Who Can Forgive the Crime of using the depleted uranium against Iraqis?

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Haithem Alshaibani
Alarab Online
January 5, 2009


The first attack of nuclear strike on man kind was when the US aeroplanes bombed the Japanese city of Hiroshima, in the second world war on the sixth of Aug. 1945. On the ninth of Aug. 1945 another Japanese city was hit by nuclear bomb, which led to the defeat of Japan.

This terrifying event turned out deep lessons which nestled in human consciousness, raising accusations towards the ugliness of practising the dirtiest crimes against humanity during the battle of wills.

During the aggression against Iraq, described in some literature as the third world war, and in spite of the absence of balance, quality and quantity wise between the combating parties, the US forces used large quantities of depleted Uranium for the first time in history.

This took place in contradiction with all religions, laws, human rights legislations and section 35 of the annex protocol number one within Geneva convention of 1977, which prevents using means that leads to long-term harm to the environment.

The amount of destruction exercised against Iraq in 1991 by bombarding infrastructures using all weapons including depleted uranium, is equal from the results point of view to the amount of destruction caused by seven nuclear bombs of 20 kilo tons, which was deployed on Hiroshima including the blast , buildings’ destruction , fires and radiation contamination.

Depleted Uranium has been used in Kosovo later ,though in less quantities. In addition, sites of deployment were marked on the map, to ease handling the contamination later.

Peculiar scientific terms and mathematical equations will be avoided throughout the text to render it accessible for the widest possible spectrum of readers.

I greet all those involved in the fields of scientific research and academic work who strived for more than a decade in order to dig out facts , extracting lessons and announcing to the whole world the size and impact of the catastrophic disaster befallen on Iraq, due to the deployment of the depleted uranium against its people and environment.

What is the depleted uranium?

Uranium is an element that exists in nature. The isotopes are those elements who posses the same chemical properties and differ in their physical properties. So Uranium has different isotopes; e.g. Ur-235,Ur- 236, and Ur – 238.The natural uranium contains 0.07% Ur -235.This isotope is required for the nuclear industry and nuclear weapons.

The scientist Malcolm Hoper in 2001, declared that the nuclear enrichment processes increases the concentration of Ur- 235 to 3.4%.

It is possible to extract 1 ton of enriched Uranium from 8 tons of natural Uranium. The major residual of the uranium enrichment is Ur- 238.

Because of the huge nuclear programmes of the United States for combat and peaceful purposes, they accumulated huge quantities of depleted Uranium as waste.

In 1990, a quantity of 750 thousand tons of the depleted uranium has been accumulated in Laka district and the total amount was more than million tons. These quantities are not disclosed yet, however they form a big environmental, health, financial and political burden on the possessing countries. The human rights and environmental protection organizations carry out the proper monitoring, following up, and the disclosing of unsafe use of these waste materials.

Uranium is described as heavy and toxic element in addition to its radiation properties.

One of the physical properties of the radioactive isotopes is the half life feature. It is the required period to reduce the radioactivity to half its original value..

Because the half life of Ur-238 is 4.49 billion years, this means the contamination will persist for almost endless period.

Isotope Natural Enriched Half life
U-238 99.2749% 99.7947% 4.49 x 109 years

The depleted Uranium was invented in 1942. However, it was first deployed against Iraq in 1991.

In order to imagine the burden which is caused by one milligrams of depleted Uranium in one year, one has to know that this will emit 390 billion alpha particles , seven hundred and eighty billion beta particles and the associated gamma. This is equal to one billion radioactive particles and radiations which will cause biological damage to human body. The energy of each alpha exceeds what is required to destroy a very tiny biological molecule like the DNA and the proteins. The destruction of bonds between these molecules and water molecules will lead to the destruction of the shape of body organ and its function. There is no threshold limit to the biological effects which will happen to the exposed body which may appear later, in the aftermath of exposure.

