Depleted democracy and other weapons of war
by Robert T. Nanninga
laiming to rid Iraq of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction the United States military has deployed weapons of mass destruction aimed at the genetic fiber of the Iraqi people. Since beginning of Desert Storm in 1991, and culminating in the blitzkrieg of Baghdad of 2003, the people of Iraq have been subjected to a campaign of diplomatic genocide being waged under the flag of altruism.
Scoring another first in the history of warfare, the United States was the first nation to include depleted uranium (DU) weapons in combat as part of the first Golf War. Firing 900 thousand DU missiles and rockets from ships and aircraft, the military under the command of George Herbert Walker Bush radiated the Iraqi people.
The Pentagon admits to using about 300 tons of depleted uranium in the first Gulf War. Independent estimates suggests about 1,000 tons may have been used. I'm certain such discrepancies mean little to the dead and dying of Iraq. Or the people of Afghanistan, who also got a taste of American kindness when cities and villages were used for target practice by US soldiers with DU weapons during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Depleted uranium is material that remains when enriched fissionable uranium that is, capable of generating a nuclear explosion or nuclear power is separated from natural uranium. The US stockpile exceeds a billion pounds. Considering toxic waste has to go somewhere, compassionate conservatives in the Pentagon decided weaponizing such deadly refuse was the answer.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, to ethically challenged bomb makers, uranium weapons production is seen as recycling. And although DU is not as radioactive as naturally occurring uranium 40% less it still has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. It's ironic that the US is using nuclear weapons to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons, and deploying dirty bombs to prevent the use of dirty bombs.
Now, I'm sure many readers are wondering how radiating an entire nation even remotely resembles liberation. Both radioactive and toxic, uranium oxide particles formed during production, testing, and battlefield use pose a long-term threat to human health and the environment. Sadly the only liberation resulting from the use of uranium weapons is the kind of liberty that comes at the end of a slow and agonizing death.
As part of the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom, United States forces are firing weapons hardened with depleted uranium from the US M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks, from Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and from A10 ground attack aircraft known as the tank-busters. British Challenger tanks are also firing weapons using DU.
Ticking time bombs waiting to be encountered by US soldiers and Iraqi civilians, the ingestion of even minute quantities of uranium in food or drinking water can cause irreparable damage to the kidneys. Some experts consider this to be a greater risk than radiation from depleted uranium. Once ingested, toxic particles have a tendency to settle in kidneys, bones and liver of those affected. Inhalation will result in the eventual lung cancers associated with uranium exposure.
In pregnant women, absorbed uranium can cross the placenta wall into the bloodstream of the developing fetus, causing horrific fetal deformities, including additional abnormal organs, hydrocephaly, anencephaly, eye diseases, and the total absence of eyes. Young children are particularly vulnerable to cancers of all kinds, with leukemia being the most common. The list goes on.
Preparing this column, I listened to Pacifica Radio online while reading the New York Times. In a macabre sense of synergy, print and broadcast journalism converged on the Tigris River with reports of US troops and tanks firing depleted uranium rounds into the riverbank. I couldn't help but think about the legacy of radiation being discharged into that vital river system. By polluting the river and all the communities downstream, the United States has guaranteed the killing will continue long after Uncle Sam has begun liberating Syria, Iran, and Lebanon.
There is a classic image from Saturday Night Live's first season when a voice behind a closed door identifies itself as a candy gram. When Lorraine Newman warily opens the door the land shark attacks and drags her head first into the hall. Of course that was satire and slapstick, wholly meant to be funny.
Unfortunately for the world, the candy gram known as corporate imperialism is deadly serious and this time the land sharks are hiding behind the American flag.
My heart breaks.
Robert Nanninga is a free-lance writer, producer and environmental journalist. A native of Vista living in Leucadia, he Chairs San Diego ZPG, as well as representing coastal North County on the Green County Council.