STOP NATO! Home Page

8th February 2001

Depleted Uranium Watch

From Alpha to Z Net, With BAS In Between

Piotr Bein,,  

Vancouver, Canada  

"A 'sophisticated' smokescreen, a cover-up pretending to sound ever so militant," commented Rick Rozoff about a January 16th, 2001, article Thinking About DU by Michael Albert on Z Net. About the author, Rick remarked, "He really lets NATO off the hook on DU war crimes." I made a diagnostic test of the last paragraph in the article. It passed the test and definitely did not sound like anything prepared by NATO or the Pentagon Public Affairs: "What's wrong with the tools of war [...] as used by the US repeatedly around the world, of horrifically unjust war, [is the] overall morality and policies of an unjust and truly rogue state - that is, the US."  Yet Rick is no novice, so I copied the article into my word processor, enlarged the font, and dug into it. Here is my assessment of what resembles disguised NATO propaganda. 


Albert identifies DU's chemical toxicity, but unlike NATO spokesmen, he admits that alpha radiation from ingested tiny DU particles will "assault the cells more directly and strongly since intensity rises with proximity." But he obligingly repeats the standard NATO line that alpha particles coming from outside the body are "stopped even by skin, certainly by boots." He evidently forgot that people breath. Obviously, he is not aware that DU particles are so tiny, and therefore persistent in the air under all meteorological conditions, that even if they did not penetrate the skin's surface, they would be breathed in for sure, even after rain, causing illness and even eventual death . This is why cancer rates keep climbing over the years, as more and more low-level radioactive particles circulate around. 

Bring your DU combat boots home, store them under your child's bed as a souvenir of a victorious martial triumph that made Swiss cheese out of Iraqi tanks - and watch your child develop Gulf War syndrome or cancer. This actually happened, as related by a military nurse, Joyce Riley, on an American Coast to Coast Radio broadcast hosted by Mike Siegel on January 11th, 2001. Other revelations from her about DU can be reviewed there as well. 

Enter Albert-the-epidemiologist. Although armed with "knowledge gleaned only from examining readily available reports of critics and supporters," he nevertheless states, "There is no compelling evidence, that is specific to DU's effects in the field, only intimations about what they might be." In this instance Albert resembles another amateur "student" of the subject, Ben Works, the director of the SIRI-US institute who labeled me an "hysteric" and (yes, you guessed it!) "leftist" when he ran out of "scientific" arguments to respond to me with. My latest psychiatric check confirmed a severe cognitive confusion because of the 1999 barbaric NATO attack on Yugoslavia, but my doc said not a word about hysteria. And my political orientation has as much to do with "leftism" ("communism" would be the diagnosis between the McCarthy era and the collapse of the Berlin Wall) as Michael Albert has with his namesake Einstein. 

So pontificates another seeming clone of assorted NATO spokesmen and their "scientific" mouthpieces: "The fact that people have gotten sick, or gotten leukemia, in countries that have their infrastructure obliterated, that have had all manner of chemical plants blown to pieces and scattered to the winds, and that are shrouded in metals, gasses, and other battlefield waste including but not even remotely limited to DU, doesn't implicate a specific cause as against all others." Which harks back to the "other factors" that I predicted a year and a half ago would be pulled out to cover up NATO's DU crimes in the Balkans. 

Blaming the "other factors" is easy to do when contending with leukemia, which can have a half a dozen or more causes besides radiation. Perhaps Albert would volunteer to assist the cause of science at this point and sniff a hefty dose of DU dust at his next party? This would be a controlled experiment, no "other factors" involved, except perhaps for some booze and other inebriants and stimulants of choice. "It's a technical and not a political determination," declares Albert (not Einstein) and proceeds to political arguments, perhaps a habit acquired from composing polemical tracts on Z Net. What is the scale of damage due to DU? Albert has a non-political answer. To impress the reader with the depth and range of his scientific approach, he insists that, "as far as fact is concerned, we don't know out of the tens of reported deaths and the hundreds of reported illnesses how many are due to DU radiation or to the chemical toxicity of DU, or due to other heavy metals or pollutants, or due to innumerable other likely causes including the destruction of civilian infrastructure, which has extraordinary health consequences (quite apart from the sanctions in Iraq, which have exacerbated all these problems enormously)."  Neat. Just what NATO needed. Never mind the over 33 thousand deaths among almost 700 thousand Gulf War veterans from combined causes, including DU. Well over 100 thousand of the same group are in line for premature death or suffering for the rest of their lives. Even if DU was the aetiology for only 10 percent of the cases, that would mean a whopping umpteen thousand military casualties, from a war that supposedly was "septic"' and virtually did not cost one American life. Who cares anymore about the far larger damage sustained by Iraqi civilians and combatants? The Balkans might bring a toll of hundreds of thousands in the long-term, based on increased population density and, hence, greater exposure rates. No wonder NATO hyped up their naive Western public with grotesquely inflated accounts of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians allegedly perishing from "Serb genocide". Having achieved this propaganda gambit, in a bean-counter's wrap-up of their "humanitarian intervention" they would trade off DU casualties against the atrocities of "Milosevic" and show that it was "still worth it." 