N.B: Those who invented the depleted uranium weapon, claimed the reasons to use it against the installations and fortified shelters were as the following:
** Its cheep price, so it was provided to the weapons manufacturers free of charge.

** Its density is 7.1 times bigger than the lead density, which allows it to penetrate the known tanks in the battle fields. It is well known that the tungsten material is denser and more capable to penetrate through, but is being ignored deliberately.

** It is highly inflammable, which means it will inflame and burn up, after hitting the target and will lead to high temperature fires inside the target, so the tank crews can not escape from death. .

The mechanism of the depleted uranium effect

After hitting the target, the missile will penetrate through easily and explode inside the target causing very high temperature, which may rise up to five thousand degree centigrade and lead to burn the tank or the armoured vehicle, becoming eventually a charcoal.

When the missile penetrates through,70% of it will turn into uranium oxide, its tiny particles will disperse into the air and if excited will re-spread again in the air, then its clouds will be transported to very far distances, up to tens of kilometres, and finds its way into the respiratory system of people at large.

The pentagon declared on 14/3/2003 that US Abram’s, M-1 tanks , aeroplanes E-10 and other weapons will use the depleted uranium in case of expected war setting out. It is well evident that they used the weapon very densely, the radioactive and destructive effects of which were more killing than what happened in 1991.

As far as these particles travel in the surrounding medium, they will fall into different distances from the target, but will be exited again by winds effect or people movements. There is no study as far as I know to measure the travelling distances of these particles. But there are some cases where these particles were detected up to 42 kilometres far from the centre of the strike. They may even travel more than the above distances.

Some of the depleted uranium is soluble, but most of the other oxides are insoluble. So, they will stay inside the body for many years. Once, an oxide settles into the lungs, most of it will travel gradually form the lungs to the lymph, glands and bones.

The estimated quantities of the depleted uranium which were used in 1991 war against Iraq is 359 – 800 tons (359 – 800 billion milligrams). The British quota was 59 tons of this amount.

The evidence of unusual diseases

It is well known that when the ionising radiation exceeds a well defined limit, it will cause unwanted disease cases. Some of these diseases will not appear directly after irradiation. There is no doubt that any extra radiation exposure above the natural limits will lead to the destructions of the biological structure like chromosomal aberrations , birth mutations and the possibibility of cancer cases in later stages.

There are many scientists, intellectuals, and human rights observers , who have been touring many places in the world like USA, UK and even Iraq in solidarity with those who were the victims of the depleted uranium disaster, urging the whole world to stand against this weapon and prosecute those who used it into accountability.

The Iraqi ministry of health records and its related directorates in the targeted governates,specially southern ones, has shown a distinct increase in cancer , leukaemia and other radiation caused sickness cases. This was approved by many non governmental organisations.

Many articles and declarations showed that some soldiers who suffered from cancer and radiation illness because of their exposure to DU during their service in Kosove ,have claimed financial compensations. These facts supported strongly the findings of the Iraqi scientists ,who declared their results about the same subject earlier. The task of the Iraqi researchers was hard because of the strict embargo against Iraq during the period 1991-2003.
Western resources.

The German professor H. Gunter declared that depleted uranium is a fatal, radioactive and toxic substance. It is self ignited, and once exploded with a temperature up to thousands degrees centigrade , it will destroy the vehicle and its crew, releasing uranium oxide to the atmosphere, forming a heavy cloud and travelling by wind to far distances.

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Professor Günter played an important role of honesty and sincerity by disclosing the savage deployment of the depleted uranium. He made this by his own initiative, travelling to Baghdad via Jordan and then to the south of Iraq, in spite of the difficulties due to his old age and far distance land transportation. He found unexploded uranium bullet, took it home with him and made sure that it contained depleted uranium. He also took with him urine samples from suspicious victims and analysed them. He found that these samples show traces of uranium. The results were in consensus with his previous doubts. In spite of his good reputation, professor Günter was accused in his own country, of possessing banned radioactive materials. But, he did not give up his human role, and dictated by his own consciousness, he established an NGO, called the Yellow Cross organisation, which works independently from the Red Cross organisation.

