The constant denials that DU weapon deployment posed health problems and claims that Gulf War syndrome and Balkans syndrome are nothing other than hypochondria are part of a callous cover-up by nations who deployed these weapons, perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The deployment of DU weapons is a breach of the Geneva Convention, which stipulates that theatres of war are not left contaminated after the conflict has ceased. Such is not the case with DU weapons. As the USA unilaterally and arrogantly prepares a crusade against Iraq, the case of DU deployment is reopened, with new and fresh evidence.
The official position of NATO and the US and British military authorities was peremptory: the claims that DU caused illness were unfounded. However, an independent study in Britain has shown that Gulf War veterans had almost twice the incidence of bone marrow and lymphatic cancers as a similarly-aged control group of the same size (19 cases to 11). The study was carried out by a team from three London hospitals (St. Guy’s, St. Thomas’ and King’s).
Of the 53,200 British troops involved in the Gulf War, 213 died through cancer-related diseases, 100 committed suicide, 329 died through accidents. Six were murdered and a staggering 5,000 reported unfit to work through illness. One in six (17%) claims to have some of the Gulf War syndrome symptoms, namely headaches, lack of concentration, aching limbs and fatigue.
It is true that Gulf War combatants were inoculated with multiple vaccinations against biological agents, raising the point that many cases of Gulf War syndrome are in fact not reactions to DU, but reactions against inoculation programmes. That there is a case to be investigated, there is no doubt. There have been abnormal levels of cancer reported in Gulf War veterans in the USA, UK, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Belgium.
It is in the vaccination programme that NATO and Defence officials found their let-out and the confusion between the two has allowed the perpetrators of this crime hide behind misinformation and blocking actions for the best part of a decade. Not any more.
Pravda.Ru can reveal that a warning was issued by the German Army to its troops in Kosovo (1999) about the long-term hazards of DU, instructing them not to approach locations where DU ammunition had been deployed, “except for life-saving purposes and/or measures indispensable to the mission accomplishment”. The warning continued, “It must be assumed that not only the interior but also the surrounding area of an armoured vehicle destroyed by DU ammunition is contaminated”.
This being the case, deployment of this ammunition constitutes a violation of the Geneva Convention. Children playing on burnt-out vehicles would by now be developing life-threatening diseases, the same ones that are claiming the lives of so many soldiers who unwittingly came into contact with this substance. There is no doubt that the German regulations are incriminatory. They add that “long-term hazards may also result from drinking water and soil contamination”.
United Nations investigations into the issue were claimed to have revealed nothing new and scientists scoffed at reports that DU had contaminated large swathes of Iraq and the Balkans in separate conflicts. However, the United Nations Environment Programme interim report on Kosovo stated that radioactivity levels were higher than expected in areas where DU had been deployed and made an urgent call to UNEP personnel to seal off 112 such sites in Kosovo after considerable levels of uranium dust had been found in bomb craters.
It was not only the UNO that had raised the alarm. Homes of British Gulf War veterans suspected of leaking the story to the press were raided. Pravda.Ru personnel, who had started to write about the subject, suffered destructive hacking attacks on their PCs.
For some reason, the Royal Navy is phasing out deployment of DU ammunition and for some reason, US manufacturers are phasing out DU and are turning to tungsten-tipped rounds.
It is not only among troops that disease has been reported in areas where DU was deployed. In Iraq, the incidence of cancers in such areas is twenty times higher than normal. Children are suffering from cancers of the brain and the eye which did not exist before 1991 and girls as young as eight are starting to suffer from cervical cancer. Military experts in the US and UK claim that the deployment of mustard gas against the Iranians in 1986 was responsible for these diseases, yet this is a gas which affects the respiratory channels, not the cervix.
Indeed, the US and British military authorities were also wise to the risks, despite having deployed some 339 tonnes of toxic metals in the Gulf in 1991. British troops fired some 100 DU tank rounds while the US troops deployed around 860,000 rounds, fired from tanks and aircraft. In the Balkans, the US forces used some 10,800 rounds in Bosnia and 31,000 in Kosovo.
A document from the US Army Office of the Surgeon General in August 1993 claims that “when soldiers inhale or ingest DU dust they incur a potential increase in cancer risk”. A British Ministry of Defence alert issued to the Headquarters of the British Forces in Riyadh on February 25th, 1991, states that “Two potential health risks from DU oxide dusts exist. First. Irradiation from alpha particles, levels are extremely low but ingestion and inhalation should be avoided. Second. Heavy metal oxide, treat as for exposure to lead oxides”.
In areas where DU was deployed, the document urged British troops to use nuclear, chemical and biological protection suits.
How interesting that the US armed forces are considering another attack against Iraq when the bombshell resulting from the previous illegal activities arising from the last conflict is about to explode. There is a case here to be brought against NATO forces for the deployment of illegal substances during the Gulf War and Balkans conflicts. Knowingly and callously, this organisation committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and breached the Geneva Convention.
How the USA could be considering further military action in the same theatre of war is utterly astonishing.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru