Cheney,
Colin Powell and Bill Clinton are still casting about for a legacy,
there's grim one that will stay around for an eternity.
Sunday 22 February 2004
Radiation experts warn in unpublished report that DU weapons used by Allies in Gulf war pose long-term health risk
An expert report warning that the long-term health of Iraq's civilian population would be endangered by British and US depleted uranium (DU) weapons has been kept secret. The study by three leading radiation scientists cautioned that children and adults could contract cancer after breathing in dust containing DU, which is radioactive and chemically toxic. But it was blocked from publication by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which employed the main author, Dr Keith Baverstock, as a senior radiation advisor. He alleges that it was deliberately suppressed, though this is denied by WHO.
Baverstock also believes that if the study had been published when it was completed in 2001, there would have been more pressure on the US and UK to limit their use of DU weapons in last year's war, and to clean up afterwards.
Hundreds of thousands of DU shells were fired by coalition tanks and planes during the conflict, and there has been no comprehensive decontamination. Experts from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have so far not been allowed into Iraq to assess the pollution.
"Our study suggests that the widespread use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq could pose a unique health hazard to the civilian population," Baverstock told the Sunday Herald.
"There is increasing scientific evidence the radio activity and the chemical toxicity of DU could cause more damage to human cells than is assumed."
Baverstock was the WHO's top expert on radiation and health for 11 years until he retired in May last year. He now works with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Kuopio in Finland, and was recently appointed to the UK government's newly formed Committee on Radio active Waste Management.
While he was a member of staff, WHO refused to give him permission to publish the study, which was co-authored by Professor Carmel Mothersill from McMaster University in Canada and Dr Mike Thorne, a radiation consultant . Baverstock suspects that WHO was leaned on by a more powerful pro-nuclear UN body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"I believe our study was censored and suppressed by the WHO because they didn't like its conclusions. Previous experience suggests that WHO officials were bowing to pressure from the IAEA, whose remit is to promote nuclear power," he said. "That is more than unfortunate, as publishing the study would have helped forewarn the authorities of the risks of using DU weapons in Iraq."
These allegations, however, are dismissed as "totally unfounded" by WHO. "The IAEA role was very minor," said Dr Mike Repacholi, the WHO coordinator of radiation and environmental health in Geneva. "The article was not approved for publication because parts of it did not reflect accurately what a WHO-convened group of international experts considered the best science in the area of depleted uranium," he added.
Baverstock's study, which has now been passed to the Sunday Herald, pointed out that Iraq's arid climate meant that tiny particles of DU were likely to be blown around and inhaled by civilians for years to come. It warned that, when inside the body, their radiation and toxicity could trigger the growth of malignant tumours.
The study suggested that the low-level radiation from DU could harm cells adjacent to those that are directly irradiated, a phenomenon known as "the bystander effect". This undermines the stability of the body's genetic system, and is thought by many scientists to be linked to cancers and possibly other illnesses.
In addition, the DU in Iraq, like that used in the Balkan conflict, could turn out to be contaminated with plutonium and other radioactive waste . That would make it more radioactive and hence more dangerous, Baverstock argued.
"The radiation and the chemical toxicity of DU could also act together to create a 'cocktail effect' that further increases the risk of cancer. These are all worrying possibilities that urgently require more investigation," he said.
Baverstock's anxiety about the health effects of DU in Iraq is shared by Pekka Haavisto, the chairman of the UN Environment Programme's Post-Conflict Assessment Unit in Geneva. "It is certainly a concern in Iraq, there is no doubt about that," he said.
UNEP, which surveyed DU contamination in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002, is keen to get into Iraq to monitor the situation as soon as possible. It has been told by the British government that about 1.9 tonnes of DU was fired from tanks around Basra, but has no information from US forces, which are bound to have used a lot more.
Haavisto's greatest worry is when buildings hit by DU shells have been repaired and reoccupied without having been properly cleaned up. Photographic evidence suggests that this is exactly what has happened to the ministry of planning building in Baghdad.
He also highlighted evidence that DU from weapons had been collected and recycled as scrap in Iraq. "It could end up in a fork or a knife," he warned.
"It is ridiculous to leave the material lying around and not to clear it up where adults are working and children are playing. If DU is not taken care of, instead of decreasing the risk you are increasing it. It is absolutely wrong."
The depleted uranium rounds the U.S. and British forces were believed to have used in the war on Iraq may have subjected parts of the country to heavy radioactive contamination, a visiting U.S.-based doctor of nuclear medicine has warned.
Asaf Durakovic, director of the Uranium Medical Research Center, an independent organization with offices in the United States and Canada, said his research team conducted a three-week field trip to Iraq last month. It collected about 100 samples of substances such as soil, civilian urine and the tissue from the corpses of Iraqi soldiers in 10 cities, including Baghdad, Basra and Najaf.
Durakovic said preliminary tests show that the air, soil and water samples contained "hundreds to thousands of times" the normal levels of radiation. But he must wait another three months before getting the final results, he said.
Durakovic spent 19 years as a military doctor for the U.S. Defense Department, and studied the health of veterans after the 1991 Gulf War.
"This high level of contamination is because much more depleted uranium was used this year than in (the Gulf War of) 1991," Durakovic told The Japan Times.
The Pentagon has admitted using some 300 tons of depleted uranium during the Gulf War. Durakovic puts the amount used in the latest war on Iraq at 1,700 tons.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the uranium-enrichment process in nuclear reactors. Due to its extreme density, it is used on armor-piercing rounds, and is also used to enhance tank armor.
Depleted uranium rounds release fine radioactive particles upon impact, Durakovic said. If the particles are inhaled, they enter the lymph nodes and bones and can remain within the body for years.
"We analyzed the urine of American war veterans" of the 1991 Gulf War, he said. "Nine years after (my initial tests), they are still positive."
Depleted uranium was first used during the Gulf War by U.S. and British forces. It is believed to have also been used in NATO airstrikes on Kosovo in 1999 and the U.S-led antiterror campaign in Afghanistan that began in 2001.
Critics say the number of Iraqi cancer patients and children born with birth defects is rising, and they blame depleted uranium weapons.
The weapons are also suspected of being a contributing cause of "Gulf War Syndrome," which is reportedly suffered by tens of thousands of U.S., British, Canadian and French veterans who participated in Operation Desert Shield. Their ills include leukemia, chronic fatigue, swollen joints and depression.
Durakovic said he was forced to resign from his position at the Pentagon in 1996 because of his studies. The U.S. and British governments deny that depleted uranium can be harmful to human health, he said.
"They are hampering efforts to prove the connection between depleted uranium and the illness," Durakovic said. "They do not want to admit that they committed war crimes" by using weapons that kill indiscriminately, which are banned under international law.
He said he suspects that such factors as the huge cost of conducting thorough research into the effects of depleted uranium, which he said would take "billions of dollars," and the need to dispose of huge stockpiles of radioactive waste produced through nuclear power generation are contributing to the governments' unwillingness.
But Durakovic remains optimistic. "We will soon know more (about depleted uranium's effects) because the world is learning more and more about the hiding of the truth," he said.
The Japan Times: Nov. 22, 2003
(C) All rights reserved
Metal of Dishonor. Documentary on depleted
uranium (requires Real Player)
Radio interview with Prof Major Doug
Rocke, former chief of Depleted Uranium Project at the Pentagon
(requires Real Player).
Link to Eos webpage: Hazards of suspected Uranium weapons in the proposed war on Iraq.
International Action Center's Depleted
Uranium Education project. Comprehensive DU site with extensive
press releases, documents and videos.
National Gulf War Resource Center DU site. Sections on training, medical, reports, regulation and quotes. Links to government and military documents about DU. Discussion of the Oct. 5th 2001 conference held in Atlanta, GA about the Gulf War Veterans research in illnesses.
2001 BBC investigative report about DU.
Focuses on military use of DU, European perspectives, Israel's
alleged use of U.S. DU weapons in Palestinian conflict.
be misled by
the term 'depleted uranium'. Like spent fuel' from civilian reactors,
depleted uranium is highly toxic and carcinogenic and has a
half life of some 4.4 billion years. -- Alice Slater
/_____________ / Smart People nrfnnfnf/ Bushwars / Bushlies / Cheneylies / Incurious George / St. George / King George (the madness of) / George the Lionheart and the New Crusades / George of Orwell / Georgie Warbucks / George W. Hoover / Vanishing Votes // Death Culture / Hall of Shame // 911 Accountability / (Not-so) Friendly Fascism / Project For A New American Perpetual War / Fanning the Flames of Fear, Loathing and Terror / T h e C o l l a t e r a l C h i l d r e n / About This Site: A Gathering Danger _____________// / More writings by, and interviews with SMART PEOPLE on our Dire Situation: / Kurt Vonnegut Speaks / Bill Moyers Rallies / Gore Vidal Rants / Mark Twain Sings _____________// ...