US DU More Deadly Than Gas
When this war ends, George Bush will have caused the poisoning of hundreds of thousands more humans than he said Saddam Hussein poisoned.
By Frederick Sweet
Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. You can email your comments to Fred@interventionmag.com
In its 110,000 air raids against Iraq, the US A-10 Warthog aircraft launched 940,000 depleted uranium shells, and in the land offensive, its M60, M1 and M1A1 tanks fired a further 4,000 larger caliber also uranium shells. The Bush administration and the Pentagon said, there is no danger to American troops or Iraqi civilians from breathing the uranium oxide dust produced in depleted uranium (DU) weapons explosions.
DU is the waste residue made from the uranium enrichment process. This radioactive and toxic substance, 1.7 times as dense as lead, is used to make shells that penetrate steel armor. Last July, two military DU weapons experts Dr Doug Rokke and George A. Parker, veterans of the Gulf War, issued a public warning against using these radioactive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [for full text, see: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/01/50000.html ] Rokke had been U.S. Army's DU team health physicist and U.S. Army's DU Project Director. Former British Army Sgt. Parker had been with the 1st Field Laboratory Unit, Biological-Warfare Detection Unit at Porton Down in Great Britain. His job had been management in the Gulf War of troop protection against weapons of mass destruction.
Dr. Rokke warned:
"Depleted uranium munitions (DU) have been used effectively in combat since 1973. Their destructive capabilities are absolutely superior to any other known munitions that can be fired by tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft, and rifles. In addition the ADAM and PDM, which are land mines, are essentially conventional explosives wrapped in shell containing uranium or a 'dirty bomb.' Although DU munitions are an excellent weapon, they leave a path of death, illness, and environmental contamination. The radiological and chemical toxicity are due to uranium, plutonium, neptunium, and americium isotopes within each DU bullet. We also have all of the inherent contamination from the equipment, terrain, and facilities that were destroyed."
"Upon the completion of the ground combat phase of the Gulf war, I was assigned by Headquarters Department of the Army and consequently the U.S. Central Command to clean up the depleted uranium contaminated U.S. equipment and provide initial medical recommendations for all individuals who were or may have been exposed as a consequence of military actions."
"Our initial observations of the DU contamination can be summed simply by three words 'OH MY GOD!' Although my mission was limited to U.S. personnel and equipment all affected persons and equipment should have been processed identically. They were not! Although I and U.S. Army physicians assigned to the 3rd U.S. Army Medical Command issued immediate verbal and written medical care recommendations those still have not been complied with for not only all U.S. and coalition military DU casualties but for Iraqi military personnel and especially noncombatants, women and children, who were exposed to DU munitions contamination."
"A United States Defense Nuclear Agency memorandum written by LTC Lyle that was sent to our team in Saudi Arabia during March 1990 stated that quote: 'As Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), ground combat units, and civil populations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq come increasingly into contact with DU ordnance, we must prepare to deal with potential problems. Toxic war souvenirs, political furor, and post conflict clean up (host nation agreement) are only some of the issues that must be addressed. Alpha particles (uranium oxide dust) from expended rounds is a health concern but, Beta particles from fragments and intact rounds is a serious health threat, with possible exposure rates of 200 millirads per hour on contact.' end [of] quote."
Referring to Dr. Rokke's comments, Sgt. Parker concluded:
"I am now aware that armed forces personnel are considered as disposable items. Something to be used abused and then discarded when broken. Further more, when made ill by the use of politically sensitive weapons such as DU they are an expensive embarrassment to be silenced when voicing concerns."
"It is my sincere and heart felt belief that until such time as the UK and US governments can properly care for ill and dying veterans of war, they should refrain from deploying members of the armed forces overseas."
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, an opponent of DU weapons use since 1996, again raised his call for a ban on the use of these weapons in 2001. Since then DU weapons conferences, ironically, in Baghdad in 1999 and Gijon, Spain in 2000 had demanded a ban on DU use. "This new outbreak of leukemia among European [NATO] soldiers has reinforced what we said before," said Clark from New York in January 2001. "Is it acceptable by any human standards that we would permit one shell of depleted uranium to be manufactured, to be stored, to be used? No! Stop it now!"
