FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Laid to Waste in Iraq

by

A new report from the Netherlands based on US Air Force firing coördinates shows that our military fired its armor-piercing munitions ¾ made of waste uranium-238 which is called “depleted uranium” or DU ¾ into civilian areas of Iraq and at Iraqi troops during the 2003 invasion and occupation, defying the US Air Force’s own legal advice that the toxic and radioactive ammunition be used only against hardened targets in compliance with the Laws of War.

The study, “Laid to Waste,” by the Dutch organization PAX found that the lack of legal obligations on US-led militaries in Iraq to help clean-up after using DU weapons has resulted in Iraqi civilians and workers continuing to be exposed to the highly toxic heavy metal years after the war.

The health risks posed by the inadequate management of Iraq’s DU contamination are unclear because neither US-led forces nor the Iraqi government have supported health research into civilian DU exposures.

High-risk groups include people living near or working on dozens of Iraqi scrap metal sites where thousands of military vehicles ¾ destroyed in the 1991 and 2003 bombardments ¾ are stored or processed. Waste sites often lack official oversight and in places it has taken more than 10 years to decontaminate military wreckage from residential neighborhoods. Hundreds of locations that were hit by the weapons, many of which are in populated areas, remain undocumented, and concern among Iraqi civilians over potential health effects from exposure, ingestion and inhalation is widespread.

Report urges release of targeting details to aid clean-up

“To help clean-up we urgently need to know the location and quantities of DU fired,” says the report’s author Wim Zwijnenburg. “The Iraqi government is also in dire need of technical support to help manage the many scrap metal sites where contaminated vehicles are stored,” Zwijnenburg said. The ongoing refusal by the United States to release targeting information continues to hinder the assessment and management of DU in Iraq. The Dutch military contributed a few thousand troops to the Coalition Forces in Iraq, and peacekeepers in Kosovo, and raised alarms over contamination in 2001 and 2006.

A handful of US targeting coordinates held by the Dutch Ministry of Defense, and released after a Freedom of Information Act request, show that US war planes used DU weapons against a far wider range of targets and sites than previously suspected, including Iraqi troops. The US and British governments have long asserted that DU is only for use against armored vehicles. They have often been called “tank busters.”

Radiation exposure guidelines ignored

Depleted Uranium, a by-product of uranium enrichment for reactor fuel and H-bombs, is categorized as an intermediate-level radioactive waste; contaminated rubble and scrap metal are considered low-level radioactive waste. The Dutch study finds that international guidelines for dealing with both kinds of waste ¾ from the International Commission on Radiological Protection ¾ were ignored and that the Iraqi government did not have the technical capacity to safely manage such contamination.

Lack of clean-up obligations

Unlike anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war, no treaty currently obliges DU users to help clean-up after the war. However, civil radiation protection standards place the responsibility firmly at the foot of the polluters.

Low estimates suggest that at least 440,000 kilograms (488 tons) of DU was fired by the United States in both Gulf Wars in 1991 and 2003. Civilians living near contaminated sites, scrap yard workers, Iraqi doctors and researchers have repeatedly voiced concerns over the effects of DU on health and the environment.

Hans von Sponeck, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN humanitarian coördinator for Iraq, told the Guardian last October, “There is definitive evidence of an alarming rise in birth defects, leukemia, cancer and other carcinogenic diseases in Iraq after the war.”

“In 2001, I saw in Geneva how a World Health Organization mission to conduct on-spot assessments in Basra and southern Iraq, where DU had led to devastating environmental health problems, was aborted under US political pressure,” Sponeck said.

John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

More articles by:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail