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6th February 2001

Depleted Uranium Watch

Cancer: De(p)leted case

Piotr Bein,,  

Vancouver, Canada 

Media coverage of the depleted uranium (DU) scandal raises more questions and suspicions than it provides answers and comfort. Why leukemia and not other diseases, and why afflicted peacekeepers and not civilians? Why Western European and not Yugoslav soldiers? Yugoslav troops were on the ground, breathing air spiked with DU particles, while NATO personnel played joystick war from bombers flying safely above the clouds. 

Leukemia is a disease of the blood-forming organs. "Its cause is unknown but it is considered to be of the same nature as that of various other forms of cancer [...] Probably many factors lead to its development. One that is clearly established is exposure to irradiation," states a 1960 encyclopedia, while one from 1996 added half a dozen causes. There is no doubt that the disease is a form of cancer: "An almost uniformly fatal cancerous disease characterized by excessive production of white blood cells," according to the Random House dictionary. 

NATO and the media first emphasized "leukemia" cases from the Balkans. This was as significant as invoking miscellaneous chemical and social factors as possible causes of soldiers' deaths and illnesses from DU. The military did not examine all cases and also hid evidence, so it's likely leukemia was not the main cause of death. Most probably, the mounting evidence of non-leukemic cases made NATO switch abruptly on January 24th, 2001, from the broken record of "no link between DU and leukemia" to "no link between DU and any forms of cancer." 

This was the first indirect indication by NATO that not just "leukemia" cases may be involved and that NATO was preparing a disinformation campaign against that incriminating fact. 

"Dangerous at any speed" fittingly catches the dominant characteristics of DU, but not any that are listed by standard NATO sources. The analogy with car risks does not arouse comparable concern from medical scientists, doctors and health policy bureaucrats on NATO's payroll. When it comes to cars and traffic accidents, everyone is an expert. On DU, it seems, mainly an army of NATO propagandists and a handful of true scientists have spoken out in an information war between government lies and the medical and scientific truth. 

German nuclear physicist Hans-Peter Schnelb§gl considers depleted uranium (DU) to be "highly dangerous both because of its radiological and chemical toxicity. [...] DU is millions of times more dangerous than it was in the original uranium ore because of its modified consistency [in form of, among others] dispersible fine powder. All these forms have the ability to enter the human body via inhalation or the food chain, which is a precondition for [...] alpha radiation to become effective, as well as chemical toxicity. In contrast, the uranium in the uranium ore has very little chance to get inside the human body." 

If Not Benzene, Why Not Lead? 

Leukemia was initially highlighted because it would be a convenient PsyOp tool for diverting public attention from other DU illnesses. Since many factors besides DU could cause leukemia, it became an opportune "theme" to fool the public with. NATO will not admit that they spread most of the other "factors" in the course of recent wars. 

Whether from DU or from other pollution, veterans from NATO's toxic-nuclear wars, and civilians living downwind from affected battlefields, are getting sick and dying. Which of the 'leukemia' cases come from Kosovo, and which ones date to the 1994-95 Bosnia war? Also foggy are figures on total military casualties attributable to the Balkan Syndrome. NATO should not and can not be trusted to provide reliable figures. Would anyone sane entrust, for example, the tobacco industry to conduct investigations of lung cancer causation? 

Lack of published data on the Balkan Syndrome among Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo civilians is an outright scandal, for which the UN and NATO administrations are as responsible as their local counterparts. The Balkan Syndrome, investigated under such auspices, would be managed like the Gulf War Syndrome was earlier: denial, blaming "other factors", manipulation of reports, criminal neglect of sick veterans, wrong medical examination procedures, hiding medical records, and indifference to the fate of local populations. 

The cause of their illness and eventual death aside, a common complaint of the surviving Gulf War veterans is that the government does not subject them to proper testing. Tests conducted under government auspices are intended to keep the truth under a lid rather than discover any facts. Last year the Canadian government invited all veterans complaining of Gulf War and Balkan Syndrome to receive voluntary tests, but the designated labs did not have the equipment required to detect traces of uranium. 

