22th January 2001

Depleted Uranium Watch

Del Ponte Needs to Learn How to Read

Piotr Bein, piotr.bein@imag.net

Vancouver, Canada
January 22, 2001

The Crime and a Treaty

War crimes and crimes against humanity are defined in the Nuremberg Charter, in the “grave breach” articles of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions, and in other sources. Use of an illegal weapon violates the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Four tests derived from the humanitarian laws determine legality of weapons, as Attorney Karen Parker laid out at the international conference against depleted uranium in Manchester in November 2000.

Depleted uranium (DU) weaponry fails all four tests. It cannot be "contained" to legal fields of battle. It continues to act after hostilities are over. It is inhumane because it can kill by cancer, kidney or other disease long after the hostilities are over, and it causes genetic defects in children born after the war is over. The use of DU weapons is genocidal by burdening gene pools of future generations. DU cannot be used without unduly damaging the natural environment and thus fails the environment test as well.

UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights adopted resolutions in 1996 and 1997, that state DU weaponry was “incompatible” with existing humanitarian and human rights law. A weapon that is illegal by operation of existing law and customs of war, is illegal for all countries. When, on the other hand, a weapon contravenes a ban; it is only illegal for countries that ratify such a treaty.

The US and a few other governments are seeking to use treaty processes to try to weaken existing customary law. The United States tries to assert that if there is a treaty on a subject, then any pre-existing customary international law on the subject is terminated. “Thus in terms of DU, even beginning the process to draft a treaty would be used by the US to argue that any ban on DU in light of existing customary law is terminated,” warned Attorney Parker at the Manchester conference.

And what do we see happening? European NATO allies, Asian states, British parliamentarians and scientists, NGOs – everyone seems to be demanding a banning treaty on DU weapons. Let’s first try the criminals under existing customary international law, then we can think about improving it.


Managing the Process

"If coherent results emerge directly linking the use of depleted uranium ammunition with health problems," the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) may investigate the use of DU by NATO, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said on January 14th, 2001. The “if” is worrisome, since the tribunal;

§         ignored at the outset a barrage of proofs to the contrary, which were covered-up or de-emphasized, but which surfaced nevertheless;

§         has a track record of violating civilized world’s justice procedures;

§         previously dismissed numerous proofs as “insufficient evidence” of NATO war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia; and,

§         demonstrated beyond any doubt anti-Serb bias, as directed by its NATO sponsors.

These points should not be surprising, since criminals don’t investigate own crimes. They don’t try nor convict themselves. If they did, Agim Ceku would long ago be given lethal injection in a death cell in Hague; Clinton, Cohen and Albright – in a US high-security prison.

Finding evidence for the DU-illness connection became subject of a bureaucratic “process” which NATO would likely “manage”. Bureaucracies know how to do it, particularly when own skin and big corporate interests are at stake. NATO would manage all parts of the process, including the results of UN investigations. If existing government documents from the highest places and labs are not enough for Carla Del Ponte, then will “test samples” from Kosovo prove anything?


Warfare of the Fifth Kind

For the “direct link between the use of DU ammunition with health problems" one needs look no further than testimonies of former Pentagon expert on DU, Dr. Doug Rokke, 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, as proven by our own medical records based on diagnosis of medical problems completed by our personal primary care physicians.”

I submit that the ICTY is NATO warfare of the fifth kind, beside combat, diplomacy, economic sanctions and special operations, which include information warfare. The tribunal would not proceed against NATO for the same reason an army does not turn guns 180 degrees to shoot own troops, and special operations don’t intimidate “humanitarians” like Lord Robertson, German ministers Fischer and Scharping, or the British government.

The UN bureaucracy is, like the ICTY, a lackey of NATO. For a decade it was unable to stop a low-intensity nuclear war in the Gulf, “surgical’ bombing of Iraq, and murderous sanctions on Iraqi population. It was helpless against a vicious campaign of demonization of Serbs since the beginning of 1990s. It did not stop the break-up of Yugoslavia and ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Krajina. UN looked on barbaric bombing in 1999 and on equally heinous ethnic cleansing of Kosovo with KLA hands and guns.

We can rest assured that, when handled by the US, NATO and ICTY, no NATO war criminal guilty of genocide with DU would appear before any court. The dangerous weapon may well have irreversibly contaminated the soil, water and food, and will cause delayed deaths of innocent civilians. Instead of basic transparency that would allow remedial actions to lessen the ill effects, NATO presents a maze of lies.

“Presented as a complicated controversy, the ill effects are denied; it is asserted with authority that supposedly no correlation can be established between the uranium bombs and malign illnesses,” wrote Dr. Radmila Nakarada of the Institute for European Studies and Professor Miroslav Petulic from the Faculty of Law at Belgrade University, “Instead of answers, cynical comments are offered […] and NATO is not a scientific institution.”

If no correlation exists, why did Pentagon warn its allies after the bombing that depleted uranium was dangerous? Why were not locations of DU shelling readily disclosed when repeatedly requested? Why did the US president prevent a thorough UN investigation of the effects of bombing?

An article in my local paper titled “No cancer link found in uranium ammo” begins with NATO top medical advisers’ conclusion. How did they examine thousands of soldiers in a few weeks and with what procedures? The military in all NATO countries consistently use the wrong test for uranium presence in the body. Independently proven cases are swept under the carpet and are left to die off, without releasing the bodies for independent autopsies.

If there was no link, why did the article quote Canadian Forces spokesman Lieutenant Yves Vanier about storing DU weapons, “DU, for storage purposes, is considered low radioactive material. So, as far as where you keep your rounds, there are some guidelines you have to follow.”

Preserving the old “controversy” about its health effects secures the future for DU. It also protects against the past crimes arising from the use. The US, supported by the UK, vigorously denies any significant hazards from DU.

While innocent people are dying of DU, the perpetrators prepare for more cover-ups. Pentagon broken record turns on and on, "No human cancer of any type has ever been seen as a result of exposure to natural or depleted uranium,” Such absurd statements fired back in mid-January, 2001, when US and UK documents were uncovered on the Internet, proving that the governments were aware of the very significant risks from DU ammunition.

At the Cellular Level

The vigour of DU low-level radiation cover-ups is explainable by its connection to the risks of higher intensity radiation released in nuclear testing and accidents. Some portion of nuclear material from these calamities spreads in the atmosphere and travels around the globe, producing low-intensity continual exposure of the world population.

In this connection, scientists studied AIDS in two groups: one eating food rich in calcium and the other with extremely low intake of calcium. AIDS developed by weakening the immune system of African tribes, who live on swamps that received a generous runoff from rains spiked with strontium isotope from as far away as US and Soviet atmospheric tests with A-bombs.

Deprived of calcium in their diet, the strontium those Africans ingested lodged itself where calcium normally occurs in the body, starting immune deficiency. AIDS virus found an easy prey. Fish-eating Japanese did not show the same incidence of strontium contamination, immune deficiency, nor AIDS.

Professor Malcolm Hooper of medicinal chemistry cited a few references proving that even one alpha particle can cause mutation in a cell: (1) “Mutagenic effects of a single and exact number of alpha particles in mammalian cells” by Hei T.K. et al. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 1997, 94, 3765-3770, and (2) “Radiation-induced Effects in Unirradiated Cells” by Iyer R and Lehnert B.E. in Science and Medicine of January/February 2000.

“There is no threshold dose for internal alpha irradiation and biological mechanisms facilitate the spread of radiation injury to non-irradiated cells by a factor of 30 times,” wrote Hooper yesterday to the Internet, re-iterating his points from an article in January 13th, 2001, “New Scientist”.

These disturbing studies provide clear evidence of the potential for serious damage to genetic mechanisms that could lead to cancer and other illnesses. Chris Busby in "Wings of Death" also emphasises the importance of understanding biological mechanisms in assessing the adverse effects of radiation.

Perhaps Carla Del Ponte and ICTY staff need basic reading courses.


The Nuke Connection

Strategic and military objectives of governments are tightly knitted with the nuclear industry quest for market share and profits. Low-intensity radiation in and around nuclear mining, processing and disposal facilities thus has the same reason to be covered up as do by-product of nuclear “big-bangs”.

