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.
The Death of Joseph Terry Riordon
Calling themselves "Plowshares vs. Depleted Uranium," the four admitted to using bolt cutters to gain access to Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, MD during the predawn hours of Dec. 19. Citing Isaiah 2:4 ("They shall beat their swords into plowshares ..."), the activists hammered and poured blood on two A-10s, which use Gatling guns to fire various types of depleted uranium shells."This criminal plane fired 95 percent of the depleted uranium deployed by the US during the Gulf War ... poisoning humans and the elements in Kuwait and Iraq," the four wrote in a statement.
There have been more than 70 Plowshares actions. The first took place on Sept. 9, 1980, when Philip and Daniel Berrigan and six others hammered on nuclear nose cones at a General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Penn. Philip Berrigan, Crane, and Kelly were members of the Prince of Peace Plowshares, which disarmed an Aegis destroyer at the Bath, Maine Iron Works on Feb. 12, 1997.
--Patrick O'Neill, Towson, MD
by Philip Berrigan
"Keep salt in your hearts, and you'll be at peace with one another." (Mark 9:50)
"We are destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that."
The hot climate of the Middle East makes salt a physical necessity. Equally important, salt is a spiritual necessity; it is the basis for peace. I would suggest that salt, in this sense, is nonviolence. Jesus asks nonviolence of us, in imitation of him. To achieve that nonviolence, we take the Biblical meaning of "heart"--that core of being which makes us human--mind, will, emotion, ego--make that core accountable to nonviolence and we'll have peace with one another.
We are destroying Iraqi society, as Denis Halliday avows, because we refuse to salt our hearts with nonviolence.
Joseph T. Riordon, a Canadian MP veteran of the Gulf War, died last April of mysterious and crippling symptoms. Riordon's daughter called her father a soldier's soldier who lived and breathed the military. As Riordon grew more and more ill, the Canadian War Ministry, like the American Pentagon, refused medical assistance. Riordon felt betrayed.
An American expert in Gulf War Syndrome, Dr. Asaph Durokovic, US Department of Veteran's Affairs, expressed surprise at the high level of uranium isotopes in Riordon's bones, nearly a decade after his exposure to Depleted Uranium in the Gulf War. Riordon had inhaled or ingested DU particles, or picked them up in an open wound. The particles found their way into his blood and eventually his bones.
Another Canadian Gulf War veteran, Terry Black, an ammunition handler, exhibited symptoms similar to Riordon's--profuse sweating and shaking, near blindness, depression, and agoraphobia. Black couldn't understand why he was sick. He didn't remember an occasion when he could have ingested or inhaled DU, nor rubbed it into an open wound. But he handled DU. Does that mean that DU affects people within proximity, like a crewman enclosed by a tank hardened by DU? Or aircraft workers installing DU as ballast in the tails of commercial planes? Or workers assembling 30-mm DU shells for the A-10, or mortar and tank munitions, or hardened noses for cruise missiles?
More than 400 Desert Storm veterans have died since 1991, the vast majority dead of DU. 110,000 are chronically ill, and, of the 251 veterans' families studied in Mississippi, 67% had children with defects.
On February 17, Senator John McCain, a POW during the Vietnam War and a Republican candidate for the American Presidency, addresed a group of veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. McCain wanted the veteran vote, so he regaled his audience with thanks for giving their consciences, blood, and muscle to the empire. I gazed at the old boys in their uniforms and thought: "This is as seductive and reckless as it gets--one veteran shilling other veterans about the Big Lie of war. And everyone oblivious."
One historian that I read accused the US military of "reckless" behavior since 1942, the beginning of the Manhattan Project--creating vast quantities of radioactive material for which there is no safe disposal method or site; deploying weapon systems whose contamination spreads far beyond any possible target; threatening hundreds of thousands of Americans, from the quarter million troops intentionally exposed by testing between 1946 and 1963, to the "down-winders" from those tests, to the thousands exposed to all stages of the nuclear cycle, from mining to manufacture to deployment. This "recklessness" has engendered a cancer epidemic, killing untold millions by cancer and genetic defects. Now, Depleted Uranium adds another grim chapter to this criminality in Iraq and Yugoslavia, where millions will die before this terrible harvest is complete. I call this not "recklessness" but deranged, even psychotic behavior.
What do Americans do about social psychosis? What do we do about a government representing global capital and the superrich? We expose its bloodshed, wars, and criminaility. We take to the streets, go to the military hellholes and war factories, go to the White House and Pentagon. We go legally, and, if conscience dictates, illegally. For an unjust law is no law.
Our way--the way of the Plowshares vs Depleted Uranium--was to adopt the vision of Isaiah (swords into plowshares) and the Sermon on the Mount (love of enemies). Our way is disarmament, because God is unarmed toward us. Our way is to insure future disarmament by doing it now. Our way is to salt our hearts with nonviolence as the foundation of peace.
Any exposé of Depleted Uranium should also include its main platform, the A-10 Warthog (AKA Tankbuster, Avenger). The A-10 is a slow, ungainly, heavily armored aircraft that can carry and deploy a prodigious load of bombs, missiles, and .30-mm ammunition. A favorite tactic--in Yugoslavia the A-10 would sometimes fire buildings or barracks, loiter in the area, return and kill the firemen fighting the flames.
Its chief armament is a 7-barrel, .30 mm Gatling gun that can spew out 3900 rounds per minute with fiendish accuracy. During the Gulf War in southern Iraq, the Warthog helped to create the Highway of Death by killing thousands in trucks, tanks, and personnel carriers.
But what about Depleted Uranium which has the Pentagon stonewalling benefits for sick veterans, the experts hedging their bets pro and con (what will the truth cost me?) and Iraqis, particularly children, dying by the thousands?
In war, according to international law, the A-10 becomes a crime against humanity, while Depleted Uranium is a war crime. Together, they become an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction. Depleted Uranium (U-238) is the radioactive waste left after the extraction of weapons' grade uranium (U-235). It is a heavy metal pyrophoric which ignites on impact, burning its way through heavy armor on tanks or personnel carriers. Apart from its penetrating power, a DU shell is designed for conversion to an uranium oxide aerosol, which resists gravity or control over space and time. These minute radioactive particles can spread as far as 25 miles, or they can be re-suspended from sand by wind or motion. Estimates of the volume of DU fired during the Iraqi War vary from 350-800 tons, but whatever the case, DU left large areas around Basra so poisoned with radioactivity that they became uninhabitable. Depleted Uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years. When internalized, it causes kidney damage, cancers of the lungs and bones, respiratory disease, skin disorders, neurocognitive disorders, chromosomal damage, and birth defects.
Depleted Uranium as fired in Iraq, Kosovo, and Serbia has caused long term, severe, and widespread damage to the environment. The US has known of the human and environmental dangers of uranium since the 1940's and the mining of uranium in Canada's NW Territory. Nonetheless, the US has gone ahead with amassing a mammoth nuclear arsenal, and more recently, with waging nuclear war for the second time in Iraq, and the third time in Yugoslavia.
Having 55 years of experience with the nuclear genie, the minions of the War Department could hardly be ignorant of the consequences of DU. Aerosolized Depleted Uranium will kill Iraqis and Yugoslavians for decades to come.
As for the Iraqis, what are they to do with a sizable portion of their country? The South cannot be cleansed of radioactive garbage--they can't farm it, can't raise livestock on it, can't live on it. It is irreparably toxic. Such cruelty from the US is unthinkable, imperial, demonic.
I recall my horror in the late 1970's to learn that the Vietnamese had requested maps from the Pentagon charting hundreds of thousands of tons of unexploded ordnance--bombs, mines, mortar and artillery shells--left in the soil of South Vietnam. The Pentagon refused the request, knowing that those munitions would act as vast minefields that would cripple and kill Vietnamese for generations.
Hatred and vengeance have long been stock in trade with the bosses, spreading also to the American people. Our enemies dared to confront us. So--win or lose, they must suffer. The Vietnamese won, let them suffer; the Iraqis lost, let them suffer.
Dear God, ruler of the universe, salt our hearts with your
nonviolence, so that we may join your work of justice and peace,
and resist the assassins in high places. Amen."
To write to the Plowshares vs. Depleted Uranium:
Susan Crane #916-999, Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, PO Box 535, Jessup MD 20794
Liz Walz #995-376, 200 Court House Court, Towson MD 21204
Philip Berrigan #292-139, Roxbury Correctional Institution, 18701 Roxbury Rd, Hagerstown MD 21746
Rev Steve Kelly S.J. #292-140, Roxbury Correctional Institution,
18701 Roxbury Rd., Hagerstown MD 21746