General Martins Barrento, the Head of the Portuguese Army, last week criticised the Portuguese journalists for spreading scare stories about NATO and depleted uranium, stating that the Army Journal in future would set the record straight by printing the truth. This was a clear insinuation that the journalists are lying, an accusation which was coupled with the statement that all attacks on NATO by journalists from NATO countries are unpatriotic, which was as unfortunate as it was jingoistic. As it happens, it is precisely the general’s own newspaper, the Portuguese Army Journal, which in September 1999 presented an article by Major Francisco Leandro about the dangers of depleted uranium weapons. This three-page article refers to the connection between DU and cancer and recommends that the use of such weapons be reassessed. “We consider that the use of this type of weapons, which evidently give rise to the release of clouds of cancerous particles, should be reassessed”. Major Leandro continues: “It is scientifically proved that Gulf War Syndrome which affects thousands of American soldiers was caused by this type of weapons”. NATO states in its defence that four months after the bombing of Kosovo in March 1999, it sent a communication to all countries whose contingents of soldiers were present in areas where DU had been used, “without exception”, warning about the dangers of contamination. This is the document supposedly sent in July 1999, but which Greece claims to have only received in December of that year and Portugal, never. Meanwhile, the European Parliament has called for a moratorium on the use of DU weapons until it is proved that they are safe. This goes against NATO’s position to continue to use DU until it is scientifically proved that there is a link between its use and health hazards. In the words of Mario Soares, ex-President of Portugal and currently a Member of the European Parliament, “soldiers died and there are too many coincidences”. Sfor found 150 projectiles in Hadzici, which had enough radioactivity to be considered “sufficient to recommend that people do not approach”. NATO claims there is nothing to hide while Yugoslav President, Vojislav Kostunica, coined the best phrase of the day, accusing NATO of having a “depleted conscience”.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON