Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003? Answer is yes – but they came in with and were used by US and UK militaries, not by Iraqi forces, and consequently their presence was ignored by corporate-controlled press. Weapons in question were not nuclear, chemical or biological according to classical definition of these weapons, yet their effects were both nuclear and chemical in nature. Our mystery weapon? Depleted uranium, used by US military in Iraq in both 1991 and 2003, in Afghanistan, Libya and in Kosovo, would be classified as “omnicidal maniac”, if only weapons were liable for psychoanalysis. In Libya at least, sites targeted also included civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Depleted uranium is a leftover of enrichment process that creates highly radioactive U-235 used for nuclear weapons and power generation, and is over 99% U-238. United States alone have over 5 million tons of DU stored, and due to its long half-life, it has been decided that it is cheaper to use it for weapons than keep it in storage. DU weapons were first developed by US Navy in 1968 and used by Israel in 1973 Yom Kippur War; next use was in 1991 Gulf War, when US broke international prohibition, namely 1907 Hague Convention, which prohibits “poison or poisoned weapons” use, and 1925 Geneva Convention, which states the same thing. DU is being offered for free to military contractors, who then create weapons from it.
While highly energetic alpha particles it creates cannot pass by more than few centimeters of air, and are easily stopped by thin sheat of paper or dead skin layer, it is not so for beta and gamma radiation – beta particles penetrate to depth of 2 centimeters, whereas gamma radiation creates beta particles on its way through the body. When set on fire DU creates large numbers of nano-particles of duranium oxide, which is just as dangerous as “pure” uranium, that then float through the air and are inhaled by people, contaminate water and food supplies and generally settle everywhere they shouldn’t; they can also attach themselves to sand particles and use them for “travel”. These are then taken in with water and food, entering food chain (as has happened in Iraq) and being inside body, even alpha particles suddenly gain very real potential to cause trouble, penetrating to about 30 microns from source.
Particles in question can be deposed by wind hundred, maybe even thousand, kilometers from the place they were released at. There is no way to filter them – they pass through gas mask as if it isn’t there – and once they come in contact with body, they immediately start to alter DNA. They are also toxic in classic biological definition of the word. While it is possible to (mostly) clean up vehicles from them, they become embedded in clothing and are impossible to remove. However, even decontamination of vehicles is impossible during the war.
Reason depleted uranium is so useful as a weapon is that it is densest metal avaliable, sharpens itself during penetration, and it also pyrophoric. Due to that, tank shells using DU are classified as API – armor piercing incidientary, and when such shell strikes enemy tank, nose of shell fragments, exposing DU core which ignites (producing temperatures of 3 000 to 6 000 degrees Celzius), penetrates the armor, and then explodes, burning everything inside the tank (same effect is used in bunker buster bombs). This also results in massive amounts of microscopic particles mentioned above being created – DU weapons are, by all measures, dirty bombs, as 18 to 70% of DU content (usually around 40%) vaporizes into fine, radioactive uranium oxide dust when shell hits a target – dirty bomb by any measure. These particles can then be carried by the wind for very large distances – in 9 days, uranium dust traveled from Iraq to England, and Europe’s atmospheric radiation levels quadrupled. Non-vaporized part of penetrator remains lying on the battlefield unless picked up. Aside from tank shells, it is used in 30 mm armor-piercing ammo, bunker buster bombs and as both ballast and warhead in cruise missiles, and ballast in aircraft – after 9/11 attacks, DU dust from destroyed aircraft caused elevated radiation levels up to 7 miles from points of impact. DU rounds are used by M1 Abrams MBT, Bradley IFV, A-10 CAS aircraft,
