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Two items about the use by the US and Britain of Depleted Uranium (D.U.) weapons in the Gulf War, and its consequences: 1. an article by Robert Fisk from October this year 2. a 1995 interview with Prof. Gunther, the German professor who first uncovered the use of D.U. gives a clear 'introduction' to D.U. ----------------------------------------------------------- Date: Thu, 15 Oct 1998 22:33:09 -0400 (EDT) http://www.independent.co.uk/stories/B1410809.html WHO to investigate radiation fall-out from Gulf war in Iraq By Robert Fisk in Baghdad The World Health Organisation may soon begin a study into the effects on Iraqi civilians of depleted uranium shells in the 1991 Gulf War - and enrage the Western nations that used them during and after the liberation of Kuwait. The shells are widely blamed for a frightening increase in cancer - especially among Iraqi children - and may have contaminated large areas of southern Iraq. Independent readers responded to reports from the region by sending £100,000 to an appeal for medicines, which have just been delivered. The government in Baghdad believes that a WHO report would finally confirm their suspicions that the Allies saturated the land with radiation. A three-man WHO team has already visited Iraq's Hospital for Nuclear Medicine in Baghdad to inspect its records of cancer increases since the war, and is due to report in the next few weeks on how an investigation can be conducted into the use of the Allied ordnance. If the Iraqi Ministry of Health approves, WHO personnel would spend two years taking evidence on the use of the shells and the effect on the health of millions of Iraqis whose families lived near the sites of the battles and bombardments. For Saddam Hussein, of course, this would provide further propaganda in his campaign to lift the punitive UN sanctions against Iraq - always supposing sanctions are still in place in two years - and to accuse the Americans and British of "war crimes". Hitherto, it is Saddam himself who has been accused of crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, if a WHO team concludes that the shells and missiles that use armour- piercing depleted uranium penetrators - and cause radioactive and chemically toxic dust to be scattered around the target - are to blame for the Iraqi cancer epidemic, there will be substantial pressure on the Gulf War victors to pay compensation to Iraq and to ban future use of the controversial weapons. Ironically, the two-storey Iraqi Hospital for Nuclear Medicine stands next door to the Baghdad WHO headquarters whose director, Dr Habib Rejab, has confirmed to The Independent that WHO representatives have made a preliminary study of Iraqi cancer data. Last week, the hospital's senior medical staff also allowed me to inspect their statistics on post-war cancer cases - figures that suggest a correlation between leukaemia increases and the war. Of course, the very name of Saddam Hussein tends to contaminate Iraqi-compiled government statistics as surely as the Allied armies may have contaminated the land of Iraq. But the hospital's graphs appear to be accurate - they start long before the 1991 war and, in some cases, clearly show a fall in cancer when one might have expected an increase. If propaganda experts have been at work, they did a poor job. Dr Mona el-Hassan has been drawing up cancer statistics in Iraq since 1976 and her files are both professional and convincing. "There has been a changing pattern of cancers since the war, including a double incidence of cancer of the intestinal tract," she says. "There has been an increase in the incidence of breast cancer among young females. Nowhere else in the world has there been a high incidence below the age of 30." Her latest statistics - still to be published - show a startling increase in leukaemias in Iraq's southern provinces, the area most affected by the 1991 war. Some areas, such as Wasit, show an actual decrease - from 226 cases in 1989 to 203 in 1994 and then 224 in 1996 - but other figures bear out doctors' suspicions. The childhood cancer registry, for example, shows an increase in boys with lymphatic leukaemia aged up to 4 and between 5 and 9, from 68 and 94 in the 1989-1991 period to 86 and 98 between 1992 and 1994. During the same periods, myeloid leukaemia has increased from 2 cases to 12 (in the 0 to 4 age group) and from 5 to 18 in the group aged 5 to 9 years. Total myeloid leukaemia figures for children aged up to 15 go from 26 in the earlier table to 61 in the most recent. In similar age patterns, the increase in lymphatic leukaemia among girls is equally disturbing: 118 cases in the 1989-91 period compared with 174 between 1992 and 1994. The statistics show an overall increase among both boys and girls during the same periods for cancer of the eye and thyroid and Hodgkin's disease. Interestingly - and perhaps another reason to trust them - the statistics show a decrease in bone cancer among girls and cancer of the kidney. Iraqi propagandists would not have made the mistake of leaving those figures intact. Annual figures for overall cancer patients give a clear idea of the increases. In 1990, 7,058 new cancer cases were registered in Iraq. By 1992, the figure has soared to 8,526. The comparable breakdown figure for males is 3,913 in 1990 and 4,735 in 1992, for females 3,145 in 1990 and 3,791 in 1992. The total of new cancer figures for 1996, still unpublished, shows an increase of well over a thousand since 1990 - from 7,058 to 8,360 - although a slight fall on the comparable figure for 1992. Iraqi officials acknowledge that 1991 figures - which show an unbelievable decrease - are of little use because they did not include cancer cases from the Kurdish Mosul province, which was then in a state of insurrection against the regime. Iraqi doctors say there are many cancer cases that are never reported to the government. "In a small village, they will say a child is 'sick' and they will think it has some passing illness and then it dies and is buried and we never hear about it," one doctor told me. "Other families believe it wrong to admit they have cancer cases - in case it affects the marriage prospects of their other children. So we may have far more cases than we realise." ===================================================================== DEPLETED URANIUM: DEAD CHILDREN, SICK SOLDIERS The proliferation of D.U. arms has sparked concern at the United Nations. Last August, Margaret Papandreou, the former first lady of Greece, led a delegation to the U.N. calling for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and an investigation into Iraqi claims of increased cancer rates in the Basra region that Iraqis attribute to the 300 to 800 tons of D.U. left behind by U.S. forces. The U.N. Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities passed a resolution that includes language calling for a prohibition on the use of depleted uranium; only the U.S. representative voted against it. The full U.N. Human Rights Commission is now taking testimony on D.U. and is expected to release a report sometime later this year. The use of Depleted Uranium (DU) armour piercing shells by U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War was uncovered by the German professor, Dr. Siegwart-Horst Gunther. A survivor of world war and internment in a Nazi concentration camp, Dr. Gunther is a tireless campaigner in the struggle to highlight the little-reported and ongoing human suffering resulting from the Gulf War. Al-moharer al-Australi reprints this interview from Nov 1995. DAVID MULLER: Professor, I gather that Depleted Uranium is a by-product of the nuclear enrichment industry. Is this correct? PROF. GUNTHER: Uranium ore, as found in nature, is a compound which consists for the most part, of the isotope 238 and about 0.70% of the isotope 235. Now, as the isotope 235 alone is fissionable and hence of use for the reactors, the uranium ore, poor in that element, must be enriched. Such a process involves masses of material and creates consequently huge quantities of depleted uranium (composed mostly of the sole isotope 238). DAVID MULLER: Why did the U.S. use Depleted Uranium shells in the Gulf War? PROF. GUNTHER: Depleted Uranium possesses characteristics which make it very attractive for the weapon technology : a.. It is the heaviest element occurring, so to say, naturally on earth: 1 cm3 weighs 18.95 grams; b.. Possibly related to a German technology, because of its density, uranium tipped projectiles have a very high penetrating power. DU is best suited for the production of ammunition to break through steel armours; c.. Moreover it is a naturally pyphoric material. After penetration, so much heat develops at the exit point, that DU particles catch fire. A hit tank, for instance, explodes releasing highly toxic and radioactive products. d.. After experiences during the Gulf War, since 1992, U.S. tanks are getting increased strengthening, all around, by DU. These U.S. tanks are ironically called Radiation Deponents. DAVID MULLER: Professor you were one of the first people to expose to the world that the U.S. had used Depleted Uranium in the Gulf War. How did you make this discovery? PROF. GUNTHER: I found on the 7th of May, 1991 on the highway between Baghdad and Amman, in the desert, projectiles in the form and size of a cigar, which retained my attention, because of their unusual appearance and weight. In that region, columns of refugees, aid transports and others had been submitted to attack by A-10 planes equipped with this type of ammunition. DAVID MULLER: That's a long way from the tank battles on the Kuwait border. So you found an unexploded shell fired from a U.S. Warthog ground attack plane that attacked traffic on the way to Jordan? PROF. GUNTHER: Yes. Later on I happened to see children playing with these projectiles. A little girl who possessed 12 of them died of leukaemia. Also in the children hospitals of Baghdad, Mosul and Basrah the number of leukaemia, aplastic anaemia and tumour development is noticeably on the increase. Moreover a new up-to-date undiagnosed disease is seen with abnormal abdominal distension possibly related to disturbed liver and kidney functions. Because of the impossibility of treatment the children die, most painfully from secondary infections. DAVID MULLER: I believe that you took one of the DU shells back to Germany for analysis ? PROF. GUNTHER: The possible relation to German technology prompted me to take one bullet to be analysed by four German institutions. The bullet under examination exhibited a radioactivity of 11 to 12 microsivert per hour and was highly toxic. Because of its danger the projectile was seized by German police in special protective clothing and transported to a safe place. In radiology in Germany, personnel should not be exposed to more than 50 millisivert per year. DAVID MULLER: What are the short term and long term effects of DU contamination in Iraq? PROF. GUNTHER: From my own observations in Iraq, the long term effect of contact with DU results in the breakdown of the immune system. Other effects noticed have been: e.. Many infectious diseases, with serious complications are on the increase. Sometimes diseases break out which are known in Europe only through text books; f.. Herpes infections, Zoster infections and AIDS-like symptoms are dramatically on the increase, all of them possibly related to the breakdown of the immune system; g.. Premature births are numerous. Congenital malformations of the newborn show a high postwar percentage (26.8% according to Dept. of Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Baghdad). In the countryside, children die in great numbers and are buried without possibility of diagnosis; h.. During the lambing season in 1993 a high percentage 10% according to IPA Agricultural Research Center) of abnormal newborn lambs have been observed. Most of them died a few days after birth. DAVID MULLER: U.S. authorities closed a DU penetrator ammunition factory on the edge of Albany, in upstate New York because of air borne contamination levels exceeded 150 microcurie per month contaminating populated areas up to 26 miles away. This was the equivalent of 1 or 2 of these 30mm canon shells per month releasing its toxicity to the environment. We can only guess at the toxicity levels in Iraq when the Desert Storm 100 hour ground offensive exploded some 40 tonnes of these DU shells. PROF. GUNTHER: According to American Greenpeace, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, indicate that the Allied Forces would have left 300 tons of DU on the battle fields between Kuwait and Iraq, mostly in the form of toxic and radioactive dust. Much of the uranium dust has been scattered about thousands of square miles of desert. As the Gulf region has a rainy season, it is feared that uranium particles get at one time or the other into the ground water and finally reach the food chain. Highly toxic uranium dust, if inhaled, can result in lung cancer. Many DU projectiles spread over the battle fields have been collected by children and used as toys with possibly devastating consequences. The toxic nature of DU contamination is highlighted with the U.S. Department of Defence erecting a highly secret $4 million facility in Barnwall, South Carolina just to detoxify 22 military vehicles hit by friendly fire. Some of the vehicles are so badly contaminated that they have had to bury them. DAVID MULLER: The Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in the United States tested Gulf War veterans suffering from Desert Storm Syndrome for radiation toxicity following Gulf War veteran outrage and Congressional pressure. PROF. GUNTHER: My observations of the effects of DU contamination in Iraq show a similarity described in the so-called Gulf-War-Syndrome of U.S. and British soldiers in Kuwait. Right now one hears about odd ailments among Gulf War veterans from the U.S., which could possibly be attributed to contact with DU. One hears about hair loss, skin disease, damage to different organs etc. Even pregnant women are giving birth to crippled children. Many of these effects had remained unknown to the public. Newspapers recorded that a U.S. staff-sergeant held the view that many soldiers now felt uncertain and fear that they may have been used as Guinea-Pigs in a radiation experiment. Laura Flanders recently reported in the Nation magazine on a U.S. Veterans Administration state-wide survey of 251 Gulf War veterans families in Mississippi. Of their children conceived and born since the war, 67% have illnesses related to severe or missing eyes, missing ears, blood infections, respiratory problems and fused fingers. DAVID MULLER: Which companies are still manufacturing DU weaponry? PROF. GUNTHER: Different types of DU ammunition have been manufactured in the U.S. by Honeywell, Aerojet and others, the mass-production began in 1977. DU penetrators were extensively used for the first time during late in the Gulf War in 1991, with impressive results. At present there exists also mass-production in Britain and France and the export to other NATO countries, as well as to Japan, Australia and New Zealand are not excluded. DAVID MULLER: Professor, Australia exports Uranium Yellow cake to Europe ostensibly for peaceful purposes. From what I understand from your speech you see collusion between commercial enrichment plants and the military? PROF. GUNTHER: Yes, it is a question of cutting costs. Generally speaking, because of their toxicity and radioactivity, wastes from the uranium industry are in Europe deposited in salt galleries. These wastes must be safely deposited for a very long period of time. Such deposition processes seem to be extremely expensive. So, to save money, the uranium industry are giving depleted uranium, free of charge, to institutions or others, who are interested in it. DAVID MULLER: One final question! I noticed that you are circulating a petition about Depleted Uranium. What is the purpose of your organisation Yellow Cross? PROF. GUNTHER: Yellow Cross International makes a vehement appeal for the total ban of using DU ammunition as well as the newly developed laser weapons provoking irreparable damage to the eyes. Since 1991 I have been constantly warning about the DU dangers for the populations. Unfortunately at that time only few people believed me. Also in Iraq! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- For more information on the impacts of the military and sanctions war on the people of Iraq, refer to the section entitled 'impact of war' in the Iraq Action Coalition website (http://leb.net/IAC/) For information on the effects of depleted uranium, refer to the section under environment, in the impact of war page, or go directly to (http://leb.net/IAC/environment.html) -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html