From Sat Dec 6 13:15:11 2003
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 03:02:58 -0600 (CST)
From: “Tim Murphy” <>
Subject: FW: The perfect weapon: depleted uranium masks a war crime in
Article: 169473
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

The perfect weapon

By Robert C. Koehler, Tribune Media Services, [4 December 2003]

Our love affair with depleted uranium masks a war crime in progress

“You can’t clean it up!”

Doug Rokke, a career soldier who describes himself variously as a peace warrior and the ultimate garbage man, repeats this phrase with escalating amazement, lest anyone fail to get it.

When he speaks, he burns like a flare. He knows too much; it's eating him alive. He has seen the future of war crime—he has breathed it into his own lungs. You can’t clean it up.

“It” is depleted uranium—the perfect weapon.

At 1.6 times the density of lead, DU shells are the last word in penetration power: locomotives compressed to the size of bullets. The shells ignite the instant they’re fired and explode on impact.

“I mean it's absolute kill,” Rokke said. “Inside the vehicle is a giant firestorm.”

What's not to love, if you’re the Pentagon? We pounded Saddam's army with DU ammo in Gulf War I and destroyed it on the ground. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of what we did to it; GIs cleaning up afterward coined the term “crispy critters” to describe the fried corpses they found inside Iraqi tanks and trucks.

Talk about kill power. DU's awesome; it laughs at steel. Nothing stops it. For good reason, then, the Defense Department's standing order about this stuff is simple: See no evil.

So, OK, “depleted uranium” isn’t really depleted of anything. It's dirty: U-238, the low-level radioactive byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. And when the ammo explodes, poof, it vaporizes into particles so fine—a single micron in diameter, small enough to fit inside red blood cells—that, well, “conventional gas mask filters are like a barn door.”

Rokke knows what he's talking about; indeed, he knows as much about DU as anyone alive. In 1991, he was Gen. Schwarzkopf's go-to guy for environmental messes: the garbage man.

A specialist in preventive medicine (nuclear, chemical, biological), he was tapped to head up cleanup efforts in Kuwait. A number of U.S. tanks and troop transports had been taken out by friendly fire and Rokke and his team of several hundred men—a good 30 of whom are now dead of cancer, with many more, like Rokke himself, seriously ill—were supposed to ready them to be sent back to the States.

“We were scraping brains off Abrams tanks.” The garbage man. He doesn’t mince words. To hear him speak—as I did the other day in Chicago—you get the feeling there's no time for it. He was one of the presenters at a conference at the University of Illinois/Chicago on war and health, sponsored, appropriately enough, by the School of Nursing. His message is so urgent it's incandescent.

And his message is this: War is obsolete. Its technology is out of control. And nothing, short of all-out nuclear war, is more dangerous than the widespread use of depleted uranium. Some 375 tons of it were left in the desert and cities of Iraq in ‘91, and a dozen years later, a quarter of a million vets, more than a third of Gen. Schwarzkopf's army, including Schwarzkopf himself, are combat-disabled, battling cancer and neurological and respiratory illnesses. More than 10,000 are dead.

Since then, we’ve sewn pulverized DU across Kosovo and Afghanistan, and now, once again, Iraq. This time, 2,000 tons of it. “That's the solid estimate.” Two thousand tons. And you can’t clean it up.

This is a long-term public health disaster of fearful proportions for Iraqis. But even those of you who have a hard time caring about their fate surely see that it is also an imminent disaster for our own men and women in uniform. They are utterly unprotected from DU contamination. To take precautions would be to concede that DU is dangerous; if the Pentagon did that, its perfect weapon would become “politically unacceptable.”

Ergo, it ain’t dangerous. If you hear otherwise, it's Iraqi propaganda.

Meanwhile, 7,000 GIs have been sent home on medical evacuation, Rokke says; 30 percent of the women are experiencing gynecological problems. And the barracks where many of our sick and wounded are warehoused are a disgrace - “so bad I wouldn’t put a hog in there,” he says.

DU rounds are going off right this moment. This is a war crime in progress.

A terrible weapon

By Werner Broxchinski, 21 November 2003

Very little is being made public about depleted uranium munitions. The American government does not want this information to be widely known because depleted uranium is such a powerful and effective killer. In my view, considering the large number of people affected and the huge contamination area, depleted uranium is clearly a weapon of mass destruction.

In the first Gulf War in 1991, 697,000 troops were deployed by the American-led coalition. Total casualties in this brief war was 294 dead and approximately 400 wounded. Ten years later, 30,000 Gulf War veterans are dead, and as of May 2002, 221,000 Gulf War veterans were receiving medical disability for war-related causes. Also, soldiers who served in the Gulf are almost three times as likely to have a child with birth defects as unexposed troops. A very likely cause for this is depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium is a dense, heavy radioactive metal. Because it is dense, tanks clad in depleted uranium are less easily damaged than those built only with steel. When depleted uranium-tipped shells rip through a target, fine radioactive particles are released that are taken up by people, animals and plants. Depleted uranium releases alpha particles with a half-life of 4.5 billion years and these particles remain in the body for decades, damaging cell membranes and DNA and leading to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

The Pentagon admits that 320 metric tons of depleted uranium was left on the battlefield after the first Gulf War. Military personnel and civilians in these areas developed respiratory and kidney problems, rashes, bone cancer, and damaged reproductive and nervous systems. In the current Iraq war, U.S. and U.K. forces fired 944,000 depleted uranium rounds and dropped 2,700 tons of depleted uranium-tipped bombs. That is nine times as much depleted uranium as was used in the first Gulf War. No wonder workers from international aid agencies are in a hurry to leave the area.

Depleted uranium is a waste product from civilian nuclear power plants that can profitably be used for munitions and armoured vehicle cladding. It's a cheap and easy way to dispose of unwanted radioactive waste. Who cares about the hazards to troops and civilians in war zones or workers exposed during manufacture of military materials!