IRAQ, BEFORE AND AFTER
Published in Two Parts - Part Two
THOSE WHO CONSIGN US TO OUR DEATHS
THE REALITY OF POWER, UNRESTRAINED BY MORALITY
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).
OBFUSCATION, PREVARICATION - AND LIES
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
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
THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF DEPLETED URANIUM
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
* 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,"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
A HUMAN SACRIFICE TOO FAR?
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'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.
Note: Prices are shown where available from Bloomfield
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(1) Why a Major War Is Needed - The Global Economy
and Those Who Control It. Published in 2 Parts. On Target, Vol. 32,
Nos. 7 - 11, 5th & 19th October and 2nd, 16th & 30th November,
(2) See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Oil. On Target, Vol. 31, Nos.
5 & 6, 8th & 22nd September, 2001.
(3) September The Eleventh, 2001. Published in 3 Parts. On Target, Vol.
31, Nos. 7 - 13, 6th & 20th October, 3rd & 17th November, and
1st, 15th & 29th December, 2001.
(4) Government Policies For Industrial Pollution And Acceptance Of The
Dangers To Public Health. On Target, Vol. 29, Nos 14, 15 & 16, 1st,
15th & 29th January, 2000.
(5) The Environment And Pollution - A Dirty Business. On Target, Vol.
31, Nos 16 & 17, 9th & 23rd February, 2002.
(6) Food Slavery Through Food Dependency - Hidden Government - Centralisation
Of Power. On Target, Vol. 27, Nos. 21 & 22, 11th & 25th April,
(7) Cook, Judith. The Year of the Pyres - The 2001 Foot-and-Mouth Epidemic.
Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited, 2001.
(8) Government Policies For Industrial Pollution And Acceptance Of The
Dangers To Public Health. Op. cit.
(9) Hooper, M., E.P. Marshall & M. Williams. What is ME? What is
CFS? - Information for Clinicians and lawyers. December, 2001. Obtainable
from: Professor M. Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry,
School Sciences, Fleming Building, Wharncliffe Street, University of
Sunderland, Sunderland, SR2 3SD. £3.00 inclusive of postage and
(10) Pilger, John. The New Rulers Of The World. Verso, 2002.
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