Global Research Feature Article (extracts)
Depleted Uranium – A Hidden Looming Worldwide Calamity
by Stephen Lendman
THE ARROGANCE OF DOMINANCE
There’s little dispute that the U.S. today is the preeminent world power and unlike any that ever preceded it. It now admits to being an empire. In fact, it’s the first ever world global empire. To expand its reach and influence, it now spends nearly as much on its military as all other nations combined and has built and maintains a military capacity no other nation dare challenge. It also reserves for itself the sole right to develop and use the most dangerous and destructive weapons, even those banned from use by international law or custom. Some of those now in charge at the highest levels believe they have a divine right to use them, even a duty. George Bush may be one of them. A self-proclaimed and so-called born-again Christian, he says he gets his direction from the Almighty. That’s real arrogance, the supreme kind only an unchallengeable power and its leaders dare arrogate to itself.
Depleted uranium (DU) is a “dense metal” that increases its ability as a weapon to penetrate a target, thus enhancing its destructive capability. Pentagon propaganda and disinformation falsely describe all DU weapons as only being coated. In fact, they are solid missiles, bombs, shells and bullets weighing up to 5,000 pounds in a single “bunker buster” bomb. All these weapons have solid DU projectiles or warheads in them, and their use in combat as the U.S. military has done in 4 wars and is now doing every day in Iraq is the “de facto” use of nuclear bombs. From Nagasaki in 1945 until the 1991 Gulf War, these weapons were effectively banned by common consent (and common sense) and never used (except for one time in the 1973 Yom Kippur war). No longer.
OUR PRECIOUS PLANET AND HOW BADLY WE TREAT IT
Today we’re threatened by many natural and “man-made” disasters we could act to prevent but don’t. To the ones mentioned above add polluted air, water and soil. Include the unsafe food we eat from the chemical and other contaminants and unsafe additives in them. Don’t ignore ozone layer damage, deforestation, the destruction of precious natural habits and endangered species, the reckless ways we develop and use our natural resources including wasteful overuse of a finite supply of fresh water that could run out and is irreplaceable. And don’t forget wars that get more recklessly destructive as new technologies and weapons are developed to fight them and powerful nations having them show no restraint in their use.
In November, 2005 this nation lost a great man unfortunately unknown to most of the public. His name was Vine Deloria, Jr, a renowned Native American intellect, historian, author, scholar and activist. With great eloquence Deloria spoke and wrote about how for all its existence the planet was well preserved by those who lived on it – until about 200 years ago when western technological development began and changed everything. It was then transformed from being pristine to poisoned. He expressed such great wisdom in his writings and talks, it’s worth quoting. Below are some examples:
“Progress is the absolute destruction of the real world in favor of a technology that creates a comfortable way of life for a few fortunatelysituated people. Within our lifetime the differences between the Indian use of the land and the white use of the land will become crystal clear. The Indian lived with his land. The white destroyed his land, he destroyed the planet earth.”
Deloria once said that Christian missionaries had “fallen on their knees and prayed for the Indians” before rising to “fall on the Indians and prey on their land.” He also claimed the destruction wrought by corporate values and its technology was so damag that a return to Native American tribal standards and culture could be viewed as salvation.
He viewed a corporate run predatory society, like the U.S., as an “Adolph Eichmann of the plains”, whose soldiers were tools “not defending civilization; they were crushing another society.”
Deloria wrote 20 books, edited others, and published his memoirs and a two-volume set of U.S. – Native American treaties, all of which are devastating accounts of U.S. duplicity. Every treaty made was broken or ignored to this day, and the rights of our Native Indians willfully violated and trampled over through lies, deception and deceit. Just the latest example of this is in one of the accusations in the ongoing Jack Abramoff political and financial corruption scandal now making daily headlines. Abramoff, his partner, and other well-known Republicans are accused of bilking Indian casino gambling interests out of an estimated $85 million. Further, in his now disclosed emails, he referred to Native Americans as “monkeys, troglodites (people with a sub-human like nature), and idiots.”
In his 2003 published book – “Hegemony or Survival” – Noam Chomsky cited the reflections of eminent biologist Ernst Mayr. Mayr observed that other species were better able to survive than humans and that the average life of a species is about 100,000 years. It’s generally believed the human species has now about reached that limit and may be near becoming extinct. If so, and in light of our more recent behavior, we may, as Chomsky notes, turn out to be the only species ever to destroy ourselves and much else along with us.
DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) – WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT’S USED
To use uranium as a fuel for commercial reactors or for nuclear weapons it must be enriched. The enrichment process is then followed by gaseous diffusion in two streams – one is enriched and the other depleted. Before a use was found for it, DU was just stored in vast amounts as a byproduct. However, when it was discovered that solid “dense metal” DU projectiles in all forms (missiles, bombs, shells and bullets) greatly increased their ability to penetrate and destroy a target, the Pentagon had a new technology it hoped to use in combat and now has for the past 15 years.
