"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Secret Legacy

We often hear those in the dominant media discuss the inhuman nature of suicide bombing. Something that is easy to agree with. However, the militaries silence regarding the dangers of Depleted Uranium condemns countless troops to 'mandatory suicide'.

Dear Editor,

In May 2004 Mr George Dempsey, a retired US official, said 'dishonest' stories circulated by "Irish newspapers and broadcasters had helped to fuel terrorism in the Arab world." The 'venomous falsehoods' the Times were responsible for circulating included the report that depleted uranium shells were causing cancer in Iraq, which he, in his 'scientific authority' described as 'scientific nonsense'. (1)

It is just over a year now since this very public criticism and it is worrying to think his statement was taken to heart. By my, possibly flawed, reckoning there have been only three mentions of depleted uranium since his outburst, and none of them could constitute critical reporting.

This is not to say The Irish Times has ignored the issue completely, articles dating back to 1999 are regularly cited in papers discussing the problem, however, weapons being used today in a middle eastern country, by an occupying military force contain depleted uranium. This fact flies in the face of every 'freedom bringing' self gratifying eulogy the coalition could conjure.

In 2004 an article in the Times epitaph of an Iraqi artist Nuha al-Radi known for her Baghdad Diaries, 'an account of life in Iraq under bombardment and sanctions'. Noted that she died of a rare form of leukaemia "she believed was caused by depleted uranium and other poisons she inhaled during the campaign." (2)

Another article referenced the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland's effort to raise awareness in the workplace about radioactive radon gas, "which is responsible for between 150 and 200 lung-cancer deaths annually."

The article stated that "Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas given off by the depletion of uranium in soil and rocks, is believed to cause between nine per cent and 12 per cent of all lung-cancer deaths around the world." (3)

So it is fair to that The Irish Times is aware of the major health risks associated with the use of depleted uranium. Furthermore in August 1999, the Times published its most comprehensive coverage of DU with an article referencing Robert Fisk's extensive research into the subject:

"In southern Iraq American forces had fired an estimated 14,000 depleted uranium shells (about 300 million tons), while their A-10 aircraft fired "tens of thousands of rounds tipped with depleted uranium, some say 940,000 rounds."

Depleted uranium, he said, "is now routinely used in the manufacture of an armour-piercing projectiles". These are used mainly in the destruction of tanks.

Mr Fisk illustrated visits he had made to a Baghdad children's hospital last year with photographs of young patients who had come from regions where there had been massive American bombing, all of whom had since died.

He said that "a requested research survey by the World Health Organisation never took place", while Britain's then armed forces minister, Mr Doug Henderson, said that as no "peer reviewed epidemiological research data" on the claims had taken place, "it would therefore be premature to comment on this matter".

Mr Fisk said US forces also used uranium-depleted weaponry in Kosovo and central Serbia. "Their A-10 aircraft were using it across Kosovo," he said. One such aircraft took part in the NATO attack on a 12-mile long convoy of Albanian refugees on April 14th, killing 80 civilians.

He had spoken to one survivor recently who said one of her female relatives now had a kidney problem. "I didn't dare think, let alone suggest, what this might be," he said. And the promised NATO investigation into the massacre had not taken place." (Nov 1999) (4)

In August 2000 a Times article quoted "Denis Halliday, former UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq from 1997 to 1998: "The war was always about controlling oil supplies, and never really about Kuwait. But Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, in breach of international law, provided the opportunity for showing American military muscle damaged by the Vietnam defeat, for experimentation with depleted uranium and for the destruction of Iraq combined with the impoverishment of the rich Arab world."" (5) (Aug 2000)

Revealing the shocking (-ly predictable) fact that experimental weapons are favourably tested in real life situations. The article then corrected Madeleine Albright's moral confusion:

"The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, is undoubtedly right when she says (The Irish Times, August 4th) that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq violated international law by invading Kuwait 10 years ago.

She was not right when she said previously that the deaths of 50,000 children a year in Iraq since the imposition of sanctions is a price worth paying to get rid of Saddam Hussein."

The validity of this observation, since the sanctions didn't actually 'get rid of Saddam' (according to the US/UK he was actually able to produce WMDs in this time, now known to be false), demonstrates the contradictory rhetoric of the present middle eastern adventurers.

"The controversy over the reported dangers of depleted uranium (DU) has intensified, with a Canadian study said to show "unequivocal" evidence of damage to health. Research by Dr Hari Sharma, of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, appeared to show traces of DU in the urine of 14 out of 30 British veterans he tested.

There is now considerable dispute over his work, with critics claiming he was dismissed by the university for work that lacked rigour and credibility. But research at the Memorial University of Newfoundland appears to support Dr Sharma. The researcher, a geochemist, Patricia Horan, used a mass spectrometer to analyse the urine of veterans. This technique is said to achieve results between 50,000 and 500,000 times more accurate than Dr Sharma's." (9)

While the military refuses to acknowledge the effects: "A Department of Defense interim report, Environmental Exposure Report: Depleted Uranium in the Gulf (December 13, 2000), details the use of DU by the US in the Gulf War, and studies the possible effects on US troops, to see if there could be a link between DU and Gulf War Syndrome illnesses.

"The amount of DU present, the route of entry, solubility, particle size, other chemical and physical factors, and toxicity determine potential health effects."

The report says these "subtle perturbations" are within very high or very low normal ranges, so they're nothing to worry about." The truth remains, DU posioning is a lethal, by neglecting the issue the military is condeming the victim to 'Mandatory suicide'. (6)

The question must be asked if "Children living near high-voltage power lines are substantially more likely to develop leukaemia," according to researchers from Oxford University and the UK national electricity grid. Then what can we expect from nuclear materials?

The Times reported, in reference to the above electricity study that "[t]hose living within 200 metres of the overhead cables were 70 per cent more likely to develop the disease than similar children living more than 600 metres away. And those living between 200 and 600 metres away had a 20 per cent increased risk.

The researchers found 64 of the children lived at birth within 200 metres of a power line and 258 lived between 200 and 600 metres away. The statistics suggested that living in close proximity to a power line might be linked in some way to five cases of leukaemia a year." (7)

According to the Guardian (4/25/03), "it's unclear exactly how much DU was used in the most recent Iraq war, but some experts estimate 1,000 to 2,000 tons-- roughly three to six times the amount of DU dropped in the 1991 Gulf War." (8)

Silence on this issue will not only condemn thousands of soldiers a life of misery, it will destroy generations of Iraq's families.

Yours etc...

1. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/
2. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/
3. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland
4. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland
5. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion
6. http://www.disinfo.com/archive/pages/dossier
7. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
8. http://www.commondreams.org/news2003/0506-12.htm
9. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/431817.stm