The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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The following appeared in the Independent "The House in Brief"
parliamentary section 2/11/99.
"GULF WAR SHELLS TOTAL. More than 860,000 depleted uranium based shells were used by the allies in the Gulf War, John Spellar, a Defence minister confirmed."
This has been confirmed by the Pentagon. In addition a leaked report from the Atomic Energy Authority (obtained by the brilliant journalist, Nick Cohen) revealed 'at least 40 tons of radioactive dust' were left on the battle fields of Kuwait and Iraq. In theory, the authority said there was enough waste to 'cause 500,000 deaths'. They advised that a 'small dedicated team' should be sent to the Gulf 'in total confdentiality' to establish the scale of the poisoning. It was 'obviously not realistic' to expect mass deaths the memo continued, because every one of half a million people would have to line up and ingest the dust. But still the authority was worried about radiation seeping into the water table and the dust being carried on the desert winds.
A US army study in 1990 concluded that no dose of depleted uranium 'is so low' that the probability of it causing cancer 'is zero'. A single shell emitted radiation three times stronger than the safe limit for members of the American public. When a German scientist brought a spent uranium round back from iraq, he was convicted by a Berlin court for 'releasing ionizing radiation on the public.' What this all clearly shows is the US government is quite aware, and has been for many years, of the possible dangerous effects of the radiation emitted from spent DU rounds can have on humans and the enviroment they inhabit, but aren't concerned. This is nothing new. Aug 6, 1945, Hiroshima, the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare 150,000 killed or injured in the initial explosion.Children are still being born today with physical and mental deformaties caused by genetic abnormalities from radiation from that bomb, 55 years later! 3 days later 75,000 killed or injured at Nagasaki when they dropped a second A-bomb. How many years will Iraqi people suffer long after even the sanctions are lifted?
The use of DU rounds should be internationally outlawed. DU rounds could and should be classed as a low level nuclear weapons (the journalistic giant, John Pilger has made this observation I beleive). I agree with this but I also beleive the 'nuclear' tag may actually belie the fact that the most devestating part of the weapon operates over the long term polluting the land and the people with it. In addition, technically speaking nuclear weapons derive their destructive force (and name) from energy released during nuclear fission or fusion. A DU round is a conventional high explosive whose uranium casing is atomized by the incredible heat generated on impact (which gives the DU rounds armour piercing ability). Perhaps a new term like 'radioactive shells' is more technically correct and more importantly, describes the conventional explosive qualities of this weapon compared to its Atomic and Hydrogen brothers, while at the same time revealing its long term and in many ways far more terrible 'radioactive' damage. This last suggestion may seem insignificant, pedantic or just daft, I did not intend it to be I assure you. In a media filled with terms like 'freindly-fire' and 'collateral damage' words are powerful tools.