Weapons Dust Worries Iraqis
Published on Monday, November 1, 2004 by the Hartford Courant
Weapons Dust Worries Iraqis
Provisional Government Seeks Cleanup; U.S. Downplays Risks
by Thomas D. Williams
Despite assurances from the U.S. military that depleted uranium from
exploded munitions does not pose a significant health threat, Iraq's
provisional government is asking the United Nations for help cleaning
up the low-level radioactive, metal dust spread across local
battlefields by U.S. and British forces during the Persian Gulf wars.
The request comes as the United States continues to defend
uranium weaponry - prized for its tank-piercing and bunker- or
cave-smashing ability - against strong opposition by other countries,
scientists and veterans organizations.
Great Britain, a major partner in the coalition now fighting in
has provided the U.N. with the coordinates where its forces used
depleted uranium, also known as DU, in southern Iraq, but the United
States has not. Britain and Germany are supplying money to train Iraqis
in environmental science. The United Nations plans to survey for DU hot
spots from both wars in Iraq and says it needs the coordinates for an
Neither British nor U.S. authorities have offered to augment the
million donated mainly by Japan to the United Nations to evaluate sites
of wartime contamination that health experts say threaten the
well-being of Iraqi civilians.
In late October, Army Lt. Col. Mark Melanson said a five-year,
million Defense Department study of a simulated DU tank explosion shows
"the chemical risks of breathing in uranium dust are so low that it
won't cause any long-term health risks," even for the tank crew.
Health Concerns Remain
Concern about the health effects of depleted uranium is not
overseas countries. The Defense Department's contention that depleted
uranium has not been shown to affect health adversely and therefore
doesn't need to be cleaned up is contrary to its own rules for handling
it. Those rules mirror the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's and
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's treatment of depleted uranium as
an environmental hazard and danger to public health. Federal regulators
have shut down some U.S. nuclear weapons and uranium processing and
munitions plants, found to be contaminated by depleted uranium.
Billions of dollars are being spent on its cleanup in the United
Depleted uranium, or U-238, is a toxic, heavy metal byproduct of
uranium enrichment that gives the world uranium suitable for use in
nuclear weapons and reactor fuel. It is also used in munitions, ballast
for airplanes, tank armor and other products. It has a half-life of 4.5
In 2002 at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in
Bethesda, Md., researchers found that even though the alpha radiation
from depleted uranium is relatively low, internalized DU as a metal can
induce DNA damage and carcinogenic lesions in the cells that make up
bones in the human body.
Depleted uranium was first used widely in combat in the 1991
Gulf War. The material in armor-piercing munitions ignites and burns on
impact at temperatures of several thousand degrees Celsius. While
burning, tiny particles, or dust, of uranium oxide aerosol are created.
Wind can carry these considerable distances.
Since 1991, the cancer rates in Iraq have risen sharply in areas
depleted uranium was used, according to Iraqi medical studies reviewed
by scientists from other countries. In addition, more than 230,000 of
the 697,000 U.S. soldiers who served in that war have filed disability
claims for various maladies, the majority of which fall under the broad
category of gulf war syndrome.
With many of the causes of these illnesses still eluding
several lawmakers, at the urging of veterans groups, pushed for
legislation to study depleted uranium further, to see if there is a
connection with gulf war and other wartime illnesses. It called also
for cleaning up depleted uranium munitions firings.
In the Republican-controlled Congress, the measures quietly died
fall inside the House Health Subcommittee. Congress and three
presidential administrations have either remained silent on the dispute
or have dismissed the environmental and health concerns raised.
Council Urges Ban
U.N.-related organizations, citing studies showing more cancers
birth defects among civilians and soldiers in countries where depleted
uranium munitions have been used, have pressed for more studies and a
ban on their use until the effects are better understood. The Council
of Europe, Europe's oldest inter-governmental organization of 46
nations, has called for a ban on the production, use, testing and sale
of munitions containing depleted uranium or plutonium.
But U.S. political leaders in Congress and at the White House
refused to acknowledge that depleted uranium might seriously harm
soldiers and civilians.
At home, the United States has spent billions of dollars
depleted uranium - at former munitions factories, military firing
ranges and nuclear fuel production sites. A General Accounting Office
report in 2000 put the cost of cleanup at the uranium enrichment plant
in Paducah, Ky., where DU is processed for use in weapons and nuclear
reactors, at $1.3 billion. By December 2003, the cost of cleaning up
and closing the plant, estimated to take until 2070, was up to $13
Cleaning up DU contamination in Iraq, experts say, would come
multibillion-dollar price tag.
Any money spent on cleaning up depleted uranium in Iraq would be
addition to the estimated $225 billion that the United States will be
spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if Congress approves the
Bush administration's estimated $70 billion in emergency funding
request early next year.
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Agency,
the United Nations has not asked the Department of Defense or State
Department for assistance in cleaning up depleted uranium in Iraq.
The U.N. Environmental Programme's chairman, Pekka Haavisto,
said his organization has kept the State Department informed of those
Since 1991, the United States and Britain have fired hundreds of
of DU munitions during four wars - in the Balkans, Afghanistan and
twice in Iraq.
U.N. environmental spokesman Michael Williams said the United
has not supplied coordinates on the sites where DU munitions were fired
in Iraq or offered to clean it up. Haavisto added: "U.S. government has
the information that if field assessments will be done, exact DU
coordinates are needed."
Bill Dies Quietly
Last year, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, a U.S. Navy
during the Vietnam War, sponsored a bill to pay for a definitive study
of the health effect of DU munitions and to clean up dust and fragments
after their use. The bill was referred to the House Armed Services and
Energy and Commerce committees and then to the committee's Health
Subcommittee, where it died.
McDermott's spokesman, Mike DeCesare, said the Republican
blocked the bill's passage. But a spokesman for the Health Subcommittee
said the committee counsel could find no "aggressive action" by
McDermott to get a hearing for it. DeCesare insisted, however, that if
McDermott is re-elected, he intends to reintroduce the bill, which was
supported by Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District.
"Depleted uranium is a potential health hazard for the Iraqi
and we need to do all we can to make sure that as Iraq is rebuilt, we
help the new Iraqi government mitigate any public health threats,"
The debate over DU has not made much of an impact on the
race. President Bush sides with the Pentagon. The Democratic nominee,
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts does not have a position on the use of
depleted uranium munitions, his communications director, Andy Davis,
Independent candidate Ralph Nader, a Connecticut native, said DU
munitions are environmentally dangerous and should never have been used
in the first place.
"The denial and cruel coverup has gone on too long," Nader said.
"These soldiers and civilians who suffered [adverse health from
exposure to DU] deserve the truth and respectful assistance. The first
step is to admit the problem. The second step is to measure the size of
the problem and then clean up the environmental toxins. The next step
is to stop using depleted uranium munitions."
But the Bush administration, which insists DU poses little
environmental risk so cleanup is not needed, takes the Pentagon's
advice on such matters.
"If the [Defense Department] indicated to us that the DU rounds
explosions were a cause of concern, and they have not done so, a study
or inquiry of their use would be warranted," said Bush's National
Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones. "Then we would be faced
with that decision. The [Defense Department] has not contacted us, nor
to the best of my knowledge has any international body contacted us."
There have been many instances when the military directed
uranium cleanups overseas.
For example, a private contractor working for the Department of
Defense was paid $3.5 million to cleanup DU-contaminated military
equipment and a practice firing range in Kuwait. MKM Engineers Inc.
based in Stafford, Texas, performed a limited cleanup in Kuwait from
February 2003 to June 2004. The company recovered 22 tons of DU
fragments and 75 pieces of non-DU ordnance scrap. The unexploded DU
ordnance was destroyed with Kuwaiti assistance. MKM also cleaned
military hardware, including tanks, and wrapped them to contain surface
contamination before sending them back to the United States.
The U.S. Army Material Command, responsible for the Kuwaiti
described the work as retrieval of equipment and munitions, not a clean
The Department of Defense "does not clean up DU once it leaves a
weapons system such as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and hits an enemy
building, or vehicle," said Melissa Bohan, an Army public affairs
official. Army regulations require the clean-up and proper handling of
U.S. equipment hit by depleted uranium munitions.
MKM referred to some of its work in Kuwait as a cleanup. And,
Defense Department has a low-level radioactive waste cleanup program,
whose goal is "the safe and compliant disposal of low-level radioactive
waste," including depleted uranium. It includes the Army Contaminated
Equipment Retrograde Team, which supervises cleanup of low-level
radioactive contamination of Army equipment worldwide.
Military regulations require immediate medical tests and
any soldiers exposed to dust and fragments from depleted uranium shell
explosions. Some nuclear scientists studying the health effects of
those inhaling DU believe even a speck of the dust in the lungs or
bloodstream can eventually cause cancer or kidney disease in adults or
cancers or deformities in babies if even one parent has been exposed.
Marion Fulk, 83, a former nuclear chemical physicist at Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory who was involved with the Manhattan
Project's development of the atomic bomb, said that even nano-size
particles of DU in the blood and lungs are a serious destructive force.
Others who support the Defense Department position say only
of large quantities creates serious health problems.
he started to get sick, Staff Sergeant Raymond Ramos's first instinct
was to fight. "I had joint pains, muscle aches, chronic fatigue, but I
tried to exercise it out," he says. "I was going for runs, working out.
But I never got any better. The headaches were getting more frequent
and sometimes lasted all day. I was losing a lot of weight. My overall
physical demeanor was bad."
A 20-year veteran of the
New York National Guard, Ramos had been mobilized for active duty in
Iraq in the spring of 2003. His unit, the 442nd Military Police
company, arrived there on Easter, 10 days before President Bush's
mission accomplished appearance on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.
A tall, soft-spoken 40-year-old with four children, the youngest still
an infant, Ramos was proud of his physique. In civilian life, he was a
New York City cop. "I worked on a street narcotics team. It was very
busy, with lots of overtime-very demanding." Now, rising unsteadily
from his armchair in his thickly carpeted living room in Queens, New
York, Ramos grimaces. "The shape I came back in, I cannot perform at
that level. I've lost 40 pounds. I'm frail."
first, as his unit patrolled the cities of Najaf and al-Diwaniyya,
Ramos stayed healthy. But in June 2003, as temperatures climbed above
110 degrees, his unit was moved to a makeshift base in an abandoned
railroad depot in Samawah, where some fierce tank battles had taken
place. "When we first got there, I was a heat casualty, feeling very
weak," Ramos says. He expected to recover quickly. Instead, he went
By the middle of August, when the
442nd was transferred to Babylon, Ramos says, the right side of his
face and both of his hands were numb, and he had lost most of the
strength in his grip. His fatigue was worse and his headaches had
become migraines, frequently so severe "that I just couldn't function."
His urine often contained blood, and even when it didn't he would feel
a painful burning sensation, which "wouldn't subside when I finished."
His upper body was covered by a rash that would open and weep when he
scratched it. As he tells me this, he lifts his shirt to reveal a mass
of pale, circular scars. He was also having respiratory difficulties.
Later, he would develop sleep apnea, a dangerous condition in which he
would stop breathing during sleep.
was medevaced to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Doctors
there were baffled and sent him on to the Walter Reed Army Medical
Center, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. There, Ramos says, one
neurologist suggested that his condition could have been caused by some
long-forgotten head injury or might just be "signs of aging." At the
end of September 2003, the staff at Walter Reed ordered him to report
to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where, he says, a captain went through his
record and told him, "I was clear to go back to Iraq. I got the
impression they thought I was faking it." He was ordered to participate
in a long-distance run. Halfway through, he collapsed. Finally, on July
31, 2004, after months of further examinations, Ramos was discharged
with a medical disability and sent home.
such as Ramos's had been seen before. In veterans of Operation Desert
Storm, they came to be called Gulf War syndrome; among those posted to
Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, Balkans syndrome. He was not the only
member of the 442nd to suffer them. Others had similar urinary
problems, joint pains, fatigue, headaches, rashes, and sleep apnea.
Today, some scientists believe that all these problems, together with
others found in war-zone civilians, can be traced to the widespread use
of a uniquely deadly form of ammunition.
ongoing Iraq conflict, just as in the Gulf War of 1991 and in the
Balkans, American and British forces have fired tens of thousands of
shells and cannon rounds made of a toxic and radioactive material
called depleted uranium, or D.U. Because D.U. is dense-approximately
1.7 times as dense as lead-and ignites upon impact, at a temperature of
about 5,400 degrees, it can penetrate armor more effectively than any
It's also remarkably cheap. The arms
industry gets its D.U. for free from nuclear-fuel processors, which
generate large quantities of it as a by-product of enriching uranium
for reactor fuel. Such processors would otherwise have to dispose of it
in protected, regulated sites. D.U. is "depleted" only in the sense
that most of its fissile U-235 isotope has been removed. What's
left-mainly U-238-is still radioactive.
Three of the
main weapons systems still being used in Iraq-the M-1 Abrams tank, the
Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and the A-10 Warthog attack jet-use D.U.
ammunition. A 120-mm. tank round contains about nine pounds of solid
D.U. When a D.U. "penetrator" strikes its target, up to 70 percent of
the shell's mass is flung into the air in a shower of uranium-oxide
fragments and dust, some in the form of aerosolized particles less than
a millionth of a meter in diameter. When inhaled, such particles lodge
in the lungs and bathe the surrounding tissue with alpha radiation,
known to be highly dangerous internally, and smaller amounts of beta
and gamma radiation.
Even before Desert Storm, the
Pentagon knew that D.U. was potentially hazardous. Before last year's
Iraq invasion, it issued strict regulations designed to protect
civilians, troops, and the environment after the use of D.U. But the
Pentagon insists that there is little chance that these veterans'
illnesses are caused by D.U.
The U.S. suffered only
167 fatal combat casualties in the first Gulf War. Since then, veterans
have claimed pensions and health-care benefits at a record rate. The
Veterans Administration reported this year that it was paying
service-related disability pensions to 181,996 Gulf War veterans-almost
a third of the total still living. Of these, 3,248 were being
compensated for "undiagnosed illnesses." The Pentagon's spokesman, Dr.
Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of its Deployment Health section,
says that Gulf War veterans are no less healthy than soldiers who were
Those returning from Operation
Iraqi Freedom are also beginning to report illnesses in significant
numbers. In July 2004, the V.A. disclosed that 27,571 of them-16.4
percent of the total-had sought health care. Of that group, 8,134
suffered muscular and skeletal ailments; 3,505 had respiratory
problems; and 5,674 had "symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions."
An additional 153 had developed cancers. The V.A. claims that such
figures are "typical of young, active, healthcare-seeking populations,"
but does not offer figures for comparison.
also evidence of a large rise in birth defects and unprecedented cancer
rates among civilians following the first Gulf War in the Basra region
of southern Iraq, where the heaviest fighting took place. Dr.
Kilpatrick says, "I think it's very important to try to understand what
are the causes of that high rate of cancer and birth defects. There has
to be a good look at that, but if you go to the M. D. Anderson
hospital, in Houston, Texas, you're going to find a very high rate of
cancer. That's because people from all over the country with cancer go
there, because it's one of the premier care centers. Basra was the only
major hospital in southern Iraq. Are the people there with these
different problems people who lived their entire lives in Basra, or are
they people who've come to Basra for care?" It is possible, he says,
that some other environmental factor is responsible for the illnesses,
such as Saddam's chemical weapons or poor nutrition. "I don't think
anything should be taken off the table."
2004, an early draft of a study by the Research Advisory Committee on
Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, a scientific panel run by the V.A., was
leaked to The New York Times. According to the Times, the panel had
concluded that there was a "probable link" between veterans' illnesses
and exposure to neurotoxins, including a drug given to troops in 1991
to protect them from nerve gas, and nerve gas itself, which was
released when U.S.-led forces destroyed an Iraqi arms depot. Asked why
there was no mention of D.U. in the report, Dr. Lea Steele, the panel's
scientific director, says that her group plans to address it in a later
report: "We've only just begun work on this topic. We are certainly not
ruling it out."
D.U.'s critics, meanwhile, say it's
entirely possible that both neurotoxins and D.U. are responsible for
the widespread sickness among veterans.
of the 442nd have vivid memories of being exposed to D.U. Sergeant
Hector Vega, a youthful-looking 48-year-old who in civilian life works
in a building opposite Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum, says he now
struggles with chest pains, heart palpitations, headaches, urinary
problems, body tremors, and breathlessness-none of which he'd ever
experienced before going to Iraq. He recalls the unit's base there:
"There were burnt-out Iraqi tanks on flatbed trucks 100 yards from
where we slept. It looked like our barracks had also been hit, with
black soot on the walls. It was open to the elements, and dust was
coming in all the time. When the wind blew, we were eating it,
breathing it. It was everywhere." (The Department of Defense, or
D.O.D., says that a team of specialists is conducting an occupational
and environmental health survey in the area.)
Asaf Durakovic, 64, is a retired U.S. Army colonel and the former head
of nuclear medicine at a veterans' hospital in Wilmington, Delaware.
Dr. Durakovic reports finding D.U. in the urine of 18 out of 30 Desert
Storm veterans, sometimes up to a decade after they were exposed, and
in his view D.U. fragments are both a significant cause of Gulf War
syndrome and a hazard to civilians for an indefinite period of time. He
says that when he began to voice these fears inside the military he was
first warned, then fired: he now operates from Toronto, Canada, at the
independent Uranium Medical Research Centre.
December 2003, Dr. Durakovic analyzed the urine of nine members of the
442nd. With funds supplied by the New York Daily News, which first
published the results, Durakovic sent the samples to a laboratory in
Germany that has some of the world's most advanced mass-spectrometry
equipment. He concluded that Ramos, Vega, Sergeant Agustin Matos, and
Corporal Anthony Yonnone were "internally contaminated by depleted
uranium (D.U.) as a result of exposure through [the] respiratory
The Pentagon contests these findings. Dr.
Kilpatrick says that, when the D.O.D. conducted its own tests, "our
results [did] not mirror the results of Dr. Durakovic." "Background"
sources, such as water, soil, and therefore food, frequently contain
some uranium. The Pentagon insists that the 442nd soldiers' urinary
uranium is "within normal dietary ranges," and that "it was not
possible to distinguish D.U. from the background levels of natural
uranium." The Pentagon says it has tested about 1,000 vets from the
current conflict and found D.U. contamination in only five. Its critics
insist this is because its equipment is too insensitive and its testing
methods are hopelessly flawed.
At a briefing before
the Iraq invasion in March 2003, Dr. Kilpatrick tried to reassure
reporters about D.U. by citing the cases of about 20 Desert Storm vets
who had D.U. shrapnel in their bodies. "We have not seen any untoward
medical consequences in these individuals," he said. "There has been no
cancer of bone or lungs, where you would expect them." It appears that
he misspoke on that occasion: one of these veterans had already had an
arm amputated for an osteosarcoma, or bone tumor, at the site where the
shrapnel entered. Dr. Kilpatrick confirms that the veteran was treated
by the V.A. in Baltimore, but says his condition may not have been
linked with the shrapnel: "Osteosarcomas are fairly common." Studies
have shown that D.U. can begin to move through the body and concentrate
in the lymph nodes, and another of the vets with shrapnel has a form of
lymphatic cancer. But this, Dr. Kilpatrick says, has "no known cause."
He concedes that research has not proved the negative, that D.U.
doesn't cause cancer. But, he says, "science doesn't in 2004 show that
D.U. causes any cancer."
It does, however, show that
it may. Pentagon-sponsored studies at the Armed Forces Radiobiology
Research Institute, in Bethesda, Maryland, have found that, when D.U.
was embedded in animals, several genes associated with human tumors
underwent "aberrant activation," and oncoproteins of the type found in
cancer patients turned up in their blood. The animals' urine was
"mutagenic," meaning that it could cause cells to mutate. Another
institute project found that D.U. could damage the immune system by
hastening the death of white blood cells and impairing their ability to
In June 2004 the U.S. General
Accounting Office (G.A.O.) issued a report to Congress that was highly
critical of government research into Gulf War syndrome and veterans'
cancer rates. The report said that the studies on which federal
agencies were basing their claim that Gulf War veterans were no sicker
than the veterans of other wars "may not be reliable" and had "inherent
limitations," with big data gaps and methodological flaws. Because
cancers can take years to develop, the G.A.O. stated, "it may be too
early" to draw any conclusions. Dr. Kilpatrick dismisses this report,
saying it was "just the opinion of a group of individuals."
another Pentagon-funded study suggested that D.U. might have effects on
unborn children. After finding that pregnant rats transmitted D.U. to
their offspring through the placenta, the study concluded: "Fetal
exposure to uranium during critical prenatal development may adversely
impact the future behavioral and neurological development of
offspring." In September 2004, the New York Daily News reported that
Gerard Darren Matthew, who had served in Iraq with the 719th
Transportation Company, which is based in Harlem, had tested positive
for D.U. after suffering migraines, fatigue, and a burning sensation
when urinating. Following his return, his wife became pregnant, and
their daughter, Victoria Claudette, was born missing three fingers.
critics say, the Pentagon underestimates the dangers of D.U. because it
measures them in the wrong way: by calculating the average amount of
D.U. radiation produced throughout the body. When we meet, Dr.
Kilpatrick gives me a report the Department of Defense issued in 2000.
It concludes that even vets with the highest exposures from embedded
shrapnel could expect over 50 years to receive a dose of just five rem,
"which is the annual limit for [nuclear industry] workers." The dose
for those who inhaled dust from burned-out tanks would be "far below
the annual guideline (0.1 rem) for members of the public."
to measure the effect of D.U. as a whole-body radiation dose is
meaningless, Asaf Durakovic says, because the dose from D.U. is
intensely concentrated in the cells around a mote of dust. The alpha
particles D.U. emits-high-energy clumps of protons and neutrons-are
harmless outside the body, because they cannot pass through skin.
Inside tissue, however, they wreak a havoc analogous to that of a
penetrating shell against an enemy tank, bombarding cell nuclei,
breaking chains of DNA, damaging fragile genes. Marcelo Valdes, a
physicist and computer scientist who is president of Dr. Durakovic's
research institute, says the cells around a D.U. particle 2.5 microns
in diameter will receive a maximum annual radiation dose of 16 rads. If
every pocket of tissue in the body were to absorb that amount of
radiation, the total level would reach seven trillion rads-millions of
times the lethal dosage.
In the potentially
thousands of hot spots inside the lungs of a person exposed to D.U.
dust, the same cells will be irradiated again and again, until their
ability to repair themselves is lost. In 1991, Durakovic found D.U. in
the urine of 14 veterans who had returned from the Gulf with headaches,
muscle and skeletal pain, fatigue, trembling, and kidney problems.
"Immediately I understood from their symptoms and their histories that
they could have been exposed to radiation," he says. Within three
years, two were dead from lung cancer: "One was 33, the other 42. Both
were nonsmokers, in previously excellent health."
he says, steadily migrates to the bones. There it irradiates the
marrow, where stem cells, the progenitors of all the other cells the
body manufactures in order to renew itself, are produced. "Stem cells
are very vulnerable," Durakovic says. "Bombarded with alpha particles,
their DNA will fall apart, potentially affecting every organ. If
malfunctioning stem cells become new liver cells, then the liver will
malfunction. If stem cells are damaged, they may form defective
D.U. is as dangerous as its critics allege, it can kill even without
causing cancer. At her home in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Susan Riordon
recalls the return of her husband, Terry, from the Gulf in 1991. Terry,
a security captain, served in intelligence during the war: his service
record refers to his setting up a "safe haven" in the Iraqi "theatre."
Possibly, Susan speculates, this led him behind enemy lines and exposed
him to D.U. during the long aerial bombing campaign that preceded the
1991 invasion. In any event, "when he came home, he didn't really come
home," she says.
At first, Terry merely had the
usual headaches, body pain, oozing rash, and other symptoms. But later
he began to suffer from another symptom which afflicts some of those
exposed to D.U.: burning semen. "If he leaked a little lubrication from
his penis, it would feel like sunburn on your skin. If you got to the
point where you did have intercourse, you were up and out of that bed
so fast-it actually causes vaginal blisters that burst and bleed."
Terry's medical records support her description. In England, Malcolm
Hooper, professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry at the University of
Sunderland, is aware of 4,000 such cases. He hypothesizes that the
presence of D.U. may be associated with the transformation of semen
into a caustic alkali.
"It hurt [Terry] too. He said
it was like forcing it through barbed wire," Riordon says. "It seemed
to burn through condoms; if he got any on his thighs or his testicles,
he was in hell." In a last, desperate attempt to save their sex life,
says Riordon, "I used to fill condoms with frozen peas and insert them
[after sex] with a lubricant." That, she says, made her pain just about
bearable. Perhaps inevitably, he became impotent. "And that was like
our last little intimacy gone."
By late 1995, Terry
was seriously deteriorating. Susan shows me her journal-she titled it
"The Twilight Zone"-and his medical record. It makes harrowing reading.
He lost his fine motor control to the point where he could not button
his shirt or zip his fly. While walking, he would fall without warning.
At night, he shook so violently that the bed would move across the
floor. He became unpredictably violent: one terrible day in 1997 he
attacked their 16-year-old son and started choking him. By the time
armed police arrived to pull him off, the boy's bottom lip had turned
blue. After such rages, he would fall into a deep sleep for as long as
24 hours, and awake with no memory of what had happened. That year,
Terry and Susan stopped sleeping in the same bedroom. Then "he began to
barricade himself in his room for days, surviving on granola bars and
cartons of juice."
As he went downhill, Terry was
assessed as completely disabled, but there was no diagnosis as to why.
His records contain references to "somatization disorder,"
post-traumatic stress, and depression. In 1995 the army doctors even
suggested that he had become ill only after reading of Gulf War
syndrome. Through 1998 and 1999, he began to lose all cognitive
functions and was sometimes lucid for just a few hours each week.
after he died, on April 29, 1999, Terry's Canadian doctors remained
unable to explain his illness. "This patient has a history [of] 'Gulf
War Syndrome' with multiple motor, sensory and emotional problems," the
autopsy report by pathologist Dr. B. Jollymore, of Yarmouth, begins.
"During extensive investigation, no definitive diagnosis has been
determined.... Essentially it appears that this gentleman remains an
enigma in death as he was in life."
long before Terry's death, Susan Riordon had learned of Asaf Durakovic,
and of the possibility that her husband absorbed D.U. His urine-test
results-showing a high D.U. concentration eight years after he was
presumably exposed-came through on Monday, April 26: "Tuesday he was
reasonably cognitive, and was able to tell me that he wanted his body
and organs to go to Dr. Durakovic," she remembers. "He knew it was too
late to help him, but he made me promise that his body could help the
international community. On the Wednesday, I completed the purchase of
this house. On Thursday, he was dead.
"It was a very
strange death. He was very peaceful. I've always felt that Asaf allowed
Terry to go: knowing he was D.U.-positive meant he wasn't crazy
anymore. Those last days he was calm. He wasn't putting the phone in
the microwave; he had no more mood swings."
After Riordon's death, Dr. Durakovic and his colleagues found
accumulations of D.U. in his bones and lungs.
Durakovic suspects the military of minimizing the health and
environmental consequences of D.U. weapons, and suggests two reasons it
may have for doing so: "to keep them off the list of war criminals, and
to avoid paying compensation which could run into billions of dollars."
To this might be added a third: depleted uranium, because of its unique
armor-penetrating capabilities, has become a defining feature of
American warfare, one whose loss would be intolerable to military
In 1991, the U.S. used D.U. weapons to
kill thousands of Iraqis in tanks and armored vehicles on the "highway
of death" from Kuwait to Basra. The one-sided victory ushered in a new
era of "lethality overmatch"-the ability to strike an enemy with
virtual impunity. A Pentagon pamphlet from 2003 states that a central
objective of the American military is to "generate dominant lethality
overmatch across the full spectrum of operations," and no weapon is
better suited to achieving that goal than D.U.
value of depleted uranium was spelled out more simply in a Pentagon
briefing by Colonel James Naughton of the army's Materiel Command in
March 2003, just before the Iraq invasion: "What we want to be able to
do is strike the target from farther away than we can be hit back....
We don't want to fight even. Nobody goes into a war and wants to be
even with the enemy. We want to be ahead, and D.U. gives us that
If the Pentagon is right about the risks
of D.U., such statements should not be controversial. If it is wrong,
says retired army colonel Dr. Andras Korenyi-Both, who headed one of
the main field hospitals during Desert Storm and later conducted some
of the first research into Gulf War syndrome, the position is less
clear-cut. "You'd have to deal with the question of whether it's better
not to use D.U. and have more of your soldiers die in battle or to use
D.U. and lose very few in the field-but have them get sick and die when
they get home."
desert morning in the early spring of 1991, while sitting in his office
at the Eskan Village military compound near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
Lieutenant Doug Rokke was shown a memorandum. Rokke, a health physicist
and training specialist, was a reservist and had recently been ordered
to join the Third U.S. Army's depleted-uranium-assessment team,
assigned to clean up and move American vehicles hit by friendly fire
during Operation Desert Storm. The memo, dated March 1, came from a
senior military officer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New
During the Gulf War, it said, "D.U.
penetrators were very effective against Iraqi armor." However, "there
has been and continues to be a concern regarding the impact of D.U. on
the environment. Therefore, if no one makes a case for the
effectiveness of D.U. on the battlefield, D.U. rounds may become
politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted from the arsenal.... I
believe we should keep this sensitive issue at mind when after-action
reports are written."
Rokke says: "I interpreted the
memo to mean: we want this stuff-don't write anything that might make
it difficult for us to use it again."
assignment was dangerous and unpleasant. The vehicles were coated with
uranium-oxide soot, and dust lay in the sand outside. He wore a mask,
but it didn't help. "We could taste it and smell it," he says of the
D.U. "It tasted very strong-and unmistakable." Years later, he says, he
was found to be excreting uranium at 5,000 times the normal level. Now
55, he pants during ordinary conversation and says he still gets a rash
like the one Raymond Ramos of the 442nd suffers from. In addition,
Rokke has joint pains, muscle aches, and cataracts.
