They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name


11:20 am - October 27th 2010

by Rupert Read    


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There’s an important blog-post here on the vast crime of depleted uranium use by the UK and US forces in Iraq.

I questioned Charles Clarke (then my MP) about this in the run-up to the criminal attack on Iraq in 2003.

To my pleasant surprise, he insisted in reply that depleted Uranium would not be used anywhere at all where it could harm civilians, in Iraq, and suggested to me that it was unlikely to be used at all by the British Armed Forces.

To my unpleasant surprise since, these claims turned out to be entirely false.

Roddy’s article rightly speaks of Britain’s involvement in nothing less than nuclear war in the Mid-East. Our government committed what is (according to the Nuremberg tribunal) the supreme international crime, a war of aggression, in 2003, on the basis of the lie that Iraq had WMDs. But Britain and the U.S. did have WMDs, nuclear weapons – and they used them.

Depleted uranium – i.e. in effect micro-nuclear-bombs, weapons that spread ultra-long-lasting nuclear death, wherever they are used – may well, as Roddy argues, kill hundreds of thousands or in the end maybe millions of people, in Iraq and the Region, and will contaminate it in a deadly fashion for tens and hundreds of millenia.

This is the sickening truth. And they did it in our names.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Reader comments


The U.S. have claimed that fears of DU’s threat are “conspiracy theories”. This was news to Miller et al

Regardless of the question of DU-radiation vs. DU-chemical effects, the data indicate that there exists a route for transgenerational transmission of factor(s) leading to genomic instability in F1 progeny from DU-exposed fathers.

DU rounds are not “nuclear weapons” in any meaningful sense (there is no nuclear reaction of any kind involved in their detonation), and describing them as such does not do our credibility any favours. DU does pose a radiological hazard and is extremely toxic, so you could justifiably describe them as chemical or radiological weapons. “Dirty bombs” would do in a pinch.

Why anybody is surprised is beyond me though. DU (like that other indiscriminate killer of civilians, the cluster munition) has been a standard part of our arsenal for decades, and has (AFAIK) been used in every conflict we’ve been involved in since it became available. Doesn’t make it any less appalling…

But Britain and the U.S. did have WMDs, nuclear weapons – and they used them.

Depleted uranium – i.e. in effect micro-nuclear-bombs, weapons that spread ultra-long-lasting nuclear death, wherever they are used – may well, as Roddy argues, kill hundreds of thousands or in the end maybe millions of people, in Iraq and the Region, and will contaminate it in a deadly fashion for tens and hundreds of millenia.

Tabloid nonsense.

What is this doing on a quality website?

Yes, nuclear weapons is hyperbole. I’m rather sceptical of its ability to kill/endure for millions of people/years, too.

There is definitely a strong argument to be made against the use of DU munitions. Sadly as noted above the hysterical nature of the OP undermines the message. The site deserves better.

Liam Fox, Hansard, 22 July 2010 col 483w:

Approximately 1.9 metric tonnes of DU ammunition was expended in the 2003 Iraq War by UK forces. The MOD provided the coordinates of targets attacked using DU ammunition in 2003 to the United Nations (UN) Environmental Programme. The MOD also shared with the UN and the Government of Iraq the results of a scientific assessment carried out in June 2003 that indicated very low levels of DU even in the vicinity of vehicles struck by DU munitions.

Responsibility for clean-up after an armed conflict falls to the country’s civilian administration with assistance from the international community. The World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency state that the risks of DU can be controlled with simple countermeasures conducted by national authorities.

In Iraq, UK forces carried out ordnance disposal activities and removed surface-lying DU fragments as they were discovered. They also exchanged information with humanitarian and other organizations, and warned Iraqis through signs and leaflets that they should not go near or touch any debris they find on the former battlefield. The UK has also provided UN and Iraqi scientists with the results of our DU contamination monitoring in Iraq and offered to provide advice on carrying out risk assessments and on long-term monitoring of DU in the environment, including water.

