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CADU Conference Feedback
By Jack Cohen-Joppa
After welcoming speeches by the Lord Mayor of Manchester and Councillor
Bill Risby, CADU Coordinator Rae Street introduced the first sessions.
She asked us to acknowledge the sacrifices many have made to oppose DU
weapons, including the Plowshares group, now serving prison sentences
in Maryland - Philip Berrigan, Susan Crane, Fr. Steve Kelly and Elizabeth
Retired U.S. Army officer Dr. Doug Rokke, began with a lively presentation
on DU munitions, the battlefield hazard assessment and cleanup procedures
his team devised on the ground in Iraq and Kuwait, and his experience
with government lies. Rokke was followed by Henk van der Keur of the LAKA
Foundation, Amsterdam. He speculated that DU has also been used in pre-Iraq
armed conflicts, including perhaps by Israel in Lebanon (1982) and by
British Navy boats in the Falklands, using the U.S.-made Phalanx close-in
ship protection guns that fire a DU armor piercing round. V.d.Keur also
showed charts of worldwide DU test firings, including on 8 U.S. ranges.
Gulf war veteran Ray Bristow stepped carefully up to the platform from
his wheelchair, to tell a compelling story of his and his buddies’
confirmed DU exposure and illnesses. He recently testified before a committee
of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and encouraged lobbying of MEPs
to bring the issue into the European courts of justice.
Professor Malcolm Hooper, advisor to British Gulf war vets and Emeritus
Professor of Medical Chemistry, provided an overview of possible paths
of toxic DU exposure to veterans. Most of these paths have been poorly
studied if at all. Hooper noted the significance of recent research demonstrating
that alpha-radiation induced cell damage can be passed on by biological
action to adjacent cells, multiplying the damage. He underlined the “don’t
look, don’t find” problem with current medical research and
the reality experienced by veterans.
Baghdad University Professor of Molecular Biology Huda Ammash reviewed
studies undertaken since 1996 by Iraq to inventory soil, water, air, plant,
and wild animal samples from 200+ sites for evaluation for DU. She showed
tables describing increased cancer incidence statistics, and informed
us that Basra province, where most DU munitions were fired, accounts for
2/3 of the recorded increases in Iraq’s post-war cancer mortality.
She said DU is not the only toxic contamination present in Iraq, that
the problems are multi-faceted, and aggravated by the misleading “oil
for food” program.
Three Yugoslavians told us that Government testing confirmed DU present
at 50% more sites than NATO admitted, and only from A-10 ammo [not cruise
missiles or cluster bombs]. Bombing of the Vinca Nuclear Institute and
other industrial sources also added to the post-war DU and radiation burden.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell clearly explained the different biological impacts
between inhaled and ingested uranium, and between more soluble uranium
oxides vs. the insoluble “ceramic” oxide forms found in DU
that has impacted a hard target or burned at high temperatures. She again
reminded us that internal dose effect models were never calculated for
Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. Dr Chris Busby, a sharp and persistent
critic of most current radiation epidemiology, described a mechanism by
which internal DU contamination can prevent the cell’s evolutionary
ability to repair DNA damage by striking the damaged cell during early
mitosis, its most vulnerable stage. This fits with the “second event”
hypothesis to describe some radiation health effects.
Legal Arguments proved to be just that, as Karen Parker and Avril MacDonald
presented quite different perspectives on the legal status of DU weapons.
Parker’s opinion was against a specific treaty to ban DU weapons
as it is not necessary, because under present international law, DU weapons
already are illegal. MacDonald argued that the burden of proof of illegality
of DU weapons cannot be established on the inadequate science and medical
information we have at present, and advocated forcefully for an international
convention prohibiting DU weapons by name.
Beginning the Public Information session, journalist Felicity Arbuthnot
spoke from the heart about what she has seen in Iraq. Polish writer Dr.
Peter Bein quoted NATO psy-ops objectives and how they affect DU info
available for citizens. German Dr. Siegwart-Horst Gunther, prosecuted
in 1991 when he began research on DU in Iraq by bringing into Germany
an intact, oxidized DU penetrator, described his subsequent work documenting
the health impact. Solange and Michel Fernex from France alerted us to
an old agreement between the World Health Organization and the International
Atomic Energy Authority that effectively gives the IAEA authority over
WHO radiation health studies, a conflict of interest that threatens necessary
research on DU effects. Damacio Lopez, a long-time New Mexico DU activist,
warned of dissent sown by instigators in our own ranks as a consequence
of U.S. government-sponsored research. Lopez encouraged activists in areas
where DU use is suspected to collect soil or rubble samples for testing
by independent labs. he has made arrangements with through the International
DU Study Team.
