Political foes unite on depleted uranium munitions
By Bob Nichols
Online Journal Contributing Writer
May 18, 2003—An amazing thing happened in Tulsa during the shooting part of the invasion of Iraq. Bitter political enemies representing the right and left wings of American politics agreed about the American forces' use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions in Iraq and subsequent wars.
On the flickering monitors of the online readers of Tulsa's leading conservative newszine, TulsaToday, agreed that DU-based shells and bombs are too dangerous to our own troops for general use. A letter was sent to General Tommy Franks requesting that the use of DU shells and bombs be stopped immediately and DU munitions use documented and tracked for later decontamination.
DU munitions include bullets, tank shells, bombs, and cruise missiles made with major proportions of uranium in the body of the shell or bomb. The well-known Abrams Tank's 130 mm main gun round contains just under 10 pounds of DU; a 2,000 lb bomb contains about 800 pounds of DU.
The DU from American nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons factories is given "free" to arms manufacturers and then sold back to the federal purchasing agents at the War Department as bullets, shells, bombs and cruise missiles.
Fully deployable Cruise Missiles cost the War Department about .3 million each. The U.S. used about 12,000 of the flying bombs and 2,000 lb "smart bombs" during the siege of Baghdad. That's up to 9,600,000 pounds of DU smoke and dust hanging in the radioactive dust cloud over Baghdad. That's a lot of lethal radioactive smoke.
The DU in the bullets, shells, bombs, and cruise missiles does not go away into nothingness upon impact or upon explosion. The DU merely changes into a breathable form from the force of the impact or explosion. The War Department thinks this is a "good thing."
DU is a heavy, pale yellow metal that is radioactive. The radioactivity level is so dangerous that federal government workers handling it to make shells and bombs have to wear protective clothing and equipment.
If you are looking at a definition of uranium on your monitor and right click on it to get the "properties," you'll notice that uranium is pyrophoric—it burns by itself—when it is hot enough and in the presence of oxygen. DU munitions ignite at about 600 degrees and burn at a rather towering 10,000 degrees Centigrade.
This is important to the War Department. The guaranteed metal high-temp fire assures that enemy tank crews are incinerated—fast. Then the super heated air shoots skyward where it scoots along on the desert winds for 25 miles or more with its payload of lethal radioactive microscopic particles.
The conservatives at TulsaToday.com are ably led by Stephen Nuchia. Your fearless writer, Bob Nichols, spoke up for the lefty progressives and centrists. Nuchia is unequivocally a hawk.
As Nuchia said in the letter to General Tommy Franks: "General, the principal author of this letter [Nuchia] is a patriot, an engineer, a former naval person, a student of history and a hawk. He would consider it treason to attempt to divert your attention from the conduct of combat operations unless he had reason to believe the matter both gravely important and urgently relevant."
Nuchia goes on to urge the Franks to immediately issue these four orders:
DU munitions represent a potential near term and long term hazard to personnel and the environment. While the magnitude of this hazard is unknown and disputed, it is the policy of this command to minimize the use of DU whenever it does not interfere with mission performance to do so.
Therefore, DU will be used only in direct support of troops actually engaged and against hard targets of very high value.
Whenever possible, "walking" DU weapons onto a target is to be avoided in favor of measured, aimed fire.
All DU rounds expended are to be accounted for using procedures comparable to those for land mines. Because it is conceivable that target areas will need to be decontaminated in the future, we will keep the most detailed and accurate records possible . . .
Nuchia added "This war is being fought, in part, to eliminate the threat of chemical and radiological weapons. It would be tragic if history comes to regard the weapons we use in this war as chemical and radiological time bombs . . . If we fail to use these weapons with restraint and accountability I fear history, as well as generations of Iraqis unborn, will curse our names."
When all is told, the American forces have used weapons containing uranium and plutonium five times since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in 1945, on August 6 and 9 respectively. There was to be a period of 46 years before the United States again used weapons containing uranium. It was in the first Gulf War.
The U.S. continued to use DU weapons in Bosnia 1995, Yugoslavia/Serbia in 1999, and in Afghanistan from October 2001. The U.S. is alone in the world in justifying the continued use of DU bullets, shells, bombs, and missiles. The most recent and visible defection from the radioactive forces is the United Kingdom. The British Ministry of Defence has already conceded that it has a moral obligation to assist in the cleanup in Iraq after its attack by nuclear forces.
Nuclear cleanup is a bit of a problem though. First, the clean-up teams are looking for thousands of tons of dust and rock-like chunks in a sandy desert country. Second, the only clean-up team sent in after the First Gulf War suffers now from radiation poisoning and a 30 percent death rate (2002 statistics), and, it is climbing.
The gaseous particles are so small that the funny looking [standard] gas masks are useless. But the U.S. has an Achilles Heel. The treasured DU bullets, shells, bombs, and cruise missiles must be used by those willing to die a long and painful death from radiation poisoning. It is like the gladiator's salute in the Roman empire.
More than 50 percent or 300,000 of the brave American troopers in the First Gulf War are now disabled by the mysterious Gulf War Syndrome.1 The symptoms are the same as radiation poisoning.
There are no chances of hoping it will go away or you can outlive it. The DU dust stays radioactive a majestic 45 billion years. Many think the 640,000 lbs of DU dust from DU bullets, shells, bombs, and cruise missiles used in GWI are the cause.
Talk to any of your acquaintances, right, left, or center, about the DU shells and bombs. Our troops are breathing the DU dust from them right now in Iraq. Then tell them in a quiet steady voice "There is no treatment. This a death sentence for our troops serving our country. This ain't right. Help me change it."2 Sign them up, make a list, send the list to me.
If you think the U.S. must delete these DU bullets, shells, bombs, and cruise missiles from its munitions inventory, contact this writer, Bob Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org
. I'll pass all conservative writers on to my good friend and bitter political enemy, that famous patriot and conservative, Steve Nuchia. Just say "for the Conservative one" or "the Lefty" at the top.
1. "Gulf War Illnesses Affect 300,000 Vets," Ellen Tomson, Pioneer Press. See also American Gulf War Veterans Association. (Fifty percent, this is the highest number yet, as of May 1, 2003. The number affected keeps growing. A year ago, it was 30 percent. Watch this space for periodic reports.
2. Nichols Note: Steady now. This discussion can get real serious, real quick when someone in the group has a family member, acquaintance, or friend in the on the ground in the Iraq war zone. Remember, there is no treatment. Do not hold out false hope. Enlist them to help us rid the War Department inventories of this deadly radioactive metal.
Bob Nichols is a writer living and working in Oklahoma. He is a member of CASE (Citizens' Action for Safe Energy) and president of the Carrie Dickerson Foundation. CASE has sucessfully killed two serious, well-funded attempts to build Nuclear Power Plants in Oklahoma and several attempts to site what is now known as the "Yucca Mountain Reactor Dump" in Oklahoma. http://onlinejournal.com/Commentary/051803Nichols/051803nichols.html
The 29th May is the Second International Day of Action Against Depleted Uranium.