The first DU weapon system was developed for the Navy in 1968, and DU weapons were first given to Israel for use in the 1973 Yom Kippur war under U.S. supervision. These weapons were later sold to 29 countries but never used until the 1991 Gulf War when the U.S. broke an international taboo prohibiting them. Since then the U.S. has fought wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and again in Iraq. In all these conflicts, thousands of tons of solid DU weapons have been used causing far more devastation thus far from its radiation and chemical toxins than from the targets destroyed and those killed in target areas. Worst of all, the lingering and spreading affects from DU contamination never end, resulting in all those exposed to it and their loved ones with whom they have intimate contact and their offspring the likelihood of having one or more of virtually any illness, disease or disability imaginable often leading to early death or at the least a lifetime of pain, suffering and great expense. In Orwellian language, DU is the (deadly and unwelcome) gift that keeps on giving – and killing.
USING DU AS A WEAPON IS ILLEGAL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
[The US CODE, TITLE 50, CHAPTER 40, SECTION 2302 defines a Weapon of Mass Destruction as follows: “The term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism, or (C) radiation or radioactivity.” Because the U.S. is a signatory to the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the U.S. military is violating its own military code. By using depleted uranium (which is clearly a WMD and thus illegal) in combat in 4 wars, the U.S. is clearly guilty of the very crime we claimed our right to go to war against Iraq to prevent.
In addition, under various UN Conventions and Covenants that are binding international law for its signatories, the use of any weapons that cause harm after the battle including away from the battlefield, harm the environment, or kill, wound or cause harm inhumanely are illegal and banned. DU weapons are poisonous under international law and violate all the above conditions. Even the seminal Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is legally non-binding to its signatories, implies a moral duty never to use any weapons as potentially harmful as DU.
KNOWN EFFECTS FROM DU USE THUS FAR – AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING, THE WORST IS YET TO COME
I’m very indebted to Leuren Moret for the data discussed throughohis article and below. Leuren is an independent scientist and internationally recognized expert on radiation, DU and public health. She’s done extensive research on the environmental and public health effects of low level radiation from atmospheric testing fallout, nuclear power plants and DU weapons radiation in 42 countries, has written detailed reports and articles on her important findings, given testimony on the harmful affects of DU poisoning and is an outspoken critic of DU use. In an article she authored in July, 2004 she wrote: “The use of depleted uranium weaponry by the United States, defying all international treaties, will slowly annihilate all species on earth including the human species, and yet this country continues to do so with full knowledge of its destructive potential.”
Leuren’s work has revealed some shocking facts. Since the U.S. military first used DU weapons in the 1991 Gulf War, it has released the radioactive atomicity equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki nuclear bombs into the global atmosphere (that’s no misprint) causing permanent contamination with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Furthermore, that DU radiation is 10 times the amount released by all atmospheric testing which in total equaled 40,000 Hiroshima bombs (again, no misprint). The 2 atom bombs used against the Japanese killed a likely 300,000 or more people from the initial blasts and subsequent radiation and chemical poisoning deaths. To this day, there are still reported deaths attributed to the bombings. Now imagine the potential threat to all planetary life from all the DU weapons used since 1991 and their continued use in Iraq and Afghanistan – the equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombings and increasing daily as U.S. forces now are conducting 4 to 6 daily bombings of target sites in Iraq alone using DU bombs.
The greatest damage from DU comes from the radiation residue after its use. When a DU weapon strikes a target, it penetrates deeply and aerosolizes into a fine spray which then contaminates the air and soil around the target area. The residue is permanent, and its microscopic and submicroscopic particles remain suspended in air or are swept into the air from the tainted soil and are carried by winds around the earth as a radioactive component of atmospheric dust. That dust falls to earth indiscriminately everywhere causing radiation contamination that affects every living thing and cannot be remediated. The contamination causes virtually every known illness and disease from severe headaches, muscle pain and general fatigue, to major birth defects, infection, depression, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer and brain tumors. It also causes permanent disability and death. In June, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO), without specific reference to DU, announced in a press release that global cancer rates will increase by 50% by 2020. WHO is usually conservative in its estimates. Might they believe things are potentially far worse? And are they closely examining the effects of DU to those in combat areas where these weapons are and have been used?
Those individuals (military and civilian) at or near target areas are most immediately affected by DU contamination, especially if they remain there for an extended time. During the 6 week 1991 Gulf war only 467 U.S. personnel were wounded and about 150 killed. Out of the 580,000 military personnel who served in that war, 325,000 were reported to be on permanent medical disability by the year 2000. It was also reported then the number was increasing by 43,000 each year. In fact, the annual increases were even greater, and by 2004 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) reported over 518,000 Gulf-era veterans to be on medical disability. It also reported over 500,000 veterans were homeless. Studies were also done on veterans whose wives had normal babies before the war. It reported two-thirds of post-war births of those studied had severe birth defects, such as missing brains, eyes, legs and arms and blood diseases.
