“The most toxic war in history” – 25 years later, International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, Quarter of a century on from the first widespread use of depleted uranium munitions, have lessons been learned about the need to protect civilians, military personnel and the environment from conflict pollution and the toxic remnants of war? 1 February 2016 – Doug Weir
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm, the combat phase of the Gulf War. Precipitated by Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait in August 1990, the conflict was the first to see the widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition. US and UK forces subsequently acknowledged firing a combined 286,000kg of DU – the vast majority of which was fired by US Abrams and M60 tanks, and A10 and Harrier aircraft.
The decision to deploy the radioactive and chemically toxic weapons, which had been under development since the 1950s as a response to Cold War concerns over defeating Soviet armoured divisions, would prove highly contentious in the following years. Once the media and military’s enthusiasm for what was promoted as a new paradigm in high-tech low-casualty warfare began to subside, veterans, journalists and civil society organisations in the US and UK increasingly began to challenge the general conduct of the war, and the use of DU in particular.
“The most toxic war in history”
As increasing numbers of veterans began to report post-deployment health problems in the years that followed, attention began to focus on the overall toxicity of the conflict. From oil fires and pesticides, to the use and disposal of chemical weapons, the Gulf War was increasingly viewed as “the most toxic in history”. Whether it was – conflict pollution had been developing in concert with the mechanisation of warfare and industrialisation throughout the 20th Century, or whether this just represented a growing awareness of the linkages between chemicals and health is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, questions were asked about whether possible exposures to a suite of chemicals could be responsible for the ailments reported by veterans. These ranged from birth defects to chronic fatigue, and led to the emergence of the catch all term Gulf War Syndrome (GWS)…..
In the case of DU, it also became clear that scientifically unjustified assumptions had been made about the health risks it posed. Continue reading
No, Iran probably isn’t developing depleted uranium weapons http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/no-iran-probably-isnt-developing-depleted-uranium
The Russians, would like to see it dropped – although not necessarily as part of the negotiations, as would Iran. A major feature of the embargo and discussions on Iran’s military capabilities has been ballistic missiles capable of reaching Iran’s neighbours and the sale of Russian-made S-300 air defence missiles. Iran is also keen to undertake a general modernisation programme of its military.
However on the 6th July, Bloomberg reported that it was not only an issue of ballistic missiles but also Iran’s plans to develop DU anti-tank ammunition, like those stockpiled and occasionally used by the militaries of the P5 negotiators, though not Germany, for now. The story was duly picked up by the Irish Independent and by Foreign Policy’s blog.
ICBUW has long wondered whether Iran might be tempted to develop DU weapons, given that it has an expanding stockpile of DU tails from its uranium enrichment facilities. However, this has always seemed unlikely, given its long-running and vociferous condemnation of the US’s use of DU, support for UN resolutions via its membership of the Non-Aligned Movement and its official statements over the threats from the DU travelling across the border from Iraq.
Nevertheless, the Iranian military may have a different view to the government’s public line on DU and, as with many other states, including even the Swiss, may have experimented with DU kinetic energy penetrator rounds. Nor can one exclude the possibility that 125mm DU ammunition could have been sourced from Russia at some stage. From a military perspective, one could see a certain regional strategic temptation in developing advanced tank armaments but with DU that is always balanced by the stigmatisation of the weapons – as evidenced by the comparatively limited worldwide proliferation of DU ammunition.
Ironically, the closest Iran may have got to acquiring DU weapons was a proposalin the late 1970s from the Shah of Iran, who offered the use of an Esfahan firing range to the British if domestic public opposition against DU test firing proved too great.
Bloomberg’s evidence for Iran’s alleged plans to develop DU weapons purportedly came from two experts, Karl Dewey, a CBRN specialist with Jane’s and Robert Kelley, a former IAEA director and nuclear non-proliferation expert. The article also cited sources in the negotiations who said that the issue of DU ammunition had been discussed. ICBUW contacted Dewey and Kelley and found that their comments had been misrepresented in Bloomberg’s article, which has subsequently been modified in parts.
Robert Kelley told ICBUW that: “I have no evidence whatsoever that Iran has DU or natural uranium weapons. I said nothing of the kind and I am very disappointed in this article. I am asking for a retraction or clarification.
“What I said was that Iran certainly has penetrators but I never said uranium. I did say that if they decided to use tails or freshly produced natural metal for weapons they should have to declare that to IAEA and ask for a safeguards exemption. No big deal.”
So where does this leave us? Clearly the UN arms embargo has become an issue in this final(ish) round of negotiations and is doubtless causing some headaches for the P5+1. Is it all about DU tank ammunition? Probably unlikely as there are far greater concerns over ballistic missile delivery systems that could present a regional strategic threat, ditto the advanced Russian air defence systems that could inhibit a future strike by the US or Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran is clearly keen to modernise its military, but are they dead set on developing DU weapons from their new tails stockpiles? Probably not. Should you take excitable media reports on DU proliferation at face value? Never.
Federal regulators hear Utah testimony on depleted uranium By Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News, June 25 2015 “…………The NRC is proposing to adopt a rule that for the first time specifically addresses the disposal of the material, which is a waste stream generated from the enrichment process of uranium in the nuclear fuel cycle.
Depleted uranium poses unique disposal challenges because it does not hit its peak radioactivity until 2.1 million years, and actually grows more radioactive over time. In its disposal stage, however, depleted uranium contains radioactivity that falls under the lowest level classified by the federal government — that of class A — and is legally within limits on what can be buried in Utah at EnergySolutions’ Clive facility.
Matt Pacenza, executive director of the radioactive waste watchdog organization called HEAL Utah, believes that the NRC is making a huge mistake by classifying depleted uranium as class A.
“Right now, a regulatory loophole could allow waste that does not reach a peak hazard for 2.1 million years to be treated just like waste which loses 90 percent of its hazard in less than 200,” his presentation asserted.
Pacenza, who spoke at the briefing Thursday, said the safety of the public and the environment cannot be assured given the complex nature of depleted uranium and its long-lived radioactivity.
HEAL Utah has lobbied hard against any depleted uranium being disposed of at EnergySolutions’ commercial facility in Tooele County ever since the Salt Lake-based company inked a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 to begin accepting stockpiles of the waste — with the initial shipments reaching 10,500 tons.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert intervened, successfully getting some of those shipments turned around after he launched objections with the federal agency over the uncertainties associated with the material’s disposal.
State regulators then convened multiple hearings and crafted their own rules governing the disposal of any significant amounts of depleted uranium, including the requirement that EnergySolutions develop a site-specific performance assessment designed to specifically contemplate depleted uranium’s unique character……….
The NRC’s proposed rule on depleted uranium would affect commercial facilities in Utah and Texas, as well as Washington and South Carolina.
Mike Garner, executive director of the Northwest Interstate Compact — a regional alliance with oversight of low-level radioactive waste management — argued before the commission that the proposed rule should not be hoisted on states that aren’t planning to take depleted uranium, a concern echoed by the Nuclear Energy Institute that argued the proposal would be unnecessarily costly and burdensome.
Pacenza, too, added that the proposal is undergoing significant modifications that show how much industry — particularly EnergySolutions — is influencing the potential regulation of depleted uranium……
Comments on the rule can be submitted atwww.regulations.gov
The latest US DoD Law of War Manual argues that DU weapons are OK because the UK and France say that they are too.
Earlier this month the Pentagon published a 1204 page document on its interpretation of the Laws of War. The project had sought to collate manuals used by different arms of the military into a single document and covers a range of controversial weapons and practices, from drones and herbicides to autonomous weapons, nuclear weapons and landmines. Naturally the document presents the US’s interpretation of the law and this means that at times their views seem somewhat removed from the global consensus. The legality of DU weapons is dealt with briefly and follows a rather predictable pattern.
Utah Radiation Control Board insists depleted uranium hearings go on By BRIAN MAFFLY | | The Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Apr 15 EnergySolutions wants to put the process on hold after state faulted its proposal to accept radioactive waste. Utah Radiation Control Board members Tuesday pushed back against EnergySolutions’ request to delay a public review of the company’s plans to bury depleted uranium in Tooele County.
Board members told company executives they want to move forward with a public process that will culminate this summer with a decision whether to accept the nation’s 700,000-metric-ton stockpile of radioactive waste that is low-level now, but becomes increasingly hotter over the next 2 million years.
“This literally is of national interest, and we keep punting it down the road,” said radiation board chairman Peter Jenkins. “It is time to get additional opinions on it.”
On Monday the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released a long-anticipated safety evaluation of EnergySolution’s plan to bury the waste at its Clive landfill 80 miles west of Salt Lake City……..
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the enrichment process required to produce fissionable material for nuclear bombs and fuel. The nation’s stockpile of the waste is currently stored at three federal sites, in Kentucky, Ohio and South Carolina.
EnergySolutions proposes burying most of the waste in an 80-acre, west desert landfill cell, covering 55-gallon barrels of the stuff with concrete, clay and rocks.
Meanwhile, 5,800 drums already have been shipped to Clive from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River, S.C. site. After the state blocked further shipments, those barrels were placed in a metal warehouse in Clive.
EnergySolutions also has buried 49,000 tons of depleted uranium under previous disposal contracts………
Eight technical issues remain unresolved, including questions about frost damage, infiltration, evaporation and erosion of the cell that would hold the depleted uranium, as well as how the waste could affect the environment in “deep time” — tens of thousands of years from now. http://www.sltrib.com/home/2399963-155/utah-radiation-control-board-insists-depleted
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality just received this week additional information from EnergySolutions related to potential erosion and other “deep time” problems suspected to impact its Tooele County disposal site, pushing back the start of a public review to April 13.
Helge Gabert, project manager for the state on the depleted uranium issue, said the requested information was about a month late. It was submitted Wednesday for review. It will be incorporated into a subsequent analysis or safety evaluation that the agency will release for public comment about a week beyond its earlier time frame.
In addition, a pair of public meetings will be held the week of May 4, with a decision on disposal due July 1 from Rusty Lundberg, director of the Utah Division of Radiation Control.
To take the nation’s leftovers of 750,000 metric tons of depleted uranium, EnergySolutions has to first convince Utah regulators that its site will be safe for 10,000 years. Beyond that, it has to prove that the threat to public health will be minimal in the advent of a return of a Lake Bonneville or other “deep time geologic events” over 2.1 million years.
It is a mind boggling scenario, planning for all manner of circumstances that could play out, modeling time and performance over such an extended period that it is difficult to grasp.
EnergySolutions must account for the farmer who wanders onto the disposal site, unaware of the radiological hazard underneath his feet. Or the burrowing rodent that could cause vulnerabilities to the at-grade disposal site.
The company must try to figure out how the wind will deposit the sand, how dunes will form and when the lake returns — as some say it inevitably will — how the water might disperse the radiological hazard from an anticipated breach of the disposal barrier.
Such planning is something Utah is requiring because of the unique nature of depleted uranium, which is the byproduct of the uranium enrichment process for nuclear fuel. While depleted uranium has commercial applications, such as antitank armaments, demand for it is far outpaced by the amount that is generated. The U.S. Department of Energy has responsibility for its disposal.
Depleted uranium gets more radioactive as its isotopes try to get back to their natural state, and as these “daughter products” break down, they not only multiply, but increase in intensity.
The instability that occurs in the decay process occurs over 2.1 million years, with what was once classified as “low-level” radioactive waste breaching Utah-imposed limits on what is allowed to be buried in the state.
Gabert said there is no question that by 40,000 years, depleted uranium will violate the state’s prohibition on anything “hotter” than Class A waste, so it becomes a policy issue for current regulators to decide if its disposal is acceptable in the here and now.
“You could argue why does not the state just make the decision based on the science, but we have not made that. We are willing to hear out what the facility has to say,” Gabert said.
The deep time analysis looks in particular if the threat will be mitigated enough — if the doses of radioactivity would be diluted to the degree that even exposure to a higher “category” of waste would not cause harm.
Critics of the EnergySolutions’ proposal to dispose of the depleted uranium say no amount of assurances or analysis can safeguard human health given the sheer amount of unknowns.
Cancer-stricken soldier denied disability claim over exposure to depleted uranium CTVNews.ca Staff , January 20, 2015 A cancer-stricken warrant officer who served with the Canadian military for nearly three decades is facing a long appeal process after Veterans Affairs denied his application for disability compensation.
Alain Vachon of Calgary spent 27 years in military service, which included deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, among other places. For the past two years, he has been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
Vachon believes his exposure to depleted uranium at Camp Doha in Kuwait caused his illness. Although Canadians did not use depleted uranium, the American troops at the base did, Vachon said. There was an incident in which “their ammunition dump blew up,” he said in an interview with CTV Calgary………
The couple has a letter from the military admitting that Vachon was exposed to depleted uranium, pesticides and other unknown substances………. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/cancer-stricken-soldier-denied-disability-claim-over-exposure-to-depleted-uranium-1.2198339#ixzz3PhSiGCYs
The UK and depleted uranium, International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, A retired British General has urged the UK to persuade the US not to use depleted uranium in operations against ISIS in Iraq, Sir Hugh Beach argues that the use of the weapons will be a propaganda victory to their opponents. 9 January 2015 – Gen Sir Hugh Beach (Rtd)
Amazing! The fact that depleted uranium is so cheap – in fact, free- and that it solves DOE’s problem of what to do with this radioactive trash – these practical and financial considerations apparently outweigh any concern for the health of America’s finest, let alone for the health of Iraqui civilians!
It will cost in the end, care of sick soldiers, lawsuits from soldiers, lawsuits from Iraq.
But I suppose, by that time, the worthy decision makers in the Pentagon and the arms business will have passed away – leaving the bill for everyone’s grandchildren
Par for the course, in all matters nuclear.
Depleted Uranium: The New Agent Orange Source: Jiang, George C.-T. and Aschner, Michael. “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium: Reasons for Increased Concern.” Biological Trace Element Research. Vol. 110, 2006 Bellingcat, December 8, 2014 By Aliaume Leroy
On one hand, “misinformation disseminated by both the Iraqi government and the US Department of Defense has made analysis of DU’s impact difficult.” On the other hand, the medias had the tendency to over-sensationalize the issue. Even worst was the fact that scientists themselves were caught in the midst of this politicization. On top of that, Iraq does not have the laboratory capacity to establish the existence of a direct link between DU and the health issues it is facing at the moment.………..
DU has been used in various civilian and commercial fields: medicine, aviation, space and petroleum industry. Since it is 1.7 times denser that lead, it is used as ballast for commercial aircraft, ships, as well as satellites. Another example of the civilian use of DU is in the medical industry where DU is employed in radiotherapy units as part of radiation shields. However, the most fervent customers of DU have been the military-industrial complexes. “The United States began exploring, developing, and testing ways to employ depleted uranium in the early 1970’s in what were termed ‘kinetic energy penetrators’ and tank armor.”As DU is extremely dense and pyrophoric, DU projectiles melt when they hit a hard target, sharpen and thus pierce the heavy armor. Furthermore, the DU contained in shells ignites and aerosolizes upon impact, “forming tiny particles suspended in the air and dispersing them over an area.” DU also becomes a very resistant material when it is mixed with other metals, like titanium, thus creating a shield for tank that no conventional weapon can penetrate……………
Interestingly, the US military’s true reason behind its choice of DU stems from an economic stance. DU is available in large stocks in the US. Currently, the Department of Energy (DoE) keeps “over 700, 000 metric tons of depleted uranium tails in about 63, 000 metal cylinders in storage yards at its Paducah, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio, enrichment plants.” Furthermore, DU is free of charge since it is under the control of the DoE. This means that the US military does not have to spend money importing or producing other materials. DU is thus absolutely cost-effective: the military spends nothing and retrieves all the benefits. This practical mindset explains why the American government has so far refused to remove DU from its military arsenal. In light of the economic reason, the DU effectiveness argument appears to be nothing more than a justifying smoke screen. This view is reinforced by the words of Lieutenant Colonel M.V. Ziehmn of the Los Alamos Laboratory: “If no one makes the case for the effectiveness for DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted from the arsenal… I believe we should keep this sensitive issue in mind when after-action reports are being written.”
The human body intakes DU in three ways: inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. With DU ammunitions, the inhalation route is the most common. As stated earlier, DU projectiles aerosolize when they hit a target, projecting small particles all over an area, which then remain suspended in the air by wind or settle down on the soil for later resuspension. Dermal contact is less important. DU does not penetrate the skin unless a fragment enters the organism. American and British veterans were exposed to DU through these two pathways: inhaling the particles or being wounded by DU shrapnel. However, the ingestion route should not be underestimated. Iraqi children playing in conflict zone are more likely to ingest DU because of hand-to-mouth activity. Furthermore, it is known that children are “10 to 20 times more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects than adults.” This statement leads us to the following question: Does DU present health risks?………..
no one can deny today that DU did play a key role in aggravating the Iraqi health crisis.
DU ammunitions appear to be correlated with increased health risks. The various discordant claims and the politicization of the issue however impede the formulation of a conclusive and definitive statement. As Doug Rokke, a former Pentagon DU expert, eloquently puts it: “[DU] is the Agent Orange of the 1990s.” More research is certainly needed to understand clearly DU’s impacts on health. Yet, the US army is still using DU despite the controversy that surrounds it and the fact that its efficiency has remained unaccounted for.
Why? Too much is at stake. If DU was found to be highly dangerous for the health and the environment, governments – mainly the US, UK, France, China and Russia – will be forced to remove this effective weaponry from their respective military arsenals and stop short nuclear plants (that uses enriched uranium): An unwanted scenario for those countries as well as for the defence and nuclear industries. https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2014/12/08/depleted-uranium-the-new-agent-orange/
U.S. Sends Planes Armed with Depleted Uranium to Middle East Aletho News, By David Swanson | War is a Crime | October 28, 2014 The U.S. Air Force says it is not halting its use of Depleted Uranium weapons, has recently sent them to the Middle East, and is prepared to use them.
A type of airplane, the A-10, deployed this month to the Middle East by the U.S. Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, is responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform, according to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). “Weight for weight and by number of rounds more 30mm PGU-14B ammo has been used than any other round,” said ICBUW coordinator Doug Weir, referring to ammunition used by A-10s, as compared to DU ammunition used by tanks.
Public affairs superintendent Master Sgt. Darin L. Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told me that the A-10s now in the Middle East along with “300 of our finest airmen” have been sent there on a deployment planned for the past two years and have not been assigned to take part in the current fighting in Iraq or Syria, but “that could change at any moment.”
The crews will load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into their 30mm Gatling cannons and use them as needed, said Hubble. “If the need is to explode something — for example a tank — they will be used.” Continue reading
New United Nations depleted uranium resolution calls for states to help with clean-up A fifth United Nations resolution has been tabled which calls for states to provide assistance to countries affected by contamination and for research into DU’s health and environmental effects. 17 October 2014 – ICBUW
The Non-Aligned Movement has submitted a fifth resolution on depleted uranium weapons (DU) at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. As with previous years, new language has been added to the resolution. This year the wording includes a call for states to assist countries affected by the weapons…….http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/new-un-depleted-uranium-resolution-calls-for-clean
Iraqi Doctors Call Depleted Uranium Use “Genocide” TruthOut 14 October 2014 By Dahr Jamail, | Report Contamination from depleted uranium (DU) munitions is causing sharp rises in congenital birth defects, cancer cases and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq, according to numerous Iraqi doctors.
Iraqi doctors and prominent scientists believe that DU contamination is also connected to the emergence of diseases that were not previously seen in Iraq, such as new illnesses in the kidney, lungs and liver, as well as total immune system collapse. DU contamination may also be connected to the steep rise in leukaemia, renal and anaemia cases, especially among children, being reported throughout many Iraqi governorates.
There has also been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah during 2004, and Basra during the 1991 US war on Iraq.
It is estimated that the United States used 350 tons of DU munitions in Iraq during the 1991 war, and 1,200 tons during its 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation. Official Iraqi government statistics show that, prior to the outbreak of the first Gulf War in 1991, the country’s rate of cancer cases was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and, by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the trend continuing.
The actual rate of cancer and other diseases is likely to be much higher than even these figures suggest, due to a lack of adequate documentation, research and reporting of cases. Continue reading
Iraqi Doctors Call Depleted Uranium Use “Genocide” TruthOut 14 October 2014 By Dahr Jamail,
“………..Basra Iraq’s southern city of Basra was heavily bombarded with DU munitions by US warplanes during the 1991 war.
Al-Ali, an expert oncologist at the Basra Cancer Treatment Center, was heavily involved in working on two birth defect studies carried out in the wake of that war.
“The types of birth defects were hydrocephaly [an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain], anencephaly [the absence of a large part of the brain and the skull], cleft lip and phacomelia [loss of limbs],” al-Ali told Truthout. “Other consequences are the cancers which increased three-fold during the last two decades.”
He said that clusters of cancers occurring at higher incidence within the same family were another new phenomenon seen in Iraq only after the 1991 and 2003 wars.
“Other diseases related to effects of DU were the kidney failure of unknown cause and stone formation,” he added. “Respiratory problems like asthma and also myopathy and neuropathy are now very common as well.”
In Babil Province in southern Iraq, cancer rates have been escalating at alarming rates since 2003. Dr. Sharif al-Alwachi, the head of the Babil Cancer Center, blames the use of depleted uranium weapons by US forces during and following the 2003 invasion.
“The environment could be contaminated by chemical weapons and depleted uranium from the aftermath of the war on Iraq,” Alwachi told Truthout. “The air, soil and water are all polluted by these weapons, and as they come into contact with human beings they become poisonous. This is new to our region, and people are suffering here.”
According to a study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, there was a sevenfold increase in the number of birth defects in Basra between 1994 and 2003.
In addition, never before has such a high rate of neural tube defects (“open back”) been recorded in babies as in Basra, and the rate continues to rise. According to the study, the number of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) cases among newborns is six times as high in Basra as it is in the United States.
