ACTION ALERT: US (and UK, France and Israel) Refuse to Sign UN Resolution of Use of Radioactive Weapons

January 24th, 2015 - by admin

Ben Griffin / & The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons – 2015-01-24 20:06:11

ACTION ALERT: US, UK, France, Israel Refuse to
Sign UN Resolution of Use of Radioactive Weapons

Ben Griffin /

Sign the United Nations Resolution on Depleted Uranium Weapons

This petition will be delivered to:
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond MP

LONDON — I served in the Parachute Regiment and the Special Air Service for eight years. I have spoken out about the reality of the war in Iraq on numerous occasions since I left the army but only recently have I learned about another of its cruel legacies; chemically toxic and radioactive depleted uranium (DU).

I was not surprised last week when I heard the UK and US had voted against a United Nations General Assembly Resolution that asked states to provide help to Iraq in dealing with DU contamination and for UN agencies to carry out more research into its potential negative effects on public health and the environment.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has long argued that DU weapons are effective and necessary to save soldiers’ lives, but they refuse to take into account the effect on civilian populations that especially as they can continue long after a war has ended. When it is fired it creates a DU dust which, if breathed in, has the potential to mutate DNA and cause cancers and birth defects. In Iraq, the battles took place in towns and cities full of people. The Iraqi government knows of 300 contaminated sites today — hundreds more are unidentified. This contamination poses a threat to the Iraqi people, particularly pregnant women and children who are especially susceptible to exposure from toxic materials.

The MoD claims that there is no evidence that DU has caused health problems in Iraq. However, there is no evidence because there have been no health studies carried out specifically on civilians living in contaminated areas.

Last year, the former director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Iraq programme, Dr Neel Mani, said that the organisation knew of abnormal rates of health problems as far back as 2001. However, cynicism from ‘certain member states’ and a politicised funding structure had left them unable to do anything about it. He is not the first person to speak out but the denial and the political power of the offending states means that this public health crisis continues.

Within Iraq, many people continue to speak out about this. The International Committee of the Red Cross have reports of being approached by tribal leaders who say that clean-up of DU ‘exceeded any other humanitarian concerns.’ As the father to three beautiful, healthy children, I found it so distressing when I heard Dr Samira Alaani, an Iraqi paediatrician report:
‘The first question I am asked when a child is born is not ‘is it a boy or a girl?’ but ‘is my child healthy?’ It makes me so angry that, for all of our promises of freeing Iraq, what we have left them is a toxic legacy that will last for generations to come.

As a former soldier who fought in Iraq, I can safely say that this is not why I joined the British Army. Nor do I believe that many other soldiers are happy with the fact that they are being made complicit with these acts. Doctors across Iraq have been reporting much higher than normal incidences of cancer and birth defects for years now.

It has been estimated that cleaning up the 300 known contamination sites would cost between US$30-45 million. To people like me and you that is a lot of money but to governments that have spent billions on war, it is a drop in the ocean. If they cannot afford to clean it up, they should not have made us use it in the first place.

In December the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will take a second vote on a draft resolution on DU weapons. It will be the fifth one of its kind and will no doubt, once more, see a majority of the states vote in favour of it — 155 did last time.

The UNGA draft resolution asks states that have fired DU to provide firing locations. It asks international organisations to carry out further research. It asks any states with the means to do so to provide assistance to countries affected by DU. It is not a lot to ask, so why do the UK and US persistently vote against these resolutions?

Just last month the Iraqi government joined the doctors and people of Iraq in asking for help to clean up this mess and to conduct research into the problems their country is facing. They know they cannot do it alone; this will take an international effort and it needs to be done sooner rather than later.

We must support the people of Iraq, which is why I am demanding that the UK and US support the current UN resolution. Please add your voice to this campaign and demand that the US and UK take responsibility for their actions.

Letter to:
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond MP

The toxic legacy left by depleted uranium and other conflict contamination in Iraq is unacceptable. It is time to clean up your act!

US A10 Gunships Armed with
Depleted Uranium Join Fight against ISIS

International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

(November 27, 2014) — A squadron of US A10 gunships has arrived in the Middle East and is being made available for operations against ISIS in Iraq, the Pentagon had previously confirmed that the aircraft will use DU weapons ‘if they need to’.

Earlier this summer Iraq called for a global treaty ban on the weapons and help from the international community is dealing with DU contamination left from 1991 and 2003. The move comes just days before the UN General Assembly will vote on a fifth resolution on the chemically toxic and radioactive weapons.

The USAF announced on Monday that the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which had previously provided close air support operations in Afghanistan, had arrived with ‘several A-10 Thunderbolts II’ — though did not disclose the precise number. “They’re going over there because there’s a need . . . to be postured for a combat rescue mission,” said Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman. “While they’re there, we will maximize their use,” Cassidy said.

