The question of whether Depleted Uranium is being used in Libya has been a sensitive issue from the outset – and an issue raised by alternative media from the onset of NATO bombing.
Although DU weapons – if used – would represent a small component of the vast arsenal deployed by US, UK and French forces in this war, Depleted Uranium is a matter of particular sensitivity. That’s especially true on the ‘green’ side of politics.
9,000 bombing sorties later (plus Tomahawk missiles, drones - and now attack helicopters), do the Australian Greens REALLY still support NATO's "moves to protect the beleaguered people" of Libya?
Here in Australia, for example, the national leadership of the Australian Greens rushed to support NATO’s attacks on Libya back in March – ducking questions from the public about whether DU was being used in the conflict.
Since then, the leadership has not, to my knowledge, wavered in its support for NATO’s bombing extravaganza, despite a rising chorus of anguished appeals from the public. The media don’t seem to have quizzed the Greens on the subject, but given the Australian media shares the same pro-war agenda, why would they bother?
Yet it would be hard indeed for Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown and his Deputy Christine Milne to withstand party anger and ‘stay the course’ on Libya – if it turned out the military action they’d supported, supposedly to ‘protect civilians’ – was in reality poisoning the North African environment with highly persistent radioactive toxins.
It seems the Australian Greens Senators and their staffers can make mental contortions to justify why bombing Gadhafi’s grandchildren, or a Tripoli school for disabled children, or a group of religious leaders assembled for a peacemaking initiative, or Libyan hospitals, are all acceptable ways of “protecting civilians”. But depositing DU in the dusty atmosphere of Libya? Now surely that’s too much for any conservationist to shrug off?
For the most part, spokespeople for NATO and the individual aggressor nations have avoided giving straight answers to the very occasional questions they’ve had about the use of DU in Libya. The closest to a real answer I’ve noticed so far was the response received by the valiant lone Green Party MP in the British Parliament, Dr Caroline Lucas, back in mid-April. UK Defence Minister Dr Liam Fox replied for the British Government:
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what discussions he has had with his counterparts in (a) the US Administration and (b) the governments of other countries forming the coalition for military action in Libya on policy on the use of depleted uranium weapons; and how that policy (a) is applied to and (b) will apply in operations in Libya.
Liam Fox: The Government’s policy is that depleted uranium (DU) can be used within weapons. It is not prohibited under current or likely future international agreements. The UK’s armed forces use all munitions in accordance with international humanitarian law. It would be quite wrong to deny our serving personnel a legitimate and effective capability. The only DU munition in service with our armed forces is the Charm 3 antitank round fired from the Challenger 2 tank. With no deployed ground forces it follows that none of the weapons supplied to UK armed forces for uses over Libya contain DU. Other nations may choose to use DU munitions fired from aircraft guns against armoured targets if they have that capability but that is a choice for them alone to make.
Note that Dr Fox explicitly said: “The only DU munition in service with our (British) armed forces is the Charm 3 antitank round fired from the Challenger 2 tank”
What then to make of the following report on Iran’s Press TV, in which independent scientist and radiation expert Leuren Moret said:
The U.S. and the British as of March 21st had fired a 112 Tomahawk missiles, those are from Navy ships and this was fired at Libya. The warhead in the Tomahawk missile is 360 kilos of Depleted uranium so in those 112 Tomahawk missiles that would have been 40, 312 Kilos of Depleted Uranium
Listen to the interview with Dr Moret here
I should note that the current use of DU in Tomahawk missiles is disputed – as are the long-term environmental dangers posed by Depleted Uranium. Plenty of experts deny both. This recent article by Professor Massimo Zucchetti - Cruise missiles with depleted uranium on Libya: A first assessment of environmental impact and health - conveys some of the complexity of the debate. Above all, it’s complex because of the shocking lack of honesty and transparency on the part of so many governmental officials who deal with the subject.
If Leuren Morret is correct, more than 40 tonnes of DU have already been dropped on Libya. Professor Zucchetti’s worst case scenario posits a tonnage ten times as great – 400 tonnes!
By basic standards of common decency – if not the mangled convolutions of what currently passes for international law – dropping ANY amount of this appalling stuff on Libya is a major crime against humanity’s future. Then there’s the little question of whether the UK Secretary of State for Defence lied to the British Parliament. Lying to Parliament is still regarded as a sacking offence for Ministers – even in this day and age.
Let’s hope Dr Lucas follows up in the House of Commons. If Fox lied to Parliament about Britain’s non-use of DU he should quit.
Of course, the British Government may well continue to lie about DU. It has a long history of doing so - as does the USA. The pattern of systematic deceit was reported in Australia’s mainstream media years ago – see Washington’s Secret Nuclear War.
Here’s a brief extract from the FAQs on the website of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons
There are doubts over exactly which conflicts DU has been used in. This is because governments have often initially denied using DU. Governments have admitted so far that DU was used on a large scale by the US and the UK in the Gulf War in 1991, subsequently in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo NATO, and again in the war in Iraq by the US and the UK in 2003.
Could it be that Leuren Moret is one of these flakey characters who inhabit the fringes of serious debate because they play fast and lose with facts? Her detractors probably say so – and certainly she doesn’t get much coverage in the western mainstream media.