1994, Rokke became director of a Pentagon project designed to learn
more about D.U. contamination and to develop training that would
minimize its risks. "I'm a warrior, and warriors want to fulfill their
mission," Rokke says. "I went into this wanting to make it work, to
work out how to use D.U. safely, and to show other soldiers how to do
so and how to clean it up. This was not science out of a book, but
science done by blowing the shit out of tanks and seeing what happens.
And as we did this work, slowly it dawned on me that we were screwed.
You can't do this safely in combat conditions. You can't decontaminate
the environment or your own troops."
Rokke and his
colleagues conducted a series of experiments at the U.S. Department of
Energy's Nevada nuclear-test site. They set fire to a Bradley loaded
with D.U. rounds and fired D.U. shells at old Soviet tanks. At his
remote, ramshackle farmhouse amid the rural flatlands of central
Illinois, Rokke shows me videos of his tests. Most spectacular are
those shot at night, which depict the fiery streak of the D.U. round,
already burning before impact, followed by the red cascade of the
debris cloud. "Everything we hit we destroyed," he says. "I tell you,
these things are just ... fantastic."
Rokke wrote describing his findings are more sobering. He recorded
levels of contamination that were 15 times the army's permissible
levels in tanks hit by D.U., and up to 4.5 times such levels in
clothing exposed to D.U.
The good news was that it
was possible, using a special Department of Energy vacuum cleaner
designed for sucking up radioactive waste, to reduce contamination from
vehicles and equipment to near official limits, and to "mask" the
intense radiation around holes left by D.U. projectiles by sealing them
with layers of foam caulking, paint, or cardboard. (Such work, Rokke
wrote, would naturally have to be carried out by teams in full
radiological-protection suits and respirators.)
it came to clothes, however, D.U. particles "became imbedded in the
clothing and could not be removed with brushing or other abrasive
methods." Rokke found that even after he tried to decontaminate them
the clothes were still registering between two and three times the
limit. "This may pose a significant logistics impact," Rokke wrote,
with some understatement.
The elaborate procedures
required to decontaminate equipment, meanwhile, would be almost
impossible to implement in combat. "On a real battlefield, it's not
like there's any control," Rokke says. "It's chaos. Maybe it's night.
Who's going to come along and isolate contaminated enemy tanks? You've
got a pile of rubble and mess and you're still coming under fire. The
idea that you're going to come out in radiological suits and vacuum up
a building or a smashed T-72 [tank]-it's ridiculous."
amounts of black D.U.-oxide dust were readily visible within 50 meters
of a tank hit by penetrators and within 100 meters of the D.U.-packed
Bradley that was set on fire. But less obvious amounts were easily
detected at much greater distances. Worse, such dust could be
"re-suspended" in the atmosphere "upon contact, if wind blew, or during
movement." For American troops, that meant that "respiratory and skin
protection is warranted during all phases of recovery." For civilians,
even ones at considerable distances, it meant they might be exposed to
windblown D.U. far into the future.
Rokke completed the project, he was appointed head of the lab at Fort
McClellan where it had been based. He resigned the staff physicist post
he'd held for 19 years at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign and moved south with his family. Early in 1996, after
he began to voice the conclusions he was drawing about the future
viability of D.U. weapons, he was fired. "Then I remembered the Los
Alamos memo," he says. "They'd wanted 'proponency' for D.U. weapons,
and I was giving them the opposite."
I ask Dr. Kilpatrick, the D.O.D. spokesman on D.U., about Rokke's test
firings. His reply: "One, he never did that. He was in Nevada as an
observer. He was not part of that program at all. At that time he was
working in education at an army school, and his assignment was to
develop educational materials for troops." Rokke, he says, may have
spent a few days observing the tests but did not organize them.
from Rokke's service record tell a different story. His appraisal from
December 1, 1995, written by Dr. Ed Battle, then chief of the radiation
laboratories at Fort McClellan, describes Rokke's mission as follows:
to "plan, coordinate, supervise and implement the U.S. Army ...
depleted uranium training development project." He continued: "Captain
Rokke has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to function well above
his current rank and is as effective as any I have known." He had
directly participated in "extremely crucial tests at the Nevada Atomic
Test Site," and his achievements had been "absolutely phenomenal."
was awarded two medals for his work. The citation for one commended him
for "meritorious service while assigned as the depleted uranium project
leader. Your outstanding achievements have prepared our soldiers for
hazards and will have a vast payoff in the health, safety, and
protection of all soldiers."
work in Nevada helped persuade the military that D.U. weapons had to be
dealt with carefully. On September 16, 2002, General Eric Shinseki, the
U.S. Army chief of staff, signed Army Regulation 700-48, which sets
forth strict rules for handling items, including destroyed or disabled
enemy targets, that have been hit and contaminated by D.U. "During
peacetime or as soon as operational risk permits," it states, local
commanders must "identify, segregate, isolate, secure, and label all
RCE [radiologically contaminated equipment]. Procedures to minimize the
spread of radioactivity will be implemented as soon as possible." Under
pre-existing regulations, damaged vehicles should be moved to a
collection point or maintenance facility, and "covered and wrapped with
canvas or plastic tarp to prevent spread of contaminants," with loose
items placed in double plastic bags. Soldiers who carry out such tasks
should wear protective equipment.
tanks behind the 442nd's barracks in Samawah may not have been the only
D.U.-contaminated pieces of equipment to be left where they lay. In the
fall of 2003, Tedd Weyman, a colleague of Dr. Durakovic's, spent 16
days in Iraq, taking samples and observing the response of coalition
forces to General Shinseki's directive. "When tanks shot up by D.U.
munitions were removed, I saw no precautions being taken at all," he
says. "Ordinary soldiers with no protection just came along and used
chains to load them onto flatbeds, towing them away just as they might
your car if it broke down on the highway. They took them to bases with
British and American troops and left them in the open." Time after
time, Weyman recorded high levels of contamination-so high that on his
return to Canada he was found to have 4.5 times the normal level of
uranium in his own urine.
A Pentagon memo, signed on
May 30, 2003, by Dr. William Winkenwerder, an assistant defense
secretary, says that any American personnel "who were in, on, or near
combat vehicles at the time they were struck by D.U. rounds," or who
entered such vehicles or fought fires involving D.U. munitions, should
be assessed for possible exposure and receive appropriate health care.
This category could be said to include any soldier who fought in, or
cleaned up after, battles with Iraqi armor.
the Pentagon insists that the risks remain acceptably small. "There
isn't any recognized disease from exposure to natural or depleted
uranium," Dr. Kilpatrick says. He tells me that America will mount a
thorough cleanup in Iraq, disposing of any D.U. fragments and burying
damaged vehicles in unpopulated locations, but that, for the time
being, such an operation is impossible. "We really can't begin any
environmental assessment or cleanup while there's ongoing combat."
Nevertheless, he says, there's no cause for concern. "I think we can be
very confident that what is in the environment does not create a hazard
for those living in the environment and working in it."
this article was going to press, the Pentagon published the findings of
a new study that, according to Dr. Kilpatrick, shows D.U. to be a
"lethal but safe weapons system."
his Pentagon briefing in March 2003, Dr. Kilpatrick said that even if
D.U. weapons did generate toxic dust, it would not spread. "It falls to
the ground very quickly-usually within about a 50-meter range," he
said. "It's heavy. It's 1.7 times as heavy as lead. So even if it's a
small dust particle ... it stays on the ground." Evidence that this is
not the case comes from somewhere much closer than Iraq-an abandoned
D.U.-weapons factory in Colonie, New York, a few miles from Albany, the
In 1958, a corporation called
National Lead began making depleted-uranium products at a plant on
Central Avenue, surrounded by houses and an Amtrak line. In 1979, just
as the plant was increasing its production of D.U. ammunition to meet a
new Pentagon contract, a whistle-blower from inside the plant told the
county health department that N.L. was releasing large amounts of D.U.
oxide into the environment.
Over the next two years,
he and other workers testified before both the New York State Assembly
and a local residents' campaign group. They painted a picture of
reckless neglect. D.U. chips and shavings were simply incinerated, and
the resulting oxide dust passed into the atmosphere through the
chimneys. "I used to do a lot of burning," William Luther told the
governor's task force in 1982. "They told me to do it at night so the
black smoke wouldn't be seen." Later, many of the workers were found to
have inhaled huge doses into their lungs, and some developed cancers
and other illnesses at relatively young ages.
January 1980 the state forced N.L. to agree to limit its radioactive
emissions to 500 microcuries per year. The following month, the state
shut the plant down. In January alone, the D.U.-chip burner had
released 2,000 microcuries. An official environmental survey produced
horrifying results. Soil in the gardens of homes near the plant was
emitting radiation at up to 300 times the normal background level for
upstate New York. Inside the 11-acre factory site, readings were up to
five times higher.
The federal government has been
spending tax dollars to clean up the Colonie site for the past 19
years, under a program called fusrap-the Formerly Utilized Sites
Remedial Action Program. Today, all that is left of the Colonie plant
are enormous piles of earth, constantly moistened with hoses and
secured by giant tarpaulins to prevent dispersal, and a few deep pits.
In its autumn 2004 bulletin to residents, the fusrap team disclosed
that it had so far removed 125,242 tons of contaminated soil from the
area, all of which have been buried at radioactive-waste sites in Utah
and Idaho. In some places, the excavations are more than 10 feet deep.
fusrap had also discovered contamination in the neighboring Patroon
Creek, where children used to play, and in the reservoir it feeds, and
had treated 23.5 million gallons of contaminated water. The cost so far
has been about $155 million, and the earliest forecast for the work's
completion is 2008.
Years before fusrap began to
dig, there were data to suggest that D.U. particles-and those emitted
at Colonie are approximately the same size as those produced by
weapons-can travel much farther than 50 meters. In 1979, nuclear
physicist Len Dietz was working at a lab operated by General Electric
in Schenectady, 10 miles west of Colonie. "We had air filters all
around our perimeter fence," he recalls. "One day our radiological
manager told me we had a problem: one of the filters was showing
abnormally high alpha radiation. Much to our surprise, we found D.U. in
it. There could only be one source: the N.L. plant." Dietz had other
filters checked both in Schenectady and at other G.E. sites. The three
that were farthest away were in West Milton, 26 miles northwest, and
upwind, of Colonie. All the filters contained pure Colonie D.U.
"Effectively," says Dietz, "the particles' range is unlimited."
August 2003, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
Registry published a short report on Colonie. On the one hand, it
declared that the pollution produced when the plant was operating could
have increased the risks of kidney disease and lung cancer. Because the
source of the danger had shut down, however, there was now "no apparent
public health hazard." Thus there was no need to conduct a full
epidemiological study of those who had lived near and worked at the
factory-the one way to produce hard scientific data on what the health
consequences of measurable D.U. contamination actually are.
people of Colonie have been trying to collect health data of their own.
Sharon Herr, 45, lived near the plant for nine years. She used to work
60 hours a week at two jobs-as a clerk in the state government and as a
real-estate agent. Now she too is sick, and suffers symptoms which
sound like a textbook case of Gulf War syndrome: "Fourteen years ago, I
lost my grip to the point where I can't turn keys. I'm stiff, with bad
joint and muscle pain, which has got progressively worse. I can't go
upstairs without getting out of breath. I get fatigue so intense there
are days I just can't do much. And I fall down-I'll be out walking and
suddenly I fall." Together with her friend Anne Rabe, 49, a campaigner
against N.L. since the 1980s, she has sent questionnaires to as many of
the people who lived on the streets close to the plant as possible. So
far, they have almost 400 replies.
Among those who
responded were people with rare cancers or cancers that appeared at an
unusually young age, and families whose children had birth defects.
There were 17 cases of kidney problems, 15 of lung cancer, and 11 of
leukemia. There were also five thyroid cancers and 16 examples of other
thyroid problems-all conditions associated with radiation. Other people
described symptoms similar to Herr's. Altogether, 174 of those in the
sample had been diagnosed with one kind of cancer or another. American
women have about a 33 percent chance of getting cancer in their
lifetimes, mostly after the age of 60. (For men, it's nearly 50
percent.) Some of the Colonie cancer victims are two decades younger.
"We have what look like possible suspicious clusters," says Rabe. "A
health study here is a perfect opportunity to see how harmful this
stuff really is."
June 14, 2004, the army's Physical Evaluation Board, the body that
decides whether a soldier should get sickness pay, convened to evaluate
the case of Raymond Ramos of the 442nd Military Police company. It
followed the Pentagon's approach, not Dr. Durakovic's. The board
examined his Walter Reed medical-file summary, which describes his
symptoms in detail, suggests that they may have been caused by serving
in Iraq, and accepts that "achieving a cure is not a realistic
treatment objective." But the summary mentions no physical reason for
them at all, let alone depleted uranium.
veterans of the first Gulf War, Ramos was told by the board that his
disability had been caused primarily by post-traumatic stress. It did
not derive "from injury or disease received in the line of duty as a
direct result of armed conflict." Instead, his record says, he got
"scared in the midst of a riot" and was "emotionally upset by reports
of battle casualties." Although he was too sick to go back to work as a
narcotics cop, he would get a disability benefit fixed at $1,197 a
month, just 30 percent of his basic military pay.
the day we meet, in September 2004, his symptoms are hardly alleviated.
"I'm in lots of pain in my joints. I'm constantly fatigued-I can fall
asleep at the drop of a dime. My wife tells me things and I just
forget. It's not fair to my family."
For the time
being, the case against D.U. appears to remain unproved. But if Asaf
Durakovic, Doug Rokke, and their many allies around the world are
right, and the Pentagon wrong, the costs-human, legal, and
financial-will be incalculable. They may also be widespread. In
October, the regional health authority of Sardinia, Italy, began
hearings to investigate illnesses suffered by people who live near a
U.S. firing range there that tests D.U. weapons.
2002 the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection
of Human Rights declared that depleted uranium was a weapon of mass
destruction, and its use a breach of international law. But the
difference between D.U. and the W.M.D. that formed the rationale for
the Iraqi invasion is that depleted uranium may have a boomerang
effect, afflicting the soldiers of the army that fires it as well as
the enemy victims of "lethality overmatch."
members of the 442nd who tested positive all say they have met soldiers
from other units during their medical treatment who complain of similar
ailments, and fear that they too may have been exposed. "It's bad
enough being sent out there knowing you could be killed in combat,"
Raymond Ramos says. "But people are at risk of bringing something back
that might kill them slowly. That's not right."
David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor. His
book Guantánamo: The War on Human Rights is an in-depth
investigation of the atrocities taking place at the Cuban prison.
We appear evil
The Salt Lake Tribune
A bubble of interest seems to be occurring on the Web:
Google recently had 360,000 hits for “depleted uranium” all
within a 24-hour period. I've been following reports of the
United States' use of depleted uranium ammunition over the
past couple of days on the Web.
Our use of this poison has hurt our troops and the
people of Iraq and Kosovo. It appears that thousands of tons
of this very dense material were used in the Gulf War of
1991. It was used in Kosovo and again in Iraq. It is
radioactive and remains dangerous virtually forever, longer
than man has walked on Earth. Its most horrible effects
appear not from cancer, but in human fetuses.