Childhood cancer also appears to be unusually prevalent in Basra.
“We have noticed bouts of malignant tumors affecting children’s limbs,” an Iraqi doctor who has worked in various parts of the country for 20 years told Truthout. He requested anonymity for security reasons. “These malignancies are usually of very aggressive types and in the view of the shortage of facilities we are running in our hospitals they usually have a fatal outcome.”
His prognosis was grim.
“The only help we can provide to those children is amputation, which sometimes does nothing but prolonging their suffering, in addition to the great psychological impact on both the child and the parents,” he said. “We know that it is possible to save most of these children in specialized oncology centers by advanced salvage surgery, with the attendant chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Unfortunately, this seems to be a kind fantasy for our government and health administrations, which are currently busy with the large amount of trauma overwhelming our hospitals’ resources.”…….http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26703-iraqi-doctors-call-depleted-uranium-use-genocide
As the US launches new military actions in the Middle East, the groups say getting information about the military’s use of DU in weaponry and its long-term effects is as urgent as ever. According to “In a State of Uncertainty,” a report by the Netherlands-based organization PAX, Iraq has been subject to the largest use of DU munitions of all areas of conflict and test sites, conservatively estimated to be at least 440 metric tons, though the United Nations Environment Programme has estimated an amount up to five times that based on satellite imagery. Iraqi civilians thought to have been exposed to DU and remaining debris have suffered high rates of cancer and birth defects and U.S. veterans report unexplained illnesses.
US urged to clarify depleted uranium policy as A-10 gunships deploy to the Middle East http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/us-to-deploy-a-10-gunships-to-the-middle-east 23 Sept 14
The Pentagon has announced plans to send 12 A-10 gunships from the 122nd Fighter Wing to an unspecified location in the Middle East as part of its wider campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters. The aircraft, which can fire 30mm DU cannon rounds, are designed for use in close air support of grounds troops. However President Obama has given assurances that US troops will not be involved in ground combat operations during the conflict.
In June, Iraq called for a global treaty ban on DU, highlighting the need for technical assistance for clearance and urging the UN and member states to act with more urgency on the issue. The renewed use of DU on its territory when contamination from 1991 and 2003 remains unresolved would be politically problematic. ICBUW strongly urges the US not to use DU and to state publicly that it will not do so. The arrival of the A-10s in the Middle East will coincide with debate over a fifth UN General Assembly resolution expressing concern over DU weapons.
With the aircraft not due in the Middle East until mid-October, there is an opportunity for US campaigners to seek clarification on whether DU will be used. Those in countries forming part of the new coalition, such as France and the UK, should ask their governments whether they endorse any use of DU by US forces in the conflict.
US DU usage policy unclear
The deployment may provide a new test for US policy on DU use – namely when does it view its use acceptable or unacceptable. Following the short-lived use of A-10s in Libya in 2011, the US claimed that no DU had been used – although reserved the right to use it in future. Concern over the potential use of DU in Libya had been raised by parliamentarians in a number of NATO countries, including the UK and Belgium. Analysts expressed surprise at the US decision, as tackling Libya’s armoured vehicles seemed like a logical use for the A-10, a role for which the US claims DU ammunition is critically important. This remains the political line although information revealed earlier this year demonstrated that DU was also used against non-armoured targets, unmounted troops and buildings in Iraq in 2003.
A-10 aircraft fire 30mm PGU-14 armour piercing incendiary DU ammunition from a cannon fitted beneath the cockpit. The GAU-8 cannon normally fires a standard combat mixture of PGU-14 and PGU-13 high explosive rounds, which are pre-loaded on an ammunition belt before the plane takes off. The A-10 has been responsible for more DU contamination than any other platform. In the case of Libya, and if the US statement was correct, then it was the first public acknowledgement by the US that A-10s were being loaded only with the high explosive PGU-13 rounds during combat of this type, although the practice has previously been identified in photographs of A-10 units in Afghanistan.
At issue is therefore whether the US has set itself a voluntary code of conduct that determines whether DU use is acceptable or not in any given conflict. Perhaps it is cost/benefit analysis of perceived military necessity versus impact on public relations? The calculation underlines the continuing global stigmatisation of the weapons, which is also reflected in the increasingly large majorities voting in favour of DU resolutions at the UN General Assembly. It is highly likely that, given the level of concern about the weapons in the region, any use of DU by the US would be a propaganda victory for IS.
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