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On Target Britain

Vol. 32 Nos. 25 & 26, 14th & 28th June, 2003
Food for Thought


Published in Two Parts - Part Two


We made the pressing economic reasons for another war clear in 2002(1). This made many unanswered questions or fudged answers about who really lay behind the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, on 11th September, 2001 - the essential catalyst for the invasion of Iraq - even more pertinent(2)(3). At the heart of the urgent need of the United States to colonise the Middle East lies the pivotal American role in a globalised economic system. Organic to this is the virtually unrestrained debt-usury system of "money" creation. This generates the leap-frogging situation in which export-driven over-production chases its own tail to satisfy an unsustainable obligation to debt finance. Availability of natural resources and the free movement and exchange of goods and services are thus artificially constrained by the "money" regulator - poverty maintained amidst plenty. Since the United States faces a rising debt of some $43,000,000,000,000, anyone who denies that Iraqi oil was not a factor in the conquest of Iraq is either a fool or naïve. This was made clear by Irwin Stelzer on 15th June, 2003. ("US boom ready for lift-off when cheap oil arrives", The Sunday Times Business supplement). Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the United States Vice-President, underlined this reality with her Middle East tour that has been, in effect, designed to prise open the reluctant regional economy to exploitation. ("US eyes economic regime change in Mideast", Financial Times, 19th June, 2003).

United States pressure for the economic subservience of the rest of the world has been no more evident than in its determination to foist over-production of Genetically Modified (G.M.), agricultural produce on Europe and the Third and Developing Worlds. ("Genetically Modified Morals - A Global Food Fight", International Herald Tribune, 13th June, 2003). In another delusion about the "liberation" of Iraq, the appointment of Dan Amstutz (Cargill, Goldman Sachs, the International Wheat Council and North American Export Grain Association), to oversee the "reconstruction" of Agriculture is just another example of the revolving door between the United States Administration and big business. But woe betide anyone who dares challenge United States hegemony, as France did with a perfectly legitimate objection to the legality of the invasion of Iraq. America has been trying deliberately to destabilise the European Union, in which France plays a powerful role, by alienating East European candidate states for membership of the Union. We now read that: "U.S. delivers final snub to Paris Air Show" (Financial Times, 15th June, 2003), and of trade sanctions and the exclusion of France from diplomatic business ("U.S. plan to punish France", The Times, 24th April, 2003). As French business is shunned in America and French wines poured down drains there, it is perhaps no coincidence that American tennis star Serena Williams was booed at the tennis championships in Paris recently. The United States has historically maintained a strong foothold in Europe through NATO, but now threatens to move NATO Headquarters out of Belgium because that country has dared to enact legislation that would allow Americans to be tried for war crimes. The United States has absolved itself from subjection to the International Criminal Court, and has even secured exemption by concluding bilateral agreements with individual, complaisant governments. On the other hand, Serbia is being threatened with the loss of a $110,000,000 loan if Colonel Veselin Aljivancanin is not arrested and brought for trial before that court.

The illusion of a "special relationship" and a degree of linguistic commonality have rendered the United Kingdom - fundamental questions of Independence per se apart - a "floater" in the largely one-sided transat-lantic Power Struggle. Integrated or common financial and business interests, especially oil, have established British subordination to United States global hegemony; thus British Government support for American military objectives, and a role of "little Sir Echo" in, for example, delivering threats to the sovereignty of Syria and Iran. Both Administra-tions, currently fronted by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, have blatantly and historically lied to and cheated their electorates. The New Statesman of 22nd May, 2003, has revealed how Blair knew beforehand that the occupation of Iraq was illegal. Fraudulent evidence was supplied by the United Kingdom to justify the invasion before the United Nations Security Council. Blair lost and discarded one line of argument after another to the United States, such as the case for a second United Nations Resolution, and for a leading United Nations role in post-invasion Iraq. Oleaginous, but very skilful rhetoric has enabled Blair to slither from one discredited factor or disaster area in which he has been embroiled to another; from Weapons of Mass Destruction, to foreign policy, to Public Services, to Transport, to the European Union. This is thanks in large measure to a clueless Opposition and an acquiescent, self-interested political following, and has even included an attempt to turn the tables with a challenge to his Party critics for proof that he has mislead the public. ("Where's the proof that I mislead the public, Blair asks critics", The Daily Telegraph, 3rd June, 2003).


Nowhere has collusion deriving from the so-called transatlantic "special relationship" been more evident than in total betrayal of the public, their own Armed Forces and "liberated" populations in the fields of Toxic Pollution and Depleted Uranium (D.U.). Pollution in industrial centres, not least involving the petro-chemical industry and generally in the densely populated United Kingdom, brings high levels of carcinogenic, birth, heart and other defects(4)(5). Widespread use of Organophosphates in Agriculture, commercial chemicals generally, and links to the Gulf War Syndrome in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, in 1991, have precipitated a massive cover-up(6). This also encompasses pollution consequent on the B.S.E.-C.J.D. (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) crisis(7). The financial implications in terms of pensions and compensation for which governments and business could be called to account are massive. Every subterfuge: legislation, confiscated or missing private and official records, the Official Secrets Act, the "D Notice" mechanism forbidding public disclosure and legal gymnastics, has been employed. A key to this manipulation and deception has been to attribute physical effects to mental disorders. This cannot, of course, explain away serious physical disabilities, a mounting death rate or widespread birth and associated physical abnormalities. It does explain the significant lack of publicity! Dr Dick van Steenis has written openly as follows(8):

* The Department of Health has its own agent to whom Health Authorities are contracted, Dr Virginia Murray, who is based in the Chemical Response Centre at Guy's Hospital, in London. Health Authorities have been given such advice as "there is no such thing as point source pollution because the Environment Agency prevent it", by Dr Murray. Illnesses are alleged to be in the mind, hence Doctor Murray employs a psychiatrist and a part-time lecturer paid for by Zeneca (now Astra-Zeneca), the chemical and biotechnology conglom-erate spun off from I.C.I.). . . . The Department of Health, and Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, also refuse to fund or publish research unless it is in accord with Government Policy. This explains why national newspaper and national television have had exposures of damage to public health blocked by the Government in recent years.