We have been terrified by the thought of some terrorist
setting off a dirty bomb and poisoning a U.S. city.
Meanwhile we have spread radioactive uranium all over Iraq.
Who answers to the Iraqi mothers whose babies cannot live,
poisoned in their wombs by dust or vapor from uranium. The
earth, air and water in Iraq has been contaminated by our
use of depleted uranium munitions. We would call it a war
crime if someone else did it. We've sunk to the level of our
adversaries the terrorists.
The radiation dangers are long-term effects. In the
short term, the attack on Fallujah during Ramadan is just
the perfect recruitment device for future terrorists. We do
Salt Lake City
Iran: A Bridge too Far?
The following article describes what is an interesting prospect, for a
number of reasons, although it does not take into account the
days of carpet bombing of the Iranian coast before US ships go into the
Persian Gulf -- all in the name of elminating a nuclear threat.
Could the "200-kiloton nuclear payload" version of these missiles be
equipped with uranium/depleted uranium warheads?
What makes the US-Iran confrontation fearsome and very likely is that
is planning to open a petroleum "bourse" in March to rival the London
New York petroleum markets where petroleum is sold in dollars. The new
Teheran exchange will sell petroleum for euros. Its establishment is
supported by Saudi Arabia (the world's biggest oil exporter), Russia
world's second biggest oil exporter) and China (the world's fastest
oil consumer and already one of its biggest).
For now, central banks acquire dollars to keep on account in order to
them at hand to pay for oil imports (which must be paid for in dollars;
Saddam Hussein switched to selling oil for euros, in 2000, he
sealed his own fate). In order to earn something on these dollars, they
convert them into US Treasury bonds, which can be readily converted
into cash when necessary. As the US has a negative savings rate, the
the bonds sold to finance the soaring US public debt is bought by these
central banks. Because of the world-wide demand for these bonds, they
only modest interst rates yet still sell.
However, holding such bonds while the dollar continues its decline (and
is far from hitting bottom) means that the central banks are watching
reserves shrink, devalued as the dollar is devalued. Given the
economic requirements imposed on the countries of the euro zone, the
not only much more stable than the dollar has been for years, but
remain so for a long, long time. Paying for oil in euros would mean
abandoning the dollar as the central bank reserve currency.
That would mean, for countries wanting to make the switch, a selling
the dollar-denominated bonds by the central banks, at a time when the
Treasury is flooding the market with new issues that the market can
absorb at current central bank purchasing levels. The result would be a
drastic drop in demand for these bonds.
To make them attractive to buyers (hence to continue to borrow money),
US Federal Reserve Bank would have to raise interest rates drastically,
as much as 15%, 18% or 20%. That would knock the wind out of the sails
the US economy, three-quarters of which is dependent on consumer
much of that, in turn, dependent upon cheap credit. It would also raise
cost of the debt to the US government to levels that could push it
bankruptcy and default, exactly as happened in Argentina in December
at which time the Argentine government was paying something in the
neighborhood of 30% on its bonds.
Given that the US has primarily military power to assert itself and
those in command in Washington see US military power as unbeatable, the
threat to the dollar and the US bond market can best be met, according
such a mind-set, by further military action. The possibility that Iran
become a nuclear power to counterbalance Israel adds weight and urgency
the arguments of those pushing for military action against Iran. A fair
number of oil analysts are now calmly predicting that if there is
action in the Persian Gulf region and the flow of oil out of the Gulf
or stops, oil will easily hit $80 a barril, possibly a hundred or more,
depending upon the duration of the hostilities and the amount of
Remember that Pentagon planners were counting on a quick success in
followed by a dramatic increase in Iraqi oil production to cause oil
to drop back to $8 a barril, the resulting cheap energy then launching
boom in the US economy which would generate new tax revenues to pay for
invasion. They don't ever seem to realize how easy it is to disrupt
markets and how hard it is after such disruptions to stabilize those
again. This time, however, the result, for the US, could be
even worse that the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent collapse
the US banking system.
R. J. P.
The weapon that could defeat the US in the Gulf
A word to the reader: The following paper is so shocking that, after
preparing the initial draft, I didn’t want to believe it myself, and
resolved to disprove it with more research. However, I only succeeded
turning up more evidence in support of my thesis. And I repeated this
of discovery and denial several more times before finally deciding to
with the article. I believe that a serious writer must follow the trail
evidence, no matter where it leads, and report back. So here is my
Don’t be surprised if it causes you to squirm. Its purpose is not to
predictions –– history makes fools of those who claim to know the
but simply to describe the peril that awaits us in the Persian Gulf. By
awakening to the extent of that danger, perhaps we can still find a way
save our nation and the world from disaster. If we are very lucky, we
even create an alternative future that holds some promise of resolving
monumental conflicts of our time. MG
Bridge too Far?
by Mark Gaffney
10/26/04 "ICH" -- Last July, they dubbed it operation Summer Pulse: a
simultaneous mustering of US Naval forces, world wide, that was
unprecedented. According to the Navy, it was the first exercise of its
Fleet Response Plan (FRP), the purpose of which was to enable the Navy
respond quickly to an international crisis. The Navy wanted to show its
increased force readiness, that is, its capacity to rapidly move combat
power to any global hot spot. Never in the history of the US Navy had
many carrier battle groups been involved in a single operation. Even
fleet massed in the Gulf and eastern Mediterranean during operation
Storm in 1991, and in the recent invasion of Iraq, never exceeded six
groups. But last July and August there were seven of them on the move,
battle group consisting of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier with its
complement of 7-8 supporting ships, and 70 or more assorted aircraft.
of the activity, according to various reports, was in the Pacific,
fleet participated in joint exercises with the Taiwanese navy.
But why so much naval power underway at the same time? What potential
crisis could possibly require more battle groups than were deployed
the recent invasion of Iraq? In past years, when the US has seen fit to
“show the flag” or flex its naval muscle, one or two carrier groups
sufficed. Why this global show of power?
The news headlines about the joint-maneuvers in the South China Sea
“Saber Rattling Unnerves China”, and: “Huge Show of Force Worries
But the reality was quite different, and, as we shall see, has grave
ramifications for the continuing US military presence in the Persian
because operation Summer Pulse reflected a high-level Pentagon decision
an unprecedented show of strength was needed to counter what is viewed
growing threat –– in the particular case of China, because of Peking’s
newest Sovremenny-class destroyers recently acquired from Russia.
“Nonsense!” you are probably thinking. That’s impossible. How could a
picayune destroyers threaten the US Pacific fleet?”
Here is where the story thickens: Summer Pulse amounted to a tacit
acknowledgement, obvious to anyone paying attention, that the United
has been eclipsed in an important area of military technology, and that
qualitative edge is now being wielded by others, including the Chinese;
because those otherwise very ordinary destroyers were, in fact,
platforms for Russian-made 3M-82 Moskit anti-ship cruise missiles (NATO
designation: SS-N-22 Sunburn), a weapon for which the US Navy currently
no defense. Here I am not suggesting that the US status of lone world
Superpower has been surpassed. I am simply saying that a new global
of power is emerging, in which other individual states may, on
achieve “an asymmetric advantage” over the US. And this, in my view,
explains the immense scale of Summer Pulse. The US show last summer of
overwhelming strength was calculated to send a message.
The Sunburn Missile
I was shocked when I learned the facts about these Russian-made cruise
missiles. The problem is that so many of us suffer from two common
misperceptions. The first follows from our assumption that Russia is
militarily weak, as a result of the breakup of the old Soviet system.
Actually, this is accurate, but it does not reflect the complexities.
Although the Russian navy continues to rust in port, and the Russian
in disarray, in certain key areas Russian technology is actually
our own. And nowhere is this truer than in the vital area of anti-ship
cruise missile technology, where the Russians hold at least a ten-year
over the US. The second misperception has to do with our complacency in
general about missiles-as-weapons –– probably attributable to the
performance of Saddam Hussein’s Scuds during the first Gulf war: a
illusion that I will now attempt to rectify.
Many years ago, Soviet planners gave up trying to match the US Navy
ship, gun for gun, and dollar for dollar. The Soviets simply could not
compete with the high levels of US spending required to build up and
maintain a huge naval armada. They shrewdly adopted an alternative
based on strategic defense. They searched for weaknesses, and sought
relatively inexpensive ways to exploit those weaknesses. The Soviets
succeeded: by developing several supersonic anti-ship missiles, one of
which, the SS-N-22 Sunburn, has been called “the most lethal missile in
After the collapse of the Soviet Union the old military establishment
upon hard times. But in the late1990s Moscow awakened to the
potential of its missile technology to generate desperately needed
exchange. A decision was made to resuscitate selected programs, and,
soon, Russian missile technology became a hot export commodity. Today,
Russian missiles are a growth industry generating much-needed cash for
Russia, with many billions in combined sales to India, China, Viet Nam,
Cuba, and also Iran. In the near future this dissemination of advanced
technology is likely to present serious challenges to the US. Some have
warned that the US Navy’s largest ships, the massive carriers, have now
become floating death traps, and should for this reason be mothballed.
The Sunburn missile has never seen use in combat, to my knowledge,
probably explains why its fearsome capabilities are not more widely
recognized. Other cruise missiles have been used, of course, on several
occasions, and with devastating results. During the Falklands War,
French-made Exocet missiles, fired from Argentine fighters, sunk the
Sheffield and another ship. And, in 1987, during the Iran-Iraq war, the
Stark was nearly cut in half by a pair of Exocets while on patrol in
Persian Gulf. On that occasion US Aegis radar picked up the incoming
fighter (a French-made Mirage), and tracked its approach to within 50
The radar also “saw” the Iraqi plane turn about and return to its base.
radar never detected the pilot launch his weapons. The sea-skimming
came smoking in under radar and were only sighted by human eyes moments
before they ripped into the Stark, crippling the ship and killing 37 US
The 1987 surprise attack on the Stark exemplifies the dangers posed by
anti-ship cruise missiles. And the dangers are much more serious in the
of the Sunburn, whose specs leave the sub-sonic Exocet in the dust. Not
is the Sunburn much larger and faster, it has far greater range and a
superior guidance system. Those who have witnessed its performance
invariably come away stunned. According to one report, when the Iranian
Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani visited Moscow in October 2001 he
test firing of the Sunburn, which the Russians were only too happy to
arrange. So impressed was Ali Shamkhani that he placed an order for an
undisclosed number of the missiles.
The Sunburn can deliver a 200-kiloton nuclear payload, or: a 750-pound
conventional warhead, within a range of 100 miles, more than twice the
of the Exocet. The Sunburn combines a Mach 2.1 speed (two times the
sound) with a flight pattern that hugs the deck and includes “violent
maneuvers” to elude enemy defenses. The missile was specifically
defeat the US Aegis radar defense system. Should a US Navy Phalanx
defense somehow manage to detect an incoming Sunburn missile, the
only seconds to calculate a fire solution –– not enough time to take
intruding missile. The US Phalanx defense employs a six-barreled gun
fires 3,000 depleted-uranium rounds a minute, but the gun must have
coordinates to destroy an intruder “just in time.”
The Sunburn’s combined supersonic speed and payload size produce
kinetic energy on impact, with devastating consequences for ship and
single one of these missiles can sink a large warship, yet costs
considerably less than a fighter jet. Although the Navy has been
the older Phalanx defense system, its replacement, known as the Rolling
Action Missile (RAM) has never been tested against the weapon it seems
destined to one day face in combat.
Implications For US Forces in the Gulf
The US Navy’s only plausible defense against a robust weapon like the
Sunburn missile is to detect the enemy’s approach well ahead of time,
whether destroyers, subs, or fighter-bombers, and defeat them before
can get in range and launch their deadly cargo. For this purpose US
radar planes assigned to each naval battle group are kept aloft on a
rotating schedule. The planes “see” everything within two hundred miles
the fleet, and are complemented with intelligence from orbiting
But US naval commanders operating in the Persian Gulf face serious
challenges that are unique to the littoral, i.e., coastal,
glance at a map shows why: The Gulf is nothing but a large lake, with
narrow outlet, and most of its northern shore, i.e., Iran, consists of
mountainous terrain that affords a commanding tactical advantage over
operating in Gulf waters. The rugged northern shore makes for easy
concealment of coastal defenses, such as mobile missile launchers, and
makes their detection problematic. Although it was not widely reported,
US actually lost the battle of the Scuds in the first Gulf War ––
“the great Scud hunt” –– and for similar reasons. Saddam Hussein’s
Scud launchers proved so difficult to detect and destroy –– over and
again the Iraqis fooled allied reconnaissance with decoys –– that
course of Desert Storm the US was unable to confirm even a single kill.
proved such an embarrassment to the Pentagon, afterwards, that the
unpleasant stats were buried in official reports. But the blunt fact is
the US failed to stop the Scud attacks. The launches continued until
last few days of the conflict. Luckily, the Scud’s inaccuracy made it
almost useless weapon. At one point General Norman Schwarzkopf quipped
dismissively to the press that his soldiers had a greater chance of
struck by lightning in Georgia than by a Scud in Kuwait.
But that was then, and it would be a grave error to allow the Scud’s
ineffectiveness to blur the facts concerning this other missile. The
Sunburn’s amazing accuracy was demonstrated not long ago in a live test
staged at sea by the Chinese –– and observed by US spy planes. Not only
the Sunburn missile destroy the dummy target ship, it scored a perfect
bull’s eye, hitting the crosshairs of a large “X” mounted on the ship’s
bridge. The only word that does it justice, awesome, has become a
hackneyed from hyperbolic excess.
The US Navy has never faced anything in combat as formidable as the
missile. But this will surely change if the US and Israel decide to
so-called preventive war against Iran to destroy its nuclear
Storm clouds have been darkening over the Gulf for many months. In
years Israel upgraded its air force with a new fleet of long-range F-15
fighter-bombers, and even more recently took delivery of 5,000
bombs from the US –– weapons that many observers think are intended for
The arming for war has been matched by threats. Israeli officials have
declared repeatedly that they will not allow the Mullahs to develop
power, not even reactors to generate electricity for peaceful use.
threats are particularly worrisome, because Israel has a long history
pre-emptive war. (See my 1989 book Dimona: the Third Temple? and also
2003 article Will Iran Be Next? posted at <
Never mind that such a determination is not Israel’s to make, and
instead to the international community, as codified in the
Treaty (NPT). With regard to Iran, the International Atomic Energy
(IAEA’s) recent report (September 2004) is well worth a look, as it
repudiates facile claims by the US and Israel that Iran is building
While the report is highly critical of Tehran for its ambiguities and
grudging release of documents, it affirms that IAEA inspectors have
admitted to every nuclear site in the country to which they have sought
access, without exception. Last year Iran signed the strengthened IAEA
inspection protocol, which until then had been voluntary. And the IAEA
found no hard evidence, to date, either that bombs exist or that Iran
made a decision to build them. (The latest IAEA report can be
In a talk on October 3, 2004, IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei
the clearest statement yet: "Iran has no nuclear weapons program", he
and then repeated himself for emphasis: “Iran has no nuclear weapons
program, but I personally don’t rush to conclusions before all the
are clarified. So far I see nothing that could be called an imminent
I have seen no nuclear weapons program in Iran. What I have seen is
Iran is trying to gain access to nuclear enrichment technology, and so
there is no danger from Iran. Therefore, we should make use of
diplomatic means before thinking of resorting to other alternatives.”
