Stephen Lendman
Depleted Uranium - A Hidden Looming Worldwide Calamity
Sun Nov 26, 2006 17:57

 

Depleted Uranium - A Hidden Looming Worldwide Calamity
by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, January 19, 2006


Forget about Avian (bird) flu. The threat of it becoming a pandemic is more a political scare tactic and potential bonanza for drug company profits and its major shareholders' net worth (including Gilead Sciences, the developer of the Tamiflu drug and its former Chairman and major shareholder Donald Rumsfeld) than a likely public health crisis - unless you live around infected chickens or take an unproven safe immunization shot. There are much more other likely killer bacterial and viral threats than Avian that get little attention. Don't worry about possible or unlikely threats. Worry about real ones. Bacteria and viruses untreatable by anti-biotics are good examples. So is global warming and many others. But, there's possibly one threat that tops all others both in gravity and because it's been deliberately concealed from the public - never discussed, explained or had any action taken to remediate it. It's the global threat from the toxic effects of depleted uranium (DU), and like global warming, DU has the potential to destroy all planetary life. How can something so potentially destructive be hidden and ignored and why?

THE ARROGANCE OF DOMINANCE

There's little dispute that the U.S. today is the preeminent world power and unlike any that ever preceded it. It now admits to being an empire. In fact, it's the first ever world global empire. To expand its reach and influence, it now spends nearly as much on its military as all other nations combined and has built and maintains a military capacity no other nation dare challenge. It also reserves for itself the sole right to develop and use the most dangerous and destructive weapons, even those banned from use by international law or custom. Some of those now in charge at the highest levels believe they have a divine right to use them, even a duty. George Bush may be one of them. A self-proclaimed and so-called born-again Christian, he says he gets his direction from the Almighty. That's real arrogance, the supreme kind only an unchallengeable power and its leaders dare arrogate to itself.

Up to now, the U.S. has effectively used its power to dominate other nations either by persuasion, economic isolation or conquest. We claim to be a model democracy, but our policies and actions prove otherwise. At home we're a democracy for the few - the privileged and powerful. It's they who govern and run our institutions including the most dominant one of all - the giant transnational corporations whose interests all administrations serve including waging war for their benefit. Wars are good for business - as long as they're easily winnable, the public supports them, and they don't cause undo economic stresses that may disrupt the economy, in which case they're bad for business.

There's a striking term often used in the plural and in a business context that's also appropriate more broadly. The term is "externalities." In business it refers to the unfortunate side effects or consequences of a company's action that may have a detrimental affect on others. A typical example is an industrial plant that produces a dangerous substance as an unsalable byproduct from its production process. To avoid the cost of disposal, storage or treatment, the plant dumps it into waterways, unused land areas or through smokestacks. In so doing it harms the environment. Wars also have "externalities" - with far greater consequences. Overall, death, disease and destruction are the best examples. But so are the dangerous residues and their side effects from the use of weapons like toxic chemicals, biological agents and all types of nuclear munitions. We're all aware of the danger from the first two categories, although when used they only affect small areas and are not "weapons of mass destruction." We've also seen the destructive capability of a nuclear bomb and have heard of DU. But, the public has little or no knowledge about the real danger and threat from the use of any nuclear device or substance. That information has been willfully and deliberately suppressed because the potential harm is so great and irreversible. Even when there's clear evidence of widespread problems as there was in the case of the Agent Orange effects on Vietnam veterans and "Gulf war syndrome" on the military from that conflict, our government has denied any connection and stonewalled efforts to help those in need - until they no longer could hide the truth and had to act.

Depleted uranium (DU) is a "dense metal" that increases its ability as a weapon to penetrate a target, thus enhancing its destructive capability. Pentagon propaganda and disinformation falsely describe all DU weapons as only being coated. In fact, they are solid missiles, bombs, shells and bullets weighing up to 5,000 pounds in a single "bunker buster" bomb. All these weapons have solid DU projectiles or warheads in them, and their use in combat as the U.S. military has done in 4 wars and is now doing every day in Iraq is the "de facto" use of nuclear bombs. From Nagasaki in 1945 until the 1991 Gulf War, these weapons were effectively banned by common consent (and common sense) and never used (except for one time in the 1973 Yom Kippur war). No longer.

Above I asked why are these weapons used if they're so deadly and dangerous well beyond the areas they target? The answer's simple - because they work so well, and the enemy forces attacked don't have them and can't retaliate against us with them. The fact that we understand the danger from their use and the "externalities" left in their wake is someone else's problem to deal with. Just like a public corporation worries only about meeting Wall Street estimates of next quarter's earnings, our government and the military only worry about winning the next battle and next war - too bad if in the process we irradiate the planet and threaten all future life on it. That's someone else's problem later on. That's how big business thinks and also how our political and military leaders do as well.

OUR PRECIOUS PLANET AND HOW BADLY WE TREAT IT

Today we're threatened by many natural and "man-made" disasters we could act to prevent but don't. To the ones mentioned above add polluted air, water and soil. Include the unsafe food we eat from the chemical and other contaminants and unsafe additives in them. Don't ignore ozone layer damage, deforestation, the destruction of precious natural habits and endangered species, the reckless ways we develop and use our natural resources including wasteful overuse of a finite supply of fresh water that could run out and is irreplaceable. And don't forget wars that get more recklessly destructive as new technologies and weapons are developed to fight them and powerful nations having them show no restraint in their use.

In November, 2005 this nation lost a great man unfortunately unknown to most of the public. His name was Vine Deloria, Jr, a renowned Native American intellect, historian, author, scholar and activist. With great eloquence Deloria spoke and wrote about how for all its existence the planet was well preserved by those who lived on it - until about 200 years ago when western technological development began and changed everything. It was then transformed from being pristine to poisoned. He expressed such great wisdom in his writings and talks, it's worth quoting. Below are some examples:

"Progress is the absolute destruction of the real world in favor of a technology that creates a comfortable way of life for a few fortunatelysituated people. Within our lifetime the differences between the Indian use of the land and the white use of the land will become crystal clear. The Indian lived with his land. The white destroyed his land, he destroyed the planet earth."

Deloria once said that Christian missionaries had "fallen on their knees and prayed for the Indians" before rising to "fall on the Indians and prey on their land." He also claimed the destruction wrought by corporate values and its technology was so damag that a return to Native American tribal standards and culture could be viewed as salvation.

He viewed a corporate run predatory society, like the U.S., as an "Adolph Eichmann of the plains", whose soldiers were tools "not defending civilization; they were crushing another society."

Deloria wrote 20 books, edited others, and published his memoirs and a two-volume set of U.S. - Native American treaties, all of which are devastating accounts of U.S. duplicity. Every treaty made was broken or ignored to this day, and the rights of our Native Indians willfully violated and trampled over through lies, deception and deceit. Just the latest example of this is in one of the accusations in the ongoing Jack Abramoff political and financial corruption scandal now making daily headlines. Abramoff, his partner, and other well-known Republicans are accused of bilking Indian casino gambling interests out of an estimated $85 million. Further, in his now disclosed emails, he referred to Native Americans as "monkeys, troglodites (people with a sub-human like nature), and idiots."

Deloria also wrote that unlike African Americans, Native Indians did not want to be equals in U.S. society. They wanted no part of it. Vine Victor Deloria, Jr., historian, scholar, activist and much more was born March 26, 1933 and died November 13, 2005. He will be missed.

The Industrial Revolution and its single-minded pursuit of profit (what Veblen called "the maximization of pecuniary interests") was Deloria's point. It produced along with it a vast array of toxins that have done untold ecological damage. The alarm was prominently sounded in Rachel Carson's landmark book "Silent Spring" published in 1962 that forced the banning of DDT, influenced President Jack Kennedy and led to legislation affecting our air, water and soil. It also launched an environmental movement that's grown into many and diverse advocacy groups that lobby and fight for environmental sanity and justice. Since Carson's time we know much more about the dangers we face, and we have many more of them. But despite our knowledge and the influence of many concerned scientists and a public supporting the need for a healthy environment, our political leaders from both parties, in service to the dominant corporate interests they serve, pay little more than lip service to this most important of issues along with war and peace. Although the Congress passed more than a dozen major environmental statutes and laws since the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, CERCLA establishing the Superfund to pay for toxic cleanups, the Endangered Species Act and more, those statutes have since been weakened or ignored. As a result, conditions today are much worse than 40 years ago and the dangers from them threaten our survival.