In 2001 Professor Hooper and two colleagues went further in a Report on M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and Chronic Fatigue Syn-drome (C.F.S.)(9). The essential extract in the context of this report is as follows:

* At about the same time in the U.K., psychiatrist Simon Wessely rose to prominence. Wessely leads a group of U.K. doctors, mostly but not exclusively psychiatrists, who have colloquially become known as the "Wessely School". Wessely is now Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry at Guys, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, London and the Institute of Psychiatry, where he is Director of both the C.F.S. Research Unit and the Gulf War Illness Research Unit. He is well-known for his strongly-held beliefs that neither M.E. nor Gulf War Syndrome exists, and that such patients are mentally, not physically ill. . . . Wessely's beliefs, however, have flooded the U.K. literature; he is adviser to the U.K. Government and to the Ministry of Defence and his wife (psychiatrist Dr Clare Garada) is Senior Policy Adviser to the Department of Health. . . . It is the case that some of those doctors have been funded by sources with links to the same industry which manufactures the chemicals which may be contributing to the rise in incidence of chemically-induced M.E./I.C.D.-C.F.S. [I.C.D. - International Classification of Diseases]. They have also been funded by the insurance industry and by private interests such as The Linbury Trust which belongs to the Sainsbury (supermarket) family. . . . Since 1996, David Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Turville) had donated £7,000,000 to the U.K. Labour Party. He is currently Minister for Science; as such he has responsibility for the Office of Science and Technology and the Chemical and Biotechnology industries, as well as all the Research Councils, including the Medical Research Council (M.R.C.). . . . The Office of Science and Technology monitors all government funding of research grants and controls official science policy and it is "policy" which determines the research which is funded. "The Department funds research to support policy". (Hansard, 11th May 2000). . . . Since 1988, psychiatrists of the "Wessely School" have been funded not only by the M.R.C. but by Wellcome Training Fellowships in Clinical Epidemiology; . . . by the Wellcome Trust; by I.C.I. Pharmaceuticals; by Pfizer U.K.; by Duphar Pharmaceuticals; by The Linbury Trust; by the Medical Policy Group of the Department of Social Security; by the Department of Health, . . . and by the United States Department of Defense.

The first thing to be noticed is an apparent lack of any proper assessment or investigation of Gulf War Syndrome or the effects of Depleted Uranium (DU), in more than ten years since the Gulf War of 1991. Instead, victims and their representative organisations, like the vic-tims of industrial pollution and victims of Organophosphates in Agricul-ture, seem simply to have been kept at arm's length from any official concession or admission. In Iraq it is still not clear why extensive hospital dossiers containing detailed evidence of the effects of DU since the Gulf War of 1991 were, it seems, destroyed by looters - or "looters"? The whereabouts of Doctors Tahir and Hammash who had compiled the dossiers currently remain a mystery. Western "experts" have sought to place other constructions on the effects of DU, such as "dust" from Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical installations. There can be no doubt whatsoever of the intention to use DU ammunition, and also Cluster Bombs. The United Kingdom is second only to the United States as a global armaments manufacturer. INSYS is the world's largest producer of Cluster Bombs. Companies House records show a former Chief of the Defence Staff, Field Marshal Lord Vincent, as a director, and a former Quartermaster General, General Sir Richard Trant, as a director until 1996. INSYS is not recorded in Who's Who for General Trant, although other defence directorships are listed. One single report that came to our notice in The Daily Telegraph of 10th January, 2002 stated that "Army buys 'safer' tank ammunition", which was said to be due to concern over the "side effects" of DU. The Ministry of Defence was predictably reported as playing this down. But it was also reported that "The Army warned five years ago that exposure to dust from exploded DU ammunition increased the risk of developing lung, lymph and brain cancers". Apart from wide-spread effects on civilian populations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and now once again Iraq, the British and American Governments still persisted in the use of DU ammunition, and sent their own troops into battle in the full knowledge of the dangers. Defence Minister Geoff "Holiday" Hoon and his Junior Minister, Adam Ingram, are purely political appointees. Neither man appears to have any experience of running a major organisation; much less any understanding of the Service ethos. Like genuine ministerial potential in the House of Commons generally, from the Prime Minister down, neither seems to have the ability to run anything larger than a whelk stall. At a meeting with "peace campaigning" Members of Parliament, both Hoon and Ingram denied that there was any reliable scientific or medical evidence to connect DU with ill health. (Morning Star, 1st April, 2003). We leave the individual reader to assess the "lack" of evidence in the following pages. These reports have been edited for space only, and to eliminate some of the inevitable duplication.


Depleted Uranium Will Be Used Says Ministry Of Defence
The Ecologist, March, 2003

As both the United States and British governments fix their sights on a new war with Iraq there is increasing concern that the unresolved tragedies of the 1991 Gulf War will be repeated on an even larger scale. The United States has made much of its "bunker busting" bombs, but has refused to reveal the composition of the bombs' dense metal. It is more than likely that the metal is a uranium alloy. The only other suitably dense candidate would be tungsten, which would not have the incendiary capability of Depleted Uranium (DU). It has also emerged that arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin has submitted United States patent applications on a "shrouded aerial bomb", which clearly refer to the penetrating body being "formed of Depleted Uranium" If uranium is used in large, explosive "hard target" warheads (up to 1,500 kilograms) there would be levels of radioactive contamination 100 times higher and more widespread than the DU anti tank "penetrators" used in 1991. In the United Kingdom the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced: "DU will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect themselves and succeed in conflict." The MoD also claimed that "there is no scientific or medical evidence to link DU with ill health".

What They Don't Want You To Know

* The MoD labels the risk from DU "insignificant", but this is because the present exposure levels for all kinds of radiation are derived from considerations of the total body external dose only figures originally derived from studies on Hiroshima survivors.

* The primary risk from DU lies in dust inhalation and, therefore, internal radiation particularly alpha radiation, which is recognised as by far the most damaging form of radioactive poisoning.

* In Bosnia Kosovo, all 22 people (from a one year old baby to a 67 year old man) sampled for DU for a BBC Scotland report were found to be contaminated. Even a cameraman with the reporting team was excreting DU

* A number of Gulf War veterans have reported a condition known as "burning semen syndrome", in which they and their female partners experienced burning, pain and swelling in and around their genitals immediately after exposure to the veteran's semen.

* Traces of highly radioactive Uranium 236 and Plutonium 239/240 were found in anti tank penetrators analysed in Kosovo by the United Nations Environment Programme.

* The biological half life of these particles is not known with any accuracy but it is known that some Gulf veterans are excreting generally low levels of DU in their urine nearly 12 years after the war.

Depleted Uranium: Weapon Of (Long Term) Mass Destruction
by Felicity Arbuthnot, 30th May, 2003