And “depleted uranium” is far from depleted – it emits 70% as much of Alpha, 87% as much Beta and just as much Gamma radiation as natural uranium; only way DU is “depleted” in is that most of fissile U-235 isotope has been removed, rendering it useless for atomic weapons. Depleted uranium is also more concentrated than natural uranium, which means that it releases far more radiation than uranium ore. It was, in fact, calculated that one ton of DU used on the battlefield releases amount of radioactive particles comparable to one hundred bombs dropped on Hiroshima. United States have used 1 000 tons of DU in Gulf War I, 800 in Kosovo, 800 in Afghanistan, and 2 200 in Gulf War II, with combined radioactive particle release being ten times as large as all nuclear tests in history. Up to 3 000 tons more could have been used during occupation of Iraq that followed Iraqi Freedom. UK has, in Gulf War I, used 800 tons of DU, and NATO has used large amounts of depleted uranium in Libya. Israel may have used DU weapons in Lebanon in 2006. Each 120 mm tank shell contains 4,5 kg of Depleted Uranium, and 30 mm shell contains 280 g; bunker busting GBU-28 and GBU-37 bombs can have 1 000 to 2 000 kilograms of DU each, as can AGM-130 air to ground missile, whereas cruise missiles contain DU as ballast and in some cases in head, making it between 3 and 400 kilos of DU. Prototypes of DU-capped bombs and missiles were tested in Kosovo and in Afghanistan. US Navy also used DU ammunition in Phalanx CIWS system, but eventually switched to tungsten once dangers of DU use were realized.
But while US military maintains that DU is not harmful – some US military briefers even stated that it is safe enough to eat (can I have little depleted uranium with my chicken burger, thank you?) – out of 580 000 US soldiers that served in Iraq in 1991, 221 000 were on medical disability pensions by 2002, and 519 000 by mid 2004, which can be compared to 5% disability rate of two World Wars and 10% rate of Vietnam. By 2006, 11 000 have died, compared to 114 that were killed in combat. After 2003 war, 40% of soldiers in one unit were diagnosed with tumors within 16 months after returning from a year-and-few-months-long tour of duty in Iraq; and in Iraq and Afghan wars of 2001 and 2003, over 1,3 million US veterans served tour of duty. Military admitted that DU was found in soldiers’ semen, contaminating their sexual partners. In fact, research done has shown that, out of 251 soldiers in control group who had normal babies before the war, 67% of their post-war babies were born with severe birth defects – they had missing limbs, organs, or severe immune system and blood diseases, which is result of Alpha-particles’ ability to massively mess with genetics; as a result, many soldiers that served in Iraq had decided not to have children. Some soldiers had 2500 micrograms of uranium excreted per day for long time after conflict – US military regulations state that any level above 15 micrograms warrants immediate medical testing, and 250 micrograms results in constant medical care. Many were never put under medical care, or were put years after the event.
DU weapons contain still-radioactive U-238, leftover U-235 (around 1/4 of starting amount), and are further contaminated with uranium 236, technitium 99, neptunium and americium, all radioactive materials. Another contaminant is plutonium 239, which is far more radioactive and million times as toxic as uranium, to an extent that single particle of plutonium entering the body can cause fatal consequences. 7 000 tons of DU used in Iraq is enough to kill entire populace of Iraq several times over if inhaled or ingested. UK Atomic Energy Authority has estimated that 50 tons of DU dust released in First Gulf War could have lead to 500 000 cancer deaths between 1991 and 2000. By these numbers, amount of DU used in Iraq, which would have released 2 000 – 5 000 tons of dust, could lead to 20 000 000 – 50 000 000 cancer deaths. 3 000 000 or more of these will happen in Iraq. DU contaminated soil should be scraped and containerized as a nuclear waste, but considering spread of DU contamination, costs for actually doing that will be enormous, into tens of billions of USD. To get you a further idea of a massive amount of radiation released by DU weapons, even an official number of 1 800 tons of DU used would equalize 250 000 Nagasaki bombs in leftover radiation; real number would thus be 950 000 Nagasaki bombs. In fact, Depleted Uranium bombardment was a fallback plan in 1945 in case that atomic bombs did not work, but it was not until Ronald Reagan in 1980s that weapons were actually introduced into arsenal. Fun fact: Reagan’s popular nickname was Ronnie Ray-guns.