It’s not debris or fragments that are the problem. DU is an alpha emitter, so as long as it’s outside your skin, it’s perfectly safe. The problem is the nano-scale particles of uranium oxide produced when the DU ignites on impact. You can’t see it, but you can inhale or ingest it, and that’s when it becomes really quite dangerous, from both a radiological and toxicological point of view.

Warning people that they shouldn’t go near former battlefields is no fucking use when those battlefields are the cities people live in.

charles clarke,neocon new labour told lies? tell me something new

Galen10, quite.

For anyone genuinely interested, Dan Fahey seems to offer a more reasonable view (including this).

A reasonable point, hysterically and inaccurately made.

But Rupert Read has a history of making dodgy statements

For example

““If you live by the sword, then your innocent citizens (though luckily not you) may well die by the sword. Aznar, Blair and Bush should choke on their words of condolence to the victims in Madrid. It is their atrocious criminal violence that has led to this counter-atrocity.”

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100004325/norwich-north-if-only-they-could-all-lose/

“Before the Oxford Union debate, I met Gerry Adams, and noticed the way he walked, still affected by the bullet lodged in his body. At dinner, I sat beside one of his bodyguards, a man from a background so different from my own, that, by the end of the meal, I felt I could start to understand why someone might take as hard-line a position on the possible use of violence – as a means of resisting what they saw as an occupation – as he and Adams did.”

http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2009/01/hunger-for-peace.html

Lots of understanding for terrorists who try to maximise civilian casualties. Little understanding for regular armies, which try to minimise them.

The Greens certainly do attract them!

Wow Astor, those two really are shockers. Short version: the people of Madrid and Enniskillen had it coming. Henceforth I shall read everything Rupert Read writes in that light.

At least the spelling is better than on the placards and signs adorning Parliament Square even if the punctuation is somewhat dodgy. Maybe we need spiel as well as spell checkers. I’d buy one.

He is some sort of professor!!

No big love for Mr Read’s Sympathy for Gerry Adams stuff but, still, I think the more important point is that these “regular armies, which try to minimise” casualties used DU weapons in areas which now see sky-high rates of cancers and birth deformities. That they’re now deriding scientists who think the two may be related isn’t a fabulous reflection on them.

Yeah c’mon nay-sayers, not matter what you think of Mr Read the use of depleted uranium (and white phosphorus) in Iraq is a bloody disgrace.

regular armies try to minimize casualties? maybe if they hadn’t invaded iraq over a lie they wouldn’t have needed to minimize them !

BenSix, probably best not to pray in aid Chris Busby.

And why do people attribute all birth defects in Iraq* to DU, instead of (or as well as) pollution (e.g. oil fires), low birth weight, malnutrition (among a number of possible causes)?

* If indeed there are any above the norm, for which there appears to be no evidence.

This is evidence, however you feel about Chrissie B…

We conclude that the results confirm the reported increases in cancer and infant mortality which are alarmingly high.

Added to a wealth of anecdotal evidence.

As for the cause, well – I’m not in a position to judge (I got a “C” grade science GCSE for heaven’s sake). It’s worth drawing attention to scientists like Miller, Parrish, Hahn and MacLain, though, all of whom have claimed that DU has some noxious effects. If only as the U.S. would have us believe that such a notion is inherently absurd.

(Could a moderator liberate my comment?)

Yeah c’mon nay-sayers, not matter what you think of Mr Read the use of depleted uranium (and white phosphorus) in Iraq is a bloody disgrace

It seems to me DU is the least of their worries – and, last I looked, you’d be more worried about toxicity than radiological effects – which is why I think it isn’t particularly useful for all this energy to be spent on fighting its use (which has already happened, to boot); seriously, there are more important things to be concerned about with regard to Iraq.

In short, Rupert Read is not helping.

And he might like to read about the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Incidentally, here is the Royal Society’s report.

22. Huw Spanner

Surely, the point is that DU munitions were developed for a possible war against the Soviet Union – ie both a war waged against a more-or-less equal enemy and a war presumably to the bitter end. In such a scenario, I suppose the planners felt that any technology, how toxic its side-effects, was justified – and not least if your enemy had it, too.

What is immoral, if not downright criminal, is to be using such weapons when you don’t need to – when the armour ranged against you is hopelessly inferior to yours anyway, and when the war is anything but “It’s us or them!”

