By John LaForge
This Commentary is Unpublished
Like earlier Pentagon denials of the dangers of the Vietnam Era defoliant Agent Orange, the U.S. military now claims publicly that its uranium munitions -- made from waste uranium-238 and sometimes called depleted uranium (DU) -- are not known to cause health problems. Yet the strongest evidence to the contrary comes from its own reports.
According to a June 1995 report to Congress by the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute (USAEPI), "Depleted uranium is a radioactive waste and, as such, should be deposited in a licensed repository." To put the issue frankly, the U.S. has been shooting this radioactive waste at people all over the world: At testing ranges in the U.S., So. Korea and on Vieques Island; at civilian populations in Iraq (380 tons in 1991; 170 tons in 2003), Afghanistan in 2001 (amounts unknown), Kosovo in 1999 (10 tons) and Bosnia in 1994-95 (5 tons).
On August 16, 1993, the U.S. department of the Army's Office of the Surgeon General issued its "Depleted Uranium (DU) Safety Training" manual. The document plainly says the expected effects of DU exposure include possible increase of cancer (lung and bone) and kidney damage. It recommends "…that you convene a working group to define competing risks of combat with DU weapons, to identify countermeasures against DU exposure …"
(to examine the full text for possible publication, contact us).
-- LaForge is on the staff of Nukewatch and edits its quarterly newsletter. A draft version of these remarks was presented Feb. 14 to the Standing Committee on Defense of the Dutch Parliament in The Hague.