Medication is prescribed for mental illness, not for the real ailments and sicknesses the Gulf War veterans suffer from. They have chronic fatigue, bowel and renal problems, pains, cancers in different stages, concentration and memory problems, shortness of breath, lymphatic problems, bronchial complaints, weight loss, bleeding, unsteady gait and persistent cough, yet they are given mostly psychoactive drugs like Prozac. Half of these symptoms were described in 1998 US Agency for Toxic Substances report. DU specialists claim that some Iraqi tank crews hit by DU projectiles died on the spot from acute uranium poisoning. Three British prison officers claimed recently that they have elevated levels of uranium in their bodies, after two fires at an adjacent DU weapon manufacturing plant. 

Chemicals in the wood that the soldiers supposedly handled, benzene with which they allegedly cleaned their guns, natural asbestos deposits and lead contamination in Kosovo - all kinds of "factors" reminiscent of post-Gulf War "investigations" appeared in statements defending against Balkan Syndrome DU contamination accusations. 

More bizarre explanations were taken straight from uranium industry cover-ups. Portuguese soldiers categorically denied that they use benzene. Lead was not a health problem in Kosovo before free market "investors" like George Soros wanted to grab it with KFOR help. 

"Dr." Bernard Rostker from the Pentagon's outdated DU investigation program announced on Januray 15th, 2001, that "pesticides" caused Gulf War syndrome. After the bombing of Kosovo, on October 19th, 1999, Rostker informed the public that a RAND study found anti-nerve gas pills to be the culprit. The list grows longer every day. Whatever the causes of the Balkan and Gulf syndromes are, the Pentagon and NATO deposited them on the battlefields. 

Balkan Soldiers 

Two young Bulgarian soldiers who served in the KFOR contingent in Kosovo, Danail Danailov and Emil Ivanov, went through an ordeal that could kill a healthy person. Instead of looking after the sick, Bulgarian authorities intimidated the soldiers, while their health deteriorated from week to week, and put them off with bureaucratic delays and cover ups. Eventually, the defense minister accused Danailov of forging his medical file! 

Flu-like symptoms are often characteristic of DU poisoning and alleged flu cases were cited by the Bulgarian Army Medical Academy to diffuse public suspicion of DU contamination in other Bulgarian soldiers who came back from Kosovo with strange symptoms. The cover-up unfolded in earnest, for the soldiers were declared to have no "leukemia", in contrast to their sick and dying collegues in Western Europe. They were initially diagnosed in a German military hospital in Pristina with renal illness, one of the first symptoms of acute DU poisoning. As journalist Blagovesta Doncheva sent translations from the Bulgarian press to the Internet, the soldiers' condition was deteriorating fast. 

The Bulgarian Academy could not make up its mind if it was 14 toxins they uncovered in their sick soldiers or the flu. At the same time, the minister of defence threatened the sick and their desperate parents. In a TV debate on the subject, a Bulgarian independent medical specialist was shut up as soon as she mentioned the Balkan Syndrome. 

"After the first outburst in the media [...] an almost graveyard silence on the subject descended on the Bulgarian media," wrote Doncheva to the Internet on January 26th. Some NATO officials visited Bulgaria in the interim and Lord Robertson sent a letter. Bulgarian officials keep silence or give conflicting statements about it. The Bulgarian Minister of Defence Boiko Noev declared he would visit Kosovo with his 10-year-old daughter to prove how ungrounded the "DU danger stories" are. 

Meantime, Danailov was sent to Germany for medical checks. Before, Bulgarian authorities declared him to be "clinically healthy" and in no need of treatment. His colleague Emil Hristov from the same Bulgarian contingent in Kosovo was successfully silenced. The army doctors found "genetic deviations" in Hristov's family. Presumably, babies born in Bulgaria next to the boundary with Yugoslavia are deformed because "couples with genetic problems" from all over Bulgaria decide to move and settle there. We know this "clustering" and "migration" excuse from somewhere. 

Danailov and Ivanov were not the only casualties. A Bulgarian volunteer in the Yugoslav army in the Kosovo confict, Alexander Vasiliev, claims that 80% of his army friends from the war, both Bulgarian and Serb, have similar symptoms: generalized weakness, bad coughs, pain and cataracts in the eyes, and neck tumors that immobilize the shoulders and arms. Vasiliev cited a captain in the Yugoslav army chemical units that came to Kosovo for checks during the bombing. The captain told Vasiliev confidentially that the situation was "catastrophically disastrous" at that time. 