Bunch of Leftists 

But I am no epidemiologist, oncologist or molecular biochemist. Let's see what the scientists say from a January 26th, 2001 conference in Athens on the DU health risk subject. (Don't rush to the NATO website, you will not find it there.) 

Mr. E. Sideris, a radiobiologist at the Democritus Institute, said that the action of internal alpha particles could lead to "extensive degeneration in the DNA." He ended his talk with the admonition, "only a sick mind could design a weapon of this sort." Sick minds at Z Net? No way! 

Dr Maria Sotiropoulou-Arvaniti, president of the Greek section of Physicians Against Nuclear War, said the radioactivity from the explosion of DU shells was very different from that at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, there still was an increase in leukaemia in southern Iraq, and a significant increase in other diseases. She also said the uranium missiles used in Bosnia in 1994-1995 had not yet wreaked their full effect, and that banning radioactive weapons, as well as nuclear weapons, was the only way we were to survive as a species. Are you there, Mr. Albert? Do you get it now why the "leftists" latched on to this "uranium" issue? 

Dr. Catherine Euler (another "leftist", although from good old democratic England) pointed out the fraudulent use of science in cover-ups of illnesses from low-level radiation persisting all over the globe after 1950s and 1960s nuclear tests, reactor accidents, and uranium mining and processing. A mathematical model extrapolating from the external acute exposures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors is the favourite among "scientists" on nuclear industry paycheques and grants. However, several studies have shown empirical support for what Dr. Chris Busby's cellular response model; very low doses actually cause more harm than a higher dose, up to a certain point. 

The only way to contribute towards a settling of the dispute is to carry out an independent epidemiological survey, not another desk study. Dr. Euler outlined the study suggested by Dr. Rosalie Bertell, a veteran in the battle against the low-level radiation nightmare. So, Mr. Albert, how is that? The facts have been known for decades. Dr. Bertell is already grown grey in service to the truth, yet the nuclear mafia has been effectively preventing empirical studies that would only prove - something they already know darn well - their crimes. 

Dr. Theophilou, a nuclear physicist who had worked for twelve years in a European Union atomic fission lab, said we know enough about them to condemn DU munitions, and that epidemiology was not required, but that more molecular biology was. With the addition of only one alpha particle, the health of the individual was at risk. Theophilou emphasised how energetic alpha particles were, and that they could therefore damage cells. Erroneous copies of cells would be produced, causing cancers and leukaemia. If the alpha particle damaged the DNA, then erroneous copies would be produced forever afterwards. He was extremely concerned when he heard there were particles of Pu (not poo, Mr. Albert, but plutonium) mixed with the DU. 

Referring to dust particles 1-10 microns in size, Theophilou said they can reach "all the different areas of our body, and most are insoluble." Harmful reactions could result from the entry of uranium to the stomach. He said the dust could be transferred up into the atmosphere and travel very far, in the same way that dust from the Sahara has been found in Greece. Gee, what a "leftist hysteric" this Dr. Theophilou! 

A professor of nuclear physics at Athens University, Dr. A.K. Geranios, said several labs performed tests on alpha exposure effects on cells, and that the alpha energy seemed to travel only as far as one or two cells, and therefore caused limited damage. However, the current model used to estimate the risks from radiation may not be correct, he said. He spoke about how some radiation limits were set not according to their biological effects, but by economic or financial considerations. Radiation standards had continuously dropped since the 1930s: "We have tended to underestimate risks." Radiation risks were not one-off events, but continued as long as the decay continued. To wait until we have further proof of the harm of DU was "utterly fallacious," he said, "and until then we must make sure the weapon is abolished." 

According to the oncologist Rigatos, "No matter what the quantity, we know uranium may be carcinogenic." There have been studies dating back to 1902 showing the relationship between radiation and cancer, and Ukraine's health minister had reported an increase in leukaemia after Chernobyl. We are now seeing "localised nuclear war," Rigatos said, referring to the DU employed in wars since 1991. 

Professor K. Pangalos listed several genetic abnormalities attributable to DU. They would become apparent in the third or fourth generation. He suggested that those countries using DU must ban these weapons if "they don't wish to mourn the consequences in their populations." Dr. Dimistris Moghnie, who had spent ten years working as a doctor in Iraq after the Gulf War, completed the grim picture with cancer statistics. He said cancer cases in Al Basarah (Basra, in southern Iraq) had increased from 1,713 in 1991 to 22,000 in the year 2000. In some districts, they had increased even more dramatically during the same period. 