According to a May 2003 article in the Christian Science Monitor, the first partial Pentagon disclosure of the amount of DU used in Iraq, a US Central Command spokesman admitted that A-10 Warthog aircraft -- the same planes that shot at the Iraqi planning ministry -- fired 300,000 bullets. The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 -- a mix that had left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq.
A Monitor reporter had seen only one site where US troops had put up handwritten warnings in Arabic for Iraqis to stay away. A 3-foot-long DU warhead from a 120- mm tank shell had been found to produce radiation at more than 1,300 times background levels.
Many scientists believe that uranium oxide dust inhaled or ingested by troops in the Gulf War is the cause, or a contributing cause, of the "Gulf-War Syndrome". Of the approximately 697,000 U.S. troops stationed in the Gulf during the war, more than 100,000 veterans are now chronically ill. Cancer rates in southern Iraq have increased dramatically. For example ovarian cancer in Iraqi women of the southern region has fully increased by 16-fold.
More recently, Bush's and the Pentagon's reassurances were vigorously challenged by nuclear physicists and physicians at a scientific meeting, the World DU/Uranium Weapons Conference held in Hamburg, Germany during October 2003. New data suggest that orders of magnitude more Americans and Iraqis may have been poisoned by uranium from depleted uranium (DU) weapons explosions than Kurds had been killed by Saddam's gas in 1988. Review in Hamburg of the long term medical effects from DU exposures during the 1990s in Kosovo, Sarajevo, southern Iraq and from American veterans of the Gulf War reveal a frightening reality.
Conference scientists criticized as decades obsolete the Pentagon models used for reassuring the public about the long-term effects of inhaling uranium oxide particles from DU weapons. Citing the Pentagon model, the official 2003 Conference Statement concluded: "The knowledge on which this [Pentagon] model is based is faulty and outdated. This is like comparing [someone] sitting in front of a fire with [them] eating a hot coal."
According to the Conference, the mobility of the ceramic uranium oxide particles from DU weapons explosions is due to their re-suspension in dry weather. Measuring isotope ratios of U-238 and Pa-234m/Th-234 in water and air measurements by UNEP in Kosovo, Bosnia and Montenegro has showed this. Uranium oxide particles are available for inhalation long after the war is over. Anyone in the general area of their prior use is at risk, several years after their use or contamination. This had been proven by urine measurements in Kosovo in 2001. All of the people sampled showed contamination from DU. This was also shown by urine tests of Gulf War veterans made 10 years after their exposure.
After the Gulf War, Iraqi and international epidemiological investigations enabled the environmental pollution due to using this kind of weapon to be associated with the appearance of new, very difficult to diagnose diseases (serious immunodeficiencies, for instance) and the spectacular increase in congenital malformations and cancer. This had been found both in the Iraqi population and also among several thousands of American and British veterans and in their children, a clinical condition now called Gulf War Syndrome. Similar symptoms to those of the Gulf War have been described for a thousand children living in Bosnia where American aviation similarly used DU bombs in 1996, the same as in the NATO intervention against Yugoslavia in 1999.
It is estimated that already some 300 tons of radioactive debris from DU weapons had been deposited in target areas during the 2003 Iraq War, affecting over 250,000 Iraqis. By comparison, Saddam Hussein -- who Bush had called an evil murderer -- only gassed about 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1988. But by Bush launching his war on Iraq with DU weapons of mass destruction, he multiplied the casualties to the Iraqis, and also to American troops, by factors of hundreds relative to the infamous gassing of the Kurds. Therefore, by the time American troops leave Iraq Bush will very likely have poisoned hundreds of thousands more humans than he had accused Saddam Hussein of poisoning. Agree? Disagree? Suggestions?. Click on "post comment" below and tell us what you think.