Eye Removed 

Jonathan Steele, reporting for the British newspaper The Guradian from Belgrade on January 22nd, 2001, wrote about two ex-soldiers who served in Kosovo where NATO fired shells containing DU and who now have cancerous tumours in their eyes. 36-year-old reserve officer Milan Bisercic, with no history of cancer in his family, had one eye removed in January after vision troubles started in December 2000. Stanisa Zivkovic's eyesight was also destroyed by an unexplained cancer. 

Both men served in Urosevac, one of 112 sites that American planes targeted with DU munitions. Bisercic witnessed repeated NATO attacks on the barracks at Urosevac: "I was never closer than 500 metres to the explosions, so I don't know why I should have got [ir]radiated more than anyone else, if that was what gave me cancer." The two men are the first confirmed cases of cancer among Kosovo veterans from the Yugoslav army, and although there is no proof that their illnesses were caused by radiation from DU, "Like NATO governments, the Yugoslav army has been trying to play down the effect of DU exposure on its soldiers," wrote Steele. 

According to a senior medical source at Belgrade's military academy hospital, Yugoslavia checked 1,100 of the more than 100,000 soldiers who served in Kosovo, and apparently found no problems. A Yugoslav army doctor who was not part of the team which checked the men asked a question similar to one asked by Gulf War veterans since 1991: "But the question is what kind of examination did they perform and what specialised equipment did they use?" 

In the week preceding Steele's story, the Belgrade weekly Nedeljni Telegraf reported that three officers from the Pristina Corps had died of leukaemia in recent months and 10 other soldiers were ill with the disease, four of them terminally. They were all stationed near Prizren, in areas of western Kosovo where NATO dropped many DU weapons. One man was a personal escort for General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commanded Yugoslav land forces in Kosovo against NATO's attacks. The Yugoslav army has denied the Nedeljni Telegraf report. 

Widowed by DU 

On January 22, the Budapest Sun reported the deaths of four Hungarians who served in the Balkans. Sergeant Istvan Kormendi, a 39-year-old father of three, died in September 1999, possibly from exposure to DU or other toxic materials during tours of duty in Bosnia in 1996 and 1999. Another Hungarian Balkan veteran died of colon cancer since returning home; and one of a pulmonary embolism, according to Gabor Borokai, spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office. The cause of the other death has not yet been published. 

Zsuzsanna Kormendi, who had been demanding further explanation for the cause of her husband's death for over a year, informed the Budapest Sun that her husband told her he had never been warned by his superiors of any risk of exposure to dangerous substances. An ambulance driver during one month's duty in summer 1999, he drove all over Bosnia, became ill in Sarajevo, lost wieght, returned home and died a month later. Defense Minister Janos Szabo said the soldier's illness could not have been a result of his tour of duty, as he had been in the region only one month and in areas where no such weapons had been used. However, "If any causal relationship between his illness and any negligence by his senior officer during his service was proved, compensation could be granted." 

Circumstances of Kormendi's 1996 tour of duty are still foggier when described by the military. Former Defense Minister Gyorgy Keleti said that in 1996 DU weapons had not yet been used in the areas in which the soldier served. The army's Chief Medical Officer, Laszlo Sved, told the press that Kormendi did not die of leukemia, but in fact internal bleeding resulting from an infection caught from rodents and insects. The widow said her husband's death certificate clearly states that although causes similar to those cited by Sved contributed to her husband's death, leukemia was the primary cause. 

Agence France Presse wrote from Moscow on January 23rd that Russia had detected the first case of cancer in a Kosovo peacekeeper which "could be linked to the US use of DU arms," according to ORT public TV station. The soldier was diagnosed with a blood cancer "similar to leukemia", but according to the AFP dispatch, "Russia has so far denied that any of its troops" who served in Kosovo had contracted cancer possibly linked to American DU bullets. 

Kenny Duncan, one of those interviewed in a recent BBC Radio 4 program, had removed destroyed Iraqi tanks from an Desert Storm battlefield. He has a bitter view of the government. "They're sitting around watching veterans die. They're waiting for us to die off, so they don't need to pay out money. They'll just tell us nothing and deny everything. They don't care about the veterans' health, even though some from the Balkans vets are starting to get ill. And still they say it's not an issue." 

If the governments responsible for sowing DU and other poisons don't care about their own soldiers, why would they care about foreign civilians?

From the Horse's Mouth 

As the renowned expert on DU (though predictably dismissed by the Pentagon), Dr. Doug Rokke, testified before the British House of Commons: "US and NATO officials continue to state specifically that there are no known adverse health effects in those of us in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Depleted Uranium Medical project. That is a lie." Then follows a litany of ailments that have afflicted Gulf War veterans from the US since 1991. "As proven by our own medical records based on diagnosis of medical problems completed by our personal primary care physicians," added Rokke. 

On Rokke's list of symptoms and ailments, "leukemia" is lumped with other cancers under "various forms of skin and organ cancer". Blood and lymph node cancers are linked to organic causes. "Birth defects in offspring" are amply illustrated by [WARNING: Graphic images] horrifying cases from Iraq and Bosnia. Other points from Rokke's dry, compressed list include catch-all names for many ailments and illnesses. "Neuro-psychological disorders" include symptoms of persons with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue that used to be called the "yuppie flu" by doctors who had no concrete way of explaining the syndrome.

The evidence concerning the gruesome health- and life-endangering effects of DU on civilians in the Persian Gulf was never allowed into the West. Any attempts by Iraqi scientists to bring the problem forward met with a cold shoulder and with the label "Saddam's propaganda." No information regarding the cleaning up of extensive DU contamination was ever given to Iraq, but Kuwait received the full package from the US. 

Not only US and UK veterans and the local population from the Gulf War suffer from cancers and many other sicknesses related to DU, but so do civilians near DU shooting ranges and processing and manufacturing plants around the world. Where civilians have been exposed, "we are seeing adverse health effects amongst this entire group," testified Dr. Rokke before the British House of Commons. 

Baghdad believes in a link between DU and their calamitous health problems. Iraqi health minister Umid Mubarak said on January 23rd, 2001, "American use of DU is linked with lots of diseases which appeared especially in the regions which directly suffered bombardments." Death from cancer and a range of resurgent diseases had rocketed since sanctions were imposed after the Gulf War, which used over 300 tons of DU ammunition. Leukemia is six times more common in Iraq today than in 1989 and infectious diseases had become six to 20 percent more prevalent. Cholera and malaria, almost eradicated before 1990, are back.

"We have proof of traces of DU in samples taken for analysis, and that is really bad for those who assert that cancer cases have grown for other reasons," Mubarak said. Damacio Lopez from the International Depleted Uranium Study Team announced on January 23rd that radiation readings near Basrah indicate DU projectiles used during the Gulf War contained enriched uranium waste, as was also discovered in Kosovo recently. Lopez has just returned from a DU testing trip to Iraq with Ramsey Clark, former US attorney general and founder of the International Action Center in New York, one of the first whistle-blowers about the DU weapon problem. 

Speaking from Melbourne on January 18th, 2001, Bill Hartley, Media Officer of the Australian-Iraqi Friendship Bureau, said in a radio broadcast that attempts by the USA and Britain to deny responsibility for unexplained leukemias in Iraq and the Balkans were now in absolute disarray. "A comparison of the location of cancer victims to the spread of air raids and military action across Iraq leaves no doubt that dust from DU weapons has compounded the suffering of the Gulf War," said Hartley, adding that maps of cancer and leukemia clusters around Basra, which had been covered in DU dust and aerosols from exploding shells, showed a seven-fold increase. 

What Next? 

Volumes have been written to date on DU, but NATO cover-up propaganda, spoon-fed to TV viewers and newspaper readers, still dominates public opinion. Given the desperation of the masters to cover up DU consequences, it was suggested in mid-2000 that a Bundeswehr report about a Dutch peacekeeper from Kosovo who apparently became ill of DU was a PsyOp plot designed to discredit a wave of DU cancers expected by 2001. 

When leukemia and other cancer cases start to pick up among soldiers stationed and civilians living in Kosovo in a couple of months, the TV screen will be filled with some Bush zipper scandal, doubtlessly with a Prawinsky lady. By then the issue would be "so technically obtuse that the public will simply pass on it [...] the issue disappears on its own volition," anticipated Gilles d'Aymery on January 22nd, 2001.  

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