As for ukliberty: Iraq’s hospitals have been full of children born since 1991 and then 2003 with rare cancers and serious deformities. I don’t think that many people apart from those with a vested interest in denying it doubt that a lot of it is to do with the amount of uranium dust that we dumped on their country.

@18: You may be interested in the review paper Teratogenicity of depleted uranium aerosols: A review from an epidemiological perspective [Rita Hindin, Doug Brugg, Bindu Panikkar; Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2005, 4:17], which reviews a number of studies on the matter. The money quote is:

Data are never perfect, hence it is incumbent on the epidemiological/public health analyst to distinguish between situations where the data are so imperfect that no valid inference can be drawn and those where valid scientific assessment allows for attribution of risk. Regarding the teratogenicity of parental prenatal exposure to DU aerosols, the evidence, albeit imperfect, indicates a high probability of substantial risk.

Huw,

As for ukliberty: Iraq’s hospitals have been full of children born since 1991 and then 2003 with rare cancers and serious deformities. I don’t think that many people apart from those with a vested interest in denying it doubt that a lot of it is to do with the amount of uranium dust that we dumped on their country.

No true Scotsman and appeal to numbers in one paragraph, well done.

As the moderators seem to be taking a break I’ll post the comment without links.

If indeed there are any above the norm, for which there appears to be no evidence.

However you feel about Chrissie B his paper – “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009” – is evidence. There’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence, as well, as reported by Sky, the IPS, Al Jazeera and others.

As for the cause, well, I don’t know (I got a “C” grade GCSE for heaven’s sake). It’s worth drawing attention to scientists like Miller, Parrish, Hahn and Hinden, though, if only as the U.S. state would have us believe that their conclusions are inherently absurd.

Thanks Dunc, I will read that later.

To be clear, I am not saying “DU is not a cause” of cancers and birth defects in Iraq.

I am saying it is possible DU is a factor, not the sole factor, or the most important problem; malnutrition, for example, can have terrible consequences, including cancers and birth defects in children.

“UN agencies estimate that one out of eight children dies before the age of five; one-third of Iraqi children are malnourished; one-quarter are born underweight and one-quarter do not have access to safe water.” – WHO, 2003

“Low birth weight is a major determinant of mortality, morbidity and disability in infancy and childhood and also has a long-term impact on health outcomes in adult life.” – WHO

But malnutrition, despite being more prevalent than DU, is boring compared to “micro-nuclear-bombs, weapons that spread ultra-long-lasting nuclear death” (Rupert Read)

BenSix,

However you feel about Chrissie B his paper – “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009” – is evidence. There’s a wealth of anecdotal evidence, as well, as reported by Sky, the IPS, Al Jazeera and others.

I don’t intend any disrespect to you, Ben, but in the past I’ve found anecdotal evidence about cancer and birth defects in Iraq to be particularly unreliable / unhelpful. Thank you for the link to Busby’s paper, I will read it properly later. On a scan, I note that “the whole [of Iraq] has been affected by post-war contamination following the 1991 and 2003 conflicts to various putative carcinogens, including oil fires, heavy metals and uranium from weapons”, which is what I’ve been getting at in this thread.

@25: I think I’ve been perfectly clear that I’m not a fan of the hyperbole in this post. Having looked at the evidence, I think you’d be hard pushed not to conclude that DU is a significant (not sole, or most important) factor in a number of health problems (not just birth defects), and (IIRC) we have Geneva Convention commitments which are supposed to forbid this sort of thing.

Malnutrition is certainly a a bigger problem, but it’s not directly our fault in the same way, and it’s harder to fix. We could simply choose to stop using DU munitions, like we did anti-personnel land mines.

…which is what I’ve been getting at in this thread.

I don’t disagree that there could be other factors. Heck, I’m not qualified to assert with full confidence that DU is one at all.

Rejecting personal accounts offhand is, I think, unfair. Sure, they can’t provide a final judgement but in the absence of official investigations – which were indeed absent until the end of this Summer – they’re all we have.

