American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
US Forces' Use of Depleted Uranium is Illegal
This article by Neil Mackay appeared March 30, 2003 in The Sunday Herald (Scotland).
Professor Doug Rokke, ex-director
of the Pentagon's depleted uranium project, former professor
of environmental science at Jacksonville University and onetime
US army colonel who was tasked by the US department of defense
with the post-first- Gulf war depleted uranium desert clean-up
said use of DU was a "war crime...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
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 an 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 subcommission.
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 before the end of this century, some 500,000 people would die 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, or 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 "recognize 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.
Background on DU Ammunition:
For much more check out: Discounted Casualties - The Human Cost of Depleted Uranium provided by the Hiroshima, Japan newspaper - The Chugoku Shimbun.
Also the Federation of American Scientists has a Depleted Uranium Ammunition page. And the Military Toxics Project has a campaign against depleted uranium weapons.
Also See: US Wins Defeat of Depleted Uranium Study Reuters 11/30/2001
Iraqi Cancers, Birth Defects Blamed on US Depleted Uranium Seattle Post-Intelligencer 11/12/2002
Iraq Links Cancers to Uranium
Weapons; US Likely to Use Arms Again in War San Francisco Chronicle