Ban the use of depleted uranium

SUSPECTED LINKS between the use of bombs and bullets containing depleted uranium in Kosovo and Bosnia, in 1999 and 1994-5, respectively, and the worrying increase in the occurrence of leukaemia, lymphomas and various types of cancer among troops serving there have rightly caused an uproar in Europe.

We join all those who are calling for clear and effective international legal instruments to forbid the use of depleted uranium ammunition: The damage that uranium dust can inflict and has inflicted on people — soldiers and civilians alike — who breathe it, as well as to the environment, polluting the water and entering the food chain, is tantamount to the effects of other types of weapons of mass destruction that are currently banned.

We find the use of depleted uranium weapons appalling, and as if war was not sufficiently undignified, it added to our outrage to learn that uranium can easily be replaced by other metals, like tungsten, with even "better" results as to the preciseness and performance of the ammunition, and "less risks" to the environment and human beings alike.

But another consideration is perhaps even more disturbing: The international debate and scare on the use of depleted uranium weapons in the Balkans have proven yet again that the international community and public opinion deem that not all human lives are worth the same.

The West is rightly outraged by the 20 young lives of soldiers prematurely ended by depleted uranium. But who has until now moved a finger for the additional 2,000 cases of cancer, 75 per cent of which among children, registered in Iraq annually, surpassing by 50 per cent the pre-Gulf War averages?

Baghdad has long denounced the atrocious effects of depleted uranium bombs on its population, but especially children, and said the number of congenital deformities in infants had sharply increased since Desert Storm.

When in 1998 Iraq first asked the United Nations to conduct an official investigation on the impact of depleted uranium weapons on water, the environment and local communities, the US and Great Britain dismissed its claims as baseless and unfounded.

Everyone should know that, if NATO troops shot some 31,000 and 10,800 depleted uranium ammunition rounds in Kosovo and Bosnia, respectively, the destructive power unleashed on Iraq, and especially southern cities like Basra, has remained unmatched.

By admission of the Pentagon, US-led air strikes dropped some 944,000 depleted uranium ammunition rounds over Iraq.

More than a "syndrome," we would call the effects of such fury an outright catastrophe.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Gulf War, we believe that the public in the so-called "developed world" needs to be informed, beyond governments' and militaries' propaganda, about what really happened in Iraq over those two months and the 10 years that followed.

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