OMG Rupert said something that I find hyperbolic! I will now completely ignore the substantive point in the post and obsess about that and repeatedly condemn him over it!!

What depleted Uranium? What? Who?

Sunny, what is the “substantive point” in Rupert’s post?

29

Your response does you as little credit as the lazy hyperbole of the OP does to Rupert Read, quite apart from the fact that it just makes LC look kinda whacky.

Of course posting ill-judged pieces like this might be the modus operandi to provoke a response.

I don’t think discussion of the substantive point (which was actually elucidated much more clearly by those posting in response than by Rupert himself) is helped much by hysterical misinformation such as that in the OP.

As a few people have said Sunny, we just expect slightly better of this site; don’t get all bent out of shape about it and start having a go at people who point out it was OTT.

6 –

Responsibility for clean-up after an armed conflict falls to the country’s civilian administration with assistance from the international community.

How screwed up is this world?

“We just covered your country in shrapnel, kthxbai”

*sigh*

(I’m not doubting that it’s broadly considered to be true, just commenting on the insanity of it)

As for depleted uranium – nasty stuff, we shouldn’t be using it, especially if we said we wouldn’t. Duh.

34. Luis Enrique

Sunny @29

well that’s one reason why, when you have a substantive point to make, not to obscure it with absurd hyperbole

Sunny if you encountered a right-winger making a substantive point covered in dollops of arrant nonsense like this, you’d be the first to tear into them.

Dunc, I think we are largely in agreement.

BenSix, I think we are largely in agreement, too.

Rejecting personal accounts offhand is, I think, unfair

I try not to do that, but I’ve seen the same anecdotes repeated time and again and some people (not you) seem to think that the more news organisations that repeat something, the more likely it is to be true.

Let’s just agree that the comrades who decided to support the attack on Iraq to help their careers have now decided to say it was a bad thing to help their careers.

And why not? The dead remain dead and the crippled remain crippled. And the people who continue to support the warmongering careerists will continue to get exactly the representation they deserve.

Everyone’s a winner.

37. Cllr. Rupert Read

Hello trolls!
Loving you and your ad hominem distractions as usual!

I note that nearly all the discussion is about me rather than what I wrote above (or about what Clarke said), letalone what Roddy wrote. I await a detailed rebuttal of Roddy’s arguments (and Busby’s, etc.), concerning the very grave threat that D.U. poses to human beings in the MiddleEast (and ultimately across the planet) for thousands of years to come.

I think I may be waiting a long time…

Dunc’s point at #7 is really the heart of the matter. We have scattered toxic nuclear material – a kind of amorphous gigantic nuclear dirty bomb – across much of Iraq, and it is now being blown by the winds.

38. Cllr. Rupert Read

Wonderful to see trolls turning my effort to _understand_ why someone might resort to violence into an alleged effort to _condone_ such violence. Nice work, sophomores!

Never mind that, being a Quaker, I don’t condone ANY violence (and that, likewise, I made that fact abundantly clear in the letter that has been _selectively_ quoted above in order to give the wholly erroneous impression that I think that the criminal non-state terrorist attacks on London and New York were _justified_).

Predictable, but still sad on a ‘liberal’ site.

I have been amusing myself by imagining how the people downplaying this would react to, say, 1 whole kilogram (as opposed to a mere 2000 tonnes) of U-238 being explosively dispersed in heart of the City of London… I’m guessing “pants-shitting terror”, and the widespread use of scientifically inaccurate and hyperbolic phrases such as “poor man’s nuclear weapon“.

Apparently, it’s a “nuclear weapon” if they do it to us.

Rupert,

I note that nearly all the discussion is about me

What, 3/36 comments is “nearly all”? You are fond of hyperbole, aren’t you?

… rather than what I wrote above (or about what Clarke said), letalone what Roddy wrote.

Where to start with what Roddy Newton wrote! (Is this the same Roddy Newton, by the way, who was in 2008 writing a book about the supposed Oxygen Crisis?)