Scientists have found that depleted uranium ammunition ,which was used in Yugoslavia contained many dangerous materials like U-236 and plutonium in addition to the U-234,U235 and U238.The first two radioisotopes are more risky and more dangerous from radiation point of view.

The German expert Wiliam Coline , vice chairman of the governmental committee of radiation protection in the German ministry of environment said that the depleted uranium is like a slow poison which invades the lymph glands, kidneys,lever,bone marrow and the embrio.He also added that the deployment of depleted uranium in Iraq during the gulf war, caused higher number of cases of genetic mutations and cancers, much more than the normal records.

International media and news agencies like sky news, CNN, Fox news, BBC , Routers and others ,who accompanied the invaders’ troops had documented the military operations of the occupation of Iraq. They photographed the remains of the bombarded people by aeroplanes ,tanks and artillery.

Professor Day Willaims stated that the higher the cloud of uranium oxide rises, the more is the risk of its travelling to further places. He also said (we saw that uranium particles were carried by air from Yugoslavia to a very far distances as far as Greece and Hungary) . It was evident that civilians and warriors were exposed to the risk of radiation . The warriors will stay for a short term and may be infected by blood cancer (leukaemia) after ten years from the exposure, exactly like what happened to the US soldiers who served in these areas. Civilians usually are subject to the highest risk, because most of the time, they stay at their own homes and will breathe the contaminated air and drink the contaminated water.

The arrival of the radioactive contamination to far distances from the explosion centre is a very dangerous and agrees well with the measurements of the depleted uranium in the targeted areas, the worst of which is what was detected in Iraq so far. The whole area of Iraq, specially the southern parts, became surely contaminated areas and the Arab gulf was not far from the consequences.

Professor Wiliam , who is specialised in the environmental effects of the weapon and its risks, described it as a small nuclear bomb, with an abandoned area of 40 kilometre diameter. This means that the circle areas which were caused by the uranium missiles will be focal points for the radioactive contamination, and will be difficult to decontaminate, except by using highly advanced and costly technologies. The question is who is going to pay for all for this?

The American scientist Dodge Rokey visited Iraq and conducted tests and the required analyses inside the bodies of infected Iraqis . Such tests and analyses are very important because the available means in Iraq were and still are very limited . Moreover, the available ones were exposed to destruction after the 2003 invasion and its aftermath. The well trained and specialised cadre vanished away either by being: kidnapped, killed or impelled to migrate.
Reports by scientific and human organisations and foundations declared high rates of infections in Iraq, higher than its average in 1991,specially in the southern parts of the country. This was documented by reports of the Iraqi ministry of health. It was sure that the depleted uranium was the main source of infections. The media sources issued mutated new born babies pictures, leukaemia cases, weakness, kidney disorders.

The mechanism of the depleted uranium

When the missile hits the target, it penetrates through easily and explodes by generating a very high temperature (around 5000 degrees c),which leads to charcoaling, When the missile burns, 70% of it will turn into uranium oxide, then its very tiny particles, which can not be detected by the naked eye, will whiff in the air making a cloud of suspended dust, ready to be transported as far as tens of kilometres. It is very easy to breathe these particles even in far distances. The pentagon declared on 13/3/2003 that Abram’s vehicles, M1 tanks and the E – 10 aeroplanes will also use depleted uranium ammunitions in case of war, because of their penetration power properties. The military reports assured in reality that these ammunitions were actually used by the same forces of 1991 war, and reused in Kosovo, Serbia and Afghanistan. But the registered effects of the weapons in 2003 invasion against Iraq were hundreds of times more than those of 1991 war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Deception processes.