A political motivation for understating the potential health effects of low-level radiation, the type emitted by DU, was acknowledged on occasions. For example, US State Department attorney William Taft said in 1981, “The mistaken impression [that low-level radiation is hazardous] has the potential to be seriously damaging to every aspect of the Department of Defence’s nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion programs.”

The lethal nature of low-level radiation is no "mistaken impression." Top scientists like Rachel Carson, Linus Pauling, and Andrei Sakharov following atmosphere tests of A-bombs in 1950-1965 foresaw the scale of potential damage. Many more eminent scientific authorities later supported their warnings. The evidence was presented a few decades later in a 1991 book “Deadly Deceit, Low-Level Radiation, High-Level Cover-up” by Dr. Jay Gould and Benjamin Goldman, with Kate Millpointer.

The scientist authors of the book believe that the cumulative magnitude of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing may explain what has hitherto been a great epidemiological mystery. In the 1950-1965 period, the volume of fission products released into the atmosphere was equivalent to the explosion of some 40,000 Hiroshirna bombs. Mortality statistics inexplicably stopped getting better, after decades of improvement.

The Soviet Union was responsible for two-thirds of this terrifying figure. Although the magnitude was not publicized at the time, it led to the US – Soviet ban of atmospheric bomb tests in 1963, after which mortality rates resumed their improvement, though somewhat diminished.


No See, No hear, No Indict

Gould, Benjamin and Millpointer results agree with findings for cancer mortality from exposures to low-level radiation made by four eminent scientists: Drs. John Gofman, Karl Morgan, Thomas Mancuso and Alice Stewart. All four worked at various times for the US Atomic Energy Commission or Department of Energy. All four concluded that there is no level of radiation low enough to be deemed "safe". The government terminated the services of all four when each of them independently came up with the opposite of what the AEC wanted to hear.

Gould, Benjamin and Millpointer submit that dose-response relationships may apply to all deaths from immune system damage caused by low-level radiation. This is supported by a projection of the current trend in the US mortality rates, which suggests that without fundamental change, the death rates of all age groups will begin to rise in the 21st century, cancelling out previous advances in longevity.

How could minute quantities of radiation from DU, which NATO spokesmen compare to radioactivity in a glow-in-the-dark watch or in a handful of soil from one’s garden, cause cancer? “The Sunday Herald” of January21st, 2001, reported the “revelation” that a single atom of uranium inside the body is enough to trigger cancer. British scientists have produced “the first direct proof” that a single alpha particle emitted by uranium can damage human cells. The damage, they said, was a crucial step in the development of tumours.

Perhaps it was the first “direct” proof, but “indirect” proofs abound since man started releasing the nuclear beast. When I first saw the dispatch, I wondered if a good angel was releasing anti-DU information in pace with NATO and cohorts entangling themselves in the web of lies. Carla Del Ponte says, “If coherent results emerge” and voila – the results are rolled inside her newspaper as coherently as they could be, next to her cappuccino and croissant breakfast.

The new British study exposed groups of human blood cells to a single alpha particle and left them to divide a dozen times or more. 25% of the daughter cells had distinctive patterns of broken and bent chromosomes. This "radiation-induced genomic instability" is thought to be part of the complex chain of biological events that can end up as cancer.

 "This work shows directly for the first time that even a single alpha particle can induce genomic instability in a cell. That may be important in assessing risks of cancer from alpha-emitting radio nuclides in the body," said the lab’s director, Professor Dudley Goodhead. Even the smallest amount carries a very small risk, which in the case of a heavy metal poison, like uranium or plutonium from DU, may be relatively smaller than the toxic risk of the metal in the cell. Mike Thorne, a uranium specialist with AEA Technology, a spin-off company from the UK Atomic Energy Authority, concurred with Goodhead’s conclusion.

Hello Hague, are you there, Carla Del Ponte?

(copyleft: reproduce and acknowledge the source)

This page: http://www.stopnato.org.uk/du-watch/bein/ponte.htm


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