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Ban depleted uranium
International Action Centre
7 January 2001
Leukemia outbreak among troops causes turmoil in NATO
Ramsay Clark demands ban on depleted uranium
Deaths from leukemia of Italian, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese and other NATO troops occupying Bosnia or Kosovo and other illnesses have aroused a storm of popular anger and concern about dangers to NATO troops stationed in the region from the residue of depleted- uranium weapons.
By Jan. 6, French, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and other governments had demanded that NATO identify the areas hit in Bosnia and Kosovo by DU shells and to clarify the dangers.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who is a founder of the International Action Center, has long been an opponent of DU weapons. On Jan. 6th he once again raised his call for a ban of the use of these weapons that he first raised in 1996. [attached to this news release] Since then conferences in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1999 and Gijon, Spain in 2000 have also demanded a ban on DU use.
"This new outbreak of leukemia among European soldiers has reinforced what we said before," said Clark from New York on Jan. 6. "Is it acceptable by any human standards that we would permit one shell of depleted uranium to be manufactured, to be stored, to be used? No! Stop it now!"
Clark is leaving January 12, 2001 for the fourth trip large delegation to Iraq the IAC has organized to challenge sanctions against that country. He said that "along with investigating the dangers to NATO soldiers and guarding their health, the Pentagon should be responsible for the damage caused in Iraq and in Yugoslavia by these weapons and should clean them up."
DU is the waste residue made from the uranium enrichment process. This radioactive and toxic substance, 1.7 times as dense as lead, is used to make shells that penetrate steel armor.
Many people, including physicists and physicians, believe that uranium- oxide dust inhaled or ingested by troops in the Gulf War is the cause, or a contributing cause, of the "Gulf-War Syndrome". Of the approximately 697,000 U.S. troops stationed in the Gulf during the war, over 100,000 veterans are now chronically ill. Cancer rates in southern Iraq have increased dramatically. For example ovarian cancer in women has increased by sixteen fold.
The Pentagon used DU in large amounts in Iraq in 1991, in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999.
In Iraq the U.S. Airforce A-10 aircraft fired approximately 940,000 30mm rounds. In addition 14,000 large caliber DU tank rounds of 105mm were fired. By the end of the war over 600,000 pounds of uranium from spent rounds lay scattered across Iraq and Kuwait.
In Yugoslavia the current number of rounds that the U.S. government admits to firing are 31,000. The UN announced on January 5 the it had found evidence of radioactivity at 8 of the 11 sites tested in Kosovo. The 11 sites tested were among 112 sites in Kosovo hit by DU rounds. A United Nations report in May, 2000 warned that Kosovo's water could be so contaminated as to be unfit to drink.
The number of targets hit by DU rounds through out the rest of Yugoslavia was not reported. About 10,000 rounds were fired by U.S. NATO forces in Bosnia in 1994-95.
When Italian soldier Rinaldo Colombo died last September of leukemia, it brought the total of Italian soldiers believed to have died from "Balkans Syndrome" to five. By January nine cases of leukemia had been reported.
In Belgium, five cases of cancer have been diagnosed in soldiers who were on duty in the Balkans. In Spain, two soldiers have also been affected. One died in October. Portuguese Corporal Hugo Paulino arrived home in Lisbon from Kosovo in mid-February complaining of headaches and feeling sick. He died on March 9 in the military hospital. According to his father, Luis Paulino, medical examinations revealed neither meningitis nor encephalitis. His father is certain "it was depleted uranium that killed him."
The Spanish government has launched a study of the health of the 32,000 Spanish soldiers who have been in the Balkans. The Portuguese government will examine 900 of its country's troops.
Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut wrote a letter Dec. 29 to Bjorn von Sydow, the defense minister of Sweden. That country takes over the European Union presidency Jan. 1. The letter called on EU defense ministers to discuss health problems suffered by troops stationed in Bosnia or Kosovo.
In mid-December the Italian government launched an inquiry into why some of their military personnel have recently died of leukemia. Defense Minister Sergio Mattarella had affirmed that "10,800 depleted uranium projectiles were fired by American aircraft" on Bosnia between 1994 and 1995. Without naming them explicitly, Mattarella accused the U.S. military officials of hiding information about DU from allies.
John Catalinotto, a co-editor with Sara Flounders of the book the International Action Center published on this topic, "Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium", commented on the new discovery of illness among European troops. The IAC also distributes a video with the same name, produced by the Peoples Video Network.