Baghdad (Panos). The small city of Diwania in southern Iraq is home to 10 year old Mustafa Ali who has acute myeloid leukemia. Wan and wide eyed, the cancer has affected a nerve in his right eye. His embarrassment at losing his hair because of chemotherapy is evident. His father, engineer Ali Ismael Tamader Ghalib, gives up work a week every month to bring his son to Baghdad for treatment. "If there is another war, more children will suffer," he said weeks before the latest war. "We must stop this slaughter of innocents; what have these children done to deserve this?" Tears streamed down his wife's face, dripping on to her immaculate black abaya. The Al Mansour Teaching and Paediatric Hospital in Bagh-dad is Iraq's foremost medical teaching centre. When the twice weekly cancer clinics are held, it is near impossible to squeeze through the crowds that spread into the grounds; parents holding, carrying, clutching their children for diagnosis and treatment. After the 1991 Gulf War, Al Mans-our filled with a disproportionately high number of patients from heavily bombed cities in the south of Iraq. Between 1978 and 1992 there were 270 cancer and leukemia cases recorded there. But between November 1992 and October 2002, the hospital recorded 1,714 cases a six fold increase. Those patients included 10 year old Mustafa and scores of other children from Diwania and other heavily bombed areas. With the war in Iraq and the post war looting, treatment at Al Mansour will have ceased, effect-ively condemning Mustafa, other children of Diwania and all the first Gulf War's cancer victims to death. This war has confirmed Ali Ismael's worst fears. Just 10 months after the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi doctors were already bewildered at the rise in rare cancers and birth deformities. They were comparing them to those they had seen in textbooks relating to nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1950s. That Depleted Uranium weapons had been used in Iraq was then unknown. Basra, southern Iraq, was in the eye of the original Desert Storm. In 1997, senior paediatrician at the Basra Maternity and Paediatric Hospital, Dr Jenan Hussein, completed a thesis comparing the effects there with Hiroshima. Cancers, leukaemias and malignancies believed linked to DU, she found, had risen up to 70 per cent since 1991. "There is every relation between the congenital malformations, cancer and depleted uranium. Before 1991, we saw nothing like this. Most of these children have no family history of cancer," she said.

DU, or Uranium 238, is a waste product of the uranium enrichment process. It has little commercial value, but when conventional bullets and shells are coated with DU, it makes them armour-piercing. Radioactive particles from spent DU shells do not disappear after explosion. The Pentagon says there are some 320 tonnes of DU left over from the 1991 War. Three weeks into the latest war, independent Britain based DU researcher Dai Williams said 2,000 tonnes of residual DU dust is a conservative estimate. In April 1991 the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority sent a report to the Ministry of Defence warning of a health and environmental catastrophe in Iraq. It estimated that a residue of 50 tonnes of DU dust could now lead to half a million "potential deaths" from cancer "in the region" within 10 years. With estimates of 2,000 tonnes of DU residue, the "potential deaths" could be astronomical. The evidence on the destructive nature of DU is clear; sick Gulf War and Balkans veterans, tested in 2000 at the World Depleted Uranium Centre in Berlin, were found to have three times more radioactive contamination than the residents of Chernobyl, Ukraine site of the world's worst nuclear accident. In 1996 a survey that studied the families of 267 United States Gulf veterans showed that 67 per cent of children conceived after their fathers had returned from the Gulf, had rare birth deformities. DU has thrice been condemned as a Weapon of Mass Destruction by United Nations Sub-Committees. Even the United States Army Environmental Policy Institute agrees: DU, it said in 1995, is "radioactive waste and, as such, should be deposited in a licenced repository". But in spite of all the evidence or perhaps because of it DU continues to remain an integral part of the NATO arsenal. And now, attempts are being made to cover up its devastating effects.

When, in 1999, Finland's Minister of Environment, Dr Pekka Haa-visto was appointed chairman of the United Nations Environment Prog-ramme unit investigating the use of DU in Kosovo, doors slammed in the face of this highly respected expert. In Washington, de classified docu-ments relating to DU use were suddenly re classified a pattern followed in all the NATO countries he doggedly visited, Haavisto told a United Nations Conference in 2001. When his team arrived in Kosovo, their mov-ements were restricted by the military, but they still managed to produce a 72 page report outlining deep concerns. However, by the time it under-went the tortuous United Nations "editorial" process, it was reduced to two pages. In an internal memo from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico (the laboratory that brought the world the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs) headed "The Effectiveness of Depleted Uranium Penet-rators", the reason for the apparent cover up becomes clearer. Dated 1st March 1991, the day after the Gulf cease-fire, a Lieutenant Colonel Larson wrote to a Major Ziehman: "There has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. Therefore if no one makes the case for the effectiveness of DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and therefore be deleted from the arsenal." The memo ends: "I believe we should keep this sensitive issue at mind, when, after action, reports are written." With hospital records in Iraq being destroyed while United States troops stand by and do nothing, it is now unlikely we will ever know the true extent of the health effects caused by the last war.

America's Shameful Legacy Of Radioactive Weaponry
by Heather Wokusch, 15th May, 2003

Disturbing new evidence puts the United States military's use of radioactive weaponry in the spotlight, casting doubt on the Bush Adminis-tration's upbeat estimates on civilian war casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. A study by the Washington, D.C. based Uranium Medical Research Center (U.M.R.C.) suggests coalition forces used Afghanistan as a testing ground for radioactive weaponry, thereby placing generations of civilians not to mention United States service members at unspeakable future risk. The U.M.R.C. study found "astonishing" levels of uranium in the urine of Afghan civilians living in Nangarhar province, one of many places Coalition Forces bombarded with a new generation of "cave busting" and seismic shock warheads. Interestingly, none of the civilians tested at Nan-garhar showed traces of depleted uranium (DU), yet hundreds exhibited symptoms resembling those of DU exposed Gulf War veterans. The impli-cations are ominous. Independent studies show Coalition Forces used tox-ic uranium alloys and hard target uranium warheads in Afghanistan, but if the "mystery" uranium in Nangahar isn't DU, what is it? What kinds of radioactive ammunition were used elsewhere in Afghanistan? What are the long term health implications for civilians and service members? And what are the moral, let alone criminal, implications of radiating civilian populations?

Unfortunately, Afghanistan isn't the only country reeling under the Bush Administration's idea of "liberation" Iraq has arguably fared worse. New evidence suggests the United States invasion may have killed up to 10,000 Iraqi civilians, many from cluster bombs dropped into densely populated civilian areas. Meanwhile, United States and British occupying forces are accused of illegally detaining and torturing Iraqi civilians, and the United States military has kicked around the idea of having Iraqi "hooligans . . . either captured or killed." Of course, if Iraq was used as a testing ground for radioactive weaponry, as appears to have been the case in Afghanistan, then the true civilian costs in cancers, birth defects and human suffering could be immeasurable. As might be expected, the United States Department of Defense (D.O.D.) has shown little interest in pinpointing the medical effects of radioactive weaponry. In the 1991 Gulf War, an estimated 320 tons of DU ammunition was dumped on Iraq, and the Pentagon later acknowledged over 900 American soldiers had sustained "moderate to heavy" DU exposure. Few epidemiological studies have been conducted to assess the damage though, and even worse, United States government officials have lied to cover up bad results. For example, a Pentagon spokesperson recently told the NATO press corps, "We have seen no cancers or leukemia" in a group of 60 Gulf War veterans involved in a DU Study Programme, despite the fact that two participants had in fact contracted cancer. And in a press briefing last March, a Department of Defense spokesperson downplayed health risks associated with DU, claiming Iraqis complained about it only "because we kicked the crap out of them."

