Over the years since the Desert Storm operation, the incidence of leukemia and cancer has raised 9 times
The US troops have almost given up the searches for weapons of mass destruction. The coalition command is now focused on repelling attacks of numerous international, private, public organizations and experts. Opponents blame the US military command for use of ammunition with depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War and during the present campaign. They say, ammunition of this kind turned out to be disastrous not only for tanks and bunkers of the enemy, but also for the health of ordinary citizens. What is more, coalition soldiers have been probably affected by such weapons as well. However, American generals brush the accusations aside and say the facts are not proven.
Depleted uranium (also known as Uranium-238) is a by-product of reactor fuel processing; its density is 1.7 times higher than that of lead. Depleted uranium is used for production of a core for armor-piercing shells and special bombs which allows them to break through the tank armor and reinforced concrete of which ceiling in bunkers is usually made. During the First Gulf War, America's Abrams tanks, Apache helicopters, Bradley armored fighting vehicles and A-10 attack planes discharged about 320 tons of ammunition with depleted uranium. Usage of the weapons allowed smashing up Iraqi tank subdivisions in regions to the south of Basra, which was later proudly reported by Colonel James Naughton from the US Army Materiel Command.
Over the years since the Desert Storm operation, the incidence of leukemia and cancer has raised 9 times in the areas where weapons with depleted were used during the First Gulf War. Doctor Javad al-Ali from Basra says, only 11 in 100,000 people suffered from cancer before the war; now the figure makes up 96 cancer instances among 100,000 people. "Several investigations have been held before doctors arrived at a sad conclusion that the increasing number of people suffering from cancer is directly connected with depleted uranium," Doctor Salma Haddad from Baghdad says.
The Pentagon insists that harmful effect of Uranium-238 is short and can be considered rather as chemical contamination, not radioactive emanation. Experts of the military department say that the element gets harmless already in 7 years since its use. Independent experts explain more specifically: they say that a uranium head of a shell gets destroyed when it hits armored mechanisms at a high temperature. The collision produces thin dispersion dust. When the dust is inhaled, it gets into blood and further entails lung cancer and acute renal failure. It is important that US servicemen are recommended not to approach military technique hit with weapons stuffed with depleted uranium. If necessary, they can approach such machines only in special protection suits.
American physician Doug Rokk participated in clearing the Iraqi territory off depleted uranium after the 1991 war. He told how the operation was carried out: "First we sought for tanks hit with depleted uranium shells. Then we removed them out of the area. The territory within a radius of 100 square meters from the plot where the tank stood must be treated in a special way. A 10-centimeter layer of ground must be removed; otherwise the region will remain contaminated within 4.5 billion years."
Before the recent operation Shock and Awe, the Pentagon in the person of Colonel James Naughton declared that no shells with depleted uranium would be used to achieve superiority over Iraq. But Americans did use depleted uranium. To all appearances, palaces and bunkers in Baghdad were bombed with bombs stuffed with depleted uranium; tank columns of the Iraqi Republican Guards were smashed up with such shells.
The UK military command, unlike the American one, has revised the opinion of Uranium-238. After the Desert Storm Operation, the UK Ministry of Defense appropriated over $370 million for equipment of the armed forces with alternative ammunition. In the end of April, the ministry ordered that soldiers who got back home from Iraq should undergo medical examination on a voluntary basis. This concerns servicemen who took part in operations in those areas where shells with depleted uranium exploded.
Experts of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are eager to get to Iraq. UNEP Chief Executive Klaus Topfer says, participants of the program must immediately get to the country to estimate the level of danger to the population from those uranium weapons that were used during the last war. However, the Bush administration hasn't yet authorized entry of UN experts to Iraq.
It is sad, but traces of depleted uranium can be found in the Balkans. Americans used weapons with depleted uranium in 1995 in Bosnia and in 1999 when they were fighting against the Yugoslav army. Only afterwards the whole of the world learnt about the Balkan syndrome: hundreds of soldiers died from cancer, they complained of lapses of memory, insomnia, inflammation of joints and respiratory tract.