The U.S. radiates civilians with depleted uranium 3/4/2006 7:08:00 AM GMT

Last week, the U.S. military placed an order for $38 million in depleted uranium rounds, bringing the total amount of the order from a West-Virginia Based company to $77 million for fiscal year 2006.

The new order was placed with Alliant Techsystems for 120-mm ammunition. Once the new deal is completed, the company will have produced 35,000 rounds for the U.S. army. In a statement, the company making the deadly weapon said: "Its state-of-the-art composite sabot, propellant, and penetrator technologies give it outstanding accuracy and lethality."
The Pentagon uses depleted uranium in its rounds because it says that it is extremely effective in penetrating heavy armor. But critics of these controversial munitions believe that inhaling the radioactive dust left by the highly combustible weapon causes cancer and birth defects.
Depleted uranium remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years. The byproduct of manufacturing nuclear weapons or reactors contaminate water and soil.
It also poses a more serious threat when it is inhaled and absorbed into the human body. Studies show that DU can remain in human organs for years.

According to an editorial on The Guardian, the depleted uranium (DU) used in the first Gulf War led to a significant increase in the levels of childhood leukaemia and birth defects in Iraq.
In 1991, the U.S. and its allies blasted a number of tanks, armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles with armor-piercing shells made of depleted uranium -- the first time such deadly weapons had been used in warfare -- as the Iraqi soldiers retreated from Kuwait. Now, almost 15 years after the end of the Gulf War, the highway where the tanks were blasted remains a radioactive toxic wasteland, some experts even call it the "Highway of Death.”
An article on The Seattle Post-Intelligencer states that “many researchers outside Iraq, and several U.S. veterans organizations, agree; they also suspect depleted uranium of playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans."
In the “Highway of Death” in Iraq, radiation levels register 1,000 times normal background radiation levels. Tedd Weymann, deputy head of the Uranium Medical Research Centre (UMRC), said: “At one point the readings were so high that an alarm on one of my instruments went off telling me to get back. Yet despite these alarmingly high levels of radiation children play on the tanks or close by.'

The exact amount of DU used during the 2003 Iraq war hasn’t been revealed, but some experts estimate it was more than a thousand tons used in more than 51 sites across the country. An Iraqi tank destroyed by the U.S. weapon in Basra, where UK forces are stationed, registered 2,500 times normal background radiation. In the surrounding area, researchers recorded radioactivity levels 20 times higher than normal.
In 2003, Human Rights Watch said that hundreds of “preventable” civilian deaths in Iraq have been caused by the use of cluster bombs by U.S. and UK occupation forces. Experts also called for the water and milk being used by Iraqi civilians in Basra, where more than 1 million people live, to be monitored after analysis of biological and soil samples from area found 'the highest number, highest levels and highest concentrations of radioactive source points' in the Basra suburb of Abu Khasib, the centre of the fiercest battles between British troops and Saddam loyalists.
British Professor Brian Spratt, who head a Royal Society working group on the hazards of DU, said: “British and U.S. forces need to acknowledge that DU is a potential hazard and make inroads into tackling it by being open about where and how much has been deployed. Fragments of DU penetrators are potentially hazardous, and should be removed, and areas of contamination around impact sites identified. Impact sites in residential areas should be a particular priority. Long-term monitoring of water and milk to detect any increase in uranium levels should also be introduced in Iraq.”
The U.S. and its allies committed another war crime in Fallujah, which witnessed a bloody offensive in 2004. Residents, mainly civilians, were subject to bombardment by napalm, depleted uranium shells, phosphorus bombs (a weapon that is illegal if used against civilians). The use of such banned weapons makes the U.S. responsible for the same crimes that the toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is accused of.

The U.S. military acknowledges the deadly impacts of depleted uranium in a training manual, which requires anyone who come within 25 meters of any DU-contaminated equipment to wear respiratory and skin protection, warning that “contamination will make food and water unsafe for consumption”.
Dr. Doug Rokke, a Vietnam and Gulf War combat veteran, is an outspoken opponent of the use of DU munitions. "DU is the stuff of nightmares," he said. “Verified adverse health effects from personal experience, physicians and from personal reports from individuals with known DU exposures include reactive airway disease, neurological abnormalities, kidney stones and chronic kidney pain, rashes, vision degradation and night vision losses, lymphoma, various forms of skin and organ cancer, neuropsychological disorders, uranium in semen, sexual dysfunction and birth defects in offspring… This whole thing is a crime against God and humanity."
In addition to Iraq, DU munitions were used in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia in 1999. In the same year, a UN sub-commission considered DU hazardous enough to call for an initiative banning its use worldwide. The initiative has remained in committee, primarily blocked by the U.S., according to Karen Parker, a lawyer with the International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project, which has consultative status at the United Nations.
“Since 1991, numerous U.S. Department of Defense reports have said that the consequences of DU were unknown," Rokke said. "That is a lie. We warned them in 1991 after the Gulf War, but because of liability issues, they continue to ignore the problem."
"Their arrogance is beyond comprehension," he said. "We have spread radioactive waste all over the place and refused medical treatment to people“.

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