The World Can’t Wait & David Swanson / Al Jazeera & Roots Action & The Center for Constitutional Rights & Carol Dudek / The World Can’t Wait – 2014-11-05 00:49:40
ACTION ALERT: Depleted Uranium and Other Demented US Weapons
The World Can’t Wait
(November 4, 2014) — Because antiwar activists and medical humanitarians are pushing the issue, the United Nations will be discussing the US use of depleted uranium in weapons, particularly in Iraq, even as the US military makes plans to use them again in the new campaign of bombings. We call your attention to these developments.
Our friend Dr. Mozhgan Savabiesfahani, a toxicologist, is studying the environmental destruction of Iraq during the US occupation related to the high rate of birth defects there. Carol Dudek covered her recent talk at Columbia University to colleagues in the Medical School:
“Exposure to toxic metals and chemicals comes from three main sources: fired explosives, hundreds of military base junkyards and open air burn pits. The burn pits in Basra and Fallujah cover ten acres and burn 24 hours a day, seven days a week — appliances, animals, plastic, medicine, electronics, tires, explosives, asbestos installations, body parts and batteries.
“The pits were closed in 2010 and KBR and Halliburton, contractors of the burn pits, recently lost in a court of appeals which found that they were not entitled to immunity. The Institute of Medicine monitored one base in Baghdad and reported the metals caused cancer, respiratory and liver toxicity and morbidity. Children in Hawijah, close to Fallujah, show high levels of titanium, magnesium, cadmium, lead and arsenic.”
David Swanson, writing in al Jazeera last week, took on the specific issue of depleted uranium:
“This month, the US has deployed a type of aircraft to the Middle East responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform. Twelve ‘A-10’s have arrived in the region along with 300 US airmen.
“Whether or not the aircraft will be used in areas under ISIL control has not been confirmed. Master Sgt Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told Al Jazeera that although no explicit order for their use was currently in place, this position “could change at any moment. When that order comes, US crews may load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into 30mm Gatling cannons”. Hubble continued: ‘Should the need arise ‘to explode something — for example a tank — they will be used.'”
He also reported Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told Al Jazeera: “The US has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The US doesn’t want studies done.”
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons: “A US military spokesperson has confirmed that the US will use DU weapons in its fight against ISIS in Iraq if ‘it needs to’ — in spite of Iraq’s recent call for a global ban and for assistance.”
Sign the petition from The Center for Constitutional Rights: “The US must end its opposition to UN action on depleted uranium. It must also support clean-up of areas where it has used depleted uranium…”
There are many more resources on the issue at The Fallujah Project, where veteran Ross Caputi writes:
“… since 2004 there has been a dramatic increase in birth defects, infant mortality, mental retardation, and cancers of all sorts in Fallujah. The birth defects are truly horrifying.
“Babies have been born with six fingers on each hand, scaly skin, missing limbs, two heads, and there has been one case of a child born with a single eye in the center of his forehead… This has led some to say that the health crisis in Fallujah is worse than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs.”
US Deploys DU Aircraft to Middle East
David Swanson / Al Jazeera
(October 29, 2014) — This month, the US has deployed a type of aircraft to the Middle East responsible for more Depleted Uranium (DU) contamination than any other platform. Twelve ‘A-10’s have arrived in the region along with 300 US airmen.
Whether or not the aircraft will be used in areas under ISIL control has not been confirmed. Master Sgt Hubble of the 122nd Fighter Wing told Al Jazeera that although no explicit order for their use was currently in place, this position “could change at any moment. When that order comes, US crews may load PGU-14 depleted uranium rounds into 30mm Gatling cannons”. Hubble continued: “Should the need arise ‘to explode something — for example a tank — they will be used.”
The decision to position the controversial aircraft in the region comes against a backdrop of consultations at the highest diplomatic levels to remove DU as an international military resource.
The First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has been meeting to discuss a broad range of issues related to international security and peace. Several nations have presented appeals to the UNGA calling for study and mitigation of DU contamination in civilian areas.
DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and evidence of health damage produced by its use is extensive. It has 40 percent less radioactivity than natural uranium — but the same chemical toxicity.
Jeena Shah at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) told Al Jazeera: “The US has denied a relationship between DU and health problems in civilians and veterans. Studies of UK veterans are highly suggestive of a connection. The US doesn’t want studies done.”
There has been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah during 2004, and Basra during the 1991 US war on Iraq.
A study titled “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009” surveyed more than 700 Fallujah households. The team carrying out the research interviewed Fallujans about abnormally high rates of cancer and birth defects. The health crisis it revealed was described by one of the studies authors as representing “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”
It is estimated that the US used 1,200 tons of DU munitions in Iraq during its 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation.
Contamination enters soil and water while contaminated scrap metal is recycled and used in factories or made into cooking pots or toys for children. If the locations of DU use are officially identified, these could suggest violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Meanwhile, the devastating risks of DU use to long term civilian health are visibly present in Iraq. Al Basra Maternity Hospital recorded the numbers of birth defects per 1,000 live births and found that in less than a decade, the occurrence of congenital birth defects increased by a disturbing 17-fold in that hospital alone.
Doctors working in another area of heavy US military DU use, Fallujah, report consistently large numbers of newborns with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, heart problems, and skeletal disorders.
US Congressman Jim McDermott told Al Jazeera: “There has been a sizable increase in childhood leukaemia and birth defects in Iraq since the Gulf War and our subsequent invasion in 2003. DU munitions were used in both those conflicts. There are also grave suggestions that DU weapons have caused serious health issues for our Iraq war veterans. I seriously question the use of these weapons until the US military conducts a full investigation into the effect of DU weapon residue on human beings.”
In 2012, a resolution on DU was supported by 155 nations and opposed by just the UK, the US, France, and Israel. Several nations have banned DU, and in June, Iraq proposed a global treaty banning it — a step also supported by the European and Latin American parliaments.
Numerous researchers found evidence of tungsten weapons being used by Israel in its latest assault on Gaza. Journalist and author Max Blumenthal told Al Jazeera: “I have evidence of DIME [tungsten] weaponry and possible use of thermobaric weapons.” He, like others, found no evidence of DU despite claims which appeared in Iranian media.
In July, several member nations, including Iraq, responded to the UN General Assembly’s invitation to give their findings on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium.
A non-binding resolution is expected to be voted on by the committee this week, urging nations that have used DU to provide information on locations targeted. A number of organizations are petitioning US officials urging them not to oppose the resolution.
Wim Zwijnenburg of Pax and the author of a recent report on DU, said that he has found no evidence of DU use in Gaza or Syria, and that while the Ukrainian government has alleged its use in Eastern Ukraine, that has not been proven.
Meanwhile the Pentagon continues to dig its heels in over the legality of the US military’s reliance on DU rounds. Spokesman Mark Wright told Al Jazeera: “There is no prohibition against the use of Depleted Uranium rounds, and the [US military] does make use of them. The use of DU in armor-piercing munitions allows enemy tanks to be more easily destroyed.”
CCR and Iraq Veterans Against the War have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request in an attempt to learn the locations targeted in Iraq during and after the 1991 and 2003 invasions. The UK and the Netherlands have already revealed targeted locations, as did NATO, following DU use in the Balkans.
Iraqi doctors will be testifying to the damage done by DU before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, DC, in December.
In the meantime, the Obama Administration said on Thursday that it will be spending $1.6 million to identify atrocities committed in Iraq by ISIL.
Follow David Swanson on Twitter: @davidcnswanson
PETITION: Tell US to Stop Opposing UN Resolutions on Depleted Uranium
Roots Action & The Center for Constitutional Rights
Dear Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Power,
We, the undersigned, urge the United States government to address the toxic legacy of its depleted uranium use in Iraq.
On November 5, a new resolution on depleted uranium weaponry will be introduced to the United Nations General Assembly. While the text of this year’s resolution is still being negotiated, since 2007, UN resolutions have included language affirming the need for research on the potential harmful effects of depleted uranium as well as the need for disclosure of where this weaponry has been used.
The resolutions have been passed by the vast majority of the world’s nations, indicating a growing global concern. Unfortunately, each year the US has isolated itself by opposing these resolutions, alongside only a few other countries.