No one disputes that Tehran is pursuing a dangerous path, but with 200
more Israeli nukes targeted upon them the Iranians’ insistence on
their options open is understandable. Clearly, the nuclear
regime today hangs by the slenderest of threads. The world has arrived
A Fearful Symmetry?
If a showdown over Iran develops in the coming months, the man who
hold the outcome in his hands will be thrust upon the world stage. That
like him or hate him, is Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has been
castigated severely in recent months for gathering too much political
to himself. But according to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev,
was interviewed on US television recently by David Brokaw, Putin has
imposed a tyranny upon Russia –– yet. Gorbachev thinks the jury is
Perhaps, with this in mind, we should be asking whether Vladimir Putin
serious student of history. If he is, then he surely recognizes that
deepening crisis in the Persian Gulf presents not only manifold
also opportunities. Be assured that the Russian leader has not
humiliating defeat Ronald Reagan inflicted upon the old Soviet state.
we Americans forgotten?) By the mid-1980s the Soviets were in Kabul,
all but defeated the Mujahedeen. The Soviet Union appeared secure in
military occupation of Afghanistan. But then, in 1986, the first US
missiles reached the hands of the Afghani resistance; and, quite
Soviet helicopter gunships and MiGs began dropping out of the skies
flaming stones. The tide swiftly turned, and by 1989 it was all over
hand wringing and gnashing of teeth in the Kremlin. Defeated, the
slunk back across the frontier. The whole world cheered the American
Stingers, which had carried the day.
This very night, as he sips his cognac, what is Vladimir Putin
he perhaps thinking about the perverse symmetries of history? If so, he
also be wondering (and discussing with his closest aides) how a truly
nation like the United States could be so blind and so stupid as to
another state, i.e., Israel, to control its foreign policy, especially
region as vital (and volatile) as the Mid-East. One can almost hear the
Russians’ animated conversation:
“The Americans! What is the matter with them?”
“They simply cannot help themselves.”
“A nation as foolish as this deserves to be taught a lesson…”
“Yes! For their own good.”
“It must be a painful lesson, one they will never forget…”
“Are we agreed, then, comrades?”
“Let us teach our American friends a lesson about the limits of
Does anyone really believe that Vladimir Putin will hesitate to seize a
rare opportunity to change the course of history and, in the bargain,
his sweet revenge? Surely Putin understands the terrible dimensions of
trap into which the US has blundered, thanks to the Israelis and their
neo-con supporters in Washington who lobbied so vociferously for the
invasion of Iraq, against all friendly and expert advice, and who even
beat the drums of war against Iran. Would Putin be wrong to conclude
the US will never leave the region unless it is first defeated
Should we blame him for deciding that Iran is “one bridge too far”?
If the US and Israel overreach, and the Iranians close the net with
anti-ship missiles, it will be a fearful symmetry, indeed…
Springing the Trap
At the battle of Cannae in 216 BC the great Carthaginian general,
tempted a much larger Roman army into a fateful advance, and then
and annihilated it with a smaller force. Out of a Roman army of 70,000
no more than a few thousand escaped. It was said that after many hours
dispatching the Romans Hannibal’s soldiers grew so tired that the fight
out of them. In their weariness they granted the last broken and
Romans their lives…
Let us pray that the US sailors who are unlucky enough to be on duty in
Persian Gulf when the shooting starts can escape the fate of the Roman
at Cannae. The odds will be heavily against them, however, because they
face the same type of danger, tantamount to envelopment. The US ships
Gulf will already have come within range of the Sunburn missiles and
even more-advanced SS-NX-26 Yakhonts missiles, also Russian-made
Mach 2.9; range: 180 miles) deployed by the Iranians along the Gulf’s
northern shore. Every US ship will be exposed and vulnerable. When the
Iranians spring the trap, the entire lake will become a killing field.
Anti-ship cruise missiles are not new, as I’ve mentioned. Nor have they
determined the outcome in a conflict. But this is probably only because
these horrible weapons have never been deployed in sufficient numbers.
the time of the Falklands war the Argentine air force possessed only
Exocets, yet managed to sink two ships. With enough of them, the
Argentineans might have sunk the entire British fleet, and won the war.
Although we’ve never seen a massed attack of cruise missiles, this is
exactly what the US Navy could face in the next war in the Gulf. Try
imagine it if you can: barrage after barrage of Exocet-class missiles,
the Iranians are known to possess in the hundreds, as well as the
unstoppable Sunburn and Yakhonts missiles. The questions that our
government leaders should be asking themselves, today, if they value
historians will one day write about them, are two: how many of the
anti-ship missiles has Putin already supplied to Iran? And: How many
are currently in the pipeline? In 2001 Jane’s Defense Weekly reported
Iran was attempting to acquire anti-ship missiles from Russia.
the same report also mentioned that the more advanced Yakhonts missile
“optimized for attacks against carrier task forces.” Apparently its
system is “able to distinguish an aircraft carrier from its escorts.”
numbers were not disclosed…
The US Navy will come under fire even if the US does not participate in
first so-called surgical raids on Iran’s nuclear sites, that is, even
Israel goes it alone. Israel’s brand-new fleet of 25 F-15s (paid for by
American taxpayers) has sufficient range to target Iran, but the
cannot mount an attack without crossing US-occupied Iraqi air space. It
hardly matter if Washington gives the green light, or is dragged into
conflict by a recalcitrant Israel. Either way, the result will be the
The Iranians will interpret US acquiescence as complicity, and, in any
event, they will understand that the real fight is with the Americans.
Iranians will be entirely within their rights to counter-attack in
self-defense. Most of the world will see it this way, and will support
not America. The US and Israel will be viewed as the aggressors, even
unfortunate US sailors in harm’s way become cannon fodder. In the
shallow and confined waters evasive maneuvers will be difficult, at
and escape impossible. Even if US planes control of the skies over the
battlefield, the sailors caught in the net below will be hard-pressed
survive. The Gulf will run red with American blood…
>From here, it only gets worse. Armed with their Russian-supplied
missiles, the Iranians will close the lake’s only outlet, the strategic
Strait of Hormuz, cutting off the trapped and dying Americans from help
rescue. The US fleet massing in the Indian Ocean will stand by
unable to enter the Gulf to assist the survivors or bring logistical
to the other US forces on duty in Iraq. Couple this with a major new
offensive by the Iraqi insurgents, and, quite suddenly, the tables
turn against the Americans in Baghdad. As supplies and ammunition begin
run out, the status of US forces in the region will become precarious.
occupiers will become the besieged…
With enough anti-ship missiles, the Iranians can halt tanker traffic
Hormuz for weeks, even months. With the flow of oil from the Gulf
the price of a barrel of crude will skyrocket on the world market.
days the global economy will begin to grind to a halt. Tempers at an
emergency round-the-clock session of the UN Security Council will flare
likely explode into shouting and recriminations as French, German,
and even British ambassadors angrily accuse the US of allowing Israel
threaten world order. But, as always, because of the US veto the world
will be powerless to act...
America will stand alone, completely isolated. Yet, despite the
hostile international mood, elements of the US media will spin the
very differently here at home, in a way that is sympathetic to Israel.
Members of Congress will rise to speak in the House and Senate, and
Israel’s defense, while blaming the victim of the attack, Iran.
Fundamentalist Christian talk show hosts will proclaim the historic
fulfillment of biblical prophecy in our time, and will call upon the
Israel to accept Jesus into their hearts; meanwhile, urging the
nuke the evil empire of Islam. From across America will be heard
cries for fresh reinforcements, even a military draft. Patriots will
victory at any cost. Pundits will scream for an escalation of the
A war that ostensibly began as an attempt to prevent the spread of
weapons will teeter on the brink of their use…
Friends, we must work together to prevent such a catastrophe. We must
the next Middle East war before it starts. The US government must turn
to the United Nations the primary responsibility for resolving the
crisis in Iraq, and, immediately thereafter, withdraw US forces from
country. We must also prevail upon the Israelis to sign the
Treaty (NPT) and open all of their nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors.
then can serious talks begin with Iran and other states to establish a
nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ) in the Mid East –– so essential to the
region’s long-term peace and security.
* * *
Mark Gaffney’s first book, Dimona the Third Temple? (1989), was a
study of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Mark’s articles about the
Mid-East and proliferation issues have appeared in the Middle East
Journal, Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, the Earth Island
The Oregonian, the Daily Californian, and have been posted on numerous
sites, especially Counterpunch.org. Mark’s 2003 paper Will Iran Be
be viewed at < www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iran.htm>
book, Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, was released by Inner
Press in May 2003. Email <Mhgaffney@aol.com> For more
information go to
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest
receiving the included information for research and educational
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored
May 10, 2005
deformities and child cancer rates in Iraq
By James Cogan
10 May 2005
Iraqi doctors are making renewed efforts to bring to the
attention the growth in birth deformities and cancer rates among the
country's children. The medical crisis is being directly blamed on the
widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the US and British
forces in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, and the even greater
use of DU during the 2003 invasion.
The rate of birth defects, after increasing ten-fold from 11
100,000 births in 1989 to 116 per 100,000 in 2001, is soaring further.
Dr Nawar Ali, a medical researcher into birth deformities at Baghdad
University, told the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks
(IRIN) last month: "There have been 650 cases [birth deformities] in
total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals. That is a 20
percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not
included in the study, so the number could be higher."
His colleague, Dr Ibrahim al-Jabouri, reported: "In my
we have found some cases where the mother and father were suffering
from pollution from weapons used in the south and we believe that it is
affecting newborn babies in the country."
The director of the Central Teaching Hospital in Baghdad,
Ibrahim, said: "We have asked for help from the government to make a
more profound study on such cases as it is affecting thousands of
The rise in birth defects is matched by a continuing increase
in the incidence of childhood cancers.
Six years ago, the College of Medicine at Basra University
out a study into the rate of cancer among children under the age of 15
in southern Iraq from 1976 to 1999. It revealed a horrific change
between 1990 and 1999. In the province of Basra, the incidence of
cancer of all types rose by 242 percent, while the rate of leukaemia
among children rose 100 percent. Children living in the area were
falling ill with cancer at the rate of 10.1 per 100,000. In districts
where the use of DU had been the most concentrated, the rate rose to
13.2 per 100,000.
The results were cited at the time in campaigns to end the
UN-imposed and US-enforced sanctions against Iraq, which were held
responsible for the death of as many as 500,000 Iraqi children from
malnutrition and inadequate medical treatment.
The study noted: "Most doctors and scientists agree that even
radiation is dangerous and increases the risk of cancer. The health
risk becomes much greater once the [DU] projectile has been fired.
After they have been fired, the broken shells release uranium
particles. The airborne particles enter the body easily. The uranium
then deposits itself in bones, organs and cells. Children are
especially vulnerable because their cells divide rapidly as they grow.
In pregnant women, absorbed uranium can cross the placenta into the
bloodstream of the foetus.
"In addition to its radioactive dangers, uranium is chemically
toxic, like lead, and can damage the kidneys and lungs. Perhaps, the
fatal epidemic of swollen abdomens among Iraqi children is caused by
kidney failure resulting from uranium poisoning. Whatever the effect of
the DU shells, it is made worse by malnutrition and poor health
"Iraq holds the United States and Britain legally and morally
responsible for the grave health and environmental impact of the use of
DU ..." (A version of the report is available at: http://www.iacenter.org/depleted/du_iraq.htm).
Terrible as these results were, the last six years have
further rise in the number of children under 15 falling ill with cancer
in Iraq. The rate has now reached 22.4 per 100,000â€”more than
times the 1990 rate of 3.98 per 100,000.
Dr Janan Hassan of the Basra Maternity and Childrens Hospital
IRIN in November 2004 that as many as 56 percent of all cancer patients
in Iraq were now children under 5, compared with just 13 percent 15
years earlier. "Also," he said, "it is notable that the number of
babies born with defects is rising astonishingly. In 1990, there were
seven cases of babies born with multiple congenital anomalies. This has
gone up to as high as 224 cases in the past three years."
The statistics point to the long-term consequences of depleted
uranium contamination. Munitions containing an estimated 300 tonnes of
DU were unleashed by coalition forces in southern Iraq in 1991. A
decade after the war, DU shell holes are still 1,000 times more
radioactive than the normal level of background radiation. The
surrounding areas are still 100 times more radioactive. Experts surmise
that fine uranium dust has been spread by the wind, contaminating
swathes of the surrounding region, including Basra, which is some 200
kilometres away from sites where large numbers of DU shells were fired.
A 1997 study into the cancer rate among Iraqi soldiers who
the Basra area during the 1991 Gulf War found a statistically
significant increase in the rate at which they were stricken with
lymphomas, leukaemia, and lung, brain, gastrointestinal, bone and liver
cancers, as compared to personnel who had not fought in the south. One
in four of the American personnel who fought in first Iraq
than 150,000 peopleâ€”are also suffering a range of medical
collectively described as "Gulf War Syndrome". While the US military
denies there is any relationship, exposure to depleted uranium is one
of the factors blamed by veterans and medical researchers.
Somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 tonnes of DU was expended
the three-week war in 2003. Unlike 1991, however, where most of the
fighting took place outside major population centres, the 2003 invasion
witnessed the wholesale bombardment of targets inside densely-populated
cities with DU shells. Christian Science Monitor journalist Scott
Peterson registered radiation on a simple Geiger counter at levels some
1,900 times the normal background rate in parts of Baghdad in May 2003.
The city has a population of six million.
Given that it was two to four years after the 1991 war before
and birth defect rates began to rise dramatically, the fear among
medical specialists is that Iraq will face an epidemic of cancers by
the end of the decade, under conditions where the medical system,
devastated by years of sanctions and war, is unable to cope with the
Dr Amar, the deputy head of the Al-Sadr Teaching Hospital in
one of the main hospitals treating Iraqi cancer patients, told the
Sydney Morning Herald on April 29: â€œWe donâ€™t have drugs
tumours. I have a patient with tumours who is unconscious and I
have drugs or a bed in which to treat him. I have two women with
advanced ovarian cancer but I can give them only minimum doses of only
some of the drugs they need.
"Two or three days ago we had to cancel all surgery because we
no gauze and no anaesthetics. Our wards are like stables for horses,
not humans. We can't properly isolate patients or manage their diets.
We don'€™t have proper laboratory facilities....
"If you are sick don't come to this hospital for treatment. It
is collapsing around us. We a€™re going down in a heap."
After three trips there,
journalist Christian Parenti reflects
on the "meltdown" and "total destruction" that is Iraq.
President Bush, fresh off an inaugural address that committed
United States anew to the cause of global freedom, will find his
soaring rhetoric put to its latest test in Iraq's national vote this
Sunday. And it's a tough test. With the country in flames and insurgent
attacks seemingly rising to an election-timed crescendo, Iraq makes a
distinctly uninspiring showcase for the neoconservative foreign policy
ask Christian Parenti. The author and journalist made three trips to
Iraq to see for himself how the newly "liberated" country was faring.
