NATO deploys depleted uranium weapons to Ukraine, nuclearizing war

This article updates the article published at workers.org on June 15, entitled: “Chinese translation available: ‘Metal of Dishonor-Depleted Uranium.’”

The United States will be sending depleted uranium munitions (DU) to Ukraine, reported The Wall Street Journal on June 13. This was written three months after Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder stated March 21 that to his knowledge the U.S. would not do so. (Los Angeles Times, March 21) 

The announcement about sending DU munitions comes despite voluminous documentation about the devastating consequences of breathing in the radioactive dust caused by these weapons. 

Consortium News wrote on May 11 that experimental scientists interviewed by the Guardian said in 1999 regarding the bombing of Kosovo with DU, “One single particle of depleted uranium lodged in the lymph node can devastate the entire immune system.” (tinyurl.com/22duwrmk)   

DU explodes in Ukraine warehouse 

In response to an explosion on May 13 of British-supplied DU in a warehouse in Ukraine – which caused a radioactive cloud to head toward Western Europe – Dr. Chris Busby told Sputnik International: “DU must be banned. It is a weapon of indiscriminate effect and kills civilians, the enemy and your own troops [Ukrainian troops]. It is much worse than a war gas, like Sarin, or phosgene, mustard gas or all the other chemical agents banned by civilization.” 

Busby stressed: “This stuff destroys the genetic basis of life itself. And no one does anything. Those who use it base their action on obsolete science supported by dishonest epidemiology carried out by dishonest scientists and obsolete and fantastical risk models.” (May 19) 

China translates IAC’s ‘Metal of Dishonor-Depleted Uranium’

China has translated “Metal of Dishonor-Depleted Uranium,” a groundbreaking book compiled 25 years ago by the International Action Center (IAC) warning of the devastating consequences of deploying DU munitions. It couldn’t be more timely.  

The preface to the Chinese edition warns: “Depleted uranium weapons are not only harmful to their targets, but also harmful to the soldiers who operate the weapons, civilians around depleted uranium — and even their descendants. It caused bodily harm and threatened the future natural environment” [in countries where it was used]. 

“At the same time, this book calls for the joint boycott and abolition of depleted uranium weapons and the realization of interactive exchanges and peaceful coexistence on a global scale.” 

The book’s co-editors, IAC Co-director Sara Flounders and Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto, thank the Chinese translator, Associate Professor Jia Jun of the Center for Modern World History, School of History, Beijing Normal University and Luminaire Books, a division of Shanghai Century Publishing Co., Ltd. for this urgent contribution. 

Chinese edition echoes call for DU’s abolition 

Significantly, “Metal of Dishonor,” published in 1997 and reissued in 1999, played an important role in gathering a great deal of the suppressed information on the devastating impact of DU’s low-level radiation. The book, its study guide and documentary, “Poison DUst,” were part of an international campaign to ban DU weapons. 

The statement calling for the ban on the use of these weapons had tens of thousands of signatories. It was translated into many languages and demonstrated the powerful campaign of antiwar forces exposing the impact of the use of these horrific weapons by the U.S. against Iraq and in the U.S./NATO war in 1999 to break up Yugoslavia. 

British official lies about DU’s dangers 

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly claims that the move to send DU munitions to Ukraine does not represent a nuclear escalation. “It’s worth making sure everyone understands that just because the word uranium is in the title of depleted uranium munitions, they are not nuclear munitions; they are purely conventional munitions.” (Reuters, March 23) 

But Cleverly’s public-relations spin obscures the horrific truth comprehensively laid out in “Metal of Dishonor.” 

During the Iraq War, the U.S. use of radioactive DU weapons increased from 375 tons used in 1991 to 2,200 tons. Geiger counter readings at sites in downtown Baghdad recorded radiation levels 1,000 and 2,000 times higher than background radiation. 

The Pentagon bombed, occupied, tortured and contaminated Iraq. Millions of Iraqis were sickened. The word “depleted” has a benign ring to it, but in 2005, half of the nearly 700,000 U.S. veterans who had been deployed in the Gulf War reported serious medical problems and a significant increase in birth defects among their newborn children. 

DU’s horrific impact on human life

The effects on the Iraqi population were far greater. Many other countries and U.S. communities near DU weapons plants, testing facilities, bases and arsenals were exposed to this radioactive material, which has a half-life of 4.4 billion years. 

“Indeed, between 1997 and 2004, USA Today, the Associated Press, New York Daily News, Life magazine, CNN, and others reported that studies were finding a significantly increased rate of birth abnormalities among children of U.S. Gulf War veterans and among Iraqi children born after 1991.” (Consortium News) 

The danger of these weapons spreading radioactive material was raised at a White House press briefing on March 22, and callously dismissed by John Kirby, the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications. He blatantly stated that DU “is not a radioactive threat.  It is not anywhere close to going into the nuclear realm.”

In fact, the most damning reports about the harmful health and environmental effects of exposure to DU contamination come from the U.S. military itself.” (znetwork.org, June 27) 

When confronted about DU’s dangers, a spokesperson for the British Defense Ministry – after its own decision to send DU to Ukraine – admitted that deployment of this armor-piercing ammunition has been standard practice for decades. (TASS, April 12)  As if that justified the decision!

Global campaign to ban DU weapons 

“Metal of Dishonor” is an alarming exposé of the dangers of the Pentagon’s DU weapons; it issued a dire warning about their devastating effects on soldiers and civilians. In it, scientists, Gulf War veterans, and leaders of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-military and community movements discuss the connection of DU to Gulf War syndrome and the then-new generation of radioactive conventional weapons. 

Among the book’s contributors are Helen Caldicott, Michio Kaku, Jay M. Gould, Ramsey Clark and Sara Flounders. A study guide accompanying the book and video was produced by Jim Wallace and Lyn Neeley. 

“Poison DUst” film tells the truth 

The documentary, “Poison DUst: A New Look at U.S. Radioactive Weapons,” was released in 2005 by the IAC/Peoples Video Network. It describes the effects of DU on the people it was used on — including the populations of Iraq, Vieques in Puerto Rico and Yugoslavia — as well as on the people who used it, the invading soldiers – and their families. 

The film features Rosalie Bertell, Helen Caldicott, Ramsey Clark, Juan Gonzalez and Michio Kaku. It was produced, directed and edited by Sue Harris. Watch it at youtu.be/GISwXM8U1TY. 

The deployment of DU munitions will boomerang. DU dust has no borders: It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. Ukraine is considered the breadbasket of Europe. The country’s own crops are under threat. 

“Metal of Dishonor” and “Poison DUst” are as vital now as they were when they were first released. Activists need to be armed with every bit of information about DU weapons to further mobilize against U.S.-NATO provocation and expansion of the war in Ukraine. They must be aware that these weapons are destined to be used  in other areas of the world which are now under attack or will be targeted by U.S. imperialism and its allies. 

Since its founding, the IAC has been a consistent opponent of every U.S. war, including the U.S.-led NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Each U.S. war is increasingly destructive to the environment, to each defenseless civilian population – and threatens the entire planet.

Order “Metal of Dishonor” at tinyurl.com/2djethyr.

Check at IACenter.org on how to order the book directly from the IAC in the near future.

Kathy Durkin and Sara Flounders contributed to this article.

Janet Mayes

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