In May 2003, Scott Petterson (a writer with US newspaper CSM) examined radioactivity levels next to DU bullets near Baghdad, and found that they were over 1900 times greater than background radiation. Shell holes in vehicles destroyed by DU ammunition in 1991 showed 1 000 times the normal background radiation level eleven years after the war. Evidence also exists that US have used pure natural uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan, as it is significantly cheaper than depleted uranium.
Many DU particles are small enough to be inhaled, far smaller and thus far more harmful than particles of natural uranium. While particles smaller than 10 microns can be inhaled, over half of DU particles created this way are smaller than 5 microns, and 30% is one-tenth of a micron or smaller, with amount of respirable particles reaching 96% in some cases. With larger missiles and bombs, mostly all particles created are of micron size or smaller, and can thus be inhaled regardless of wether person is wearing gas masks, which stop only particles that are 10 microns large or larger. When inhaled, many get stuck in lungs but some get transferred all over the body. DU particles in nanometer range can freely pass through cell membrane, and into its nucleus, affecting both DNA and RNA through its radiological and chemical properties – due to this, nano-particles of any chemical element are far more harmful than micro-particles of the same element; they also easily pass through olfactory bulb and directly into the brain. Between 52 and 83 % of DU particles left over from weapons fire is also water-insoluble, which means that it stays in body far longer than normal – while natural uranium is wholly excreted by body within 24 hours, DU particles stay in body for decades. It also deposits in bones, where it can stay for up to 25 years, increasing risk from leuchemia and destroying monocyte stem cells in bone marrow, which are responsible for production of lymphocites and erythrocites as well as recyclation of iron from dead erythrocites, thus both destroying reaction capacity of immune systems and to anemia. While water-soluble uranium is primarly toxic danger, water-insoluble uranium is primarly radiological hazard.
As Uranium 238 decays inside the body, it transfers into far more radioactive isotope – Thorium 234, which decays into Proactinium 234. Thorium 234 has half-life of 24,1 days, while Proactinium 234 has half-life of 6,75 hours. Proactinium 234 transfers into more stable Uranium 234 which has half-life of 247 000 years. While chemical binding energy inside human cell is 10 eV, one alpha particle from U-238 releases 4 million eV, basically nuking the cells. In fact, single alpha particle can, under right conditions, start cancer – and one gram of DU releases 12 000 of these particles per second. Low-level radiation risk is also 100 to 1000 times greater than International Comittee on Radiation Protection estimates.
Lot of equipment used when dealing with DU is defective – and soldiers are told it can be fixed with duct tape. Many are not even equipped with gloves and gas masks when working with depleted uranium (not that it would help in case of gas masks, which are completely ineffective in protecting against uranium dust). Fact also remains that most of US casualties in the first Gulf War were result of the friendly fire.
In Basra, whose farmlands were site of tank battles and were thus contaminated by DU, a marked increase in number of cancers has happened since the Gulf War. Cases of double and triple cancers – a never seen before phenomenon – have been reported, and number of cancer cases corresponds to levels of background radiation.
In Fallujah, also a site of heavy fighting, every week an average of five children are born with major deformities – heart defects, cleft lip, limb defects, Down’s syndrome and eye deformities. Children were born with two heads, no heads, single eye in their foreheads. There are also half a dozen stillborn babies every day, many of them also with deformities. During fighting in 2004, several insurgent compounds that were impenetrable by artillery were destroyed by DU-tipped bunker buster bombs, and it is possible that tanks may have used DU rounds too. After the battle, debris was bulldozed into nearby Euphrates river, which serves as a source of drinking water for nearby inhabitants. Ratio of boys to girls at birth, which is normally 1050 to 1000 – and was that way in Fallujah until 2004 – fell to 860 boys for each 1000 girls. Out of 170 children born in Fallujah in September 2010, 24% died. Of babies born, three quarters exhibited obvious deformities. For comparision, in August 2002, 530 children were born, and of these only 6 died and one was deformed. In 2006, 45% of pregnancies ended in miscarriage, compared to 10% before fighting. Since then, it has stabilized at 17%.