But commentators like Ms Moret, who’ve been around a while, give warnings and make predictions that history records. One way of gauging their credibility is to refer to what they’ve said in the past. So I turned with interest to the Japan Times, one major newspaper that does have an article by Moret available on-line. This is how it described her:
Leuren Moret is a geoscientist who worked at the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory on the Yucca Mountain Project, and became a whistle-blower in 1991 by reporting science fraud on the project and at Livermore. She is an independent and international radiation specialist, and the Environmental Commissioner in the city of Berkeley, Calif. She has visited Japan four times to work with Japanese citizens, scientists and elected officials on radiation and peace issues.
That happened to be Moret’s byline for an article published by the Japan Times back in 2004. The title? Japan’s deadly game of nuclear roulette. Here’s a poignant extract:
Of all the places in all the world where no one in their right mind would build scores of nuclear power plants, Japan would be pretty near the top of the list.
The Japanese archipelago is located on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, a large active volcanic and tectonic zone ringing North and South America, Asia and island arcs in Southeast Asia. The major earthquakes and active volcanoes occurring there are caused by the westward movement of the Pacific tectonic plate and other plates leading to subduction under Asia.
Fukushima Daiichi Explosion, March 2011
Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates, at the edge of the subduction zone, and is in one of the most tectonically active regions of the world. It was extreme pressures and temperatures, resulting from the violent plate movements beneath the seafloor, that created the beautiful islands and volcanoes of Japan.
Nonetheless, like many countries around the world — where General Electric and Westinghouse designs are used in 85 percent of all commercial reactors — Japan has turned to nuclear power as a major energy source. In fact the three top nuclear-energy countries are the United States, where the existence of 118 reactors was acknowledged by the Department of Energy in 2000, France with 72 and Japan, where 52 active reactors were cited in a December 2003 Cabinet White Paper.
The 52 reactors in Japan — which generate a little over 30 percent of its electricity — are located in an area the size of California, many within 150 km of each other and almost all built along the coast where seawater is available to cool them.
However, many of those reactors have been negligently sited on active faults, particularly in the subduction zone along the Pacific coast, where major earthquakes of magnitude 7-8 or more on the Richter scale occur frequently. The periodicity of major earthquakes in Japan is less than 10 years. There is almost no geologic setting in the world more dangerous for nuclear power than Japan — the third-ranked country in the world for nuclear reactors.
“I think the situation right now is very scary,” says Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and professor at Kobe University. “It’s like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.”
Of course, the warnings of Moret and the scientists whose views she reported were ignored at the time. Media-promoted ‘experts’ – people we are expected to take seriously – assured everyone who asked that safety standards in Japan’s nuclear industry were impeccable. (And after all, General Electric does own a major US TV network).
Senator Christine Milne on Libya, ABC TV QandA, 21st March 2011
Truth has always been the first casualty in war – and it was a casualty of the nuclear industry from the get-go. When war and the nuclear industry combine in a death embrace – as in the cases of atomic weapons and Depleted Uranium – official spin goes into hyperdrive.
That’s one very sound reason why the environment movement – and its political offshoot, the Greens Party – have a long and consistent record of opposition to (a) war and (b) nuclear energy.
Bob Brown, Christine Milne and MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt clearly get the second part of that proposition.
But on foreign affairs, the leadership seem to inhabit a make-believe world which has more to do with Enid Blyton stories than the reality of a hyper-militarised western world, hijacked by people who are utterly ruthless and to whom lying about matters of life and death is simply routine.
More Leuren Moret: Attack on Iran would result in India feeling nuked (Feb 2007)
Russia Today interview with Conn Hallinan of Foreign Policy in Focus (April 2011)
Extract from: Rise in birth deformities blamed on Allies’ deadly weaponry
By Nigel Morris (The Independent, UK) 13 May 2004
The number of babies born deformed and children suffering leukaemia have soared because of the “deadly legacy” of depleted uranium shells used by British and American forces in Iraq, human rights campaigners claimed yesterday.
Releasing details of health problems and human rights violations suffered by Iraqi children in the past year, they claim the country’s youngsters faced a worse existence today than they did under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
Depleted uranium was widely used by Allied forces to penetrate Iraqi tank armour in the Gulf Wars of 1991 and again last year.
Opponents claim the dust it releases upon impact is rapidly absorbed into the body, causing an upsurge of serious health problems inherited by Iraqi children during the past 13 years from their parents.
Caroline Lucas speaks at an anti-war demonstration, Trafalgar Square London, 2003
Caroline Lucas, a Green Party Euro-MP who recently visited Basra, said doctors there had told her that the number of children born with severe deformities, such as shortened limbs or eye defects, had increased sevenfold since 1991. In addition they were treating several new cases of leukaemia every week – before 1991 the condition was very rare.
“Women in Basra are afraid to become pregnant because there are so many deformed babies,” she said. “We are leaving a deadly legacy for generations to come.”
She made the claims at the launch in London of a new charity, Child Victims of War (CVW), to help Iraqi youngsters “innocently suffering malnutrition, disease, disability and psychological trauma”.
The amount of depleted uranium used by coalition forces in the two Gulf Wars is not known, but some estimates suggest it was 300 tons in 1991 and five times as much last year.
CVW says the number of Iraqi babies born with serious deformities has risen from 3.04 per thousand in 1991 to 22.19 per thousand in 2001. Babies born with Downs Syndrome have increased nearly fivefold and there had been a rash of cases of previously little-known eye problems.
The Ministry of Defence insists depleted uranium poses a “minimal” risk to civilians….