From April to June 2000, the Hiroshima newspaper Chugoku Shimbun published a series of 46 articles on the problem of depleted uranium (DU), which are available in English at the web site below. -- The series, directed by Akira Tashiro, is divided into six parts: -- Part 1: On the Wrong Side of a Superpower [U.S.]; -- Part 2: The Threat in Our Backyards [U.S.]; -- Part 3: Contaminated Earth [U.S.]; -- Part 4: Heavy Burden for an Ally [U.K.]; -- Part 5: The Scars of War [Iraq]; -- Part 6: Finishing the Story. -- It was published in book form in 2001 and is available for $12. -- Discounted Casualties has been called "a sophisticated and successful exploration of the biological and social impacts of DU," and won the Japan Congress of Journalism prize. -- (NOTE: For more recent scientific evidence on the danger of DU, see the summary of a recent review of the scientific literature by Dr. Rosalie Bertell that appeared in the International Journal of Health Services. -- Dr. Bertell explains in considerable detail the mechanisms by which DU appears to be working its insidious but lethal effects. -- Thirteen thousand American veterans of the Gulf War have died in the past 16 years, though only 250 U.S. soldiers were killed in the war itself. -- Bertell's article also begins to explain how it is that early researchers failed to grasp DU's toxic properties, which depend on aerosolized nanoparticles.) ...
By Akira Tashiro
** DU Munitions = Serious Radiation Exposure -- Gulf War: U.S., U.K. fire 950,000 rounds **
Chugoku Shimbun (Hiroshima, Japan)
April 4-July 13, 2000
During the Gulf War in 1991, U.S. and U.K. forces used a new weapon against Iraq. This new weapon, the depleted uranium (DU) projectile, is radioactive. Unlike atomic or hydrogen bombs, it involves no nuclear fusion or fission, but nine years after the end of the war, adverse health effects from DU exposure continue to manifest among military personnel and civilians in Iraq where the fighting took place, and among U.S. and British veterans and their families. As I traveled through the U.S., U.K., and Iraq to cover this story, I was confronted at every turn by the sad and frightening specter of "discounted casualties" -- people exposed to depleted uranium and other toxic substances, and now tormented by leukemia and a whole array of chronic disorders.
[See link above for links to stories in this series; titles listed below]
Part 1 -- On the Wrong Side of a Superpower [U.S.]
1 -- Friendly fire -- Body full of shrapnel and bone cancer
2 -- Battlefield tour -- No mention of contamination
3 -- Secondary contamination -- Wife harmed through intercourse
4 -- A delayed casualty -- Suicideafter 8 years of pain
5 -- A 27-minute life - Son born with congenital defect
6 -- Army Nurse -- Immunity lost at front
7 -- Educational videosuppressed -- Military fears public reaction
8 -- Laws for veterans -- Inadequate treatment and compensation
9 -- Defense Department -- "No scientificconnection to disease"
10 -- Lobbying activities - Seeking causes and compensation
Part 2 -- The Threat in Our Backyards [U.S.]
1 -- Careless dumping -- Polluting factory near residential area
2 -- Removal of contamination -- High costs, dim prospects
3 -- Death at 30 -- High cancer rate in daughter's generation
4 -- An epidemiologist's view -- State's highest cancer rates
5 -- Concerned citizens -- Grassroots push for a manufacture ban
6 -- Indefinite strike -- Angered by the noxious work environment
7 -- Health damage -- Cancer, joint pain, and other maladies
8 -- Closed factory -- Particles drift over 26 miles
Part 3 -- Contaminated Earth [U.S.]
1 -- Disclosure -- Test firing of radioactive weapons
2 -- Minority residents -- Keeping quiet to keep the pay check
3 -- Open air -- Denial of atmospheric firing
4 -- The essence of nuclear reliance -- The state, the university, the corporations
5 -- Negative legacy -- 80 years of serious contamination
6 -- Sierra Army Depot -- 20 times more DU than was used in the Gulf War
7 -- Family fighting illness -- Sick wife and daughter
Part 4 -- Heavy Burden for an Ally [U.K.]