Catalinotto said, "It's true the Pentagon avoids publicizing details of its use of DU weapons and has covered up the extent of DU use. That has been its policy from the beginning. At the same time there are all sorts of warnings in studies by the U.S. Army admitting that DU is dangerous.
"Still," he added, there can be no doubt the NATO militaries knew the U.S. was using depleted-uranium shells, which are the usual U.S. anti- tank weapon. In Metal of Dishonor and in news releases in April 1999 we exposed DU's use in Bosnia and warned of its use in Kosovo. And during the 1999 war the media prodded Pentagon spokespeople to admit publicly that U.S. A-10 planes were firing DU shells.
"But the European population is furious that its youth are being exposed to dangers. With the European governments, there's another story. They knowingly took part in a dirty war of aggression against Yugoslavia. They hoped to get some of the spoils.
"Now only Washington, Berlin and London are getting spoils," said Catalinotto, "while Italian and Portuguese troops are patrolling DU- polluted areas of Kosovo. And now [George W.] Bush says he wants to pull troops out. There's a saying that 'When thieves fall out, honest people learn the truth.' There is an opportunity to learn the truth about DU right now."
Sara Flounders, a director of the International Action Center described the work of the DU Education Project based at the IAC. "The DU Education Project first helped to raise international awareness of the consequences of the Pentagon's use of radioactive weapons in Iraq. We were the first group to warn that the same weapons were being used in Bosnia in 1995 and in the 78 day bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. We contacted anti-U.S. base movements in several countries and helped to expose the test firing and storage of DU munitions in Okinawa, Japan, in South Korea, in Vieques, Puerto Rico and the Israeli use of U.S. supplied, DU-armored tanks in the West Bank and Gaza."
"In every country the U.S. government has first denied and then stonewalled any discussion of the impact of radioactive weapons. There is a total disregard for the consequences for their own soldiers and for the population of the occupied country. Only an aroused mass movement has dragged the truth out."
[Metal of Dishonor: Depleted Uranium, both book and video, can be purchased through www.leftbooks.com]
An International Appeal to Ban the Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons (First circulated in 1996)
Depleted-uranium weapons are an unacceptable threat to life, a violation of international law and an assault on human dignity. To safeguard the future of humanity, we call for an unconditional international ban forbidding research, manufacture, testing, transportation, possession and use of DU for military purposes. In addition, we call for the immediate isolation and containment of all DU weapons and waste, the reclassification of DU as a radioactive and hazardous substance, the cleanup of existing DU-contaminated areas, comprehensive efforts to prevent human exposure and medical care for those who have been exposed. During the Gulf War, munitions and armor made with depleted uranium were used for the first time in a military action. Iraq and northern Kuwait were a virtual testing range for depleted-uranium weapons. Over 940,000 30-millimeter uranium tipped bullets and "more than 14,000 large caliber DU rounds were consumed during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield." (U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute) These weapons were used throughout Iraq with no concern for the health and environmental consequences of their use. Between 300 and 800 tons of DU particles and dust have been scattered over the ground and the water in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers, have suffered the effects of exposure to these radioactive weapons. Of the 697,000 U.S. troops who server in the Gulf, over 90,000 have reported medical problems. Symptoms include respiratory, liver and kidney dysfunction, memory loss, headaches, fever, low blood pressure. There are birth defects among their newborn children. DU is la leading suspect for a portion of these ailments. The effects on the population living in Iraq are far greater. Under pressure, the Pentagon has been forced to acknowledge Gulf War Syndrome, but they are still stonewalling any connection to DU.
Communities near DU weapons plants, testing facilities, bases and arsenals have also been exposed to this radioactive material which has a half-life of 4.4 billion years. DU-weapons are deployed with U.S. troops in Bosnia. The spreading toxicity of depleted uranium threatens life everywhere.
DU weapons are not conventional weapons. They are highly toxic, radioactive weapons. All international law on warfare has attempted to limit violence to combatants and to prevent the use of cruel and unfocused weapons. International agreements and conventions have tried to protect civilians and non-combatants from the scourge of war and to outlaw the destruction of the environment and the food supply in order to safeguard life on earth.
Consequently, DU weapons violate international law because of their inherent cruelty and unconfined death-dealing effect. They threaten civilian populations now and for generations to come. These are precisely the weapons and uses prohibited by international law for more than a century including the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols Additional of 1977.