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DU hurting environment, health in Iraq

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  • World View
    US forces use of depleted uranium weapons is illegal By Neil Mackay, Investigations Editor http://www.sundayherald.com/ BRITISH and American coalition
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2005
      US forces' use of depleted uranium weapons is 'illegal'
      By Neil Mackay, Investigations Editor

      BRITISH and American coalition forces are using depleted uranium (DU)
      shells in the war against Iraq and deliberately flouting a United
      Nations resolution which classifies the munitions as illegal weapons
      of mass destruction.

      DU contaminates land, causes ill-health and cancers among the soldiers
      using the weapons, the armies they target and civilians, leading to
      birth defects in children.

      Professor Doug Rokke, ex-director of the Pentagon's depleted uranium
      project -- a former professor of environmental science at Jacksonville
      University and onetime US army colonel who was tasked by the US
      department of defence with the post-first Gulf war depleted uranium
      desert clean-up -- said use of DU was a 'war crime'.

      Rokke said: 'There is a moral point to be made here. This war was
      about Iraq possessing illegal weapons of mass destruction -- yet we
      are using weapons of mass destruction ourselves.' He added: 'Such
      double-standards are repellent.'

      The latest use of DU in the current conflict came on Friday when an
      American A10 tankbuster plane fired a DU shell, killing one British
      soldier and injuring three others in a 'friendly fire' incident.

      According to a August 2002 report by the UN subcommission, laws which
      are breached by the use of DU shells include: the Universal
      Declaration of Human Rights; the Charter of the United Nations; the
      Genocide Convention; the Convention Against Torture; the four Geneva
      Conventions of 1949; the Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980; and
      the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, which expressly forbid
      employing 'poison or poisoned weapons' and 'arms, projectiles or
      materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering'. All of these
      laws are designed to spare civilians from unwarranted suffering in
      armed conflicts.

      DU has been blamed for the effects of Gulf war syndrome -- typified by
      chronic muscle and joint pain, fatigue and memory loss -- among
      200,000 US soldiers after the 1991 conflict.

      It is also cited as the most likely cause of the 'increased number of
      birth deformities and cancer in Iraq' following the first Gulf war.

      'Cancer appears to have increased between seven and 10 times and
      deformities between four and six times,' according to the UN

      The Pentagon has admitted that 320 metric tons of DU were left on the
      battlefield after the first Gulf war, although Russian military
      experts say 1000 metric tons is a more accurate figure.

      In 1991, the Allies fired 944,000 DU rounds or some 2700 tons of DU
      tipped bombs. A UK Atomic Energy Authority report said that some
      500,000 people would die before the end of this century, due to
      radioactive debris left in the desert.

      The use of DU has also led to birth defects in the children of Allied
      veterans and is believed to be the cause of the 'worrying number of
      anophthalmos cases -- babies born without eyes' in Iraq. Only one in
      50 million births should be anophthalmic, yet one Baghdad hospital had
      eight cases in just two years. Seven of the fathers had been exposed
      to American DU anti-tank rounds in 1991. There have also been cases of
      Iraqi babies born without the crowns of their skulls, a deformity also
      linked to DU shelling.

      A study of Gulf war veterans showed that 67% had children with severe
      illnesses, missing eyes, blood infections, respiratory problems and
      fused fingers.

      Rokke told the Sunday Herald: 'A nation's military personnel cannot
      wilfully contaminate any other nation, cause harm to persons and the
      environment and then ignore the consequences of their actions.

      'To do so is a crime against humanity.

      'We must do what is right for the citizens of the world -- ban DU.'

      He called on the US and UK to 'recognise the immoral consequences of
      their actions and assume responsibility for medical care and thorough
      environmental remediation'.

      He added: 'We can't just use munitions which leave a toxic wasteland
      behind them and kill indiscriminately.

      'It is equivalent to a war crime.'

      Rokke said that coalition troops were currently fighting in the Gulf
      without adequate respiratory protection against DU contamination.

      The Sunday Herald has previously revealed how the Ministry of Defence
      had test-fired some 6350 DU rounds into the Solway Firth over more
      than a decade, from 1989 to 1999.



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