Fortunately, British researchers have taken the DU issue more seriously. Scientific studies in the United Kingdom have shown Gulf veterans can have up to 14 times the normal level of genetic chromosome abnormalities which means their children are also at increased risk for deformities and genetic diseases. It's also been proven that DU exposed veterans have a greater likelihood of contracting lymphatic or bone marrow cancer. Findings like these have prompted the European Parliament to call for a moratorium on DU ammunition (and other types of uranium war-heads) pending independent investigations into their possible harmful effects. Similarly, the United Nations Environment Programme (U.N.E.P.), has announced plans to test the Iraqi environment for DU, and the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.), may begin similar testing on the human population. The ultimate irony, of course, is that America may have used radioactive weaponry to justify invading other countries to search for radioactive weaponry. Bitter irony too that our service members were put at increased risk because of the weapons our government gave them.

Discounted Casualties - The Human Cost Of Depleted Uranium
About a book by Akira Tashiro

Akira Tashiro, an investigative reporter for the Hiroshima daily The Chugoku Shimbun and focussing on the history and diffusion of Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions, the book takes us on a global odyssey from the United States to the United Kingdom, through Iraq, Kosovo, and Okinawa. Crude uranium ore undergoes an "enrichment" process to extract highly radioactive Uranium 235, used for nuclear weapons and reactors. The by product of this process is Uranium 238 metal, or DU, of which more than half a million tonnes have been produced since the 1940s. In the 1960s, the United States military noted that certain properties of DU namely, its high density and flammability might make it useful for projectiles. It could also be acquired free of charge from the Department of Energy. In the 1970s, production of DU munitions began. They were first used in combat during the Gulf War, and some 950,000 DU rounds were fired from tanks and aircraft during Operation Desert Storm. Although the Pentagon apparently knew about the potential hazards of DU as early as the 1970s, no information or training was given to Gulf War soldiers. The result? Out of nearly 700,000 participating United States troops, approximately 436,000 entered areas contaminated by DU shells. Thousands of veterans died in the years following the war, and many others fell ill to leukaemia, lung cancer, kidney and liver disorders, joint pain, and congenital birth defects. In a series of harrowing chapters, Tashiro presents a drama played out on various stages. "On the Wrong Side of a Superpower" tells the story of individual Gulf War veterans and their illnesses. One young veteran from New Mexico describes how 25 chunks of radioactive shrapnel were removed from his body (the result of so called "friendly fire") and how he later developed a bone tumour. A female veteran from California, exposed days after United States forces destroyed thousands of vehicles on the "Highway of Death" between Kuwait City and Basra (in southern Iraq), began suffering from headaches, sore joints, and extremely heavy menstrual bleeding in mid 1991. Yet another veteran, a native Oklahoman, apparently transmitted DU particles to his young wife through sexual contact. She now suffers from abdominal pains, miscarriages, and severe menstrual pains. During the 1970s and 1980s, DU munitions were produced in a number of places in the United States. "The Threat in Our Backyards" examines the effects of DU production in suburban Concord, Massachusetts, a town in upstate New York, and a factory in northeastern Tennessee. By weaving together the experiences of residents and workers exposed to DU and the work of environmental analysts, epidemiologists, and nuclear scientists, Tashiro invites readers to draw links between the sites of DU munitions production and increased rates of cancer, tumours, and birth defects. "Heavy Burden for an Ally" examines the human costs borne by exposed British Gulf War veterans. Of the 53,000 British soldiers sent to the Middle East in 1991, approximately 30,000 were stationed on the front lines. Since then, nearly 500 veterans have died and 6,000 more complain of physical problems similar to those of their counterparts in the United States.

Perhaps the most graphic chapter in the book is the penultimate, "The Scars of War", set in post war Iraq. The statistics presented by local health officials are staggering. Cancer rates have skyrocketed. In Basra, the number of people who have died of cancer in hospitals has increased more than ten fold since the late 1980s. leukaemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, and birth defects, once rare, are now common in the south of the country. Cancer cases and congenital birth defects have increased from three to four times since the end of the Gulf War. Not only veterans, but women, children, and other civilians in Basra and Safan were exposed. There are reports that 20 per cent of the women in Safan between the ages of 25 and 40 have lumps in their breasts, in an area where nearly all residents have inhaled DU particles. The chapter ends with a heartbreaking collection of photos of Iraqi children who were exposed to DU and have fallen ill with lymphoma, leukaemia, and other cancers. Their situation is made even more difficult as the result of economic sanctions. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy drugs, and other treatments are in short supply. And since contamination has settled in the soil, water, and plants of the region, it is likely that the effects will be long lasting. The book concludes with a chapter that analyses the environmental and legal implications of DU, and the growing global movement to ban it, with the final pages drawing our attention to the ongoing use of DU in recent military operations in the former Yugoslavia and firing ranges in Okinawa prefecture. Discounted Casualties is a sophisticated and successful exploration of the biological and social impacts of DU, an artifact as essential to the "New World Order" as the derringer was to the Wild West. It is sure to provoke indignation and outrage among its readers and hopefully inspiration in these most calamitous of times.

Dirty Weapons Casualties From Iraq War Will Mount
Chalmers Johnson, Pacific News Service, 5th May, 2003

Speaking to the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln from the ship's flight deck recently, President George W. Bush described a new era in warfare where modern weaponry can bring down regimes "without direct-ing violence against civilians." In fact, in both Gulf wars, unintended and potentially devastating consequences to both civilians and United States troops contradict Administration claims of new, low casualty combat. The most important of these consequences is Gulf War Syndrome, a potentially deadly medical disorder that first appeared among combat veterans of the 1990 1991 Gulf War. Just as the effects of Agent Orange during the Viet-nam War were first explained away by the Pentagon as "post traumatic stress disorder" or "combat fatigue," the Bush Administration is down-playing the potential toxic side effects of the ammunition now being widely used by its armed forces Depleted Uranium and its suspected role in sickening soldiers long after they leave the battlefield. During 1990 and 1991, some 696,778 individuals served in the Persian Gulf as elements of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Of these, 148 were killed in battle, 467 were wounded in action and 145 were killed in accidents, producing a total of 760 casualties quite a low number given the scale of the operations. However, as of May 2002 the Veterans Administration (V.A.) reported that an additional 8,306 soldiers had died and 159,705 were injured or became ill as a result of service connected "exposures" suffered during the war. Even more alarmingly the V.A. revealed that 206,861 veterans, almost a third of General Schwarzkopf's entire army, had filed claims for medical care, compensation, and pension benefits based on injuries and illnesses caused by combat in 1991. After reviewing the cases, the Agency has classified 168,011 applicants as "disabled veterans." In light of these deaths and disabilities, the casualty rate for the first Gulf War is actually a staggering 29.3 per cent.