According to reports, the Air Force did not specify how many A-10s were in theatre except to say that it was an “expeditionary squadron-sized element.” The service also declined to say where the A-10s would be stationed during the operations, due to “diplomatic sensitivities.” However, Janes Defence Weekly identified that they are based in Kuwait, a country not unfamiliar with cleaning up DU and one where the unauthorised use of DU on training ranges has caused political and diplomatic tensions in the past.

In a report to the UN Secretary General earlier this year, Iraq had said that: “the United Nations, the specialised agencies (IAEA, WHO and UNEP), all States Members of the United Nations and non-governmental organisations to adopt a proactive approach towards the danger of the use of depleted uranium in armaments and ammunitions and to condemn such use . . . efforts should be made to draft a binding and verifiable international treaty prohibiting the use, possession, transfer and trafficking of such armaments and ammunitions.”

“The US’s utter disregard for the views of the government of Iraq, which it claims to be helping, is staggering,” said ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir. “It has done everything possible to avoid responsibility for historical contamination in Iraq and continues to oppose efforts to clean-up and determine the public health impact of the weapons — even as it builds on that hazardous legacy by deploying the weapons once again.”

The UN General Assembly will be voting on a resolution calling for international assistance for states affected by the weapons next Tuesday. At present there are no legal obligations on their users to take responsibility for the contamination or health problems they cause. The resolution is expected to pass with a record majority.

143 States Support Call for Depleted Uranium
Clean-up Assistance at United Nations

International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons

(October 31, 2014) — The resolution, which built on previous texts with the addition of a call for ‘Member States in a position to do so to provide assistance to States affected by the use of arms and ammunition containing depleted uranium, in particular in identifying and managing contaminated sites and material’ was submitted by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. The resolution also recognised the need for more research on DU in conflict situations. The full results are available at the end of this article.

ICBUW broadly welcomed the outcome, in particular the decision by Sweden and Bulgaria to vote in favour for the first time. Swedish campaigners were pleased with the move, which is part of a new progressive stance on a number of issues following recent elections. However Sweden did submit an explanation of vote which indicated that they are still unsure of their new position.

However, ICBUW Germany reacted angrily as their government abstained on the resolution for the first time. “ICBUW Germany is shocked by the German abstention.

Such behaviour is neither acceptable nor reasonable; it is in sharp contrast to previous voting positions as well as the general German policy in relation to weapons and disarmament issues, such as cluster munitions and landmines,” said Prof Manfred Mohr. “ICBUW Germany, together with other parts of civil and political society will do its utmost to shift the government’s position back to ‘normal’.”

Predictably, the UK, US, France and Israel voted against the text. This week it emerged that the US will use DU again in Iraq in operations against ISIS ‘if it needs to.’ In spite of Iraq’s recent call for a global ban on the weapons and assistance clearing up the contamination left from conflicts in 1991 and 2003.

In an explanation of vote, the UK, US and France, and separately Germany, quibbled over ‘selective cherry picking’ of a report by UNEP from 2010 in the preamble. Perversely they chose to cherry pick themselves, neglecting to include the final paragraph of the UNEP statement in their statements, which recommends: ‘that action be taken to clean up and decontaminate the polluted sites.

It also called for awareness-raising among local populations and future monitoring.’ Naturally refusing to hand over targeting coordinates – as the US has done, makes these recommendations almost impossible to implement.

“We have been pleased with the response from the majority of states on DU at this year’s First Committee, the response from civil society has also been very positive,” said ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir. “However, the reasons given for abstaining have become increasingly feeble, and now seem to revolve around paradoxical arguments calling for more research while opposing a text that calls for exactly that. The people of Iraq and other affected states deserve far better.”

ICBUW thanks the governments of Iraq, Austria, Ireland, Costa Rica, Cuba, Indonesia and Mexico for raising DU in their statements during the debate. ICBUW is also grateful to the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN for sponsoring an extremely well attended ICBUW and PAX side event on the issue.

The event heard presentations on the wealth of new scientific evidence linking DU and cancer and the complexity of effective DU management in Iraq. ICBUW-Japan’s Dr Katsumi Furitsu also offered a medical expert’s perspective on the unacceptability of dispersing radioactive materials into the environment and the need for precaution.

In a statement to the First Committee earlier this week, ICBUW said that the current lack of legal obligations for the post-conflict clearance of DU were ‘astonishing’, as was the apparent disinterest from the international community in assessing harm to civilians from the munitions.

Research by PAX in Iraq during the last few years has documented the difficulties that the Iraqi government has faced in trying to deal with the legacy of DU contamination in the country.

Workers in the scrap metal trade were found to be particularly at risk of exposure, as are communities living in close proximity to the sites. Above all this reinforces the need for full transparency from the US, so as to allow the clean-up recommended by the IAEA and UNEP to take place.

A second vote on the resolution will take place in the first week of December and we await the outcome with interest. The last resolution General Assembly, in 2012, passed by 155, with just four states opposed. Many more states vote at the General Assembly stage but positions rarely change.

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