US Used Radioactive Weapons Against Civilian Targets in Iraq
June 22, 2014
Rob Edwards / The Guardian & The International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons & RT News
As Iraq calls for US airstrikes in its fight against ISIL, a new report from the Dutch peace group PAX shows that the legacy of the use of DU in 1991 and 2003 shows no sign of being resolved. In addition, Pax says findings show the US was in breach of official advice meant to prevent civilian suffering in conflict zones
US Fired Depleted Uranium at Civilian Areas
In 2003 Iraq War, Report Finds
Rob Edwards / The Guardian
LONDON (June 19, 2014) -- US forces fired depleted uranium (DU) weapons at civilian areas and troops in Iraq in breach of official advice meant to prevent unnecessary suffering in conflicts, a report has found.
Coordinates revealing where US jets and tanks fired nearly 10,000 DU rounds in Iraq during the war in 2003 have been obtained by the Dutch peace group Pax. This is the first time that any US DU firing coordinates have been released, despite previous requests by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Iraqi government.
According to PAX's report, which is due to be published this week, the data shows that many of the DU rounds were fired in or near populated areas of Iraq, including As Samawah, Nasiriyah and Basrah. At least 1,500 rounds were also aimed at troops, the group says.
This conflicts with legal advice from the US Air Force in 1975 suggesting that DU weapons should only be used against hard targets like tanks and armoured vehicles, the report says. This advice, designed to comply with international law by minimising deaths and injuries to urban populations and troops, was largely ignored by US forces, it argues.
A six-page memo by Major James Miles and Will Carroll from the international law division of USAF's Office of the Judge Advocate General concluded in March 1975 that DU weapons were legal. But it recommended imposing restrictions on how they were used.
"Use of this munition solely against personnel is prohibited if alternative weapons are available," the memo stated. This was for legal reasons "related to the prohibitions against unnecessary suffering and poison".
The memo also pointed out that DU weapons were "incendiary" and could have indiscriminate impacts in urban areas. "They may cause fires which spread thereby causing potential risks of disproportionate injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects," it said. "Precautions to avoid or minimise such risks shall be taken in the use of this weapon or alternate available weapons should be used."
PAX estimates that there are more than 300 sites in Iraq contaminated by DU, which will cost at least $30m to clean up. DU is a chemically toxic and radioactive heavy metal attractive to weapons designers because it is extremely hard and can pierce armour.
The author of the PAX report, Wim Zwijnenburg, said the US Air Force knew the harm that could be done by DU weapons and should not have used them in populated areas. "The use of DU against these targets questions the adherence of coalition forces to their own principles and guidelines," he argued. "They should be held accountable for the consequences."
US forces gave the GPS coordinates of DU rounds, along with a list of targets and the numbers fired, to the Dutch Ministry of Defence, which was concerned about areas in which its troops were stationed last year.
The Dutch MoD then released the data to PAX in response to a request under freedom of information law. The release of the information was a "useful first step towards greater transparency", said PAX, but the firing coordinates for most DU rounds remain unknown.
More than 300,000 DU rounds are estimated to have been fired during the 2003 Iraq war, the vast majority by US forces. A small fraction were from UK tanks, the coordinates for which were provided to the UN Environment Programme. A further 782,414 DU rounds are believed to have been fired during the earlier conflict in 1991, mostly by US forces.
The Democratic congressman, Jim McDermott, is now urging the US Department of Defence to publish all its DU firing coordinates. "These weapons have had terrible health ramifications for Iraqi civilians," he said. "The least the US could do is provide the specific targeting data so the Iraqi government can begin the complex clean-up process."
The US Department of Defence did not respond to a request to comment. One military source was "amazed" that the Dutch government had released sensitive targeting data.
No Solution in Sight for Iraq's Radioactive Military Scrap
The International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW)
(June 20, 2014) -- A report by Dutch peace organisation PAX has found that the lack of obligations on Coalition Forces to help clean-up after using depleted uranium (DU) weapons has resulted in Iraqi civilians and workers continuing to be exposed to the radioactive and toxic heavy metal years after the war.
The health risk posed by the inadequate management of Iraq's DU contamination is unclear -- neither Coalition Forces nor the Iraqi government have supported health research into civilian DU exposure. High-risk groups include people living near, or working on, the dozens of scrap metal sites where the thousands of military vehicles destroyed in 1991 and 2003 are stored or processed.
Waste sites often lack official oversight and in places it has taken more than a decade to clean-up heavily contaminated military wreckage from residential neighbourhoods. Hundreds of locations targeted by the weapons, many of which are in populated areas, remain undocumented and concern among Iraqi civilians over the potential health effects from exposure is widespread.
Report Urges Release of Targeting
Coordinates to Aid Clean-up
"To help clean-up we urgently need to know the location and quantities of DU fired," says the report's author Wim Zwijnenburg. "The Iraqi government is also in dire need of technical support to help manage the many scrap metal sites where contaminated vehicles are stored". The ongoing refusal by the US to release targeting information continues to hinder the assessment and management of DU in Iraq.
