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Call for Pentagon to disclose depleted uranium target

Jack Cohen-Joppa: McSally: Ask Pentagon to disclose depleted uranium target data. 14 May 17,  Jack Cohen-Joppa

Last year, Rep. Martha McSally’s office helped a military journalist and I confirm that for the first time since 2003, A-10s had fired their armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) ammunition while attacking an ISIS convoy in Syria in November, 2015.

In February, I wrote to ask her assistance in getting the Pentagon to share with appropriate Iraqi and international authorities all of the locations where this radioactive ammunition has been used.

 Twenty-six years ago during Operation Desert Storm, U.S. armed forces flying over Iraq fired nearly one million rounds of the special ammunition, totaling about 300 tons of refined depleted uranium. Another 125-plus tons of these radioactive bullets were fired during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The vast bulk of this ordnance came from the guns of the A-10 warplanes, while the remainder was fired from the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Marine AV-8B Harrier.

As a radioactive heavy metal, use of DU in industry is licensed from federally owned stockpiles. Public health officials recognize it as a chemical and radiological hazard. Industrial emissions are subject to regulation, and production facilities have been shut down due to off-site contamination. Protocols and procedures exist to protect the health and safety of those in industry and the military who manufacture and handle the uranium ammo until its use in combat.

Since 1991, the United States has been asked to provide international aid NGOs, United Nations agencies, and the government of Iraq with full information about where this ammunition was used. According to the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Environmental Program, this basic data is needed to help identify contaminated sites for remediation and the eventual removal of this toxic remnant of war.

 Today, more than two decades later, our government has refused to fully disclose this information. The failure to disclose has a continuing political cost as well, because it counters any claim that the United States cares for the future of the Iraqi, and now also the Syrian, people.

It is known that such targeting information is available to disclose because a subset of the data was shared with the Dutch government for locations where Dutch coalition troops may have encountered DU contamination. NATO also released targeting data for DU use in the Balkans in 1999. Another limited set of targeting data from 2003 was uncovered recently in George Washington University’s National Security Archive.

I asked Representative McSally to add her voice to those demanding the Pentagon provide international authorities with comprehensive information regarding where DU was used by the A-10s and other platforms since 1991.

But now, three months later, neither McSally nor her office have replied to my letter, let alone provided an answer about her views on the matter. As a veteran A-10 commander now sitting on the House Armed Services Committee, her support for releasing this information would be significant, benefiting the health and safety of U.S. military personnel, international aid workers and the affected civilian populations for generations to come. I encourage all of her  constituents to join me in asking her to support this request.

 Jack Cohen-Joppa, a Tucson resident since 1986, is co-coordinator of the Nuclear Resister. Contact Jack at

May 15, 2017 - Posted by | depleted uranium, USA

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