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When the dust settles on Afghanistan, will it
be full of depleted uranium?
By Joanne Baker
There are serious and unanswered questions as to the
current military use of depleted uranium (DU) in Afghanistan; questions
which none of the mainstream media are addressing. Dai Williams,
an independent researcher has concluded that, despite MoD denial,
it is highly likely that the new generation of hard target guided
weapons contain DU. These weapons, part of the Hard or Deeply Buried
Defeat Capability Program, achieve their effectiveness by increasing
the area/density ratio of the new Advanced Unitary Penetrator warheads.
The only metals capable of this are DU or tungsten or a combination
of the two. DU has the advantage over tungsten of being considerably
cheaper and burning spontaneously on impact at an intense heat of
2,000 degrees which carbonises anyone in its range. The heat transforms
much of the uranium into minute, insoluble, radioactive particles
which can then be inhaled.
The controversy over the dangers of internal low level
radiation is now on the political agenda. The UK Departments of
Health and of the Environment have set up a new Working Group to
investigate the health effects. According to many independent experts,
low level alpha emitting particles which damage but do not directly
kill the cell, would seem to be a major cause of the cancers, birth
defects and immune deficiency syndromes that are besetting both
military personnel and civilians in DU affected areas. Tests done
in Berlin, show that some Gulf War veterans, with high levels of
DU in the body, have three times the chromosome damage as people
living in the vicinity of Chernobyl.
If DU is in the guided missile systems, then a vast
tonnage may have been used in Afghanistan and the dry and dusty
climate will enable the particles to be spread by wind as well as
water. The contamination may extend to many parts of Pakistan. One
particular concern is the bombing of the Karez, the underground
tunnels in the mountains of southern Afghanistan which hold much
of the regions fragile water supply. If these become contaminated
with radioactive particles, the health consequences are unthinkable.
DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years.
In the absence of any explicit information from the
US/UK governments, the awful truth may only be known if or when
the hospitals begin to fill with unprecedented numbers of cases
of childhood leukaemia, congenital multiple malformations, or thyroid
* A recent vote at the UN General Assembly resulted
in a narrowly defeated effort by Iraq to have the question of DU
contamination in its country properly investigated by the World
Health Organisation (WHO). After extreme pressure by the US, 54
nations voted against it with 45 yes votes and 44 abstentions from
countries not yet strong enough to directly oppose the US. Iraq
suffers the legacy of DU from bombing during the Gulf War.
Direct Action Against Militarism and Depleted Uranium