Photo by Boksi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
60 years ago, a plane named the Enola Gay left the island of Tinian to drop its payload on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The first atomic weapon used in wartime, little was understood about the consequences of radiation when used on a civilian population. The devastation and atrocities suffered were unimaginable as much then as they are today.
As such, our “civilized” societies and governments have signed treaties and agreements that use of these types of weapons are seen as crimes against humanity. We are horrified as we study nuclear disasters and comprehend the magnitude of radiation and depleted uranium contamination on the human body.
Depleted uranium (DU) is actually uranium 238, left over after the fissionable element uranium 235 is extracted to be used as fuel for weapons and nuclear reactors. The US has accumulated 700,000 tons of depleted uranium over the last 60 years. It did not take long to implement a way to get rid of this unwanted material, once it was discovered that DU is so dense it can be used to pierce through the armor of tanks.
Deployment was never a question. The US military and coalition forces used these lethal weapons in both Iraq wars, dumping 350 tons of DU during Operation Desert Storm, and added 2000 tons of DU shells, bullets, and bombs during the 2003 to 2011 campaigns.
Democracy Now aired a graphic and compelling report that documented the reality of DU contamination and the effects it has had on the people of Iraq. In October, The Guardian published a report documenting the suspicion that the World Health Organization has worked toward covering up the nightmare unfolding in Iraq. Ignoring MOH reports from within Iraq and falsifying scientific reports are just the beginning.
Clearly, the US military and allied forces are using DU in weaponry today. DU has properties that, according to governments, are acceptable to use in wartime to pierce the enemy tanks and other equipment. We are just beginning to understand the long term effects DU is having, and clearly it presents as atrocious a result as the first atomic weapon did in 1945. The difference is that in 1945, all of humanity was horrified and vowed “Never Again.” Now, only the victims are horrified, and we claim this is done in the name of “peace keeping.”
How is using DU not a war crime?
The US claims to have entered Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction – yet the US and coalition forces are the ones who deployed tons of radioactive weaponry, left the fallout and now are covering it up to avoid admitting the action and paying the measly $34 million it would cost to clean up the Iraqi landscape.