A handful of US coordinates held by the Dutch Ministry of Defence and released via Freedom of Information legislation show that US aircraft used DU weapons against a far wider range of targets than previously suspected, including Iraqi troops. The US and UK have long argued that DU is only for use against armoured vehicles.
The Iraqi government has recently prepared a five-year environment plan together with the World Health Organisation and UN Environment Programme; managing DU is a strategic objective but the report finds that it is unclear how this will be accomplished without international assistance.
Radiation Safety Guidelines ignored
DU, a by-product of uranium enrichment is categorised as intermediate level radioactive waste, contaminated rubble and scrap as low-level radioactive waste. The new study finds that international guidelines for dealing with both kinds of waste were ignored and that the Iraqi government did not have the technical capacity to safely manage the contamination.
Unlike anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war, no treaty currently obliges depleted uranium (DU) users to help clean-up after themselves. Yet civil radiation protection standards place the responsibility firmly at the door of the polluter.
Lack of Obligations
As with DU contamination, the controversy surrounding the use of the weapons refuses to go away. This October the United Nations General Assembly will consider a fifth resolution on the issue. In 2012 a similar text was supported by 155 governments and opposed by just the US, UK, France and Israel.
"The lack of obligations governing the post-conflict clearance of DU must be addressed by the international community," said Doug Weir, Coordinator of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. "States recovering from conflict are rarely in a position to protect their own people from these toxic remnants of war."
US Fired Depleted Uranium Rounds
In Civilian Areas during 2003 Iraq Campaign -- Report
(June 20, 2014) -- US-led forces in Iraq used depleted uranium weapons in civilian-populated areas during the 2003 military campaign, according to a new Dutch NGO study that also exposes a lack of adequate cleanup efforts by the invading troops.
For the first time the location of several sites where the invaders fired some 10,000 depleted uranium rounds were released by the Dutch Defense Ministry, and published in a study by Dutch peace group PAX.
Most of the DU rounds fired by the US-led coalition were in heavily populated areas, the group says. Samawah, Nasiriyah and Basrah are just some urban areas where ammunition was deployed -- with around 1,500 anti-armor rounds fired directly at Saddam Hussein's infantry forces.
The GPS coordinates of DU rounds were initially handed over to the Dutch Defense Ministry because the Netherlands was worried about the potential contamination of its own troops in the country. The ministry later shared the information with PAX under a freedom of information law.
Most of the firing locations remain unknown, as more than 300,000 DU rounds are believed to have been fired by US-led coalition.
NGO says that the health risks of more than 440,000 kg of DU fired by Western forces remains unclear, as "neither coalition forces nor the Iraqi government have supported health research into civilian DU exposure."
"Coalition forces were aware of the potential health and environmental impact of DU munitions, yet refrained from undertaking the necessary clean-up of DU outside their own bases," a summary of the report reads.
Wim Zwijnenburg, the author of the report, said the US Air Force knew of the consequences of using DU ammunition.
"The use of DU against these targets questions the adherence of coalition forces to their own principles and guidelines. They should be held accountable for the consequences," Zwijnenburg said, citing a 1975 memo from the Air Force Office of the Judge Advocate that restricted the use of such ammunition.
"Use of this munition solely against personnel is prohibited if alternative weapons are available," the memo said, because of "unnecessary suffering and poison."
According to an earlier PAX report, more than 300 sites in Iraq are currently contaminated with depleted uranium and it would cost at least $30 million to clean up.
Inside the body, DU's hazards are its chemical toxicity and radioactivity. DU primarily emits alpha radiation, although beta and gamma are also emitted from uranium's decay products. Inside the body, alpha radiation can disrupt cellular process and damage DNA, which can lead to an increased risk of developing different types of cancer, depending on which organ is exposed. DU is also a heavy metal and therefore chemically toxic.
Daniel Alexander 21.06.2014 16:44
High velocity Sabot rounds fired from tanks are made from depleted radioactive material. We use them, the Russians use them, the UK uses them, everyone with a military AND a nuclear program uses them. In Iraq, everywhere was a war zone. I agree that it does not condone the situation. I personally think that we should not have ever been over there to begin with. Just don't think it is fair for the Americans to always tote the full blame for what pretty much everyone does.
Em 21.06.2014 16:12
Tragic, this appears to be part of America's strategy to maintain their dominance as the 'exceptional' race (ie 'master race'). They know they must impede the progress of peoples of other nations or face honest competition in a world where murder and genocide may not be acceptable.
Azri'el Collier 21.06.2014 14:44
This is mass genocide on the installment plan. You know you can not beat a religious ideology, so you poison the masses so that they die of cancer, their children are born defective and riddled with cancer and slowly phase a population out of existence as there is no way to totally clean up the sites. You can only clean it up to the point of what is "acceptable&quo t; levels of toxicity.
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