Between 1993 and 2010, childhood leukemia rates in Bashraq, Iraq have doubled, and in 2011 number of birth defects was 11 times the world’s average. Between 1991 and 2005, birth defects in Iraq as a whole have increased 2-6 times, and 3-12 times as many children have developed cancer and leukemia. Between 1991 and 2001, number of leukemia cases has grown by more than 600 per cent. Leukemia is problematic especially in bone marrow, as stem cells – which become cells that replace cells that die (except for nervous system, almost no cell in human body is older than few years) are manufactured. If these are mutated, new cells will malfunction. Compared to situation between wars, by 2004 number of cancer cases was 7-10 times larger, and number of deformities was 4-6 times as large. Result is that women in affected areas are now afraid of giving birth to children. This obvious genocide by US has encouraged resistance. Neither it is unusual for woman to have a breast cancer in her 20s.
Between 2003 and 2006, US invasion of Iraq had led to 655 000 extra deaths. In central Iraq province of Babil, reported cancer cases rose from 500 in 2004 to 7 000 in 2008.
Number of immune system defect cases have also increased: whereas between late 1990s and 2003, Fallujah General Hospital received three patients with such problems per year, it has increased to three per week by 2010.
During 2003, a hospital in southern Iraq was treating more than 600 children per day, many of whom suffered symptoms of radiation poisoning. Children are especially vulnerable as they tend to play on destroyed tanks, or pick up fragments of contaminated materials or DU penetrators.
Phenomena such as several members of one family having cancer, one patient having several types of cancer, outbreaks of infectious deseases due to reduced immunity have been noticed. There is also massive increase in cancers in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
In Vranje, Serbia, number of children born with genetic defects has tripled between 1998 and 2008 – from 21 to 73 – despite number of overall births remaining constant at 800 – 1 000 children per year. Between 2000 and 2006, number of newly registered cancer cases went from 185 to 398. In Kosovo, signs of radiation poisoning on children – herpes on the mouth and skin rashes at ankles and back – have been observed. Number of leukemia cases in Northern Kosovo has increased by 200 per cent since NATOs air campaigns, and number of children born with deformities has also increased. And countries that border with ex-Yugoslavian area are also in danger. Some 1800 Balkan peacekeepers also suffer from health problems connected to DU as of 2001. Of 5 000 refugees from Hadzici, only 600 were still alive by 2001.
In Sarajevo, also hit by US bombs, leukemia rate tripled between 1996 and 2001.
In healthy, grown person, DU exposure can result in any of following (this is not a full list):
- reactive airway disease
- neurological abnormalities
- kidney dysfunction
- vision degradation and night vision loss
- gum tissue problems
- every known type of cancer
- morphological disorders
- neuro-psychological disorders
- uranium in semen
- sexual dysfunction
- birth defects in offspring
- brittle bones and teeth
- aplastic anemia
- lung damage
- bloody stools
- extreme fatigue
- joint pain
- unsteady gait
- memory loss
- brain tumor
- loss of bowel and bladder control
- mental deterioration
- testicle pain
- bone pains
- chest pain
- pain in the cervical column, upper shoulders and base of skull
- pain in lower back
- kidney pain
- Parkinson’s disease
- Hodgkin’s disease
- immune system failures
- uranium nephritis
- disorders of proteine and carbohydrate metabolism
- pulmonary fibrosis
- gastro-intestinal tract damage
- mood disturbances
- skin ruptures
It is important to note that some of symtoms – gum tissue problems, cancers and birth defects – are known to be caused by radiation. Brittle bones and teeth are caused as uranium replaces calcium that is normally composing these parts of the body. Children are even more vulnerable, as their organisms are still developing, and they also tend to play in polluted areas.
