Counterpunch : DU in Iraq – America’s Radioactive War

2004-12-09

Richard Moore

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From: "Janet M Eaton" <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 09:46:03 -0400
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Subject: DU in Iraq - America's Radioactive War -  [Counterpunch Nov 17]
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There has been virtually no mention of the use of depleted uranium 
(DU) in this latest Gulf War, yet the US military has scattered this 
radioactive substance all over the desert in even larger quantities 
than it did in the Gulf War of 1991

Iraqi physicians have never encountered anything like it, and have 
made the perfectly reasonable point that similar increases in cancer 
and deformities were experienced in Japan after the two US atomic 
bomb attacks. "Cancer has increased between 7 and 10 fold; 
deformities between 4 and 6 fold". Yet, as categorically stated by US 
Army documents, the US was well aware of the potential effects .. of 
...of DU ammunition long before the first Gulf war began.  

The war on terror has unduly convinced an over-anxious public of the 
need for an increased weapons program. So while the US government 
lauds tracking down Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) overseas, and 
claims to support anti-nuclear proliferation, for the first time in 
history, the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review calls for the use of 
nuclear weapons on non-nuclear nations--if they deem it necessary. 

fyi-janet 


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http://www.counterpunch.org/rose11172004.html

Counterpunch
DU in Iraq
America's Radioactive War
By BRITA MAY ROSE
November 17, 2004

As the war rages on, as casualties continue to rise, as the chaos, 
destruction and horror continue unabated in Iraq, there lurks a 
destructive element in this invasion that has gone almost unnoticed--
until recently. It is a weapon more sinister, more insidious, and 
more secretive than any US military arsenal to date and it works 
silently over the passage of time, but its possible deadly affects 
are only beginning to be explored by the mainstream media.  

There has been virtually no mention of the use of depleted uranium 
(DU) in this latest Gulf War, yet the US military has scattered this 
radioactive substance all over the desert in even larger quantities 
than it did in the Gulf War of 1991. The US department of defense has 
disclosed that US forces utilized DU munitions in combat during 
Operation Iraqi Freedom and the US army deployed several fighting 
vehicles capable of releasing DU in Iraq. Dan Fahey, writer and 
representative at 'Swords to Plowshares'--a veterans advocacy group, 
estimates that the US and UK released between 100 and 200 tons of DU 
during combat which took place in populated areas last year. This 
material was fired by invading US forces into buildings, homes, 
streets and gardens all over Baghdad alone, but the US government 
says it has no plans to remove the debris left over from DU 
ammunition and refuses to permit Iraq to import the clean-up 
equipment that they desperately need to decontaminate their country 
of the DU.  

This is another violation of International Law, since the UN banned 
the use of DU in the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of 
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities Resolution 1996/16 August 
29. The use of DU was banned because its safety is in question, 
therefore the use of DU by US and UK forces should be halted, and 
existing contaminated sites cleaned-up, until we can be clear on the 
long term health and environmental consequences of this substance.  

A study done by the Pentagon's GAO itself stated, "Ingested DU dust 
can pose both a radioactive and a toxicity risk." The Green Party of 
the UK fears that another outbreak of "Gulf War Syndrome" may be 
imminent as troops are returning home with a range of illnesses 
including degeneration of the nervous system and various cancers, as 
well as less easily defined immune system failings. Key findings by 
Dr. Fahey reveal that the rate of malignancies in children in Basra, 
Iraq, has quadrupled since the last Gulf War 12 years ago. Scientists 
fear that exposure to DU may lead to a host of health problems such 
as congenital abnormalities, brain tumors, leukemia and other 
cancers, cases of which have dramatically risen in Iraq over the past 
ten years. Dr. Ahmad Hardan, scientific adviser to the World Health 
Organization, states, "This has caused a health crisis that has 
affected almost a third of a million people".  

Munitions containing rods dense with DU are used at high speed to 
destroy armored vehicles. The substance that remains after natural 
uranium has been enriched, DU, is 1.7 times denser than lead, making 
it more effective, but not necessary for penetrating armored objects 
such as tanks. Uranium is a poisonous and weakly radioactive heavy 
metal, but Depleted Uranium, the waste product from extracting the 
radioactive components of Uranium is used for nuclear power or 
weapons. Once a target is hit, DU may be dispersed as aerosols or 
particles whereby it can be inhaled or cause bodily wounds. 
Alternatively it can remain intact at the site of its target, or 
spread over a wide area. The use of DU has proved highly 
controversial, since evidence of its harmful affects is as yet 
inconclusive and much rigorous, independent scientific and medical 
study still remains to be done. Some scientists, such as physicist 
Dr. Fetter, claim that there are no known proven hazards to exposure 
from DU.  

However, the leading scientific organization of the UK's Royal 
Society, published two reports on the health hazards of DU in May 
2001, and concluded in a media release on May 22, 2001, that exposure 
to DU on the battlefield may double the risk of lung cancer for 
soldiers who inhale large amounts of DU. Another report from the 
society on March 12, 2002, claimed that soldiers may suffer kidney 
damage after inhaling or swallowing large amounts of DU. The society 
also proposed in a media release on April 15, 2003, that soil around 
the impact sites of DU may be heavily contaminated and could be 
harmful if swallowed by children. Additionally corroded DU 
penetrators embedded in the ground might pose a long-term threat if 
the uranium leaches into the water supply.  

One of the strongest spokesmen against the use of DU is Dr. Hardan, 
who stated, "Depleted Uranium has a half life of 4.7 billion years--
that means thousands upon thousands of Iraqi children will suffer for 
tens of thousands of years to come. This is what I call terrorism," 
International studies have produced evidence indicating that DU may 
have disastrous consequences. After his experience in Basra, Hardan 
projects that, "within the next two years he expects to see 
significant rises in congenital cataracts, anopthalmia, 
microphthalmia, corneal opacities and coloboma of the iris--and that 
is just in people's eyes. Add to this fetal deformities, sterility in 
both sexes, an increase in miscarriages and premature births, 
congenital malformations, additional abnormal organs, hydrocephaly, 
anencephaly and delayed growth" He adds, "The effects of ionizing 
radiation on growth and development are especially significant in the 
prenatal childEmbryonic development is especially affected." Harden 
arranged for a delegation from Japan's Hiroshima hospital to share 
their expertise in radiological diseases in Iraq, but they told him 
the American authorities objected so they decided not to come. 
Evidence of these deformities can be found in the book Uranium 
Projectiles--Severely maimed soldiers, deformed babies, dying 
children by Dr. Siegwart Horst-Gunther, President of the 
International Yellow Cross.  

Ross B. Mirkarimi, from the Arms Control Research Centre, points out 
that "whilst it is conceivable that the US led attacks on Iraq's 
nuclear power stations could be a contributory factor, most 
researchers point to DU as the most likely source of both deformities 
and cancers". While there could be other factors contributing to 
these maladies, such as burning oil wells and other environmental 
pollutants, the rising number of cases in Iraq, particularly in the 
south where the greatest concentration of DU was fired, is 
staggering. Iraqi physicians have never encountered anything like it, 
and have made the perfectly reasonable point that similar increases 
in cancer and deformities were experienced in Japan after the two US 
atomic bomb attacks. "Cancer has increased between 7 and 10 fold; 
deformities between 4 and 6 fold". Yet, as categorically stated by US 
Army documents, the US was well aware of the potential effects on 
civilians and military personnel of the chemical toxicity and 
radiological properties of DU ammunition long before the first Gulf 
war began.  

The war on terror has unduly convinced an over-anxious public of the 
need for an increased weapons program. So while the US government 
lauds tracking down Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) overseas, and 
claims to support anti-nuclear proliferation, for the first time in 
history, the Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review calls for the use of 
nuclear weapons on non-nuclear nations--if they deem it necessary. 
The US is also currently embarking on huge weapons trading (400 
billion dollars on weapons) while American schools, hospitals, fire 
stations and libraries are being closed. It is important to note 
that, as in the Cold War, the US is leading in the research and 
development of nuclear weapons and sells these weapons to Middle 
Eastern countries including Iraq. Meanwhile, the existence of 
unaccounted for enriched uranium from remaining nuclear weapons 
around the globe, and the possibility of it falling into the hands of 
rouge states, (like those of the former USSR) and terrorist 
organizations, now constitutes the greatest terrorist threat the 
world has ever known. The Bush administration has made it clear that 
hunting down these nuclear remnants is not its top priority; it has 
cut the budget and done less tracking of 'loose nukes' than it did in 
previous years. Combine this with corporate interests, weapons 
trading and its own indebtedness to weapons manufacturers and we find 
that the US has the largest WMD program of any nation, which includes 
biological and chemical weapons. It also boasts the largest stockpile 
of depleted uranium and the deadly bunker bombs and cluster bombs 
that are being used today in Iraq, and are becoming increasingly 
favored by the military. The US war on WMD needs to begin at home--
where it began.  

Before we celebrate the opening of the first Iraqi schools since the 
end of Saddam's regime, we might bear in mind that these are the 
children being exposed to an area of irreversible radioactive 
contamination. Depleted uranium has a half-life of more than 4 
billion years and thousand of acres of land in Kuwait and southern 
Iraq have been contaminated indefinitely. If George Bush, Dick 
Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell are looking for a legacy to 
last, here's one that will be around longer than they can imagine.  

Brita May Rose is a graduate student of history/Middle Eastern 
Studies at CUNY, and a freelance writer.  

Copyright @ Brita May Rose Oct 2004.  

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