|WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - "Afghan War Syndrome" is marked by a state of vague ailments and carcinomas, and is linked with the usage of Depleted Uranium as part of missiles, projectiles and bombs in the battlefield, a U.S. monthly paper reported.
In an extensive report, the Baltimore Chronicle said that there is a growing concern in central Asia that the United States has used depleted uranium in its strikes against Afghanistan.
"As a result of the current conflicts, people of Afghanistan, who had been dying of starvation up till now, are likely to savor a more modern mode of death: death owing to radioactive materials pulverized over barren mountains and harsh plains in modern world's war on terrorism," according to the monthly.
The fear, though, is that not only the Afghan people who will suffer, the paper added. There is a great possibility, according to the Chronicle, that the wind and rivers would carry the depleted uranium across Afghanistan's borders, putting the people in Pakistan - the staunchest U.S. ally on the "war on terrorism" - and other neighboring countries at risk of being exposed to the health hazard.
This is not the first time that the United States or its allies have used depleted uranium. The amount used in the Gulf War was approximately 100 times greater than the amount used in Kosovo, reported the Chronicle.
"Roughly half of the DU [depleted uranium] fired in the Gulf War was shot in Kuwait, to oust Iraqi occupation troops," said the paper. "Months of bombing of Iraq by U.S. and British planes and cruise missiles during the Gulf War has left behind an even more deadly and insidious legacy: tons of shell casings, bullets and bomb fragments laced with depleted uranium."
"As allied bombing was intense in part of southern Iraq, an epidemic of carcinomas has erupted in that area," the Chronicle added. "At present, the desert dust carries death all around southern Iraq."
Iraqi physicians have reported sharp increases in cancers such as lymphomas and leukemia in southern Iraq as well as an increase in birth defects, highlighting the effects of DU despite it being played down by the U.S. administration, the paper said.
"Since 1990, the incidence of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent. One Iraqi oncologist, who studied cases of rising leukemia among southern Iraqi populations, calls conditions in southern Iraq 'another Hiroshima.'"
"Most of the leukemia and cancer victims aren't soldiers," the Chronicle reported. They are civilians. And many of them are children. According to mortality figures compiled by UNICEF, as many as 180 children are dying every day in Iraq."
Because of the United Nations-sponsored embargo, Iraqi hospitals are short of drugs and equipment to face the endemic. Children are dying in their mothers' laps without food and pills. Iraqi physicians call it "the white death"- leukemia.
Depleted uranium was also used in the Balkans. In 1999 alone, NATO planes fired approximately 10 tons of DU into the former Yugoslavia, three percent of what was used in Iraq, said the paper.
Now fears of a "Balkan Syndrome" are raging across Europe. Medical teams in the region have already detected cancer clusters near the bombsites. The leukemia rate in Sarajevo, pummeled by American bombs in 1996, has tripled in the last five years.
However, the U.S. Defense Department doesn't want to admit that DU is harmful because they don't want the liability, the Chronicle said.
The Pentagon has shuffled through a variety of rationales and excuses. First, the Defense Department shrugged off concerns about DU as wild conspiracy theories by peace activists, environmentalists and Iraqi propagandists.
"When the U.S.'s NATO allies demanded that the U.S. disclose the chemical and metallic properties of its munitions, the Pentagon refused," the paper reported. "It has also refused to order the testing of U.S. soldiers stationed in the Gulf and the Balkans."
However, not only the citizens of these countries fall victim to depleted uranium. Many Gulf War veterans, plagued by a variety of illnesses, have been found to have traces of uranium in their bodies.
"The number of Gulf War vets who were in contact with radioactive tanks or breathed contaminated dust could be in tens of thousands," the paper said.
"The shadows of that war still haunt them," the Chronicle reported. "The world came to know about Gulf War Syndrome - a variety of mysterious ailments - when U.S. and allied soldiers returned to their home countries. With the exception of the U.S. defense establishment, everyone believes that this condition is a direct outcome of using DU in conflict."
The paper called depleted uranium the "Super Weapon of the 90s", explaining its fatal effects:
"It is not a weapon itself, but is a heavy metal used in the production of armaments. DU is a rather benign-sounding name for uranium-238, the trace elements left behind when the fissionable material is extracted from uranium-235 for use in nuclear reactors and weapons.
"For decades, this refuse was a radioactive nuisance, piling up at plutonium processing plants. By the late 1980s there was nearly a billion tons of this material - called tailings - left over in U.S. dumps.
"Then Pentagon weapons designers came up with a use for the tailings: they could be molded into bullets and bombs. The material was free, and there was plenty at hand.
"DU is a concern, however, because it is a byproduct of the process that is used to make nuclear power fuel or nuclear weapons. Although 'depleted' of its powerfully radioactive component, DU does still contain minute traces of radioactivity.
"When a hardened missile strikes a target and explodes, around 70% of the DU burns and oxidizes, bursting into minute particles that can be inhaled or ingested as dust. This can be harmful not only because of the residual radioactivity of the DU, which possibly could lead to cancer, but also because uranium itself, as a heavy metal, is toxic and can lead to kidney failure and other health problems.
"DU is toxic only if the dust is inhaled or ingested, or if DU-contaminated shrapnel enters the body. The inhaled lethal dust sticks to the fibers of the lungs and eventually begins to wreak havoc on the body: tumors, hemorrhages, ravaged immune systems, leukemias."
The dust spreads through air, water and also via people, and animals and mobile objects move over it, reported the Chronicle. It added that staying in a contaminated area is risky because one never knows how one might ingest a particle of DU oxide, and one particle is all one needs to become sick.
Dust particles don't disintegrate and are practically permanent, the paper said. "It means thousands of acres of land in the Balkans, Kuwait and southern Iraq have been contaminated forever. If our apprehension about the current war is correct, the Afghan terrain will suffer the same fate."
The Baltimore Chronicle added that the stockpiling of DU weapons is spreading, with more than 20 countries now having DU in their arsenals.
Report Says US Forces Used Depleted Uranium in Afghan War
By Islamonline and News Agencies
Posted on the Independent Newswire on 31 December 2001
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