Iraqi and visiting
doctors, and a number of news reports, have reported that
birth defects and cancers in Iraqi children have increased
five- to 10-fold since the 1991 Gulf War and continue to
increase sharply, to over 30-fold in some areas in southern
Iraq. Currently, more than 50 percent of Iraqi cancer patients
are children under the age of 5, up from 13 percent. Children
are especially vulnerable because they tend to play in areas
that are heavily polluted by depleted uranium.
The Pentagon has been using
weapons for at least
a decade and a half with full complicity of at least three
White House administrations and Republican and Democratic
congressional legislators. Conservatively, at least 300 tons
and 1,700 tons of depleted uranium were used in the Gulf War
and the current Iraq War,
respectively. This is about 70 grams
of depleted uranium per Iraqi citizen, and if inhaled or
ingested, it is enough to kill them all.
Is this not radioactive genocide, especially when our troops
used and continue to use most of the depleted uranium
munitions in densely populated areas such as Baghdad and
Fallujah? Depleted uranium has a half-life of billions of
years. Consequently, Iraq will be a wasteland forever and
essentially uninhabitable for anyone.
After the 1991 Gulf War, about 1 in 4, or 150,000, U.S.
veterans came down with what is referred to as "Gulf War
Syndrome." Most of the ailments characteristic of Gulf
War Syndrome are consistent with radiation or heavy-metal
poisoning. Veterans' children are now also born with higher
proportions of birth defects and other genetic disorders,
according to sporadic
accounts. The Pentagon continues to deny
the harmful effects of depleted uranium or its role in Gulf
As described by a report of the World Health Organization
Depleted Uranium Mission to Kosovo, uranium can be found in
rocks and soil and contributes to natural background levels of
radioactivity. Depleted uranium is a waste product of uranium
enrichment for nuclear reactors and is about 60 percent as
radioactive as naturally occurring uranium. Depleted uranium
is considered weakly radioactive.
Nevertheless, depleted uranium is considered nuclear waste and
has to be disposed of accordingly, which is expensive and a
potential environmental hazard. The nuclear industry must be
very pleased the U.S. military has found a way to get this
stuff off their hands cheaply.
Depleted uranium is really a misnomer, because the potentially
harmful effects are by no means depleted. Research reports
have found that when depleted uranium is ingested or inhaled,
it can cause cancers and birth defects. It has considerable
As stated in the WHO report, because of its high density,
depleted uranium is used in armor-piercing ammunition and as
reinforcement against conventional weapons. Upon impact, the
depleted uranium fragments burn at intense heat, and 10 to 35
percent of it becomes aerosolized. This aerosolized uranium
"dust" is the most harmful component because it can
easily be ingested or inhaled.
Wind and people walking through it also easily disperse the
depleted uranium dust. This dust is a predominant byproduct of
military use of depleted uranium, in contrast to, for example,
exposures in uranium mines or nuclear reactors.
Our troops in Iraq will be severely affected by this
radioactive war, not only because a lot more depleted uranium
has been used and continues to be used, but also because they
have been there a lot longer than during the Gulf War.
Hundreds of thousands of our troops will come down with Gulf
War Syndrome as a result of depleted uranium poisoning, and
thousands will die from it. Thousands of their children will
be born with genetic diseases, cancers and birth defects.
The continued use of depleted uranium harms our own troops and
innocent civilians exposed to our war machine, is un-American,
and a crime against humanity. We need a worldwide ban on
depleted uranium use.
You have probably noticed Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff
writer's reports as an "embedded journalist" with
the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Mosul, Iraq. Her
"feel-good" stories do not tell you the reality of
what is happening in Iraq. Will she report on depleted uranium
poisoning as a result of heavy U.S. bombing of Mosul?
Sadly, she and those of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team,
if they survive the war, will have a high chance of coming
down with Gulf War Syndrome. How much support do you think
they will then get from our government or their employers?
Abel Bult-Ito is an associate
professor of biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and
is a member of the Fairbanks Coalition for Peace and Justice.
of Babies Deformed at Birth as a Result of Depleted Uranium (DU)
photos: Dr. Jenan Hassan