The US must end its opposition to UN action on depleted uranium. It must also support clean-up of areas where it has used depleted uranium and further scientific study of the impact of these materials on people, such as the relationship of these materials to increased cancer rates and birth defects, so that proper treatment can be pursued for those who have been exposed.
These actions are critical to both civilian communities in Iraq and US veterans and servicemembers.
We note the renewed urgency of this matter given the current US military actions in Iraq and Syria.
Epidemic of Birth Defects in Iraq
Carol Dudek / The World Can’t Wait
(October 18, 2014) — On Tuesday, Oct. 14, Columbia University’s School of Public Health hosted a presentation by two prominent researchers who have been documenting the shocking increase of birth defects and cancers in newborns in Iraq after bombardments by the US and its coalition.
Dr Mozhgan Savabieasfahani of the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health is an environmental toxicologist. She has written two dozen articles and a book, Pollution and Reproductive Damage. Dr Muhsin Al-Sabbak is the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Basra Maternity Hospital.
Dr Al-Sabbak opened the discussion with slides of newborns who had devastating birth defects: the infants bore hydrocephalus, severe cleft palate, webbed neck, no toes or fingers, no rear skull and the brain outside the head, bright red skin that looked burnt, no kidneys. One child had two penises and scrotums and bowels outside the abdomen, and another child’s entire body was covered with cracked, open skin.
The doctor explained that many babies have multiple abnormalities: “If there is one birth defect, you look for another.” Physicians are not permitted by law to tell mothers they have a severely deformed fetus, nor are they allowed to terminate the pregnancies.
Basra experienced two major uprisings and a massacre in 1999 and in 2003 the heaviest fighting of the invasion took place on its outskirts. The GAO reports that between 2002-05 the US fired six billion bullets in Iraq, an average of 300,000 bullets for every person killed. The UN Environmental Project estimated 1000 to 2000 metric tons of depleted uranium were burned up as nanoparticles in the air, inhaled by everyone nearby.
Basra Maternity Hospital has 400 beds, and births number between 10,000 and 12,000. Between 1994-95 the birth defect rate was 1.37 per 1000 births. By 2003 there were 23 per 1000 births, and, in 2009 the birth defects soared to 48 birth defects for every 1000 children born.
The effects of metal contamination is greater on pregnant women and children, and even low amounts of toxicity have compound, multiple and cumulative results.
There is a multigenerational effect. Daughters with birth abnormalities have given birth to infants with abnormalities. Researchers took samples from the hair and nails of adults in the affected cities to document the presence of lead, titanium, mercury and other metals. They are able to study prenatal lead exposure in the teeth by using laser technology.
Exposure to toxic metals and chemicals comes from three main sources: fired explosives, hundreds of military base junkyards and open air burn pits. The burn pits in Basra and Fallujah cover ten acres and burn 24 hours a day, seven days a week — appliances, animals, plastic, medicine, electronics, tires, explosives, asbestos installations, body parts and batteries.
The pits were closed in 2010 and KBR and Halliburton, contractors of the burn pits, recently lost in a court of appeals which found that they were not entitled to immunity. The Institute of Medicine monitored one base in Baghdad and reported the metals caused cancer, respiratory and liver toxicity and morbidity. Children in Hawijah, close to Fallujah, show high levels of titanium, magnesium, cadmium, lead and arsenic.
Doctors Savabieasfahani and Al-Sabbak spoke in Princeton last week and will be touring throughout October. The European Union Parliament in 2012 published their paper, “Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities.” As Dr. Savabieasfahani says, war always sees birth defects and cancers — witness Vietnam and Korea. She insists that public health researchers must pay attention and look closely to prevent contamination in the future.
The information is not broadly published given the media’s selectivity. Most people in the US don’t know what is happening. For another example, if we look at Gaza with 2000 killed in the latest Israeli attack, it’s quite likely many of the 10,000 injured will surely die. The infrastructure is destroyed and there is no way to properly treat the wounded.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq filed an FOIA request to seek the coordinates of the depleted uranium weapons used in Iraq. The Dept. of Veterans Affairs now maintains a registry of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer side effects of contamination.
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