Here’s what you wrote:

Depleted uranium – i.e. in effect micro-nuclear-bombs, weapons that spread ultra-long-lasting nuclear death, wherever they are used – may well, as Roddy argues, kill hundreds of thousands or in the end maybe millions of people, in Iraq and the Region, and will contaminate it in a deadly fashion for tens and hundreds of millenia.

Why do you claim “depleted uranium [munitions]” are “in effect micro-nuclear-bombs”?

How long is “ultra-long-lasting”? (Is it something to do with toilet paper?)

What do you mean by “nuclear death”? Presumably you don’t believe a tiny mushroom cloud springs forth from each impact?

Where is your evidence that “hundreds of thousands or in the end maybe millions of people” (presumably civilians) will die as a result of the use of DU munitions?

Why do you think the health problems reported in Iraq are caused by DU and not the other 20 teratogens, or any combination thereof, reported to be in the environment by the US GAO?

Incidentally, here is Busby: “…the results reported here do not throw any light upon the identity of the agent(s) causing the increased levels of illness and although we have drawn attention to the use of depleted uranium as one potential relevant exposure, there may be other possibilities and we see the current study as investigating the anecdotal evidence of increases in cancer and infant mortality in Fallujah.” – Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009 (thanks BenSix)

NOTE: all on-topic commenters here seem to agree that DU is nasty stuff. We agree that we would rather they aren’t used. But the question remains, are the health problems reported in Iraq caused by DU, something else, or a number of things? You don’t know, do you?

Thanks @Dunc #39: exactly.

#40: Strawman again. OF COURSE the health problems in Iraq now and for millenia to come are caused by ‘a number of things’. The point is that DU is almost certainly one of the most important of those things.

There is absolutely no ‘disinformation’ in what I wrote, and I think it has been shown that there may well be rightly judged to be absolutely no hyperbole either. As Dunc says, if this had been done to us, then we in Britain would be screaming about mini-nukes, dirty nukes, nuclear death, etc.

Rupert,

The point is that DU is almost certainly one of the most important of those things.

Where is your evidence? I’m sure Busby would love to see it.

As Dunc says, if this had been done to us, then we in Britain would be screaming about mini-nukes, dirty nukes, nuclear death, etc.

Of course we would. It wouldn’t be fact, though, would it? It would remain hyperbole whether you say it, I say it, the government says it.

The BBC article Dunc linked to concludes:

But perhaps the biggest immediate threat wrought by a dirty bomb is not the destruction or the threat to life, but its ability to stir blind panic among thousands, maybe millions, of people. …It is the dirty bomb’s power to spread fear and spawn chaos that makes it a really effective weapon.

Thanks for your help.

43

As ukliberty (not someone I’m always in agreement with, but there you are… the truth can make some strange bedfellows huh?) notes, you really ARE that self important aren’t you? Priceless.

The people who criticised your OP aren’t trolls just because you disagree with them. The accusation of hyperbole and disinformation stands, and has by no means been rebutted. As has also been pointed out, virtually everyone above has agreed that DU munitions should not have been used.

Your hysteria does nothing to advance your argument, rather the reverse. Fundies of all stripes are like that, prone to shooting themselves in the foot by going ridiculously OTT.

#44: Yeah, I’m sure you would be just as relaxed about a country being poisoned by nuclear waste [fired at it by another country] if the country in question was the UK.

But don’t worry about it, seeing as it is ‘only’ Iraq: just carry on shooting the messengers, while ignoring the New Labour liars who made this happen.

47. Chaise Guevara

“But don’t worry about it, seeing as it is ‘only’ Iraq”

And you’re complaining about straw man attacks? Yeesh.

Rupert,

#44: Yeah, I’m sure you would be just as relaxed about a country being poisoned by nuclear waste [fired at it by another country] if the country in question was the UK.

I thought I was clear earlier, but I confirm I wouldn’t be relaxed if it happened here.

But don’t worry about it, seeing as it is ‘only’ Iraq: just carry on shooting the messengers, while ignoring the New Labour liars who made this happen.

I don’t understand how this relates to anything I wrote.

48

I think there comes a point where the game isn’t worth the candle: given Cllr (love the fact he just has to add that) Read’s responses, there would seem little point in pandering to his hyperbolic rantings pace your response above.

The BBC article Dunc linked to concludes:

But perhaps the biggest immediate threat wrought by a dirty bomb is not the destruction or the threat to life, but its ability to stir blind panic among thousands, maybe millions, of people. …It is the dirty bomb’s power to spread fear and spawn chaos that makes it a really effective weapon.

Yes, but they’re talking about a single, one-off incident involving a few grammes of material, rather than a 5-year campaign involving thousands of tonnes of material. This is hardly a trivial distinction, and renders that conclusion somewhat dubious in this context. Take the health risks described in that article and multiply them by nine orders of magnitude, and you’re looking at a very significant.problem.

Oh, and it also only refers to “the biggest immediate threat”, whereas we’re talking about long-term effects here.

What’s the opposite of “hyperbole”?

Dunc, fair point, but perhaps I wasn’t clear about my point*, which was not about the radiological and toxicological effects of a dirty bomb but the fear and (understandable) panic. Rupert, in his own small way, is contributing to the fears about DU, which might not be helpful.

* More of a hyperbolic snark, really.

50

I don’t know if it is the case, but if DU weapons were used in Bosnia and Kossovo, presumably there must by now be significant evidence of the type of disasters posited in the OP? If no such evidence exists, it would tend to undermine the claims in the OP no?

Galen10 @52, if I may, this may be of interest. DU was used in Kosovo. In short, nothing conclusive that DU has caused health effects in Kosovo.

I would add, though, that Unfortunately, the circumstances of a post-conflict country are very poorly suited to carrying out the kind of studies necessary. As with environmental assessment, institutional capacity and resources will be in short supply. The public cancer registries in both BiH and Serbia broke down during the conflicts, and Kosovo is just beginning a large scale reform of its health system which will establish one.

DU was used earlier in Bosnia-Herzegovina: “no significant radiological risk”, “no significant postwar increase observed in the prevalence of congenital malformations”…

We could go on. There is no study, as far as I know, that conclusively links DU exposure to the health effects claimed by the more hyperbolic DU activists (it should be said that studies usually call for more research, and more research is being done, but has yet to be completed). Of course – and I repeat – that is not to say DU shouldn’t be used, it’s horrible stuff, and that’s an understatement. It definitely does cause problems in sufficient quantities and circumstances – we’ve got studies that show this. Again the question remains if there is that risk.

DU shouldn’t be used, if it is used it should be cleared up by the user, ideally, and it’s great that activists have drawn attention to it, pressing for more investigations, inquiries and research. It is wrong that the UK intends to continue to use it – I think, but not sure, that the USA is phasing it out in favour of tungsten.

I do think that some people miss the wood for the trees, though. When we go to war, we fuck up countries. The population will lose security of supply of potable water, food, medicine, and access to sanitation and electricity. When we don’t have those everyday things, something trivial like diarrhoea becomes a real risk to life. I would like to know where the more hyperbolic anti-DU activists rank DU as a relative risk in comparison to diarrhoea, respiratory infections, pneumonia, diabetes, pregnancy, tuberculosis, measles, meningococcal meningitis, pertussis, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, dysentry, malnutrition, malaria, and pregnancy (list borrowed from WHO).

I suspect Dunc is more competent than me; I am interested to know what he thinks could be typical DU exposure in Iraq and what the consequences of that could be. I do understand his earlier point that it is easy to stop using DU, less easy to not go to war. He may also suggest that DU could last longer than it takes to rebuild access to fresh water etc, and of course that’s a good point (well, I made it first). But my gut is saying a million kids under five are definitely at risk of lots of awful things simply because they don’t have access to food, but we’ve got people propagating fear of a particular type of ammunition that we don’t know for sure causes problems?

Not saying they don’t care about the kids, or anything else, just that the priority seems skewed, there seems to be a lack of perspective; you know, “They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name” would mean more to me if it read, “Prior to the Gulf War, health conditions in Iraq were comparable to those of other middle or high-middle income countries, and now they are shit.”

Sorry to ramble on. Just wanted to make my position clear and express my bemusement.