The pentagon is keen on denying the relationship between depleted uranium and the ambiguous diseases which appeared among the soldiers, who handled this weapon, but this was only the beginning. Then, disease symptoms and mortalities appeared and increased rapidly, so no body can ignore them. Those victims and/or their families appealed for compensations, according to the laws and legislations in their countries which protect them from the so called “the gulf syndrome” or “the curse of Iraq”. Cancer cases , leukaemia , lymph glands problems, newly born mutations , kidney disease , infertility and newly born babies of military people who served in the Kosovo war and the peace keeping forces in 1999 have been detected . The pentagon kept lying to the world about the link between the depleted uranium and all the symptoms which are mentioned above , until the proof came from the findings of studies carried by Iraqi academic researchers. The findings were horrible and the expectations of fatal and destroying effects of the depleted uranium were in full agreement with the predicted ones.

Conclusions and suggestions for the future

The people of Iraq are very much concerned about the disaster of the depleted uranium, which threatened their lives, health conditions and the future of their coming generations. The efforts of Iraqi researchers and distinguished academics, which were performed under very hard and crucial conditions , proved the magnitude of the risks caused to humans and environment in Iraq . These efforts were able to penetrate through the scientific embargo and reach out to the external world releasing documented and authenticated results.

The human rights and the scientific foundation organisations reports, showed high rates of cancer infections many times greater than what was before 1991 invasion against Iraq ,specially in the southern region. This was authenticated by tens of reports which were issued by the ministry of health and its administrations. There was no doubt that the weapon of depleted uranium is one of the major reasons to cause these diseases. The issues of the media about the mutated newly born babies, general cancer cases, leukaemia, weakness, kidney failure and what was issued in specialised scientific conferences, shared actively in disclosing the effects of this weapon and its magnitude of risk on human and environment and established the relationship between these symptoms and depleted uranium.

In spite of the claims of weapons designers and defenders, who alleged that the contamination spreads only around the target. It was evident that the cloud could travel far distances from the target, causing a great risk to the civilians and the surrounding environment.

The USA accumulated more than million tons of depleted uranium in the form of nuclear waste. Because handling these wastes make financial and big technical burdens, so the USA offered this evil material free of charge to the weapons manufacturers. The deployment of the rockets and bombs which contain hundreds of tons of depleted uranium, is a clear proof that there is pre determination to cause mortality and ambiguous diseases within the Iraqi population without discrimination between military and civilians.

The Iraqi concerned authorities are supposed to excute comprehensive programme to decontaminate the tanks debris and all the targets which were bombarded by depleted uranium as well as all the contaminated over ground and underground entities, by the aid of the international organisations like the UNEP (United Nations Energy Programme). This is supposed to be accomplished at once with out delay. It is also recommended to utilise the experience of the three miles Island in the USA and the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the ex-USSR.

It is necessary to employ the distinguished Iraqi experts, who proved supreme abilities during more than 25 years in the field of environmental measurements, sampling, preparing the samples for measurements, predictions, analysing them via specialised instruments in the field of the low level radioactivity and using mathematical models to predict the contamination dispersion in the atmosphere, on the surface, above the surface and inside the human body.

Because of the expected high cost of the decontamination, governments who participated in the invasions against Iraq in 1991 and 2003, should be held responsible to bare the full costs of these processes .

The use of depleted uranium as the best weapon to penetrate the armoured vehicles , because of its high density is not justified and a huge fraud. The tungsten material for instance is better and higher in density; therefore it may be used instead of the depleted uranium. But the real reason behind using it is to get rid of it and cause criminal destruction to countries like Iraq, for clearly defined political and historical purposes.

President J.w.Bush of the USA and his administration , T.Blair of the UK and his administration and their allies should be accountable according to the international laws and human rights legislations for their criminal wars against Iraq. Their governments should compensate the Iraqi victims of depleted uranium ,similar to the compensations which were paid to the soldiers and/or their families in Kosovo.

It is recommended to coordinate with GCC countries to deal with the contamination which hit their common environment.

This article was posted: Monday, January 5, 2009 at 11:11 am

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