Depleted Uranium - The Real Dirty Bombs By Christopher Bollyn
Depleted Uranium -
The Real Dirty Bombs
By Christopher Bollyn
Lost in the media circus about the Iraq war, supposedly
being fought to prevent a tyrant from obtaining weapons of mass destruction,
is the salient fact that the United States and Britain are actively waging
chemical and nuclear warfare in Iraq - using depleted uranium munitions.
The corporate-controlled press has failed to inform the
public that, in spite of years of UN inspections and numerous international
treaties, tons of banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - used and unused
- remain in Iraq. Indeed, both chemical and radioactive WMD have been -
and continue to be used against U.S. and coalition soldiers.
The media silence surrounding these banned WMD, and the
horrendous consequences of their use, is due to the simple fact that they
are being used by the U.S.-led coalition. They are the new "Silver
Bullet" in the U.S. arsenal. They are depleted uranium weapons.
Depleted uranium (DU) weapons were first used during
the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991. The Pentagon estimated that between
315 and 350 tons of DU were fired during the first Gulf War. During the
2003 invasion and current occupation of Iraq, U.S. and British troops have
reportedly used more than five times as many DU bombs and shells as the
total number used during the 1991 war.
While the use of DU weapons and their effect on human
health and the environment are subjects of extreme importance the Pentagon
is noticeably reluctant to discuss these weapons. Despite numerous calls
to specific individuals identified as being the appointed spokesmen on
the subject, not one would answer their phone during normal business hours
for the purpose of this article.
Dr. Doug Rokke, on the other hand, former director of
the U.S. Armyís Depleted Uranium Project, is very willing to talk
about the effects of DU. Rokke was involved in the "clean up"
of 34 Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles hit by friendly fire during
the 1991 Gulf War. Today he suffers from the ill effects of DU in his body.
Rokke told American Free Press that the Pentagon uses
DU weapons because they are the most effective at killing and destroying
everything they hit. The highest level of the U.S. and British governments
have "totally disregarded the consequences" of the use of DU
weapons, Rokke said.
The first Gulf War was the largest friendly fire incident
in the history of American warfare, Rokke says. "The majority of the
casualties were the result of friendly fire," he told AFP.
DU is used in many forms of ammunition as an armor penetrator
because of its extreme weight and density. The uranium used in these missiles
and bombs is a by-product of the nuclear enrichment process. Experts say
the Department of Energy has 100 million tons of DU and using it in weapons
saves the government money on the cost of its disposal.
Rather than disposing of the radioactive waste, it is
shaped into penetrator rods used in the billions of rounds being fired
in Iraq and Afghanistan. The radioactive waste from the U.S. nuclear weapons
industry has, in effect, been forcibly exported and spread in the environments
of Iraq, Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.
THE REAL "DIRTY BOMBS"
"A flying rod of solid uranium 18-inches long and
three-quarters of an inch in diameter," is what becomes of a DU tank
round after it is fired, Rokke said. Because Uranium-238 is pyrophoric,
meaning it burns on contact with air, DU rounds are burning as they fly.
When the DU penetrator hits an object it breaks up and
causes secondary explosions, Rokke said. "It's way beyond a dirty
bomb," Rokke said, referring to the terror weapon that uses conventional
explosives to spread radioactive material.
Some of the uranium used with DU weapons vaporizes into
extremely small particles, which are dispersed into the atmosphere where
they remain until they fall to the ground with the rain. As a gas, the
chemically toxic and radioactive uranium can easily enter the body through
the skin or the lungs and be carried around the world until it falls to
earth with the rain.
AFP asked Marion Falk, a retired chemical physicist who
built nuclear bombs for more than 20 years at Lawrence Livermore lab, if
he thought that DU weapons operate in a similar manner as a dirty bomb.
"That's exactly what they are," Falk said. "They fit the
description of a dirty bomb in every way."
According to Falk, more than 30 percent of the DU fired
from the cannons of U.S. tanks is reduced to particles one-tenth of a micron
(one millionth of a meter) in size or smaller on impact.
"The larger the bang" the greater the amount
of DU that is dispersed into the atmosphere, Falk said. With the larger
missiles and bombs, nearly 100 percent of the DU is reduced to radioactive
dust particles of the "micron size" (virus size -ed) or smaller,
While the Pentagon officially denies the dangers of DU
weapons, since at least 1943 the military has been aware of the extreme
toxicity of uranium dispersed as a gas (or dust particles -ed).
A declassified memo written by James B. Conant and two
other physicists working on the U.S. nuclear project during the Second
World War, and sent to Brig. Gen. L.R. Groves on October 30, 1943, provides
"As a gas warfare instrument the [radioactive] material
would be ground into particles of microscopic size to form dust and smoke
and distributed by a ground-fired projectile, land vehicles, or aerial
bombs," the 1943 memo reads.
"In this form it would be inhaled by personnel.
The amount necessary to cause death to a person inhaling the material is
extremely small. It has been estimated that one millionth of a gram accumulation
in a personís body would be fatal. There are no known methods of
treatment for such a casualty."
The use of radioactive materials "as a terrain contaminant"
to "deny terrain to either side except at the expense of exposing
personnel to harmful radiations" is also discussed in the Groves memo
"Anybody, civilian or soldier, who breathes these
particles has a permanent dose, and itís not going to decrease very
much over time," Leonard Dietz, a retired nuclear physicist with 33
years experience told the New York Daily News. "In the long run -
veterans exposed to ceramic uranium oxide have a major problem."
"Inhaled particles of radioactive uranium oxide
dust will either lodge in the lungs or travel through the body, depending
on their size. The smallest particles can be carried through cell walls
and "affect the master code - the _expression of the DNA," Falk
Inhaled DU can "fool around with the keys"
and do damage to "practically anything," Falk said. "It
affects the body in so many ways and there are so many different symptoms
that they want to give it different names," Falk said about the wide
variety of ailments afflicting Gulf War veterans.
Today, more than one out of every three veterans from
the first Gulf War are permanently disabled. Terry Jemison of the Dept.
of Veterans Affairs said that of the 592,561 discharged veterans from the
1991 war in Iraq, 179,310 are receiving disability compensation and another
24,763 cases are pending.
The "epigenetic damage" done by DU has resulted
in many grossly deformed children born in areas such as southern Iraq where
tons of DU have contaminated the environment and local population. An untold
number of Americans have also been born with severe birth defects as a
result of DU contamination.
The New York Daily News conducted a study on nine recently
returned soldiers from the New York National Guard. Four of the nine were
found to have "almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from
exploded DU shells.
Laboratory tests revealed two manmade forms of uranium
in urine samples from four of the 9 soldiers. The four soldiers are the
first confirmed cases of inhaled DU from the current Iraq war.
"These are amazing results, especially since these
soldiers were military police not exposed to the heat of battle,"
said Dr. Asaf Duracovic, who examined the soldiers and performed the testing.
"Other American soldiers who were in combat must have more DU exposure,"
Duracovic said. Duracovic is a colonel in the Army reserves and served
in the 1991 Gulf War.
The test results showing that four of nine New York guardsmen
test positive for DU "suggest the potential for more extensive radiation
exposure among coalition troops and Iraqi civilians," the Daily News
"A large number of American soldiers [in Iraq] may
have had significant exposure to uranium oxide dust," Dr. Thomas Fasey,
a pathologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center and an expert on depleted uranium
said, "And the health impact is worrisome for the future."
HOTTER THAN HELL
"I'm hotter than hell," Rokke told AFP. The
Dept. of Energy tested Rokke in 1994 and found that he was excreting more
than 5,000 times the permissible level of depleted uranium. Rokke, however,
was not informed of the results until 1996.
As director of the Depleted Uranium Project in 1994-95,
Rokke said his task was three fold: determine how to provide medical care
for DU victims, how to clean it up, and how to educate and train personnel
using DU weapons.
Today, Rokke says that DU cannot be cleaned up and there
is no medical care. "Once you're zapped - you're zapped," Rokke
said. Among the health problems Rokke is suffering as a result of DU contamination
is brittle teeth. He said that he just paid out $400 for an operation for
teeth that have broken off. "The uranium replaces the calcium in your
teeth and bones," Rokke said.
"You fight for medical care every day of your life,"
"There are over 30,000 casualties from this Iraq
war," Rokke said.
The three tasks set out for the Depleted Uranium Project
have all failed, Rokke said. He wants to know why medical care is not being
provided for all the victims of DU and why the environment is not being
"They have to be held accountable," Rokke said,
naming President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,
and British prime minister Tony Blair. They chose to use DU weapons and
"totally disregarded the consequences."