Own Soldiers 

So much for civilians. Back on the Z Net website, Albert-the-moralist returns, asking, "What about the US military's attitude toward its own soldiers?" and answers with the obvious, "Soldiers are fodder. Generals don't take up residence on the field of combat, it's too dangerous." But a few sentences on, Albert seems to lose his common sense and says, "The aim of US war is to destroy without US casualties - and they actually do a rather good job both of destroying and of minimizing US casualties." I read the sentence again; no, it did not say "good job of destroying its own troops." I would recommend a phone call from Z Net to the US Gulf War veterans association to help get down to earth from the Z clouds.  Albert wonders, "Is the US military stupid or blind enough to use DU, not to the moral consequences that they don't care about, but to the political consequences of using DU, if it is as portrayed by its detractors? Maybe. [...] But I haven't seen enough to make me believe it." He has not seen enough. Obviously. If you don't look, you don't find. The US military is neither stupid nor blind. That 's why they are trying to cover up so hard: Because the political consequences are creeping out from every crack. And the surfacing of political consequences spells "liability" and "genocide". 

The Z Net editor shows his true colours when he expresses the doubt, "Why should the case of DU wherein the impact is seemingly relatively low alongside one of the most barbaric instances of chemical and biological warfare in history [...] rise to such prominence in the media, and even on the left?" This must be the prime question PsyOp professionals are currently wrestling with in designing their propaganda. 

Albert strains his rightiZt brain further, "Moderately affecting our troops or civilians and not only those of 'enemies' is not justification for hugely enhanced leftist focus." If instead of delving into the difference between their right and left brain lobes, Z Net scribes followed the events, they would have noticed that "leftists" and non-affiliated people like myself "focused" on NATO in Iraq and Balkans ever since the above's four-corner star showed up in the regions in question to correct ostensibly misguided and intractable "humanity". During the time of Khrushchov, we would be called "Soviet agents".  Albert's focus on the dividing line between hiZ right and all others left, fogs up his search for "the cause of the left's heightened interest" in DU. He rejects the obvious contention that "the grotesque immorality of the use of toxic materials" could be the reason for "heightened attention from seasoned leftists" because such use is supposedly no surprise to them. Having so put a question mark over the rationality of "leftists," Albert proceeds to convince his reader that "the relative impact of DU, however great, is modest to minuscule compared to the impact of the bombing per se, or the sanctions per se." I gather Albert-the-researcher concluded this after examining the "evidence" from the NATO DU website. 


Albert's conclusion: Leftists must believe that focusing on DU is a "good way to build generalized opposition," or else abandon the quixotic crusade to ban uranium weapons. He then embarks on showing how futile such a "leftist" campaigning would be. What follows might as well come from the PsyOp analysis of a project titled "DU harmless even if Lord Robertson died of it." 

He notes that for a campaign to be strategically valuable it has to be embraced by "some sectors of the public." Presumably that sector Albert and Z Net belong to? 

Activism must also contribute to moral permanence and social values. "Does DU dissent do that?" Albert-the-rhetorician queries. He believes that maybe if the anti-DU campaigners spoke more about the generalised motives of war, then they would have a better chance of success combating DU. If, in addition, the information presented continually improved one's understanding of the much greater violence perpetrated during the Gulf War, the Iraq sanctions and the NATO bombings, and of US foreign policy in general, the chance would be greater still. 

One could think that Albert wishes anti-DU campaigners well. Do not be fooled. Just follow the ruses that, again, plant doubts in the reader's mind about the rationality and objectivity of the anti-DU activists, who may be making "wrong claims". Or DU dissent might "degenerate into irrational anti-science prejudices." Whatever putative science it is Albert claims to uphold, it is based on a fairly glaring ignorance of several decades of scientific research, and is based on an irrational and counterintuitive understanding of the human survival instinct. His positions being what they are, he might as well be the master-mind behind the NATO "information" website about DU. 

And finally comes the punch: Albert contrasts the "leftist" anti-DU transgressions with "rightful skepticism of establishment 'expert' testimony." Since he is not leftist (surely in this sense) and does not accept the scientist evidence that the establishment covers up, he must be a self-proclaimed "Know It All About DU Health Risks," particularly in contradistinction to the 'other' factors. 

I can't help remarking that Albert's seemingly anti-war article contains puzzling statements, not unlike his mentor Chomsky's writings against NATO "humanitarian interventions" which persistently refer to "Serb atrocities," for which proofs are not forthcoming despite the NATO countries' heroic forensic efforts to prove the unprovable. However hard the authors at Z Net may be trying to pose as intellectuals and thinkers, their arguments just do not stand up to the most elementary tests of common sense and scientific fact. 


After writing this brief reflection I noticed right above Albert's own article on Z Net main page a link to a 1999 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists disinformation piece on DU by two professors of (what did you expect?) public affairs, Steve Fetter and Frank von Hippel. The authors proudly announced in that pseudo-scientific article that "detailed calculations whose results are discussed here are to be published in Science & Global Security." The calculations must have been "right," if the essay was posted on NATO DU site.  It looks like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists must be another contractor of NATO PsyOp, since they published William Arkin's accolades about NATO "smart" bombs against "dumb" Serb targets, to which I had the pleasure of replying.  A lightbulb lit up in the left half of my leftist brain: Albert must have drawn inspiration for his revelatory intellectual opus on DU from Fetter and von Hippel! 

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