DU USED AS WEAPONS – A WILLFUL ACT OF GENOCIDE
From its use already in 4 wars, the use of DU weapons is an act of insanity as well as possibly the greatest ever crime against humanity (and all other living species) and a war crime. Those responsible include 3 presidents, scores of high government officials and the Pentagon high command to include a lot of generals and admirals. These people are criminals. They’re guilty of mass murder without end. They all should be made to answer for their crimes through indictment and trials both in our federal courts and at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague which was established in 2002 to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. These people, or at least most of them, are guilty of all three crimes and should pay the highest price for them with no leniency. Their convictions should once and for all serve as a reminder to all future leaders that this type reckless behavior will never again be tolerated.
Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, a distinguished author and man of great honor, passion and eloquence, in his 2005 acceptance speech made these comments about the current Iraq war. Too ill with cancer, he was unable to travel to Oslo for the award ceremony and instead read his comments on videotape. Pinter is a sharp critic of the Iraq war and the U.S. and his U.K. government’s role in it. In his Nobel award address he called the invasion of Iraq a “bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.” He stressed “the United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious……It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant.”
Pinter is right, and he said much more in his 46 minute acceptance speech. He also could have added the Bush administration since 9/11/01 has governed recklessly and arrogantly. With obsessive secrecy and contempt for the Constitution, the Congress, the courts and the U.S. public, George Bush has governed by Executive Order or Decree, a tool of tyrants when used to excess as this president has. He’s done it to pursue a policy of permanent imperial war for U.S. global domination. The tragedy of 9/11 aside, the Bush administration created a fear-induced sham world terrorist threat to fight a so-called “global war on terrorism” for decades to come. It also created a near police state at home with baseless mass roundups, illegal detentions and deportations as part of a racist war against dark-skinned immigrants, illegal warrantless domestic spying and systemic use of torture of those detained and those held in offshore prisons and “renditioned” to mostly unnamed countries tolerating this practice. The Bush administration did all this based on a foundation of willful deception, deceit, and endless web of lies, and an utter contempt for political, economic and social justice at home and abroad and the rule of law.
They might also consider the 104 current operating commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. They’re all dangerous, but especially the aging ones. Every one is a potential unstable nuclear bomb and possible disaster waiting to happen, either from an inevitable accident or from sabotage. Responsible experts believe it’s just a matter of time before a major nuclear disaster occurs somewhere in the world, possibly or even likely a full nuclear core meltdown – the worst possible kind of nuclear catastrophe other than a nuclear or thermonuclear explosion or widespread use of DU weapons.
If a core meltdown happened (or more likely when one happens), a vast area would be contaminated and made uninhabitable forever. Where I live in Chicago I’m surrounded by 11 nuclear power plants, many of them aging and all of them with histories of safety violations caused by aging and shoddy maintenance. Even without an accident, these facilities (and all others everywhere) discharge enough radiation daily in their normal operations to contaminate the food we eat (even organic food), the water we drink and the air we breathe into our lungs. If one of these plants had a core meltdown and metropolitan Chicago was downwind from the fallout, the city and suburbs alone would become uninhabitable forever and would have to be evacuated quickly with all possessions left behind and lost (including our homes) except for what we could carry in suitcases or in the trunks of our cars. Everyone should thus ask the obvious question – is this kind of insane “nuclear Russian roulette” risk worth taking? There are much cleaner, safer alternatives available or that can be developed, if we’d just be willing to invest heavily in alternative energy sources other than the nuclear option and fossil fuels. There are also common sense ways to practice conservation, without significantly impeding our western lifestyle.
The world today is closer to the tipping point than ever before. We may, in fact, have passed it and it’s already too late. The price we’ve paid for our technological advances has been an equal growth in the threat to our survival. Up to now we’ve found no way to end this destructive path. We’re fast running out of time, and unless we do it and soon, we may not get another chance. The U.S. today is like a giant Gulliver Agonistes and the rest of the world like the Lilliputians – in Jonathan Swift’s classic satire. Despite the mismatch, the Lilliputans (who stood 6 inches high) were able to tie down this giant and prevent him from wrecking their homes. In the end, they got Gulliver to leave and were able to go on with their lives. The lesson is clear. People everywhere need to understand the great peril we all face – our survival. Then, like the Lilliputians, we need to hog-tie this out-of-control predatory Gulliver to save ourselves.
Two final thoughts to consider – the first one from Dr. Helen Caldicott, president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, an expert on the medical hazards of nuclear energy, author, activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee from her 1978 book Nuclear Madness (updated in 1994): “As a physician, I contend nuclear technology (military and commercial) threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue (and they have and have gotten worse), the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.”
The second is from the great British journalist, Robert Fisk from his year end London Independent column entitled War Without End: “Only justice, not bombs, can make our dangerous world a safer place.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
� Copyright Stephen Lendman, GlobalResearch.ca, 2006