Chemical toxicity is the first effect that is noticeable. Kidney filters blood and cotrols levels of electrolytes in the blood. Uranium, when absorbed, damages this function. Depleted Uranium is even more dangerous for soldiers than for civilians, as soldiers’ immune system is typically still reeling from multiple doses of, often experimental, vaccines.
Experiments on dogs have resulted in 84% of dogs exposed to inhaled uranium dying of cancer to the lungs. To humans, one millionth of a gram of DU accumulating in the body would be lethal, and there are no known methods of treatment.
And it won’t be limited just to Iraq and Serbia. Sand from Sahara sometimes reaches Britain – and even United States – and radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales. In United States, lung cancer rates are skyrocketing – and lungs are one of organs most affected by DU dust. In fact, DU dust particle’s range is effectivelly unlimited. Radioactive particles will last for millions of years, possibly killing millions or billions if humanity doesn’t exterminate itself, or get exterminated by something, first – and it will take between 28 and 45 billion years for depleted uranium to stop being danger. Genetic defects are also permanent, and research with rats has shown that DU is transmitted through placenta to the offspring. Current obesity epidemic in the United States could, aside from very bad food, be partly explained through radiation damage. One of 12 children in the United States is disabled. Number of new lung cancer cases per year has jumped from 175 000 to around 1 million by 2006. It takes 2-6 years for lung cancer to develop after person has been exposed to DU particles – invasion of Afghanistan was in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003.
Depleted uranium, being very heavy, also sinks in the ground and contaminates underground water sources; and area once contaminated by depleted uranium cannot be decontaminated. In fact, after 1943, US military has researched Depleted Uranium as a permanent terrain contaminant, which could destroy populations by permanently contaminating land with radioactive dust. Employees handling uranium in US DU production or decontamination facilities have reported health problems similar to Gulf War Syndrome, and DU remains inside the food chain.
Neither United States or United Kingdom have briefed their troops on dangers od DU use.
US and UK’s denial – UK opposed EU’s initiative for banning DU weapons twice, and US basically forced UN bodies – WHO and UNEP – into lying about DU dangers (for example, Greenpeace was not allowed to participate in 2000 NATO/UNEP mission to Kosovo) – must be viewed in light of DU munitions’ effectiveness. In fact, US colonel wrote in a memo that “There continues to be concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. If no one makes the case for the effectiveness of DU in battle, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and be deleted from the arsenal.”. His memo ends with the following: “I believe that we should keep this sensitive issue in mind when “after action” reports are written.”. Doctor Doug Rokke, 35-year veteran of US Army, was working on project by US Army that was trying to understand effects of depleted uranium on health. After years of research, in 1996 he concluded that usage of DU weapons should be banned immediately. Conclusion cost him career, and caused him to be put under surveillance. Yet United States routinely bury vehicles that were damaged or destroyed by DU friendly fire, and “dispose” of DU munitions by dumping them into ocean or burning them like ordinary garbage. Further, HIPAA act of 1996 prevents doctors from discussing DU effects with public, threatening them with prospect of discharge or imprisonment for disclosing health information to another person, even a family member. Pentagon also routinely pressures newspapers into not publishing articles that contradict Pentagon’s official views on the Depleted Uranium. Dr Asaf Durakovic, who conducted before-mentioned experiments on dogs, was asked to lie about its danger to humans. After he began working on exposing dangers of Depleted Uranium use, he was warned to stop his work, fired from his position, had his house ransacked and started receiveing death threats. Doctors treating soldiers returning from wars in which DU was used were threatened with 10 000 USD fines and jail if they spoke. US military knows that DU is dangerous, and routinely buries contaminated vehicles. Its toxic effects were in fact known since 1943, and usage of depleted uranium instead of atomic bombs was considered, yet when in 1991 a fire broke out in DU munitions depot in Doha, US Army did not even treat is as a toxic hazard, despite the fact that it was known that DU particles release alpha radiation. United States have also refused demands of some of its allies to disclose chemical and metallic properties of its munitions.
On Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii, 450 kilos of DU were left from mortair rounds. In US, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, Fort Lewis, Fort Riley, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Fort Dix, Makua Military Reservation, China Lake AWC, Eglin AFB, Nellis AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, Kirtland AFB, White Sands Missile Range, Ethan Allen Firing Range and New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology are contaminated by DU rounds. In Fort Knox, lung cancer rate is 105 – 127 per 100 000 in 2001-2005 period, compared to US rate of 54,4. Lung cancer rates are similarly increased in vicinity of Ft. Lewis.
DU munitions are radioactive even before being fired (logically), irradiating soldiers who are handling them.
To add jaywalking after arson and murder, DU weapons are also illegal under humanitarian law. This law states that weapons may only be used on legal field of battle, may only be used for duration of the armed conflict, cannot be unduly inhumane, and cannot have unduly negative effect on natural environment. DU weapons fail on all four criteria. Further, people in Iraq and Pakistan are aware of the effects of Depleted Uranium, having felt them on their own skins; there is no lying to them, and continued use of DU weapons harms NATO and US cause in the Middle East – unless that cause is complete extermination of all forms of complex life there.
After the Kosovo campaign, official documents have stated only that “KFOR troops and expatriate civillians” might be at risk, implying that to NATO, domestic populations simply do not matter.
Results of DU use are worse than genocide – it is ecocide, destruction of both structure of affected societies as well as entire affected ecosystem.
Are there alternatives? Yes. Tungsten is another element used for kinetic penetrators. Main reasons US favor DU over tungsten are that DU is pyrohoric, easier to manufacture (melting point of 1132 degrees Celsius compared to 3422 degrees for Tungsten), and far cheaper, as DU is literally a waste – by 2004, US had 10 million tons of DU just lying around. Tungsten, while 1,75 times harder than Uranium, also does not self-sharpen like uranium does and does not burn; as a result, it is about 10% less effective than DU. While it is poisonous, it is nowhere as dangerous as DU, and is not radioactive. But due to its high cost compared to depleted uranium, prevalent Western capitalistic/materialistic psyche prevents its replacing of DU.
But as long as people continue to live in a comfortable delusion that “it is over there, so it is not important for me and I don’t have to do anything about it”, nothing will change. Modern humans are lazy; too lazy to research, too lazy to think, too lazy to do something. They wait for corporate media – like CNN, New York Times and The Washington Post in the US; HRT, Slobodna Dalmacija, Vecernji List i Jutarnji List in Croatia – to tell them what corporations want them to hear; they wait for politicians they did not elect (even though they believe they did) to solve their troubles. As long as this waiting continues, however, situation will only get worse.
BIRTH DEFECTS FROM DU SHELLING (WARNING! POTENTIALLY DISTURBING PHOTOS):
The Daughter of Babylon, The Queen of the Nations
1 “Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind meal.
Remove your veil,
Take off the skirt,
Uncover the thigh,
Pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
Yes, your shame will be seen;
I will take vengeance,
And I will not arbitrate with a man.”
4 As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name,
The Holy One of Israel.
5 “ Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
For you shall no longer be called
The Lady of Kingdoms.
6 I was angry with My people;
I have profaned My inheritance,
And given them into your hand.
You showed them no mercy;
On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.
7 And you said, ‘I shall be a lady forever,’
So that you did not take these things to heart,
Nor remember the latter end of them.
8 “ Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures,
Who dwell securely,
Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow,
Nor shall I know the loss of children’;
9 But these two things shall come to you
In a moment, in one day
EDIT: As DU weapons have been used in Australia, and there are uranium sources there, it is possible that uranium contamination had to do with development of cancer in Tasmanian Devils, with their low diversity helping its spread.