Doctor Doug Rokke, a former Army colonel and Professor of Environmental Science at Jacksonville University, was in charge of the military's environmental clean up following the first Gulf War. The Penta-gon has since sacked him for criticizing NATO commanders for not ade-quately protecting their troops in areas where DU ammunition was used, such as Kosovo in 1999. Rokke notes that many thousands of American troops have been based in and around Kuwait since 1990, and according to his calculations, between August 1990 and May 2002, a total of 262,586 soldiers became "disabled veterans", and 10,617 have died. His numbers produce a casualty rate for the whole decade of 30.8 per cent. The health effects of DU munitions are hotly debated. Some researchers, often funded by the Pentagon, argue that Depleted Uranium could not possibly cause these war related maladies. A more likely explanation they say, is dust and debris from the destruction of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons factories in 1991 in the wake of the first Gulf War, or perhaps a "cocktail" of particles from DU ammunition, the destruction of nerve gas bunkers and polluted air from burning oil fields. But the evidence including abnormal clusters of childhood cancers and deformities in Iraq and also evidently in the areas of Kosovo where, in 1999, the United States used Depleted Uranium weapons in its air war against the Serbians points primarily toward DU. Moreover, by insisting using such weaponry, the Pentagon is deliberately flouting a 1996 United Nations Resolution that classifies DU ammunition as an illegal Weapon of Mass Destruction.

It [DU] is used in projectiles such as tank shells and cruise missiles because it is 1.7 times denser than lead, burns as it flies and penetrates armour easily. But it breaks up and vaporizes on impact, which makes it potentially deadly. Each shell fired by an American tank includes 10 pounds of DU. Such warheads are essentially "dirty bombs" not very radioactive individually, but nonetheless suspected of being capable in quantity of causing serious illnesses and birth defects. In 1991, United States forces fired a staggering 944,000 DU rounds in Kuwait and Iraq. The Pentagon admits that it left behind a bare minimum of 320 metric tons of DU on the battlefield. One study of Gulf War veterans showed that their children had a higher possibility of being born with severe deformities, including missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems and fused fingers. Rokke fears that because the military relied more heavily on DU munitions in the second Iraq War than in the first, postwar casualties may be even greater. When he sees television images of unprotected soldiers and Iraqi civilians driving past burning Iraqi trucks destroyed by tank fire or inspecting buildings hit by missiles, he suspects they are being poisoned by DU. Americans should pause before celebrating how few United States soldiers were killed in the second Gulf War. The full costs of that brief war will not be known for at least a decade.

Remains Of Toxic Bullets Litter Iraq
by Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, 15th May, 2003

Baghdad At a roadside produce stand on the outskirts of Baghdad, business is brisk for Latifa Khalaf Hamid. Iraqi drivers pull up and snap up fresh bunches of parsley, mint leaves, dill, and onion stalks. But Ms. Hamid's stand is just four paces away from a burnt out Iraqi tank, destroyed by and contaminated with controversial American Depleted Uranium bullets. Local children play "throughout the day" on the tank, Hamid says, and on another one across the road. No one has warned the vendor in the faded, threadbare black gown to keep the toxic and radioactive dust off her produce. The children haven't been told not to play with the radioactive debris. They gather around as a Geiger counter carried by a visiting reporter starts singing when it nears a DU bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser. It registers nearly 1,000 times normal background radiation levels on the digital readout. The Monitor visited four sites in the city including two randomly chosen destroyed Iraqi armoured vehicles, a clutch of burned American ammunition trucks, and the downtown Planning Ministry and found significant levels of radioactive contamination from the United States battle for Baghdad. In the first partial Pentagon disclosure of the amount of DU used in Iraq, a United States Central Command spokesman told the Monitor 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 would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq. The Monitor saw only one site where United States troops had put up handwritten warnings in Arabic for Iraqis to stay away. There, a 3 foot long DU dart from a 120 mm tank shell, was found producing radiation at more than 1,300 times background levels. It made the instrument's staccato bursts turn into a steady whine.

"If you have pieces or even whole [DU] penetrators around, this is not an acute health hazard, but it is for sure above radiation protection dose levels," says Werner Burkart, the German Deputy Director General for Nuclear Sciences and Applications at the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) in Vienna. "The important thing in any battlefield especially in populated urban areas is somebody has to clean up these sites." Fresh from the factory DU tank shells are normally handled with gloves, to minimize the health risk, and shielded with a thin coating. The alpha particle radiation emitted by DU travels less than an inch and can be stopped by cloth or even tissue paper. But when the DU material burns (usually on impact; or as a dust, it can spontaneously ignite) protective shields disappear, and dangerous radioactive oxides are created that can be inhaled or ingested. "[The risk] depends so very much on how you handle it," says Jan Olof Snihs, of Sweden's Radiation Protection Authority in Stockholm. In most cases dangers are low, he says, unless children eat toxic and radioactive soil, or get DU oxides on their hands. Radioactive particles are a "special risk associated with a war," Mr. Snihs says. "The authorities should be aware of this, and try to decontaminate places like this, just to avoid unnecessary risk." Pentagon officials say that DU is relatively harmless and a necessary part of modern warfare. They say that pre Gulf War studies that indicated a risk of cancer and of causing harm to local populations through permanent contamination have been superseded by newer reports. "There is not really any danger, at least that we know about, for the people of Iraq," said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sigmon, Deputy Surgeon for the United States Army's V Corps, told journalists in Baghdad last week. He asserted that children playing with expended tank shells would have to eat and then practically suffocate on DU residue to cause harm.

But there is a growing chorus of concern among United Nations and relief officials, along with some Western scientific experts, who are calling for sites contaminated with DU to be marked off and made safe. "The soil around the impact sites of (DU) penetrators may be heavily contaminated, and could be harmful if swallowed by children," says Brian Spratt, Chair[man] of the working group on DU at The Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific institution. Fragments and penetrators should be removed, since "children find them fascinating objects, and can pocket them," says Professor Spratt. "The science says there is some danger not perhaps a huge danger of these objects. . . . We certainly do not say that these things are safe, we say that clean-up is important." The British Ministry of Defence says it will offer screening to soldiers suspected of DU exposure, and will publish details about locations and quantities of DU that British troops used in Iraq a tiny fraction of that fired by United States forces. The Pentagon has traditionally been tight-lipped about DU: Official figures on the amount used were not released for many years after the 1991 Gulf War and Bosnia conflicts, and nearly a year after the 1999 Kosovo campaign. No United States official contacted could provide DU use estimates from the latest war in Iraq. "The first thing we should ask (the United States military) is to remove that immediately," says Carel de Rooy, head of the United Nations Children's Fund in Baghdad, adding that senior United Nations officials need urgent advice on avoiding exposure. The United Nations Environment Programme last month called for field tests. DU "is still an issue of great concern for the general public," said U.N.E.P. chief Klaus Töpfer. "An early study in Iraq could either lay these fears to rest or confirm that there are indeed potential risks."

During the latest Iraq conflict Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and A 10 Warthog aircraft, among other military platforms, all fired DU bullets from desert war zones to the heart of Baghdad. No other armour piercing round is as effective against enemy tanks. While the Pent-agon says there's no risk to Baghdad residents, United States soldiers are taking their own precautions in Iraq, and in some cases have handed out warning leaflets and put up signs. "After we shoot something with DU, we're not supposed to go round it due to the fact that it could cause cancer," says a sergeant in Baghdad from New York, assigned to a Brad-ley, who asked not to be further identified. "We don't know the effects of what it could do," says the sergeant. "If one of our vehicles burnt with a DU round inside, or an ammo truck, we wouldn't go near it, even if it had important documents inside. We play it safe." Six American vehicles struck with DU "friendly fire" in 1991 were deemed to be too contaminated to take home, and were buried in Saudi Arabia. Of 16 more brought back to a purpose built facility in South Carolina, six had to be buried in a low level radioactive waste dump. Television footage of the war last month showed Iraqi armoured vehicles burning as United States columns drove by, a common sign of a strike by DU, which burns through armour on impact, and often ignites the ammunition carried by the targeted vehicle. "We were buttoned up when we drove by that all our hatches were closed," the United States sergeant says. "If we saw anything on fire, we wouldn't stop anywhere near it, just keep on driving." That's an option that produce seller Hamid doesn't have. She says the United States broke its promise not to bomb civilians. She has found United States cluster bomblets in her garden; the DU is just another dangerous burden, in a war about which she remains sceptical. "We were told it was going to be para-dise (when Saddam Hussein was toppled) and now they are killing our children," she says, voicing a common Iraqi perception about the risk of DU. "The Americans did not bother to warn us that this is a contaminated area." There is a warning now at the Doura intersection on the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

In the days before the capital fell, four United States supply trucks clustered near an array of highway off ramps caught fire, cooking off a number of DU tank rounds. American troops wearing face masks for protection arrived a few days later and bulldozed the topsoil around the site to limit the contamination. The troops taped handwritten warning signs in Arabic to the burned vehicles, which read: "Danger Get away from this area". These were the only warnings seen by this reporter among dozens of destroyed Iraqi armoured vehicles littering the city. "All of them were wearing masks," says Abbas Mohsin, a teenage cousin of a drink seller 50 yards away, referring to the United States military clean-up crew. "They told the people there were toxic materials . . . and advised my cousin not to sell Pepsi and soft drinks in this area. They said they were concerned for our safety." Despite the troops' bulldozing of contaminated earth away from the burnt vehicles, black piles of pure DU ash and particles are still present at the site. The toxic residue, if inhaled or ingested, is considered by scientists to be the most dangerous form of DU. One pile of jet black dust yielded a digital readout of 9,839 radioactive emissions in one minute, more than 300 times average background levels registered by the Geiger counter. Another pile of dust reached 11,585 emissions in a minute. Western journalists who spent a night nearby on April 10th, the day after Baghdad fell, were warned by United States soldiers not to cross the road to this site, because bodies and unexploded ordnance remained, along with DU contamination. It was here that the Monitor found the "hot" DU tank round. This burned dart pushed the radiation meter to the far edge of the "red zone" limit. A similar DU tank round recovered in Saudi Arabia in 1991, that was found by a United States Army radiological team to be emitting 260 to 270 millirads of radiation per hour. Their safety memo noted that the "current (United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission) limit for non radiation workers is 100 millirads per year." The normal public dose limit in the United States, and recognized around much of the world, is 100 millirems per year. Nuclear workers have guidelines 20 to 30 times as high as that. The DU bullets are made of low level radioactive nuclear waste material, left over from the making of nuclear fuel and weapons. It is 1.7 times as dense as lead, and burns its way easily through armour. But it is controversial because it leaves a trail of contamination that has a half life of 4,500,000,000 years the age of our solar system.

In the first Gulf War, United States forces used 320 tons of DU, 80 per cent of it fired by A 10 aircraft. Some estimates suggest 1,000 tons or more of DU was used in the current war. But the Pentagon disclosure [on] Wednesday that about 75 tons of A 10 DU bullets were used points to a smaller overall DU tonnage in Iraq this time. United States military guidelines developed after the first Gulf War which have since been con-siderably eased required any soldier coming within 50 yards of a tank struck with DU to wear a gas mask and full protective suit. Today, soldiers say they have been told to steer clear of any DU. "If a (tank) was taken out by Depleted Uranium, there may be oxide that you don't want to inhale. We want to minimize any exposure, at least to the lowest level possible," Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a top Pentagon health official told journalists on March 14th, just days before the war began. "If somebody needs to go into a tank that's been hit with Depleted Uranium, a dust mask, a handkerchief is adequate to protect them washing their hands afterwards." Not every-one on the battlefield may be as well versed in handling DU, Dr. Kilpatrick said, noting that his greater concern is DU's chemical toxicity, not its radioactivity: "What we worry about like lead in paint in housing areas children picking it up and eating it or licking it getting it on their hands and ingesting it." In the United States, stringent N.R.C. [Nuclear Regula-tory Commission] rules govern any handling of DU, which can legally only be disposed of in low level radioactive waste dumps. The United States military holds more than a dozen N.R.C. licences to work with it.

In Iraq, DU was not just fired at armoured targets. Video footage from the last days of the war shows an A 10 aircraft a plane purpose built around a 30 mm Gatling gun strafing the Iraqi Ministry of Planning in downtown Baghdad. A visit to the site yields dozens of spent radioactive DU rounds, and distinctive aluminum casings with two white bands, that drilled into the tile and concrete rear of the building. DU residue at impact clicked on the Geiger counter at a relatively low level, just 12 times background radiation levels. But the finger sized bullets themselves littering the ground where looters and former staff are often walking were the "hottest" items the Monitor measured in Iraq, at nearly 1,900 times background levels. The site is just 300 yards from where American troops guard the main entrance of the Republican Palace, home to the United States and British official's tasked with rebuilding Iraq. "Radioactive? Oh, really?" asks a former Director General of the Ministry, when he retur-ned in a jacket and tie for a visit last week, and heard the contamination levels register in bursts on the Geiger counter. "Yesterday more than 1,000 employees came here, and they didn't know anything about it," the former official says. "We have started to not believe what the American govern-ment says. What I know is that the occupiers should clean up and take care of the country they invaded."

United States military officials often say that most people are exposed to natural or "background" radiation in daily life. For example, a round trip flight across the United States can yield a 5 millirem dose from increased cosmic radiation; a chest X ray can yield a 10 millirem dose in a few seconds. The Pentagon says that, since DU is "depleted" and 40 per cent less radioactive than normal uranium, it presents even less of a hazard. But DU experts say they are most concerned at how DU is transformed on the battlefield, after burning, into a toxic oxide dust that emits alpha particles. While those can be easily stopped by the skin, once inside the body, studies have shown that they can destroy cells in soft tissue. While one study on rats linked DU fragments in muscle tissue to increased cancer risk, health effects on humans remain inconclusive. As late as five days before the Iraq war began, Pentagon officials said that 90 of those troops most heavily exposed to DU during the 1991 Gulf War have shown no health problems whatsoever, and remain under close medical scrutiny. Released documents and past admissions from military officials, however, estimate that around 900 Americans were exposed to DU. Only a fraction have been watched, and among those has been one diagnosed case of lymphatic cancer, and one arm tumour. As reported in previous articles, the Monitor has spoken to American veterans who blame their DU exposure for serious health problems. But DU health concerns are very often wrapped up in politics.

Saddam Hussein's regime blamed DU used in 1991 for causing a spike in the cancer rate and birth defects in southern Iraq. And the Penta-gon often overstates its case in terms of DU effectiveness on the battle-field, or declaring the absence of health problems, according to Dan Fahey, an American veterans advocate who has monitored the shrill arguments from both sides since the mid 1990s. "DU munitions are neither the ben-ign wonder weapons promoted by Pentagon propagandists nor the instru-ments of genocide decried by hyperbolic anti DU activists," Mr. Fahey writes in a March report, called "Science or Science Fiction: Facts, Myth and Propaganda in the Debate Over DU Weapons". Nonetheless, Repres-entative Jim McDermott (Democratic Party) of Washington, a doctor who visited Baghdad before the war, introduced legislation in Congress last month requiring studies on health and environment studies, and clean up of DU contamination in the United States. He says DU may well be associated with increased birth defects. "While the political effects of us-ing DU munitions are perhaps more apparent than their health and environ-mental effects," Fahey writes, "science and common sense dictate it is unwise to use a weapon that distributes large quantities of a toxic waste in areas where people live, work, grow food, or draw water." Because of the publicity the Iraqi government has given to the issue, Iraqis worry about DU. "It is an important concern. . . . We know nothing about it. How can I protect my family?" asks Faiz Askar, an Iraqi doctor. "We say the war is finished, but what will the future bring?"

Depleted Uranium Casts Shadow Over Peace In Iraq
Duncan Graham Rowe, the New Scientist, 15th April, 2003

Wrecked tanks and vehicles litter the Iraqi countryside. Ruined buildings dominate towns and cities. Many were blown to pieces by shells tipped with depleted uranium, a material that the United States and Britain say poses no long term health or environmental risks. But many Iraqis, and a growing band of scientists, are not so sure. Last week, the United Nations Environment Programme (U.N.E.P. announced it wanted to send a scien-tific team into Iraq as soon as possible to examine the effects of Depleted Uranium. People's fears that DU leaves a deadly legacy must be addressed, says U.N.E.P. Some scientists go further. Evidence is emerging that DU affects our bodies in ways we do not fully understand, they say, and the legacy could be real. DU is both radioactive and toxic. Past studies of DU in the environment have concluded that neither of these effects poses a significant risk. But some researchers are beginning to suspect that in combination, the two effects could do significant harm. Nobody has taken a hard look at the combined effect of both, says Alexandra Miller, a radiobiologist with the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. "The bottom line is it might contribute to the risk." She is not alone. The idea that chemical and radiological damage are reinforcing each other is very plausible and gaining momentum, says Carmel Mothersill, head of the Radiation and Environmental Science Centre at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland. "The regulators don't know how to handle it. So they sweep it under the carpet."

During the Gulf war in 1991, the United States and Britain fired an estimated 350 tonnes of DU at Iraqi tanks, a figure likely to be matched in the course of the current conflict. In the years since then, doctors in south-ern Iraq have reported a marked increase in cancers and birth defects, and suspicion has grown that they were caused by DU contamination from tank battles on farmland west of Basra. As the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence point out, this claim has not been substantiated. Iraq did not allow the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to carry out an independent assessment. Given its low radioactivity and our current understanding of radiobiology, DU cannot trigger such health effects, the British and American governments maintain. But what if they are wrong? Though DU is 40 per cent less radioactive than natural uranium, Miller believes that its radiological and toxic effects might combine in subtle, unforeseen ways, making it more carcinogenic than thought. It's a controversial theory, but one for which Miller has increasing evidence. Uranium is "genotoxic". It chemically alters D.N.A., switching on genes that would otherwise not be expressed. The fear is that the resulting abnormally high activity in cells could be a precursor to tumour growth. But while the chemical toxicity of DU is reasonably well established, Mothersill points out that the radiological effects of DU are less clear.

To gauge the risk from low dose radiation, researchers extrapolate from tests using higher doses. But the relationship between dose and effect is not linear: at low doses radiation kills relatively fewer cells. And though that sounds like good news, it could mean that low radiation is having subtle effects that go unnoticed because cells are not dying, says Mother-sill. Miller has found one way this may happen. She has discovered the first direct evidence that radiation from DU damages chromosomes within cultured cells. The chromosomes break, and the fragments reform in a way that results in abnormal joins (Military Medicine, vol. 167, p 120). Both the breaks and the joins are commonly found in tumour cells. More cruci-ally, she has recently found that DU radiation increases gene activity in cultured cells at doses of DU not known to cause chemical toxicity (Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, in press). The possible consequen-ces are made all the more uncertain because no one knows if genes swit-ched on by DU radiation enhance the damage caused by genes switched on by DU's toxic effects, or vice versa. "I think that we assumed that we knew everything that we needed to know about uranium," says Miller. "This is something we have to consider now when we think about risk estimates." Britain's Royal Society briefly referred to these synergistic effects in its report last year on the health effects of DU munitions. "There is a possibility of damage to D.N.A. due to the chemical effects being enhanced by the effects of the alpha particle irradiation." But it makes no recommendations for future research to evaluate the risks.

The bystander effect. Miller points to another reason to be con-cerned about DU: the so called "bystander effect". There is a growing consensus among scientists that radiation damages more than just the cells it directly hits. In tests using equipment that allows single cells to be irradiated by individual alpha particles, gene expression increases both in irradiated cells, and in neighbouring cells that have not been exposed. "At high doses, 'bystander' is not an issue because you are killing so many cells. But at low doses that's not really true," says Miller. There is a danger that experiments not specifically looking for this effect could miss an important source of damage. A body of research has also emerged over the past decade showing that the effects of radiation may not appear immediately. Damage to genes may be amplified as cells divide, so the full consequences may only appear many generations after the event that caused it. And while the chemical toxicity of DU itself is more clear cut, the possibility remains that there may still be some unforeseen synergistic effects at a genetic level. Other heavy metals, such as tungsten, nickel and cobalt are similarly genotoxic. When Miller and her team exposed human cells to a mixture of these metals, significantly more genes became activated than when the cells were exposed to the equivalent amount of each metal separately (Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, in press).