In his 2003 published book - "Hegemony or Survival" - Noam Chomsky cited the reflections of eminent biologist Ernst Mayr. Mayr observed that other species were better able to survive than humans and that the average life of a species is about 100,000 years. It's generally believed the human species has now about reached that limit and may be near becoming extinct. If so, and in light of our more recent behavior, we may, as Chomsky notes, turn out to be the only species ever to destroy ourselves and much else along with us.

THE NUCLEAR AGE CHANGED EVERYTHING

Since the atom was first split in a Berlin laboratory in 1938, the world has never been the same. The great scientist Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity was instrumental in the nuclear development that followed creating the atom bomb. But his greatest influence was the letter he sent to Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 urging him to build it. Einstein feared the Nazis might do it first with disastrous consequences. He later regretted his action and said: "I made one great mistake in my life....when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made...." He also said "our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." If he were alive today, what might Einstein say about the threat from depleted uranium (DU) which when weaponized is possibly the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. But even if he said it, would the public be allowed to hear him? And most important, would his words change anything?

DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) - WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT'S USED

To use uranium as a fuel for commercial reactors or for nuclear weapons it must be enriched. The enrichment process is then followed by gaseous diffusion in two streams - one is enriched and the other depleted. Before a use was found for it, DU was just stored in vast amounts as a byproduct. However, when it was discovered that solid "dense metal" DU projectiles in all forms (missiles, bombs, shells and bullets) greatly increased their ability to penetrate and destroy a target, the Pentagon had a new technology it hoped to use in combat and now has for the past 15 years.

The first DU weapon system was developed for the Navy in 1968, and DU weapons were first given to Israel for use in the 1973 Yom Kippur war under U.S. supervision. These weapons were later sold to 29 countries but never used until the 1991 Gulf War when the U.S. broke an international taboo prohibiting them. Since then the U.S. has fought wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and again in Iraq. In all these conflicts, thousands of tons of solid DU weapons have been used causing far more devastation thus far from its radiation and chemical toxins than from the targets destroyed and those killed in target areas. Worst of all, the lingering and spreading affects from DU contamination never end, resulting in all those exposed to it and their loved ones with whom they have intimate contact and their offspring the likelihood of having one or more of virtually any illness, disease or disability imaginable often leading to early death or at the least a lifetime of pain, suffering and great expense. In Orwellian language, DU is the (deadly and unwelcome) gift that keeps on giving - and killing.

USING DU AS A WEAPON IS ILLEGAL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

Poison gas in various forms was first used as a weapon in WW I by both sides. It's effects were deadly causing well over 1million total casualties and nearly 100,000 deaths. After the war, the revulsion over their use led to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and other succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions that specifically outlawed the use of chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason in war. The 1925 Geneva Convention Gas Protocol specifically prohibits the use of poison gas weapons. Although no Geneva Convention or other treaty bans the use of radioactive uranium weapons, including DU weapons, these weapons are, in fact, illegal de facto and de jure when judged by the standard of the Hague Convention of 1907 which prohibits use of any "poison or poisoned weapons." DU weapons in all their forms and uses are radioactive and chemically toxic, and thus clearly fit the definition of poisonous weapons banned under the Hague Convention. The U.S. is a signatory to the Hague and Geneva Conventions (which are binding treaties under international law). In using DU weapons in combat or for any purpose, the U.S. has violated its sacred treaty obligations and is guilty of a war crime. Further, all DU weapons also meet the U.S. federal code definition of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) in 2 out of 3 categories:

[The US CODE, TITLE 50, CHAPTER 40, SECTION 2302 defines a Weapon of Mass Destruction as follows: "The term 'weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is

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