As the rare correspondent who has "embedded" on both sides of this war
– with the U.S. military and the Iraqi resistance – Parenti
brought an immediacy and vividness to his reporting for The Nation, and now in his
new book, The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq.
Akeel, a resident of Baghdad and Parenti's 26-year-old translator,
remarked when asked of life in the newly freed Iraq: "Ah, the freedom.
Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing
freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don't know what
to do with all this freedom."
Parenti recently came by the MotherJones.com office to discuss
his reporting from Iraq.
What made you want to go to Iraq?
Parenti: Well, I wanted to see the situation and I also wanted to have
the right to speak about the war. I noticed, perhaps at the level of
subtext, that some writers were definitely implying that if you were
not there you didn't have the right to comment. I also knew the war in
Iraq was not going to be quick and clean. This war is simply the
biggest story of our generation. After my initial trip, I wanted to go
back and better understand the situation there. Immediately people
suggested that I write a book, which required return trips, so I went
back two more times for roughly a total of four months. So that's why –
to weigh in on the largest story of our time.
You got access to both sides of the conflict. How difficult
was that to do?
getting access to the U.S. military is not so hard. They have a
structure for embedding journalists; it's just a matter of wading
through their bureaucracy. One time I was with the Florida National
Guard and on a return trip I ended up in Fallujah. The official setting
up the embed said, "There's a long line with everyone here in Baghdad,
but if you want to go out to the Wild West there's nobody really out
there." So I said, "O.K., I'll go there," and they sent me to Fallujah
with the 82nd Airborne.
Meeting the resistance was much more
complicated: it involved gaining the trust of Iraqis who in turn were
equally trusted by the resistance. Organizing the first meetings took a
long time – many visits with former soldiers who claimed not to be in
the resistance but who wanted to have long conversations, wanted to
look at my books, and wanted me to come back the next day to check me
out some more. Now, I would be extremely wary if I went back. I
definitely would not meet with the resistance now because the
kidnapping, especially in central Iraq, is completely uncontrollable.
How, structurally, would you characterize the insurgency?
see it as a horizontal network made up of cells, with individual groups
and clusters of cells. Within this network there are nodes, which have
different levels of organization. The nodes with greater organization
pulsate out more resources, ideology, direction, and a program to the
rest of the network. Some of these nodes are Jihadist, and some are
remnants from the old police state, and these factions may or may not
relate to one another. The former police forces have relationships with
informants as well as with self-organized cells. They can mobilize them
and pull them into actions and create networks of alliances for actions
and then disband. They are basically horizontal networks of autonomous
Not all of these groups are equal. Some cells are more
powerful and connected than others. For example, former security forces
are more powerful than, say, a group of farmers from outside of
Baghdad. People want to dismiss the role of former security forces
because Donald Rumsfeld blames the resistance on old security forces,
but that's ridiculous. You don't simply make an army of 400,000 people
go away. It just doesn't happen.
What is your prediction for how insurgents will disrupt the
really have no idea, except that there's probably going to be a lot of
violence, rampant vote fraud, and some spectacular hits on political
people. But maybe it's not Election Day we should be focused on –
because it is happening right now. There's no functioning
infrastructure for this election in the central part of Iraq, where
roughly half of the population lives. The elections will be a sham and
Every single nostrum the administration put forward
is a complete deception. Remember Fallujah? That was going to be the
big showdown with the resistance. So far, U.S. Marines have searched
every single house in the entire city and they are now forced to search
them again because the resistance is still killing Marines. That's how
intense the resistance is – they can't even tame this leveled ghost
The book reads, at times, as a portrayal of the underbelly
of the war. What kind of underworld exists in Iraq?
think we forget about the other major war going on in Iraq, which is
essentially an apolitical Hobbesian war of all against all. Total
criminality and a massive crime wave: people constantly being
carjacked, people constantly raiding each other's houses, and countless
scores being settled through murder. It is like an extreme version of
the Wild West. There is a lot of drug use and prostitution. Drugs,
especially Valium and other sedatives, are readily available throughout
the urban centers. Prostitution is rampant because women are hungry,
women are widowed, and there is a type of lawlessness that encourages
it. Most of the prostitution caters to Iraqi men, but it also involves
many U.S. soldiers. But much of this so-called underbelly exists in and
around Baghdad. When you get into Iraq's rural environment this form of
disorder considerably decreases. As a result of all this, a lot of
marriages fall apart in the immediate aftermath of war. It gets
overlooked because it is somewhat mundane, but it is a major concern to
soldiers because so many relationships fall apart.
the book with a trip to Florida where you visit with soldiers back from
Iraq. What has it been like for you to be back home?
situation in Iraq is so grim that I immediately noticed a type of
political, intellectual and emotional lassitude set in when I returned.
It left me profoundly depressed. It is difficult to find a silver
lining in the current occupation. The meltdown and total destruction of
the homeland of 25 million people – the slaughter and the
destabilization of the entire region – could potentially force the U.S.
to suffer a form of defeat. That could lead to restructured and
improved relationships with other countries, except that the U.S.
refuses to cooperate on any topic and with any country. Even that
scenario is hollow and unsatisfactory because there will be little left
in Iraq and there is no guarantee that political and military defeat in
Iraq will result in a restructuring of American foreign policy.
On the subject of trauma, Dan Baum wrote an excellent piece in
The New Yorker
about soldiers and their reactions to killing people. The fact is that
soldiers who kill suffer much worse upon their return than those who do
not. So, as a journalist you come away depressed and having witnessed
first-hand how dire world politics are. But that pales in comparison to
the life-long struggle facing soldiers – the ones who've killed – when
they return home.
You spend a lot of time with soldiers in Iraq. Do you see
any signs of anti-war activism taking root among returning soldiers?
hard to say. I did not see a lot of defiance among U.S. soldiers, but
there is a growing amount of activism. The discipline in the U.S.
military is pretty strong and morale is fairly high. We are not going
to see a mass protest of GIs for some time to come. More of what you
see is passive resistance from soldiers – where people file
administrative complaints to avoid service, or soldiers just desert.
if you went AWOL and deserted they did not want you in the army. That
may be changing with this war given the low troop levels, but the army
still wants a force that is committed – or at least guilt tripped – to
serve. The military is, generally, a bunch of regular working-class
Americans from all over the country. They work extremely hard and
remain serious with whatever their task is: changing tires, getting
computers to work, making sure communications are operational, making
sure there is enough water and food, etc. You just get this serious,
all-business, approach to the operations as a whole.
You wrote the book Lockdown America, which details
the rise of the prison industrial complex in the U.S. Talk about your
visit to Abu Ghraib.
did not actually get into the Abu Ghraib prison. They were not offering
tours, although I could have attended a briefing in a room without
access to any prisoners. Instead, I went with a family of a prisoner
and hung out in line. There is always a huge crowd outside of Abu
Ghraib, many are former prisoners trying to find relatives still
incarcerated, and I visited this mass of people several times to
conduct interviews. This space, enclosed by all this wire, is
essentially part of Abu Ghraib; you are not actually inside the prison
but many ex-prisoners are available. The average person detained at Abu
Ghraib was not tortured by Charles Graner or Lynndie England, but
snatched up in a raid and dumped in an open-air prison camp.
Ghraib and operations there represent just total chaos. The prison is
full of people on a giant backlog who have absolutely no intelligence
value whatsoever to the U.S. In the outdoor tent-prison, guards do
stuff like throw rocks at them and put sand in their food to harass
them, but by and large they just ignore them and prisoners try to
survive the freezing cold and the heat. After roughly two months,
finally someone would come along and put them in a truck and dump them
somewhere. Numerous people told me they were questioned and
interrogated when they were arrested but never spoken to again once
they got to Abu Ghraib. Then there are people like Salah Hassan, a
cameraman with Al Jazeera, who described to me the capture and torture
he faced at Abu Ghraib. I give credit to The Nation for
publishing the story, which broke two months before the torture scandal
became more widely known. Hassan described various types of torture
used against him while he was wrongly imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.
recently, I went to Chicago to interview an interrogator who works with
the 10th Mountain, which is stationed at Camp Victory surrounding the
Baghdad Airport. The interrogators routinely grill people who are
completely innocent of anything and snatched at random and brought to
Abu Ghraib. This source wouldn't tell the entire story to me. He was
too scared to tell it because he had to go back to Iraq and continue in
this position. But he did describe an intelligence system that was in
complete chaos – where all intelligence has equal value and people are
indiscriminately imprisoned. He also discussed an operation called
"Clean Sweep" in advance of the Jan. 30 election, which basically
rounds up every male in the area between 18-40.
This is just
pathetic and ridiculous. It represents a blatant admission of defeat –
they have no idea how to fight the resistance, so they are just going
to round up Iraqis and throw them into Abu Ghraib. That's not a
strategy and this soldier, who is completely pro-war, was extremely
worried about that. Imagine if you were pro-war and wanted to invade
Iraq, which is what this soldier believed, the way they are doing it is
just insane. You grab a bunch of civilians and then throw them into
prison camps where there are actually people active in the resistance.
You basically allow people who are pissed off to associate with those
active in the war and the prison becomes this massive recruiting center.
Why, in your opinion, has the U.S. made such a mess of Iraq?
clique of wise men around George Bush felt, and still feels, that the
U.S. is in a unique position, that this position allows them to
solidify a type of global control and reverse the Clinton years, which
they see as marked by a failed strategy of humanitarian interventionism
and alliance-building. They want decisive, aggressive, and unilateral
action that demonstrates, on a global scale, that this is Planet
America and this country is in control. They basically took leave of
their senses in Iraq because they were completely high off their
successes elsewhere. They did not want to listen to anyone who told
them otherwise. For example, they didn't want to read the State
Department's one-year, $5 million study, which stated that invading
Iraq would be incredibly difficult. And now they are in serious trouble.
don't think we totally understand how bad the situation is in Iraq or
that the entire region is primed for instability. The lessons they
learned in Vietnam – stay out of guerilla wars and do not engage an
enemy with a full-fledged military force – worked well for them in
Central America and elsewhere. But they abandoned that strategy and are
now lost without any strategy in Iraq.
The opening chapter of The Freedom
dissects the cinematic narrative of American imperialism, what you
describe as "an exciting drama in which the American national character
is being put to the test," from the initial challenge and first easy
victory through the moment of doubt and concluding with the inevitable
final victory. How can the Bush administration or subsequent
administrations possibly spin the inevitable "final victory" this time
That part of the story is endlessly regressing, and
we always have to wait a little longer for that ending. There is no
understanding of history and there is no accountability to history. So
the pundit class never holds leaders accountable. Americans simply do
not know what is occurring because television news does not cover the
So Americans are free to think that there is really all of
this good work going on and schools are being rebuilt. Basically
believing that everything is getting better every day and in every way.
A lot of people believe that because they only watch television and
they simply have no idea of what's going on in the region. Then there
is an entire segment of the population who are so ideologically
committed to a racist, often religious, American nationalism that they
do not care what the facts are, and actively don't want to hear any
facts that contradict their worldview of the U.S. as a righteous victim
that goes out and helps people. But, by and large, most Americans don't
know, don't understand, and don't know how to figure it out.
You got into some trouble last March during an appearance
on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,
in which you were interviewed by Ray Suarez and stated that Halliburton
and Bechtel's failure to provide "meaningful reconstruction" was
contributing to instability in Iraq. What happened next?
got a call the next morning from producer Dan Sagalyn, who was a nice
guy and said he liked my reporting, but I could immediately tell
something was wrong. He said "some people high up at The Newshour
are really upset and think your segment was unbalanced." I was
completely surprised because my comments were not that controversial,
but he said we needed a right-winger to balance my comments. I said I
don't consider myself particularly left-wing, and simply reported the
reality in Iraq.
The next day he called back and said Jim Lehrer
is extremely upset and he's going to say something at the end of the
next broadcast. Sure enough, after interviewing Gen. John Abizaid – and
they did not have anyone countering Abizaid's points on that broadcast
– Lehrer apologized for what I'd said two nights earlier. Then, what I
find really insane, the Village Voice reported on the story
because people at The Nation were upset about the incident and The
admitted to the entire thing. It is ridiculous and pathetic how serious
they take themselves because I think their show is completely lopsided
and mainstream. Unfortunately, they think they represent this
independent voice in the media and that is just completely inaccurate.
How are mainstream American media outlets performing in
their Iraq coverage?
failing us, the citizenry, but [they're] doing a damn fine job of
keeping people in a position where they are willing to spend $5 billion
a month on this war and tolerate thousands of casualties. They are
doing an incredible job of making the Iraq war work for this
administration. But how many people have actually been injured in this
war? We know that over 10,000 people have been seriously injured, but
how many amputees have there been from this war? That should be a
standard number from this war. We know that thousands have been
wounded, many returned to service, but many horribly maimed. So they're
both failing and succeeding – depending on the perspective you have on
Silence cloaks nuclear scandal
Scientist who profited
by spreading atomic secrets to U.S. foes is
shielded by Pakistani president and President Bush
ROSENBERG, Washington bureau
First published: Sunday,
January 16, 2005
-- Public enemy No. 1 for most Americans is Osama bin Laden, the
mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who continues to threaten
more deadly strikes against the United States.
In close competition
for that dubious title should be Abdul Qadeer Khan, 68, also known as
A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist who oversaw the spread of
nuclear weapons to U.S. adversaries, possibly including al-Qaida, bin
Laden's terrorist group.
Khan arguably has done more to
undermine U.S. security than bin Laden. He has confessed to
transferring nuclear weapons know-how to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
U.S. officials and investigators at the U.N.'s International Atomic
Energy Agency are still searching for other possible customers who
possess Khan's digitized blueprints for nuclear-specific manufacturing
equipment and how-to manuals for running uranium enrichment
centrifuges, much of it on handy compact discs.
invention of nuclear weapons 60 years ago, no one has done more to
spread those weapons to more countries than Khan. His network of
suppliers, middlemen and front companies flourished in 30 countries. He
was a for-profit nuclear peddler, with a one-stop atomic emporium that
allowed shoppers to buy bomb designs, centrifuges for enriching uranium
from uranium hexafluoride and consulting services to help get weapons
plants up and running.
Despite his notoriety, Khan has escaped
the "most-wanted" label applied to bin Laden because of a delicate
diplomatic and political minuet linking Khan, Pakistani President
Pervez Musharraf and President Bush. Each man for his own reasons has
thrown a cloak of silence over what is emerging as the biggest nuclear
scandal in history.
In contrast to the missing bin Laden --
target of a global manhunt -- Khan's whereabouts are well known. He is
living under house arrest in a tony section of Islamabad, the capital
of Pakistan, as part of a deal that Musharraf unveiled last year.
deal gave Khan a full pardon and allowed him to keep the millions of
dollars he is believed to have netted from the illicit sales. In
exchange, Khan took responsibility for the crimes and agreed to the
house arrest -- a punishment that forced Khan, a high-profile and
beloved figure in Pakistan, to vanish from public life and scientific
A U.S. alert to Musharraf apparently triggered
to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the United States by early 2004 had
amassed so much evidence that Khan was peddling nuclear secrets that
Powell telephoned Musharraf and told him to "deal with" Khan.
said to him, 'We know so much about this that we're going to go public
with it, and within a few weeks, OK? And you need to deal with this
before you have to deal with it publicly.' "
The next step came
on Feb. 4 when, in a dramatic televised speech, Khan confessed and --
without naming the countries that had received his services -- accepted
"full responsibility" for exporting nuclear technology.
quick to absolve the Musharraf government of any involvement. While
some of his colleagues at the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories --
Pakistan's top nuclear facility -- are also under investigation for
trafficking, "there was never any kind of authorization for these
activities by the government," he said.