As this October 30, 1943 US miltary document, which was declassified in 1974 explains, one millionth of a gram of radioactive material is fatal if it is inhaled:
http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Groves-Memo-Manhattan30oct43a.htm

An article in “The Guardian” of April 17, 2003, “Scientists urge shell clean-up to protect civilians”, stated that, “…up to 2,000 tonnes of DU has been used in the Gulf, a large part of it in cities like Baghdad, far more than in the Balkans. Unep [the UN Environment Program] has offered to go to Iraq and check up on the quantities of DU still present and the danger it poses to civilians.”

If millionth of a gram of radioactive material is fatal if it is inhaled, up to 2000 tons of uranium will kill a lot of people who breathe it in.

Moreover, uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years, as this US Federation of American Scientists Military Analysis Network webpage points out: http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/du.htm

So the uranium dust which is blowing around Iraq, the Balkans, and Afghanistan, thanks to the US and UK armed forces using uranium munitions in those places, is going to carry on killing people who breathe it in for a very long time.

It’s worth bearing in mind that when you’re dealing with a fine powder of uranium oxide in outdoor conditions, the weather becomes a significant factor. I don’t have the time to look it up right now, but I strongly suspect that the Balkans get more rain than Iraq. There is also a question around infrastructure – was the infrastructure (particularly the water supply) as badly damaged in Kosovo or Bosnia-Herzegovina as it was it Iraq? If you’ve got a low-rainfall country where people are drinking untreated surface water, any contamination presents a much higher risk than in a high-rainfall country with functioning water treatment systems.

I am interested to know what he thinks could be typical DU exposure in Iraq

(a) I have no idea.
(b) I’m not convinced that “typical exposure” is a particularly meaningful concept here.

we’ve got people propagating fear of a particular type of ammunition that we don’t know for sure causes problems?

Did you know that lead shotgun shot has been banned for use around watercourses in the UK because of its proven toxic effects in the environment? Uranium is far more toxic than lead, and the quantities it was used in are vast. Given the known toxicological and radiological hazards, I would think that the default position should be to assume that it probably does cause problems unless you can provide some pretty robust evidence that it doesn’t. I’m not nearly as big a fan of the precautionary principle as many in the Green movement, but when you’re dealing with a substance which is know to be fairly hazardous, and which you wouldn’t handle in the lab, even in tiny quantities, without appropriate safety precautions, then it seems reasonable to take a precautionary approach to the idea of throwing thousands of tonnes of the stuff around in the environment.

I do tend to agree with you regarding the relative importance of the other issues you identify though.

Roddy,

As this October 30, 1943 US miltary document, which was declassified in 1974 explains, one millionth of a gram of radioactive material is fatal if it is inhaled:
http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Groves-Memo-Manhattan30oct43a.htm

Oh the Groves memo. What a surprise for this to be wheeled out.

The Groves memo is is talking about about fission products, nasty stuff, not uranium:

Dr. Wollan has estimated that an accumulation of 10^-3 curies of high-energy beta-ray active material would produce an exposure of about 100 r/day [röntgens /day] to the lungs. [later refers to gamma emitters too]

It’s alluding to stuff like strontium-90, caesium-137.

If millionth of a gram of radioactive material is fatal if it is inhaled, up to 2000 tons of uranium will kill a lot of people who breathe it in.

You haven’t shown that uranium dust is fatal if inhaled.


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    RT @libcon: They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name http://bit.ly/cnz5tJ

  6. thabet

    RT @libcon: They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name http://bit.ly/cnz5tJ

  7. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name http://bit.ly/cnz5tJ

  8. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name: There’s an important http://modernhiddenhistory.blogspot…. http://bit.ly/cra7sk

  9. Liam Fox

    RT @libcon: They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name http://bit.ly/cnz5tJ

  10. BEY WHITE

    RT @libcon: They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name http://bit.ly/cnz5tJ

  11. Nicholas Stewart

    They used depleted uranium in Iraq in our name http://j.mp/9hlGVQ

  12. FlyingRodent

    Author of LC Libya piece previously complained that UK govt. lied to him it wouldnt use depleted uranium in Iraq http://tinyurl.com/6z9votn





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