In the Community Activism
Around the World session, Ciaron O’Reilly reported on the anti-uranium
mining movement in Australia, and his own involvement, serving several
months in prison for dismantling uranium mining equipment at Jabiluka.
Ernesto Pena of Vieques, Puerto Rico, brought a beautiful cloth banner,
picturing a map of the island with detail about the on-going protests
and civil disobedience campaign to stop the Navy from bombing it for war
practice. He reported on the Navy’s acknowledged illegal firing
of 30mm DU rounds on the range, and asked for solidarity demonstrations
as 400+ defendants from the protest go to court soon.
Rev. Kiyul Chung spoke and translated for a larger Korean delegation representing
the besieged neighbors of the U.S. bombing range at Mae-Hyung Ri, where
DU use is suspected during decades of A-10 practice fire. Masako Ito,
volunteer director of the Depleted Uranium Center in Japan, spoke of her
experience on visits to children in Iraq after the Gulf war. She exhibited
photos, including clearly marked DU shell casings recently turned up at
a Japanese metals recycler, pointing to DU firing on a range in Okinawa.
Marco Saba from Italy stressed
the dangers of DU counterweights in civilian and military aircraft, and
the significant local contamination they may cause during crashes, particularly
those also involving fires.
Yugoslavian graduate student
Nikola Bozinovic co-founded DU in YU as NATO began bombing his country
last year, to draw attention to its use there and inform about areas of
contamination and how local residents can avoid some of the risks. The
group advocates for an international ban on DU.
Elfrida Topiciu, from the
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Albania, read
a paper in English about the Albanian experience on the border of Kosovo,
where most of the DU was fired during the 1999 NATO attacks.
I concluded this section
of the conference with a report on the organizations in Military Toxics
Project’s DU Network and their issues and activity in the United
States. I reported that in the U.S. we are circulating a petition calling
for a ban on DU weapons, and that we hope to incorporate this into a global
petition campaign as such an effort comes into focus. I spoke of the A-10s
that fly over my desert home every day, training to spray poison bullets
elsewhere around the world.
Conference presentations concluded with Local Authority Responses in the
UK, where a heightened awareness of the Gulf War veterans has brought
attention to radioactive scrap metals and contamination by industrial
fires involving DU, such as the Featherstone fire near Wolverhampton in
1999. The Fire Brigades Union is actively concerned for their members
and public health, and have an important perspective and experience to
share with local authorities in any country involved with DU hazards.
On Sunday afternoon, the conference broke into 5 strategy workshops to
assemble recommendations for action. No final resolutions were produced,
but some consensus was evident from the reports back to the final plenary.
Regarding International Legal Work, there was encouragement to
initiate civil actions against industries and governments, as these actions,
even when unsuccessful, can bring more information into public view. Timely
preparation of a draft treaty to prohibit DU weapons is another action
favored by most present. This would give petitioners a document they could
point to as a possible mechanism for the goal of banning DU weapons.
Gulf War Veterans need more resources for proper testing and research.
They announced plans for a March of Tears in London, Feb 10, 2001, to
be led by the surviving wives of dead Gulf vets.
The Scientific and Medical workshop agreed on the need to disseminate
information on how to properly test for DU, interpret the results, and
treat victims. Research is needed on multiple types of uranium, particularly
ceramic forms. And more research and publicity about internal low-level
radiation effects is needed.
The Grassroots Activism workshop called for coordinated DU actions
March 3-4, 2001, to mark the 10th anniversary of the ground war in Iraq;
and endorsed the call for international demonstrations at U.S. embassies
as the Vieques defendants come to trial over the next months.
The Environmental Strategies workshop looks to CADU to provide
written literature about DU that environmental groups can be encouraged
to use for educating their own constituency.
The conference concluded with an informal consensus on the gravity and
necessity of the work to be done. TO
CADU will endeavour to undertake co-odination of as much of the work recommended
by delegates as possible, and we will be applying for funding for a part
time worker, as well as looking for volunteers to enable us to do this.
If you feel you can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch
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From CADU News 6: Winter 2000/2001
Read more articles about The Movement
to Ban Depleted Uranium
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Page last updated: 6th December 2002