The next day, it was Musharraf's turn to appear
before the TV cameras.
in an army jacket, khaki trousers and combat boots, the Pakistani
leader announced at a news conference that he had pardoned Khan for
spreading the potential for nuclear terror. The Pakistani president
signed off saying how much he admired the scientist.
proliferation, unfortunately, was under the supervision or orders of
Dr. A.Q. Khan," Musharraf told a news conference, quickly adding that
Khan is "still my hero" for developing atomic weapons for Pakistan.
insisted the Pakistani government had no knowledge of Khan's extensive
proliferation network because the scientist had amassed enormous
autonomy during the previous two decades as he developed nuclear
weapons for Pakistan.
Musharraf's eagerness to whisk the matter
out of sight reflects a harsh political fact of life for the
61-year-old general. Khan is a hero in Pakistan and throughout the
Islamic world for perfecting his country's first nuclear weapon -- and,
by definition, the much-anticipated first "Muslim bomb." Pakistan
exploded a series of atomic bombs in 1998, bringing that country into
nuclear parity with archrival India, with whom it has fought three
Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to
Lanka and adviser to prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto,
says Khan is so popular in Pakistan that if he announced he wanted his
countrymen to give him money, "150 million Pakistanis would give it to
him. Pakistani kids would empty their pockets for him." Haqqani teaches
international relations at Boston University and is author of the
forthcoming "Pakistan Between Mosque and Military."
presides over a nation festering with Islamic militants, with large
segments of the population sympathetic to al-Qaida and remnants of the
fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which the U.S. military
toppled three years ago. The general is in no position to get tough
with Khan by, for example, putting him on trial, especially since such
a step would appear to be catering to the United States, which is
widely unpopular throughout the country. Pakistan's religious parties
already are angry with Musharraf for placing Khan and at least a
half-dozen of his associates under house arrest.
won't let U.S. investigators or officials from the International Atomic
Energy Agency question Khan directly -- "It's a matter of national
pride" he says -- to find out more about his far-flung proliferation
network. From the Pakistani dictator's point of view, the least said
about Khan, the better.
The Pakistani leader, who has narrowly
escaped two assassination attempts, keeps one eye nervously focused at
all times on how Islamic militants in his nation react to his policies,
especially when they involve coordination with the United States. And
there is a huge amount of coordination. Powell said he speaks with
Musharraf more than with any other foreign leader. "We talk all the
time," Powell said of the estimated 90 conversations he said they have
The Bush administration is also tiptoeing around
Musharraf is a key ally in the U.S. war against terrorism -- after the
Sept. 11 strikes he agreed to withdraw support for the Taliban, a
regime that had supported al-Qaida -- the White House doesn't want to
add to Musharraf's precarious domestic circumstances by pushing too
hard to gain access to Khan.
Another reason the Bush
administration is eager to let the Khan case gently disappear is that
it represents a failure of American intelligence and diplomacy that one
man -- the leading nuclear scientist of a U.S. ally -- could do so much
damage for so long and escape detection.
In his infrequent
interviews and public statements, Khan has revealed that he is a
virulent Muslim nationalist with an Islamist's hatred of the United
States, Israel and the West.
"All the western countries,
including Israel, are not only Pakistan's enemies but also enemies of
Islam," he charged in a 1984 interview. He called the U.S. effort to
prevent the flow of nuclear technology around the globe "part of the
crusades which the Christians and Jews had initiated against the
Muslims 1,000 years ago." Like many Muslims, Khan has spoken of a
worldwide "Zionist" conspiracy to rob Muslim nations of their power and
posted Monday, 17 January 2005
REAL WMD'S IN IRAQ - OURS
April 17, 2006
of mass destruction are all over Iraq. Iraqi children are playing among
them every day. According to Iraqi doctors, many are developing cancer
as a result. The WMD in question is depleted uranium (DU). Left over
after natural uranium has been processed, DU is 1.7 times denser than
lead - effective in penetrating armored vehicles such as tanks. After a
DU shell strikes, it penetrates before exploding into a burning vapor
that turns to dust.
"Depleted uranium has a half life of
4.7 billion years - that means thousands upon thousands of Iraqi
children will suffer for tens of thousands of years to come. This is
what I call terrorism," says Dr Ahmad Hardan.
As a special
scientific adviser to the World Health Organization, the United Nations
and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Dr Hardan is the man who documented
the effects of depleted uranium in Iraq between 1991 and 2002. U.S.
forces admit to using at least 300 tons of D.U. ordinance in Gulf War
I, with up to six times that amount in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it can dramatically alter the
entire fabric of family life. The emotional impact can be huge. Imagine
having nine members of your family with malignancies at the same time.
Welcome to Basra, Iraq.
Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, educated in
England, is head oncologist at the Saddam teaching hospital in Basra.
There are nine people with cancer in his wife's family. They are not
alone. At a conference in Japan in 2004 he stated:
strange phenomena have come about in Basra which I have never seen
before. The first is double and triple cancers in one patient. For
example, leukemia and cancer of the stomach. We had one patient with 2
cancers - one in his stomach and kidney. Months later, primary cancer
was developing in his other kidney--he had three different cancer
types. The second is the clustering of cancer in families. We have 58
families here with more than one person affected by cancer. Dr Yasin, a
general Surgeon here has two uncles, a sister and cousin affected with
cancer. Dr Mazen, another specialist, has six family members suffering
from cancer. My wife has nine members of her family with cancer".
in particular are susceptible to depleted uranium( DU) poisoning. They
have a much higher absorption rate as their blood is being used to
build and nourish their bones and they have a lot of soft tissues. Bone
cancer and leukemia used to be diseases affecting them the most,
however, cancer of the lymph system, which can develop anywhere on the
body, and has rarely been seen before the age of 12 is now also common."
one point after the war, a Basra hospital reported treating upwards of
600 children per day with symptoms of radiation sickness. 600 children
The widespread use of DU weapons was not limited to
Iraq. The Uranium Medical Research Center (UMRC), founded by Dr. Asaf
Durakovic, a former U.S. Army Colonel, did extensive field studies in
Afghanistan just after the invasion. Excerpts from their field reports
"We took both soil and biological samples, and found
considerable presence in urine samples of radioactivity; the heavy
concentration astonished us. They were beyond our wildest
imagination."......."The UMRC field team was shocked by the breadth of
public health impacts coincident with the bombing. Without exception,
at every bombsite investigated, people are ill. A significant portion
of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal
contamination by uranium."
In Afghanistan, unlike Iraq,
UMRC lab results indicated high concentrations of NON-DEPLETED URANIUM,
with the concentrations being much higher than in DU victims from Iraq.
Afghanistan was evidently used as a testing ground for a new generation
of "bunker buster" bombs containing high concentrations of other
Durakovic stated, "The [U.S.] Veteran's Administration asked me to lie
about the risks of incorporating depleted uranium in the human body
...uranium does cause cancer, uranium does cause mutation, and uranium
does kill. If we continue with the irresponsible contamination of the
biosphere, the denial of the fact that human life is endangered by the
deadly uranium isotope, then we are doing disservice to ourselves,
disservice to the truth, disservice to God and to all the generations
Living in Iraq under Saddam Hussein was pretty
bad much of the time, and being ruled by the Taliban in Afghanistan was
no picnic either, but DU is worse. It's not safe even to breathe. It's
the ultimate tyranny.
Westerman blogs at: vitaltruths.blogsource.com, which contains a much
longer and more comprehensive report on the horrors of Depleted
Uranium. He can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com
'Depleted' Uranium used in LEBANON by Israël
NukeNet Anti-Nuclear Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Depleted Uranium Situation Worsens Requires Action
Monday, 31 July 2006, 1:39 pm
Opinion: Dr. Doug Rokke Ph.D.
Depleted Uranium Situation Worsens Requiring Immediate Action By President
Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and Prime Minister Olmert
Dr. Doug Rokke, PhD., former Director, U.S. Army Depleted Uranium project
July 24, 2006
The delivery of at least 100 GBU 28 bunker busters bombs containing depleted
uranium warheads by the United States to Israel for use against targets in
Lebanon will result in additional radioactive and chemical toxic
contamination with consequent adverse health and environmental effects
throughout the middle east.
Today, U.S., British, and now Israeli military personnel are using illegal
uranium munitions- America's and England's own "dirty bombs" while U.S.
Army, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, and British
Ministry of Defence officials deny that there are any adverse health and
environmental effects as a consequence of the manufacture, testing, and/or
use of uranium munitions to avoid liability for the willful and illegal
dispersal of a radioactive toxic material - depleted uranium.
The use of uranium weapons is absolutely unacceptable, and a crime against
humanity. Consequently the citizens of the world and all governments must
force cessation of uranium weapons use. I must demand that Israel now
provide medical care to all DU casualties in Lebanon and clean up all DU
U.S. and British officials have arrogantly refused to comply with their own
regulations, orders, and directives that require United States Department of
Defense officials to provide prompt and effective medical care to "all"
exposed individuals. Reference: Medical Management of Unusual Depleted
Uranium Casualties, DOD, Pentagon, 10/14/93, Medical Management of Army
personnel Exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical
Command 29 April 2004, and section 2-5 of U.S. Army Regulation 700-48.
Israeli officials must not do so now.
They also refuse to clean up dispersed radioactive Contamination as required
by Army Regulation- AR 700-48: "Management of Equipment Contaminated With
Depleted Uranium or Radioactive Commodities" (Headquarters, Department Of
The Army, Washington, D.C., September 2002) and U.S. Army Technical
Bulletin- TB 9-1300-278: "Guidelines For Safe Response To Handling, Storage,
And Transportation Accidents Involving Army Tank Munitions Or Armor Which
Contain Depleted Uranium" (Headquarters, Department Of The Army, Washington,
D.C., JULY 1996). Specifically section 2-4 of United States Army
Regulation-AR 700-48 dated September 16, 2002 requires that:
(1) "Military personnel "identify, segregate, isolate, secure, and label all
RCE" (radiologically contaminated equipment).
(2) "Procedures to minimize the spread of radioactivity will be implemented
as soon as possible."
(3) "Radioactive material and waste will not be locally disposed of through
burial, submersion, incineration, destruction in place, or abandonment" and
(4) "All equipment, to include captured or combat RCE, will be surveyed,
packaged, retrograded, decontaminated and released IAW Technical Bulletin
9-1300-278, DA PAM 700-48" (Note: Maximum exposure limits are specified in
The previous and current use of uranium weapons, the release of radioactive
components in destroyed U.S. and foreign military equipment, and releases of
industrial, medical, research facility radioactive materials have resulted
in unacceptable exposures. Therefore, decontamination must be completed as
required by U.S. Army Regulation 700-48 and should include releases of all
radioactive materials resulting from military operations.
The extent of adverse health and environmental effects of uranium weapons
contamination is not limited to combat zones but includes facilities and
sites where uranium weapons were manufactured or tested including Vieques;
Puerto Rico; Colonie, New York; Concord, MA; Jefferson Proving Grounds,
Indiana; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Therefore medical care must be
provided by the United States Department of Defense officials to all
individuals affected by the manufacturing, testing, and/or use of uranium
munitions. Thorough environmental remediation also must be completed without
I am amazed that fifteen years after was I asked to clean up the initial DU
mess from Gulf War 1 and over ten years since I finished the depleted
uranium project that United States Department of Defense officials and
others still attempt to justify uranium munitions use while ignoring
mandatory requirements. I am dismayed that Department of Defense and
Department of Energy officials and representatives continue personal attacks
aimed to silence or discredit those of us who are demanding that medical
care be provided to all DU casualties and that environmental remediation is
completed in compliance with U.S. Army Regulation 700-48.
But beyond the ignored mandatory actions the willful dispersal of tons of
solid radioactive and chemically toxic waste in the form of uranium
munitions is illegal
(http://www.traprockpeace.org/karen_parker_du_illegality.pdf) and just does
not even pass the common sense test and according to the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security, DHS, is a dirty bomb. DHS issued "dirty bomb" response
guidelines, ( http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/fr-cont.html ), on
January 3, 2006 for incidents within the United States but ignore DOD use of
uranium weapons and existing DOD regulations.
These guidelines specifically state that: "Characteristics of RDD and IND
Incidents: A radiological incident is defined as an event or series of
events, deliberate or accidental, leading to the release, or potential
release, into the environment of radioactive material in sufficient quantity
to warrant consideration of protective actions. Use of an RDD or IND is an
act of terror that produces a radiological incident." Thus the use of
uranium munitions is "an act or terror" as defined by DHS. Finally continued
compliance with the infamous March 1991 Los Alamos Memorandum that was
issued to ensure continued use of uranium munitions can not be justified.
In conclusion: the President of the United States- George W. Bush, the Prime
Minister of Great Britain-Tony Blair, and the Prime Minister of Israel
Olmert must acknowledge and accept responsibility for willful use of illegal
uranium munitions- their own "dirty bombs"- resulting in adverse health and
President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and Prime Minister Olmert should
1. medical care for all casualties,
2. thorough environmental remediation,
3. immediate cessation of retaliation against all of us who demand
compliance with medical care and environmental remediation requirements,
4. and stop the already illegal the use (UN finding) of depleted uranium
References- these references are copies the actual regulations and orders
and other pertinent official documents:
ARMY TRAINING VIDEO
Legacy of Treason
Uranium and the Poisoning of Humanity
By Alok O'Brien
DOWNLOAD A .PDF FILE
OF THIS ARTICLE
recent years I have become aware of the issue of depleted uranium (DU)
and its use by the US Military in Iraq in 1991 and again in the current
Iraq war. The photos of birth deformities and stories of suffering
resulting from DU shocked me, reminding me of the Agent Orange victims
of America's Vietnam war. Then I watched David Bradbury and Peter
Scott's new film, Blowin' in the Wind . Its content shocked and
appalled me, and spurred me into researching and writing this article.
It is undoubtedly by far the most significant issue on the planet
today, and yet the mainstream media stays quiet.
March 06 issue byronchild magazine
Living Now magazine, May 06
n 1 betrayal of one's
sovereign or country. 2 any treachery or betrayal.
treasonable adj treasonous adj
uranium (DU) is what is left after raw uranium has been enriched to the
highly radioactive isotope U-235 used for weapons and power generation.
