Tuesday, November 06, 2007

To Honor Veterans, What Americans Should Know About Depleted Uranium

The United Nations has voted to move forward on the issue of depleted uranium weapons and their effects.

No longer facing the infamously brutish U.S. Ambassador (never confirmed, only recessed) John Bolton, on October 31st, the vote in the UN First Committee was 122 to 6 in favor of a resolution calling for studies to be done on depleted uranium and its effects by various countries, with the results to come back at the next General Assembly where it will be on the Agenda.

The United States and its ally, the United Kingdom, voted against it, along with The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Israel, and its newest surprise friend, France.

While Americans are extraordinarily unaware, misled and deceived on this nuclear waste material that is at the core of the U.S. military's most effective weapons, the rest of the world knows the damages suffered first by Iraq, then the former European NATO troops who served in the Balkans in the late 90's, then Afghanistan and even more in Iraq again.

In addition, on November 6th, the International Coalition to Ban the Use of Uranium Weapons launched its Global Disinvestment Campaign - with their "Too Risky for Business" dossier, which provides information as to which banking institutions are investing in the weapons manufacturers that use depleted uranium.

The time has come. America needs to ask the tough questions and shine a light on the truth. Is there a candidate willing to lead us in that direction? What are their positions on this? Have any of them they even dared to face this? Do we have a responsibility to raise the subject? Yes.

Check out this list of essential facts about depleted uranium so you can understand why the world is so angry, and why Bush/Cheney's statements on Iran are so hypocritical.

Ten Essential Facts:

1. Depleted uranium, the nuclear waste of uranium enrichment, is not actually "depleted" of radiation; 99.3% of it is Uranium238, which still emits radioactive alpha particles at the rate 12,400/second, with an estimated half life of 4.5 billion years.

2. Depleted uranium is plentiful - there are 7 pounds remaining for every pound of enriched uranium - and requires expensive and often politically-contentious hazardous waste storage.

3. Depleted uranium is less of a problem for the nuclear industry when it is cheaply passed on to U.S. weapons manufacturers for warheads, penetrators, bunker-busters, missiles, armor and other ammunition used by the U.S. military in the Middle East and elsewhere, and sold to other countries and political factions.

4. Depleted uranium is "pyrophoric", which makes it uniquely effective at piercing hard targets, because upon impact, it immediately burns, vaporizing the majority of its bulk and leaving a hard, thin, sharpened tip - and large amounts of radioactive particles suspended in the atmosphere.

5. Depleted uranium weaponry was first used in the U.S. bombing of Iraq in 1991, under President George H. W. Bush and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

6. Depleted uranium weaponry was later used by President Bill Clinton in the NATO "peace-keeping" bombing missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. By January 2001, as the 2nd President Bush and Dick Cheney were moving in to the White House, there was a furor in Europe over the news of an alarming increase in leukemia and other cancers amongst the NATO troops who'd served in the Balkans.

7. The World Health Organization suppressed a November 2001 report on the health hazards of depleted uranium by Dr. Keith Baverstock, Head of the WHO's Radiation Protection Division and his team, commissioned by the United Nations. Baverstock's report, "Radiological Toxicity of Depleted Uranium", detailed the significant danger of airborne vaporized depleted uranium particles, already considerably more prevalent in Iraq than the Balkans due to the difference in military tactics, because they are taken into the body by inhaling and ingesting, and then their size and solubility determines how quickly they move through the respiratory, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems, attacking and poisoning from within as they travel, and where the damages occur. In addition, the report warns that the particles tend to settle in the soft tissue of the testes, and may cause mutations in sperm. In 2004 Dr. Baverstock, no longer at the WHO, released the report through Rob Edwards at Scotland's Sunday Herald.

8. The George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration twisted the meaning of the failure of the World Health Organization to produce evidence of depleted uranium's health hazards, turning it into evidence that there was no link between exposure to depleted uranium and the increases in cancer in Europe and Iraq; instead, as presented in the January 20, 2003 report by the new Office of Global Communications, ironically titled Apparatus of Lies: Saddam's Disinformation and Propaganda 1990 - 2003, the depleted uranium uproar was only an exploitation of fear and suffering. Two months later, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Rice began to "Shock and Awe" Baghdad by again dropping tons of depleted uranium bombs on densely populated areas.

9. On March 27, 2003, significant increases in depleted uranium particles in the atmosphere were detected by the air sampler filter systems of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at 8 different sites near Aldermaston Berkshire, Great Britain, and continued at 4-5 times the previous norm until the end of April 2003, after the Coalition forces declared the war over. This information only came to light in a report on January 6, 2006 by Dr. Chris Busby, due to his diligent fight for access to the data through Britain's Freedom of Information law.

10. The John Warner Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007, signed into law on October 20 2006, was celebrated by those concerned with depleted uranium because it contained an amendment authored by Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), calling for a study of the health effects of depleted uranium on returning soldiers, due in one year. However, George W. Bush also issued a signing statement that day which includes the right to withhold information "which could impair foreign relations". At this time, November 2007, there remains no federal program for all members of the U.S. military and National Guard returning from the Middle East to be tested and treated for the presence of depleted uranium in their bodies, and the study that was called for has not appeared.

Clearly, the story of the United States and depleted uranium is shameful and horribly irresponsible.

The international community, however, is ready to take a stand.

On October 31st, 2007, the United Nations First Committee passed the "Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium" Resolution, by a vote of 122 to 6, with 35 abstentions, requesting that states and international bodies submit a report on depleted uranium to the UN General Assembly by next year's session. The countries voting against it were the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Israel, and the U.S.'s newest surprise friend, France.

The United States will not get away with this forever. Other countries know about the depleted uranium, and they see arrogant hypocrisy in the administration's fear-mongering about Iran as a nuclear threat.

Now, at this moment in our history, the United States needs a leader with the moral courage to face this issue.

So, what we still need to know is:

Where do the Presidential candidates stand on this issue?

Who is willing to be the leader who will stop this?

We need -- and our veterans deserve -- answers.


References and Links:
There are articles and documents that span decades which shed light on Depleted Uranium and the deceptions that surround it. The evidence is plentiful, often overwhelming, but one should be aware that there are powerful interests ready to confuse the public and silence or discredit the scientists and activists.

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium. http://www.cadu.org.uk/ Founded by one of the great long-time scientist/activists, Dr. Rosalie Bertell.

International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) is probably the best of the best all-in-one place http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/.

Department of Defense description of self-sharpening depleted uranium: http://www.defenselink.mil/DODCMSShare/briefingslide/94/030314-D-9085M-022.pdf

Dr. Keith Baverstock's November 2001 report, suppressed by the World Health Organization: http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/DU-Radiological-Toxicity-WHO5nov01.htm.

Rob Edwards article on Baverstock: http://www.robedwards.com/2004/02/who_suppressed_.html

Karen Parker, a Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Lawyer: http://www.webcom.com/hrin/parker.html Scroll down on the page and you'll find her documents on DU.

Representative Jim McDermott: http://www.house.gov/mcdermott/pr061020.shtml

October 17, 2006 Presidential signing statement is at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/200Http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/200 61017-9.html .

January 2003 White House Report - Apparatus of Lies: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ogc/apparatus/suffering.html

United Nations First Committee, October 31, 2007: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/gadis3357.doc.htm

January 2006 Chris Busby report: http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/2006/DU-Europe-Contamination1jan06.htm

Note: On November 12, 2007, Dr. Janette Sherman, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and Research Associate and Lecturer with the Radiation and Public Health Project, wrote to me after reading the above, "It looks accurate to me. Good work! You may use my references too if you want."

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