Is U.S. covering up ‘depleted’ uranium health impacts in Iraq?
Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, S.F. Bayview, May 14, 2003
The unchecked looting of hospitals and the destruction of nearly all the ministries and other centers storing public health records has dismantled the public health system in Iraq beyond recognition and has puzzled the world public. Was this an operational failure? Or a deliberately staged event?
To activists working on a campaign to permanently ban the use of “depleted” uranium weapons, the destruction of hospitals and baseline health data serves an obvious legal purpose. The looting has made it impossible for hospitals to function at the present time and obstructs the ability to document or report symptoms linked to the use of “depleted” uranium or other more experimental weapons used by the U.S./U.K. military.
Furthering suspicions, the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has hired the World
Health Organization (WHO) to identify the population’s immediate health
needs, at a cost of $10 million. This raises concerns about a conflict
of interest. Any data-gathering of immediate health impacts of “depleted”
uranium is being paid for by the U.S., which is the major entity potentially
liable for costs relating to those impacts. This conflict of interest
could compromise the goals of H.R. 1483, a bill introduced by U.S. Congressman
Jim McDermott, D-Wash.,
The sites targeted for looting and burning - the Ministry of Planning, Information, Health etc. - support speculation that a concerted attempt has been made to destroy crucial data. Heavy guarding of the Oil and Interior Ministries by U.S. tanks and soldiers to prevent looting, and the glaring absence of military guards at other public sites which were looted and destroyed by fires, suggests further deliberate destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure.
The data from pre-Gulf War II health records is critical to establish a baseline showing whether post-Gulf War II levels of cancers and birth defects have increased in Iraq. Predictably, the direct bombing of cities in Gulf War II with “depleted” uranium weapons will cause greater increases than in Gulf War I, where “depleted” uranium weapons were used on battlefields south of Basra. The increases in the amounts used and the targeting of cities will accelerate the onset and intensify the numbers of illnesses and deaths related to DU exposures.
“Depleted” uranium weaponry,
cluster bombs and fuel air bombs have been declared to be in violation
of international law by the United Nations experts sitting on the U.N.
Sub-Commission on the Protection and
Leuren Moret, independent depleted uranium expert and former scientist at the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab, comments that the use of “depleted” uranium weaponry in the first Gulf War broke a 46-year taboo against the military use of radiological weapons on the battlefield. The use of depleted uranium in Gulf War I “established a military precedent to introduce the use of fourth generation nuclear weapons.”
Congressman Jim McDermott’s H.R. 1483, requiring studies on the health effects of DU munitions, makes it imperative for physicians to work immediately to document any initial symptoms that humans will display after being exposed to contamination from these radioactive weapons.
Sources indicate that in this
recent conflict, five times the amount of “depleted” uranium was used
by the U.S./U.K. than in the previous Gulf War. The “depleted” uranium
in cruise missiles and other weapons aerosolizes on impact, causing
inhalation of large amounts of superfine radioactive particles and sending
tiny shards of uranium through the body like a knife slicing through
In this current Gulf War,
any troops with symptoms of low level radiation sickness will report
to their units. The military will deny that their symptoms are linked
to depleted uranium exposure, because the U.S. policy is and has been
to deny that the DU weapons can cause sickness. Military and civilian
doctors were trained in Gulf War I to
Doug Rokke, former head of the U.S. Army DU Project, who has been campaigning against the use of DU, reports that U.S. troops are falling sick already with a series of Gulf War symptoms.
Philippa Winkler, a political analyst and longtime anti-DU activist, calls for immediate independent studies: “It is imperative that independent health scientists observe, test and interview Gulf War II soldiers, Iraqi citizens, medical doctors in Iraq, journalists, human shields and other volunteer personnel for symptoms linked to depleted uranium exposure and the possible use of exotic weapons.”
The Association of Humanitarian Lawyers, Inc., is a non-governmental organization (NGO) accredited to the United Nations. For more information, email Karen Parker, international legal expert on DU, at ied@i..., or Leuren Moret, depleted uranium expert and president of Scientists for Indigenous People, at leurendu@y...
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