For every ton of U-235 produced, there are seven tons of DU. Estimates
vary, but it seems that currently the US alone has in excess of five
million tons of stockpiles of DU. This has no commercial use beyond its
use as a radiation shield in medical devices, and for adding to
concrete to form radiation containing bunkers. However, this requires
an insignificant quantity of the DU produced each year.
half-life of DU is 4.5 billion years, so storing it safely and
indefinitely is cost prohibitive. To remedy the situation, the US
Department of Energy has made it freely available to the Pentagon and
US armaments and armour manufacturers, and it has been used in weapons
exported to 29 countries. It is simply cheaper to make it into weapons
than store it.
is widely accepted that DU itself is fairly stable, as the dangerous
alpha particles which it emits cannot pass through more than a couple
of centimetres of air. The problems arise when DU is in contact with
water or is used in weaponry and explodes. (See the photo above — the
sparks are DU that is on fire and exploding.) It then creates a
vapourised, radioactive gas comprising of tiny nano-particles. The
microscopic particles in this vapour are then littered, depending upon
prevailing winds, up to 100 kms around (estimates on this vary — with
some sources citing up to 1000 kms), where they fall on crops, water,
or just on the ground to be picked up by the next gust of wind or by
car tyres. Later, when this gas enters the atmosphere, it can spread
nanoparticles of DU enter the body, from the air, from landing on
clothing or skin and from food or water. These nanoparticles penetrate
all protective clothing and masks, and once it comes in contact with
the body it immediately disperses and begins to alter DNA. As it is not
soluble it cannot be excreted from the body. Uranium is a toxic
chemical element, just like lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium.
to the declassified Groves memo from the Manhattan Project in 1943, the
properties of DU in weapons has been known and strategised with for 60
years. It is clear that the US has known for 60 years about the effects
of DU on the battlefield, also the danger to its own soldiers.
is DU so useful as a weapon?
is very hard, the hardest and densest of metals, and so is used for
armour piercing rounds, fired from tanks, ships, aircraft and snipers,
and for the bunker buster bombs made famous in the 2003 attack on
Baghdad. It is also in the Tomahawk Cruise missiles fired from ships.
Being so hard, it is also used extensively in the armour plating of
tanks and armoured cars.
is a pyroforic metal, meaning it burns. The bullets and large calibre
shells are actually on fire when they come out of the gun barrel
because they are ignited by the friction in the barrel and explode on
contact — armour piercing incendiary ammunition. Most of the DU metal
becomes a metal vapour, so it is really a radioactive gas weapon once
the initial destruction has occurred. DU weaponry are nuclear weapons.
the military use of DU violates current international law including the
principle that there is no unlimited right to choose the means and
methods of warfare.
speaking of the quantities of DU used in various wars it is worth
understanding that the amount of uranium used in the bomb that
destroyed Hiroshima was approximately 13kg, about the size of a
two-litre milk container. A Japanese professor, Dr. K. Yagasaki, has
calculated that in terms of the atomicity, (the amount of radiation
produced), a ton of DU used on the battlefield releases the equivalent
of 100 Hiroshima bombs worth of radiation released into the atmosphere.
Thus when experts refer to the 2000 tons of DU dropped on Iraq in the
past three years, what is being released in the Iraqi atmosphere, and
then spreading worldwide, is the equivalent of 200,000 Hiroshima bombs.
The total amount of DU the US has used since 1991 is approximately 4600
tons (1000 in the first Gulf War, 800 in Kosovo, 800 in Afghanistan and
a further 2000 tons in the current Iraq war.) This amounts to
approximately 460,000 Hiroshima bombs, ten times the amount of
radiation released into the atmosphere from all previous nuclear
sort blue-tipped depleted uranium MK-38 25mm machine-gun shells while
another fires them out to sea in exercises at Shoalwater Bay. Notice
the protective clothing and gloves.
the past 18 months there has been an erupting scandal in the US in the
Department of Veterans Affairs as DU is blamed by more and more
respected scientists for Gulf War Syndrome (and also, Balkans War
the 580,000 US soldiers that served in Iraq in 1991, by mid 2004
518,739 were on medical disability pensions. This figure is 150,000
higher than just one year earlier. There are no more recent statistics,
but it would appear that by now the percentages of soldiers affected
would be reaching 100%
to Leuren Moret in a group of 251 soldiers from a study group in
Mississippi who had all had normal babies before the first Gulf War,
67% of their post-war babies were born with severe birth defects. They
were born with missing legs, arms, organs or eyes or had immune system
and blood diseases. In some veterans' families now, the only normal or
healthy members of the family are the children born before the war.
'The use of depleted uranium weapons is a crime against humanity, a
crime against all species, and a war against the earth,' says Moret.
‘It is imperative that we demand a permanent international moratorium
on the sale and the use of depleted uranium weaponry.'
Coming to a country near you
20-year agreement was signed last year between the United States and
Australia, the specific terms of which are secret, but which allows the
US military to train and test its latest weapons in Australia. This
involves bombing ranges in the pristine Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton
in Queensland and at Lancelin, the lobster fishing village 150kms north
of Perth where there would be ship-to-shore bombing from nuclear
powered and capable US navy ships.
in the Northern Territory a ‘test' bombing range has been designated
where B52s and Stealth bombers will, as of January 06, and as you read
this, be dumping their payloads on their flights from Guam. The US Navy
uses DU in its shelling, and the B52s will be most likely (presumably
they will be testing the weapons they actually use) carrying bunker
buster bombs with their 2.2 tons of DU each. Retrospective legislation
was passed to remove the need for any Environmental Impact Study (EIS)
before or after the duration of this agreement.
asked in the Australian Senate about whether or not the US would be
using DU in its bombing of Australian sites, Defence Minister Senator
Hill said, ‘In relation to Depleted Uranium used by our allies we have
said that, if they believe it is the most appropriate element to use in
their particular munitions in certain circumstances, we do not think it
is appropriate for us to press a different view upon them.' Senator
Hill has since retired from Australian politics and has taken up
residence as the Australian UN Ambassador in New York
and more it appears that the things which are most important are simply
those that generate the biggest growth in profits, in the GDP. Sickness
generates business, cancer rates generate research dollars, war
accelerates growth, and we wonder why peace is so elusive when we
worship the economy. The following is equally applicable to Australia
now as it was to the US in the 1960s.
much and for too long we seem to have surrendered personal excellence
and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our
gross national product now is over $800 billion a year.
that gross national product, if we judge the United States of America
by that, counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising, and
ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks
for our doors, and the jails for people who break them. It counts the
destruction of redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic
sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and armoured
cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts
Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television program which
glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
the gross national product does not allow for the health of our
children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It
does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our
marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of
our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage,
neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our passion nor our
devotion to our country.
measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
And it can tell us everything about America — except why we are proud
that we are Americans.
we do not know how much DU is being used in Shoalwater Bay, or Lancelin
or dumped daily in the Northern Territory.
do know that Japan, the Philippines and Puerto Rica no longer allow the
US to bomb their lands with DU, and that there is no ship-to-shore
bombing allowed anymore on the US mainland.
know that there are hundreds of very vocal groups in opposition
worldwide to the use of DU, who have devoted their lives to this issue.
also know that the US government does not particularly care about the
safety of their troops or anyone else's, and is seemingly content to
poison the world for eternity, and poison themselves in the process. We
know that weapons usage is classified and that such information will
never be freely supplied to the Australian people, while nuclear
powered and armed ships are cruising the waters of the Great Barrier
Reef. In January, the largest nuclear powered and capable aircraft
carrier in the world, boasting 6000 marines on board, docked in
the contamination of Shoalwater Bay and Lancelin is anything like Iraq,
Kosovo, or Afghanistan, then the vicinity of these places should be
avoided. But it would be a mistake to think that the troubles are
confined to those areas. The beef and pineapples from Rockhampton, and
the seafood from Lancelin, could be contaminated and end up on your
bbq. After this article was first published a reader contacted the West
Australian Government who assured them that the Federal Government had
told them, in writing, that DU was not being used in WA. The Federal
Government may in fact believe what it is saying, but given the photo
that appeared on the US Navy's own website, of DU shells being loaded
into a ship's gun in Shoalwater Bay (see http://www.c7f.navy.mil/ts05/photos.htm
scroll to near bottom of page), it beggars belief that they would not
be using DU in WA. After all, according to the Defence Department, DU
is perfectly safe. They test weapons that they use, and they certainly
use DU weapons.
to Leuren Moret, it is simply no longer possible to go to Afghanistan
or the Middle East without being contaminated. How long before that is
also true of Australia?
are questions that need to be asked by everyone related to the
integrity of our political leadership.
our government have our best interests in mind
when they sign up for bombardments on Australian soil and in Australian
waters by DU tipped weaponry?
when they refuse to stipulate that no nuclear weapons are to be used on
our shores, and will they guarantee that our children will not grow up
breathing in DU nanoparticles?
when they sign up for Son of Star Wars , which will cost in
excess of $50 billion? (To protect us from what? Who?)
our government have our best interests in mind when they decide to
sequester large tracts of land in the Northern Territory for eternity
for a nuclear dump, so the US and UK can dump their ‘spent' nuclear
fuel and we can export more uranium?
they have our best interests at heart when they sign up for a de facto
[unshielded] nuclear dump under the guise of a joint bombing facility
in the Northern Territory?
is running the agenda that says that all of a sudden it is OK to talk
about new nuclear power stations as if nuclear power is an answer to
global warming? David Goodstein, professor of physics at the California
Institute of Technology (Caltech) said on ABC's Lateline in October
2004 that if nuclear power were to provide all of the energy that
fossil fuel currently provides there would be enough uranium for just
and GE build most of the nuclear power stations in the world, and also
happen to own significant stakes in most major media companies in the
US, which is largely why no real discussion will arise from the US on
this issue. Nuclear power becomes unviable if the cost of disposing of
the DU is factored in, which is why it is given to the Pentagon. Now
Australia wants to expand the number and size of its uranium mines to
sell to India and China (Who knows how they will dispose of their DU!).
Now Australia, thanks to John Howard, is talking seriously about
building power stations when our largest single electricity supplier,
the Snowy Mountains company, is running at 13% capacity! (SMH,24/5/06)
we need to do something. Research the internet, find out for yourself
what the DU debate is about. Do the research before you speak to anyone
so you know what you are talking about, as you will find that most
people will not want to believe that this is happening. The list of
websites supplied at the end of this article is by no means definitive,
but is a good place to start. Get in touch with any of the many groups
that have mobilised over this issue all over the world. Start your own
group. Do not let the size of the opposition and the scale of the
ignorance and unwillingness to know the truth that you will be
confronted with, convince you that you are helpless and cannot do
anything about DU. This is what they depend on .
your local politician, and do not accept anything that smells like a
brush-off. This may well be the most important thing you ever do.
a copy and arrange a showing of the film Blowin' in the Wind
at your local cinema, and get your local community radio station to
broadcast talks, interviews and lectures like those available on
www.alternativeradio.org or www.traprockpeace.org and many other
you live or holiday near the affected areas, make lots of noise with
the local councillors and media. Be disobedient. Be seditious. Get the
use of DU weaponry stopped. It is nuclear weaponry.
out who provides the Public Liability insurance for the army, and does
that insurer know the risks associated with DU? Perhaps the way to stop
this is through the public liability requirements that the Australian
population is tied up with. Any insurance lawyers out there?
is our home that is being poisoned. It is our country. Demand that it
is respected and protected for our children and their children. History
will not forgive us if we stand by idly.
article was first published in byronchild
magazine, issue 17 (www.byronchild.com).
is a writer and publisher who believes that there is no longer time to
pretend that everything will be alright, and that all thinking and
feeling people need to unite in their hopes and dreams and reclaim the
earth and their birthright before it is too late. With wife Kali he
publishes byronchild and holds together the
technical aspect of the magazine. For a pdf version of this article for
photocopying and/or reprinting, email Alok at
uranium: Dirty bombs, dirty missiles, dirty bullets , by Leuren
Uranium Shells, The Radioactive Weapons: Perpetuation of War Damage by
Radiation (PDF) Prof. Katsuma Yagasaki Professor, University of
the Ryukyus. www.uraniumweaponsconference.de/speakers.htm
on DU in Australian Senate, June 2003
Nuclear policy and Depleted Uranium: Testimony at the 28/6/2003
International War Crimes Tribunal on Afghanistan, by Leuren Moret
Uranium101, by Glen Lawrence. www.myweb.brooklyn.liu.edu/lawrence/duproject/cwpaper.htm
Photos, US Navy website, http://www.c7f.navy.mil/ts05/index.htm
What you can do?
Depleted uranium, Silent Killer
International Depleted Uranium Study Team
Against Depleted Uranium (UK)
Swap. Lancellin bombing, Western Australia, DU. www.seaswap.org
Want. Site related to proposed nuclear dump in South Australia. www.iratiwanti.org/home.php3
Uranium Education Project
Uranium: Hysteria or health threat? Anti Nuclear Alliance of Western
(World Information Service on Energy) Uranium Project.
of Uranium mines and facilities in Australia:
• Blowin' In
The Wind , DVD by David Bradbury, Peter Scott.
Doctor, the Depleted Uranium and the Dying Children. German
documentary exposes current radioactive warfare in Iraq
discussion with Leuren Moret and others, USA www.traprockpeace.org/WBAIDepletedUranium.mp3
Doug Rokke, USA
does the US government know about DU? By Leuren Moret
resources for Depleted Uranium information
Uranium: Origin, properties, and health consequences, One of many
articles/studies by Glen Lawrence, Department of Chemistry and
Biochemistry, Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Depleted Uranium Project
uranium and health: Facts and helpful suggestions
Trail of a Bullet,' Christian Science Monitor . www.csmonitor.com/atcsmonitor/specials/uranium/
roll at Veteran's Admin: Mushrooming DU scandal blamed, Bob Nichols, San
Francisco Bay View, December 14, 2005.
FAQ. What the Pentagon has to say
troops victims of America's high tech weapons. Juan Gonzalez, New
York Daily News , April 2, 2004.
Wounds of War. Dave Lindorff, In These Times , August 25,
and how much depleted uranium has been fired?'
Uranium Weapons and Acute Post- War Health Effects: An IPPNW
(International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War)
Free Press four-part series on DU by Christopher Bollyn.
- Part I:
‘Depleted Uranium: US commits war crime against Iraq, humanity,'
- Part II:
‘Cancer epidemic caused by US WMD: MD says depleted uranium
- Part III: ‘DU
Syndrome stricken Vets denied care: Pentagon hides DU dangers to deny
medical care to Vets',
- Part IV:
Pentagon Brass suppresses truth about Toxic Weapons: poisonous uranium
munitions threaten world,
Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War. Leuren Moret: August 2004. World
Depleted Uranium resolution heats up - GI's will come home to a slow
death,' Carol Sterrit: August 2004 Coastal Post Online.
Depleted Uranium Weapons Conference, Hamburg, Germany, October 16-19,
Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan. Written opinion of Judge Niloufer
Casualties: The human cost of Nuclear war. Series of articles. Akira
Tashiro, foreword by Leuren Moret.
uranium may stop kidneys ‘in days', Rob Edwards, NewScientist.com ,
March 12, 2002
War Against Ourselves, Doug Rokke, YES! , Spring 2003. www.yesmagazine.com/article.asp?ID=594
or Science Fiction? Facts, myths and propaganda in the debate over
depleted uranium weapons, Dan Fahey, March 12, 2003.
Army Training Video: Depleted Uranium Hazard Awareness
birth deformities of Iraqi children (Warning: these photos may distress