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Depleted Uranium Radiation

Depleted Uranium Radiation

April 8, 2008

Depleted Uranium Radiation

A COUPLE OF WEEKS before the
outbreak of war in Iraq, I travelled
with a cross-party group of MEPs to
Baghdad and Basra to see for myself
the effects on ordinary Iraqi people of
the last Gulf War and 12 years of
crippling sanctions, and to try to assess
the likely humanitarian impact of
another war.

I found a country on its knees – its

economy was in tatters, teachers,

doctors and other professionals were
being paid so little that some were
forced to abandon their jobs to take any
opportunities to make a living and
malnutrition was affecting one child in
three. Parts of the country were still
reeling from of the ongoing effects of
the widespread use of Depleted
Uranium {DU) munitions by British
and American forces during the 1991
    Depleted uranium is used to
produce missiles capable of penetrating
armoured vehicles or underground
bunkers – but their use produces
radioactive dust that travels in the air
and is inhaled by nearby residents for
years after their initial use.
    Even before this latest military
misadventure, Iraq’s children were still
suffering the consequences of the DUtipped
warheads that rained down on
their country over a decade ago.
    Basra, in the South of Iraq, was one
of the places worst hit by the effects of
such radiation. I visited the Basra
Maternity and Paediatric Hospital. It
was a harrowing experience, where I
was shown the most shocking
photographs of babies born with
terrible congenitall malformations.


“Women are afraid of becoming
pregnant in this city,” Dr Jasim, the
hospital’s chief oncologist told me.
“Before 1991, we had no leukemias at
this hospital. Now we sometimes have
four or five in one week”.
    During my visit I learned the
devastating scale of the suffering
caused by DU: that Iraqi children were
seven times more likely to be born with
leukaemia or birth defects than before
the Gulf War.
    Researchers in Basra, near Iraq’s
border with Kuwait, have directly
blamed the shocking increase on allied
forces’ use of depleted uranium (DU)
weapons in 1991.
    The incidence of congenital
malformations per 1,000 births in
Basra rose from 3.04 in 1991 to 22.19
in 2001, according to the report
‘Depleted Uranium and Health:
Incidence and Pattern of Congenital
Abnormalities Among Births in Basra
    The report also shows childhood
leukaemias in and around the city have
doubled over the same period and the
total number of children suffering from
malignant disease such as lymphoma
and brain tumours rose threefold
between 1990 and 1999.
    These figures make a mockery of
Tony Blair’s desperate and
increasingly isolated justification that
war was a moral duty to help the Iraqi
    No wonder that the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud
Lubbers, warned that a war on Iraq
would be “a disaster from the
humanitarian perspective” – and that
the UN Sub-Commission on Human
Rights has ruled the use of DU
m u n i t i o n s illegal for their
indiscriminate effects on civilians, a
ruling which has been simply ignored
by military planners in the UK and US.
    When innocent, even unborn,
children suffer the effects of war for
many years to come, it becomes
completely impossible for Blair and
Bush to pretend they were driven by a
desire to protect and enhance the lives
of Iraqi civilians.
    Despite these findings, and the
increasingly well – documented
indiscriminate risks to human health
posed by DU, the weapons were widely
used during the most recent conflict.
Neither the US or UK Governments
have vet. nnhlished details of where
they were used, details urgently
required by humanitarian agencies
and health workers struggling to limit
their post-war impact on civilians.
    The MoD has simply stated: “DU
will remain part of our arsenal for the
foreseeable future because we have a
duty to provide our troops with the best
available equipment”.
    But British troops may not thank
the ministry for its decision:
thousands of Gulf War veterans are
estimated to be suffering from illnesses
resulting from the last conflict and
large numbers are already making the
same claims this time around.
    Please contact your MP today
regarding the use of depleted uranium
in British armaments.

by Caroline Lucas ( GREEN MEP )

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