More on DU -- EU concerned
jenyan1 at SPAMuic.edu
Sat Jan 6 13:46:23 MST 2001
The European press and EU politicians have suddenly discovered that DU is
a environmental threat after recent mysterious deaths among NATO's
colonial corps. And this nearly a decade after the very same munitions
were used by the holy alliance (including Europe) in its campaign against
i) The liberal press and the EU seem to have become concerned only after
NATO troops in the Balkans began to fall ill. The ramifications of DU
contamination for the population of Yugoslavia are mentioned, if at all,
as an incidental afterthought.
ii) In the best Orwellian tradition, the decade old contamination of Iraq
with DU has practically been erased from the record. Nor is the
accumulated evidence that DU is responsible for an rise in cancers and
birth defects in Iraq over the last ten years a subject worthy of
discussion. When Iraq does get a mention it is, as in the Independent's
report below, usually in connection with Western troops suffering Gulf War
syndrome -- vastly more important than the rise in birth defects and
cancers among the native Iraqi fauna.
Good old bourgeois hypocrisy. Don't you love it?
>From the Independent
Balkan syndrome spurs governments to action
By Steve Crawshaw and Stephen Castle in Brussels
6 January 2001
Even at the time of the Kosovo war in 1999, some expressed worries
about the possible use of depleted uranium in ammunition used by Nato.
The alliance remained silent on the matter. It appeared to hope that the
questions would simply vanish of their own accord.
Almost two years on, European governments are suddenly scrambling to
respond to growing fears that peacekeepers in the Balkans may have
suffered illness or died because of the effects of spent ammunition used
at that time. Large numbers of civilians may alsohave been affected - but
it is the possible danger to Nato soldiers that has galvanised the
politicians into action.
France has now joined the list of countries backing Italian calls for Nato
to investigate the claims; four French soldiers who served in the Balkans
are suffering from leukaemia. Thirty Italian soldiers are said to be
seriously ill, including six who died of leukaemia. The Italian Prime
Minister, Giuliano Amato, is publicly sceptical about Nato reassurances
that depleted uranium is not dangerous.
Britain has insisted, however, that it is not preparing to screen soldiers
for possible illness. "We don't believe depleted uranium poses any
significant health risk," the Ministry of Defence said.
Menzies Campbell, the defence spokesman for the Liberal Democrats,
said it would be "extremely disturbing" if the Government was seen to be
"dragging its heels" over investigation of the problem.
Elsewhere, too, the problem has snowballed. A third Spanish soldier was
reported to be suffering from cancer yesterday after doing duty in the
Balkans. In October another soldier died of leukaemia three months after
coming home from the Balkans; a woman soldier who was in the region is
in hospital suffering from Hodgkin's disease.
The Spanish Defence Minister, Frederico Trillo-Figueroa Martnez Conde,
insisted that there is no connection between the cancer cases and the
depleted uranium. But the opposition Socialist Party called on the
government to let "the truth come out no matter how painful it is".
The questionmarks connected with the use of depleted uranium have been
marked by official evasiveness from the start. Even before the Kosovo war,
there were suggestions that the mysterious Gulf War syndrome, suffered by
veterans of that war,was connected with the use of depleted uranium there.
It was not until March 2000, a year after the Kosovo war, that Lord
Robertson of Port Ellen, the secretary general of Nato, finally admitted
that 31,000 rounds of DU-tipped ammunition had been used in the province;
18,000 rounds were also used in Bosnia. The question now is whether, and
to what extent, the depleted uranium - whose unusual density enables it to
pierce tank armour - can endanger health. The potential danger is the dust
released into the air when the uranium is pulverised on impact.
Brian Spratt, who is heading an investigation into the dangers of
depleted uranium for the Royal Society said his findings so far did not
suggest that depleted uranium caused a dramatic increase in risk. Reports
of illness were "very serious, and need to be investigated", but it was
"unlikely that all the soldiers' illnesses are related to DU", he said.
But Malcolm Hooper, an expert in medicinal chemistry at Sunderland
University, was sceptical about the British will to find out more. The
Government was "resisting any attempt to do any sensible and
meaningful experiments" that would come up with conclusive answers, he
said. "The circumstantial evidence is strong. The way to tackle the
problem is to make measurements... The Royal Society hasn't done a single
For the moment, the British and Americans stand almost alone in singing
from the same defiant songsheet. The Ministry of Defence insists that the
use of depleted uranium is "legitimate" and "very important" - while
distancing itself from the problem by emphasising that DU was "not used
by British soldiers, only American troops". The Pentagon spokesman,
Kenneth Bacon, said that no link had been found between depleted
uranium and Gulf War illness, and that there was "no evidence" that it had
had adverse consequences for troops in the Balkans.
European leaders, by contrast, vary between caution and outright
scepticism about the Anglo-American line. Romano Prodi, the president
of the European Commission, has said that "even if there is a minimal
risk, these arms must be abolished.Even if this risk was not there, I
don't like the idea of these particular weapons."
Bjorn von Sydow, the Defence Minister of Sweden, which holds the
presidency of the European Union, has said that it is "important that we
act". The German daily taz reports today that tests by the UN Environment
Programme at sites in Kosovo struck by Nato ammunition with depleted
uranium have found evidence that the sites are "considerably
contaminated". Uranium dust as well as unexploded munitions had been
discovered, said the newspaper, quoting an interim UN report dated 29
The 11 sites tested were among 112 on a Nato map of sites in Kosovo hit
by weapons containing depleted uranium. The programme considers the 11
sites representative of all 112 and wants them all cordoned off, the paper
The campaigning organisation Human Rights Watch wants DU to be banned,
even if it is not found to be related to the present rash of health cases.
William Arkin, its senior military adviser, said "Just because the
evidence is not catastrophic does not mean that opposition to DU is not
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