Miller and Mothersill say that recommended safe radiation limits are often based on the idea that only irradiated cells will be affected, and ignore both the bystander effect and the possible amplification over the generations. "Nothing should be written in stone when it comes to risk assessment," agrees Michael Clark at Britain's National Radiological Prot-ection Board. But even if there were a case for re evaluating the dosimetry for low dose radiation, he says we should be cautious of the significance of Miller's laboratory based research. "An in vitro effect is not a health effect." [in vitro - taking place in a test tube, outside a living organism]. Also, says Clark, everyone has traces of natural uranium in their bodies. "if there was some sort of subtle low dose effect I think we would have seen it," he says. Because none has shown up in epidemiological studies, it seems unlikely there are any health effects associated with DU, which is less radioactive. But Miller is not convinced. While most people have small amounts of uranium in their bodies, she says no studies have been done to see whether this contributes to cases of cancer in society at large. The military tends to dismiss such hazards as being of only theoretical significance, at least when it comes to civilians. According to the Penta-gon, the only risk of exposure is during combat, when DU shells hit hard targets and the metal ignites. This creates clouds of uranium oxide dust that can be breathed in. But heavy oxide particles quickly settle, it says, limiting the risk of exposure. "A small dust particle is still very heavy," says Michael Kilpatrick of the United States Deployment Health Support Directorate. "it stays on the ground." That sounds reassuring until you read U.N.E.P.'s latest report on DU left over from conflicts in former Yugosla-via in the mid 1990s. Last month, a team of experts collaborating with the International Atomic Energy Agency and NATO concluded that DU poses little risk in Bosnia although it can still be detected at many sites. Just 11 tonnes was fired in that conflict. But evidence that DU may be moving through the ground and could contaminate local water supplies should be investigated further, U.N.E.P. says. And on rare occasions, wind or human activity may raise DU laden dust that local people could inhale. The Royal Society admits that localised areas of DU contamination pose a risk, particularly to young children, and should be cleared up as a priority. They also recommend the environmental sampling of affected areas (see Royal Society Reports on DU, 2002, below). Such evidence is partly why U.N.E.P. is keen to study DU fired during the present conflict in Iraq. Assessments in former Yugoslavia were made up to seven years after DU weapons were used, U.N.E.P. admits, and a more immediate study in Iraq would give us a much better understanding of how DU behaves in the environment. Any hazards such a study identifies could be dealt with immediately, says U.N.E.P. And even now, an investigation in Iraq could reveal risks remaining from DU fired during the Gulf war in 1991.

Veterans show ill effects. Cracks are also appearing in the argu-ment that DU munitions have not proven harmful even to troops. In the 1991 war, more than 100 coalition troops were exposed to DU after being accidentally fired on by their own forces. The majority inhaled uranium oxide, while the rest suffered shrapnel injuries. Some still have DU in their bodies. Britain and America point out that none has developed can-cers or kidney problems, as might have been expected if DU posed a long term danger. But researchers at the Bremen Institute for Prevention Research, Social Medicine and Epidemiology in Germany have found that all is not well with the veterans. Last month they published results from tests in which they took blood samples from 16 of the soldiers, and counted the number of chromosomes in which broken strands of D.N.A. had been incorrectly repaired. In veterans, these abnormalities occurred at five times the rate as in a control group of 40 healthy volunteers (Radiation Protec-tion Dosimetry, vol. 103, p 211). "Increased chromosomal aberrations are associated with an increased incidence of cancers," says team member Heike Schröder. The damage occurred, they say, because the soldiers inhaled DU particles in battle. The N.R.P.B. is unconvinced. "it is possible that exposure to significant amounts of DU could cause excess chromosome aberrations, but this study has technical flaws," says Clark. "There are no proper controls to compare results with soldiers who were not exposed to DU And some of the reported excess aberrations are well known to be linked to chemicals rather than radiation."

Deciding whether DU is to blame will be tough. Independent res-earch may confirm that rates of cancer have increased in the Iraqi popula-tion. But the Iraqi government has used chemical weapons on its own people that can produce the same outcome, and it is impossible to know for sure who may have been exposed. [this scientific postulation of course ignores the complicity of the Western Powers and Iran, in what is known as the Halabjah affair, in Northern Iraq - Ed.]. Soldiers may similarly have been exposed to chemicals in 1991. The only way to resolve the issue is more research, says Dudley Goodhead, director of Britain's Medical Res-earch Council's Radiation and Genorne Stability Unit at Harwell, near Oxford. "It's something important that needs to be explained." Miller admits it is entirely possible that DU contamination is safe. But many of the scientific investigations into DU have only just begun, and their results will be long coming. "None of this has been looked at or even thought about it until the last few years," she says. As the dust begins to settle in Iraq, it remains to be seen when the ravages of war will end.

Royal Society reports on DU, 2002 Conclusions

* Most soldiers have a negligible risk of dying of cancer caused by radiation from battlefield DU. It will be the risk of dying from cancer over a normal lifetime. Soldiers should not suffer adverse effects on the kidney or other organs.

* A few soldiers, for instance those who clean up vehicles struck by DU, may have an excess risk of lung cancer and may develop short term kidney damage. People living in areas where DU was deployed have a negligible risk of developing cancers as a result inhaling DU resuspended in the air. But it is uncertain how much DU is inhaled in years following a conflict. Most people should not suffer any effects on kidney function from inhaled DU.

* Ingestion of DU from contaminated water and food, and from soil, will be highly variable and may be significant in some cases: for example, children playing in areas where DU shells have impacted.

Royal Society reports on DU, 2002 Recommendations

* Long term epidemiological studies of soldiers exposed to DU, and environmental sampling, particularly of water and milk, should be undertaken. Information about DU levels should be given to local populations, and contaminated areas cleaned up.

* British veterans exposed to high levels of DU should be identified and independently evaluated. An independent study of anecdotal reports of death and illness in United States veterans linked to DU is required.

* In any future conflict using DU munitions, tests of kidney function should be completed on soldiers as soon after exposure as practical.

* Better estimates of DU levels in the air around tanks, and models of DU oxide behaviour during impact, are required. More information is needed on the bioavailability of DU and titanium products from munitions, and whether these concentrate in plants and animals.


The United States now does more or less as it pleases, regardless of the Geneva Conventions, International Law or the United Nations. Of those who must, knowingly, have sent our Armed Forces into an environ-ment involving serious risks from DU, only the former Chief of the Def-ence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, has spoken out, and then only in general terms of the pressures on our under-funded, ill-equipped and over-stretched resources. To our knowledge not one serving or retired senior officer has spoken on the issue of DU and the suffering of those they once commanded. From the safety of his "bunker" in the West, Prime Minister Blair has prated sanctimoniously about the 1,000,000 Iraqis slaughtered by Saddam Hussein. Not once has he admitted to the 1,000,000 innocent Iraqi civilians killed by ten years of draconian sanctions imposed largely by the United States and United Kingdom, or some 10,000 killed as Coalition Forces "trampled" on their country and its culture during the recent "libera-tion" of Iraq. Perhaps the political reality is best summed up by John Pil-ger in his account of a meeting between Hans von Sponeck, former United Nations Humanitarian Commissioner in Iraq, and junior Foreign Minister, and "instant expert" on science and Middle East affairs, Peter Hain(10):

* Hain's enthusiam for promoting sanctions has shocked those who remember him as a tenacious anti-apartheid campaigner and opponent of the American invasion of Indochina. Perhaps ambitious apostates are like that. He has even claimed "there is no credible data" linking the use of depleted uranium by Britain and the U.S. in Iraq with a sevenfold increase in cancers among the civilan population.


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