1 -- The territorial army -- Serving the country, paying a high price
2 -- A husband's death -- Increasingly ill since the Gulf War
3 -- Congenital disorders -- Harming the unborn
4 -- Private contractor -- War pension denied
5 -- Parliament member's journal -- Opposing development in the Cabinet
6 -- Ministry of Defence -- Denial of impact on health
7 -- Science advisor -- Impact of toxins on semen
8 -- Veterans Association -- Fighting the country, ready to sue
Part 5 -- The Scars of War [Iraq]
1 -- Radiation treatment -- Two facilities in the entire country
2 -- Environmental contamination -- Still serious in the south
3 -- A doctor's suffering -- Increasing cancer -- All-out effort to save lives
4 -- Gulf war veterans -- Suddenly ill after the war
5 -- Congenital abnormalities -- High incidence among veterans' children
6 -- Epidemic among doctors -- Even colleagues getting breast cancer
7 -- Near the national border -- Still the shells of destroyed tanks
8 -- Research center -- Collecting information to prove damage
Part 6 -- Finishing the Story
1 -- Spreading health problems -- Cancer increasing
2 -- The deteriorating environment -- Spreading radioactive contamination
3 -- The legal perspective -- Clear violation of humanitarian law
4 -- Movement to ban DU -- Collaboration spreading around the world
5 -- The role of Hiroshima -- Calls and actions for abolition
DISCOUNTED CASUALTIES -- THE HUMAN COST OF DEPLETED URANIUM
** About a book by Akira Tashiro **
On Target Britain
June 14 & 28, 2003
Akira Tashiro is an investigative reporter for the Hiroshima daily *Chugoku Shimbun* and focussing on the history and diffusion of Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions. The book takes us on a global odyssey from the United States to the United Kingdom, through Iraq, Kosovo, and Okinawa. Crude uranium ore undergoes an "enrichment" process to extract highly radioactive Uranium-235, used for nuclear weapons and reactors. The by product of this process is Uranium-238 metal, or DU, of which more than half a million tons have been produced since the 1940s.
In the 1960s, the United States military noted that certain properties of DU -- namely, its high density and flammability -- might make it useful for projectiles. It could also be acquired free of charge from the Department of Energy. In the 1970s, production of DU munitions began. They were first used in combat during the Gulf War, and some 950,000 DU rounds were fired from tanks and aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.
Although the Pentagon apparently knew about the potential hazards of DU as early as the 1970s, no information or training was given to Gulf War soldiers. The result? Out of nearly 700,000 participating United States troops, approximately 436,000 entered areas contaminated by DU shells. Thousands of veterans died in the years following the war, and many others fell ill to leukaemia, lung cancer, kidney and liver disorders, joint pain, and congenital birth defects.
In a series of harrowing chapters, Tashiro presents a drama played out on various stages. "On the Wrong Side of a Superpower" tells the story of individual Gulf War veterans and their illnesses. One young veteran from New Mexico describes how 25 chunks of radioactive shrapnel were removed from his body (the result of so called "friendly fire") and how he later developed a bone tumor. A female veteran from California, exposed days after United States forces destroyed thousands of vehicles on the "Highway of Death" between Kuwait City and Basra (in southern Iraq), began suffering from headaches, sore joints, and extremely heavy menstrual bleeding in mid-1991. Yet another veteran, a native Oklahoman, apparently transmitted DU particles to his young wife through sexual contact. She now suffers from abdominal pains, miscarriages, and severe menstrual pains.
During the 1970s and 1980s, DU munitions were produced in a number of places in the United States. "The Threat in Our Backyards" examines the effects of DU production in suburban Concord, Massachusetts, a town in upstate New York, and a factory in northeastern Tennessee. By weaving together the experiences of residents and workers exposed to DU and the work of environmental analysts, epidemiologists, and nuclear scientists, Tashiro invites readers to draw links between the sites of DU munitions production and increased rates of cancer, tumors, and birth defects.
"Heavy Burden for an Ally" examines the human costs borne by exposed British Gulf War veterans. Of the 53,000 British soldiers sent to the Middle East in 1991, approximately 30,000 were stationed on the front lines. Since then, nearly 500 veterans have died and 6,000 more complain of physical problems similar to those of their counterparts in the United States.
Perhaps the most graphic chapter in the book is the penultimate "The Scars of War," set in post-war Iraq. The statistics presented by local health officials are staggering. Cancer rates have skyrocketed. In Basra, the number of people who have died of cancer in hospitals has increased more than tenfold since the late 1980s. Leukaemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, and birth defects, once rare, are now common in the south of the country. Cancer cases and congenital birth defects have increased from three to four times since the end of the Gulf War. Not only veterans, but women, children, and other civilians in Basra and Safan were exposed. There are reports that 20 per cent of the women in Safan between the ages of 25 and 40 have lumps in their breasts, in an area where nearly all residents have inhaled DU particles.
The chapter ends with a heartbreaking collection of photos of Iraqi children who were exposed to DU and have fallen ill with lymphoma, leukaemia, and other cancers. Their situation is made even more difficult as the result of economic sanctions. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy drugs, and other treatments are in short supply. And since contamination has settled in the soil, water, and plants of the region, it is likely that the effects will be long-lasting.
The book concludes with a chapter that analyses the environmental and legal implications of DU, and the growing global movement to ban it, with the final pages drawing our attention to the ongoing use of DU in recent military operations in the former Yugoslavia and firing ranges in Okinawa prefecture.
Discounted Casualties is a sophisticated and successful exploration of the biological and social impacts of DU, an artifact as essential to the "New World Order" as the derringer was to the Wild West. It is sure to provoke indignation and outrage among its readers and hopefully inspiration in these most calamitous of times.