2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 23 Jun 2003 13:53:50 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Weapons of Mass Deception
Weapons of Mass Deception
What the Pentagon doesn’t want us to know about depleted uranium.
By Frida Berrigan
June 20, 2003

In the weeks leading up to the war on Iraq, TV screens across America
were crowded with images of U.S. soldiers readying for upcoming battles
with a crazed dictator who would stop at nothing. One clip after another
showed U.S. soldiers racing to don $211 suits designed to protect them
from the chemical and biological attacks they would surely suffer on the
road to ousting Saddam Hussein.

But these grim forecasts were wrong. Despite the advance hype, Hussein’s
dreaded arsenal was not the biggest threat to Americans on the
battlefield in Iraq. In fact, it was no threat at all.

The real threat—not only to U.S. troops but to Iraqis as well—may prove
to be a weapon scarcely mentioned before, during or after the war:
depleted uranium.

A toxic and radioactive substance, depleted uranium (DU)—otherwise known
as Uranium 238—was widely used by U.S. troops as their Abrams battle
tanks and A-10 Warthogs thundered through Iraq this spring.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of enriched uranium, the fissile
material in nuclear weapons. It is pyrophoric, burning spontaneously on
impact. That, along with its extreme density, makes depleted uranium
munitions the Pentagon’s ideal choice for penetrating an enemy’s tank
armor or reinforced bunkers.

When a DU shell hits its target, it burns, losing anywhere from 40 to 70
percent of its mass and dispersing a fine dust that can be carried long
distances by winds or absorbed directly into the soil and groundwater.

Depleted uranium’s radioactive and toxic residue has been linked to
birth defects, cancers, the Gulf War Syndrome, and environmental damage.

But the Pentagon insists depleted uranium is both safe and necessary,
saying it is a “superior armor [and] a superior munition that we will
continue to use.” Pentagon officials say that the health and
environmental risks of DU use are outweighed by its military advantages.
But to retain the right to use and manufacture DU weaponry and armor,
the Pentagon has to actively ignore and deny the risks that depleted
uranium poses to human health and environment.

To keep depleted uranium at the top of its weapons list, the Pentagon
has distorted research that demonstrates how DU dust can work its way
into the human body, potentially posing a grave health risk. According
to a 1998 report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease
Registry, the inhalation of DU particles can lead to symptoms such as
fatigue, shortness of breath, lymphatic problems, bronchial complaints,
weight loss, and an unsteady gait—symptoms that match those of sick
veterans of the Gulf and Balkan wars. Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a Canadian
epidemiologist, released a study in 1999 revealing that depleted uranium
can stay in the lungs for up to two years. “When the dust is breathed
in, it passes through the walls of the lung and into the blood,
circulating through the whole body,” she wrote. Bertell concluded that
exposure to depleted uranium, especially when inhaled, “represents a
serious risk of damaged immune systems and fatal cancers.”

The Pentagon has to cloak this dangerous weapon in deceptive and
innocuous language. The adjective “depleted,” with its connotation that
the substance is non-threatening or diminished in strength, is
misleading. While depleted uranium is not as radioactive and dangerous
as U235—a person would not get sick merely from brief DU
exposure—depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years (as long
as the solar system has existed) and may pose serious health risks and
environmental contamination.

Don’t Believe the Hype: Propaganda Wars

As the U.S. military prepared to launch a new offensive against Iraq
early this year, the Pentagon and White House embarked on a parallel
effort to promote depleted uranium as a highly effective weapon that
would protect the lives of innocent Iraqis. At the same time, the Iraqi
government sought to exploit the use of depleted uranium and the serious
public health concerns about its use in its propaganda war against the
United States.

At a March 14 Pentagon briefing, Col. James Naughton of the U.S. Army
announced that U.S. forces had decided to employ DU munitions in the
looming war on Iraq. When asked about depleted uranium’s possible
effects on civilians, Naughton characterized opposition to the use of DU
weapons as a product of propaganda and cowardice. “Why do [the Iraqis]
want [depleted uranium] to go away?” he asked. “They want it to go away
because we kicked the crap out of them [in the first Gulf War].”

The White House echoed Naughton’s sentiment, rejecting reports linking
depleted uranium to birth defects and cancers in Iraq. Early this year
the White House released a report titled Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s
Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003, which includes a section on
“The Depleted Uranium Scare.” In it, the White House accuses the Iraqi
government of launching a “disinformation campaign” that uses
“horrifying pictures of children with birth defects” as a tool to “take
advantage of an established international network of antinuclear
activists.” Iraq’s aim, the report charged, was to promote the “false
claim that the depleted uranium rounds fired by coalition forces have
caused cancers and birth defects in Iraq.”

But few anti-DU activists say that depleted uranium is the sole cause of
cancer and birth defects. Rather, they contend there is an obvious link
between depleted uranium and other toxins released into the environment
during the 1991 Gulf War, that independent study is now required, and,
in the meantime, that the United States should declare a moratorium on
any future use of depleted uranium.

This article can be viewed at:

  Prev by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Pentagon Pulls Perchlorate Plan
Next by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Discarded War Munitions Leach Poisons Into the Baltic
  Prev by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Pentagon Pulls Perchlorate Plan
Next by Thread: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Weapons of Mass Deception

CPEO Lists
Author Index
Date Index
Thread Index