DU Cover-up Saga – PART II

Piotr Bein, piotr.bein@imag.net
January 17, 2001


DU Propaganda During 1999 NATO Bombing Campaign

On March 30th, 1999, NATO announced they would use DU ammunition in Kosovo, but reassured that DU would not harm the environment. A day later Dr. Bertell condemned as “barbarian” the use of radioactive weapons that had terrible consequences in Iraq and Bosnia. NATO announcement may have pre-tested public opinion before formulation of a DU propaganda plan.

Propaganda planning is a continuous process, responsive to immediate change brought about by any new condition or circumstance affecting the target audience or the psychological objectives. The resulting plan is also subject to change. NATO plan was to continue denying adverse effects of DU and to withhold information about location of DU use. By comparison, location of sites of NATO cluster bomb release was not a secret and a well organized UN and NATO effort to warn the population and to de-mine Kosovo started immediately.

When NATO “Blitzkrieg” failed to destroy enemy’s defences in the “first few days” (later changed to “few first weeks”), it started dropping leaflets showing A-10 and Apache in order to break the morale and tank power of Yugoslav forces, possibly in preparation for a ground invasion. The naïveté of NATO propaganda amused the 3rd Army in camouflaged dugouts. In an attack on Rinas airport near Tirana on April 26th, Yugoslav small fighter jets destroyed at least 11 of 24 Apache helicopters.

A few other Apaches were shot down by Yugoslav foot soldiers, while some craft may indeed have crashed during exercises. 3rd Army commander, general Pavkovic, chose military over information warfare to neutralize the Apache “tank killer”. At least one DU-armed A-10 aircraft was shot down. A-10 parts are on display at two museums of NATO aggression in Beograd. NATO did not publicize these losses, while US special services tried to suppress Internet sources that did.

British RAF and US Navy Harrier fighter jets firing 25 mm DU rounds, and Cobra attack helicopters firing 20 mm DU rounds also flew over Kosovo. NATO is equipped with an assortment of cluster bombs and anti-armour missiles made of DU in addition to the DU ammunition. There were no public inquiries regarding these weapons, therefore no answers from NATO. DU counterweights in the craft are as problematic as the DU weapons. While the use of DU balance in military and civilian craft is undeniable, it is still not clear if DU ballast is also present in Tomahawks and other flying bombs. These issues did not receive as much public attention as DU ammunition fired from guns of aircraft, battle tanks, armoured vehicles and navy ships.

Yugoslav authorities must have known about the nuclear and toxic danger but did not warn the public, presumably for fear of a panic and dissent. Director of Desert Storm Think Tank, Patricia Axelrod found on her August 1999 trip in Serbia that Yugoslav authorities responded with decontamination to Tomahawk explosions. She was told that Yugoslav government did not inform the population about the hazard but hid radiation victims.

On the other hand, Yugoslav authorities investigated Tomahawk and other craters in Serbia outside Kosovo and said there was no evidence of radioactivity, except at several sites in southern Serbia that were shelled with DU from A-10 aircraft. However, at a conference in November 2000 in Manchester, the chief of Yugoslav anti-nuclear military services listened to claims about DU in Tomahawks and decided to repeat the tests. It is not clear if his recent announcement on Yugoslav TV was a confirmation of negative second testing of Tomahawk craters.

It is likely that Yugoslav anti-aircraft artillery used Russian-made DU “Aphid” bullets. The bullets disintegrate in the air, creating a swarm that is supposed to puncture enemy planes and flying bombs. The DU pieces fall on the ground eventually and the fiercest anti-aircraft defense was in urban centres.

President Clinton said on April 13th, 1999, that NATO would attack Milosevic’s tanks and artillery. On April 20th NATO confirmed the use of DU ammunition in Kosovo and previously in Bosnia, but the spokesman trivialized the danger of DU. He added that DU might cause “complications” if it enters the body. Five days earlier a Pentagon report stated that veterans of DU wars need not be concerned about their health. The message was likely timed to temper expected public opposition.

US Air Force command initially contradicted NATO spokesman by denying that A-10 aircraft fired DU ammunition. Then on May 7th Pentagon’s general Chuck Wald confirmed that A-10 fired DU. Yugoslav secretary general described on May 15th the use of DU weapons as a “crime against humanity and international law,” naming A-10 attacks on Prizren on March 30th, i.e. earlier than NATO admitted, and on Bujanovac on April 18th.

At the same time, American expert on DU, Dan Fahey, stated that US soldiers should not be sent to Kosovo, unless they are trained to deal with DU contamination, wear protective clothing and carry radioactivity counters. General Alekseiev, the head of environmental safety in the Russian army, alleged on May 27th that NATO aircraft “intensely” used DU bullets against tanks and concrete structures. An independent investigation team under Swiss leadership dug out DU bullets at the radio tower in Vranje in southern Serbia. At Djakovica, a foreign aid worker found tips of DU bullets in a place with no armoured vehicles around.


After the Bombing of Yugoslavia

NATO bombing ceased on June 9, 1999. Yugoslav forces withdrew from Kosovo and UN and NATO so-called KFOR peacekeepers came in. Shortly after ceasefire, US and British military gave detailed information about the drops of 1.5 thousand cluster bombs, which helped de-miners draw maps of affected areas. Military sources suggested that only 3 to 4 thousand DU shells had been fired in Kosovo, a figure in apparent agreement with Yugoslav sources. Ten months later the estimate grew tenfold.

NATO withheld details of exact impact sites in Kosovo until summer 2000 on the excuse of "militarily sensitive information". The delay prevented UN teams from testing the sites before November. Contaminated sites remained unmarked and civilians were not alerted. US Defense Secretary William Cohen on January 9th, 2001, dismissed NATO member concerns. "Adequate warnings were given" by Washington, he said, and again assured of a “very low risk [...] provided there is sufficient protection."

But a "hazard awareness" document about DU issued by Pentagon joint chiefs just after the Kosovo conflict and circulated to NATO allies made no mention of the radiation risks of DU, according to “New York Times”, whose reporters acquired the document in January 2001.

In June 1999, Pentagon disclaimed any concerns about dangers of DU contamination to returning Kosovo refugees, because uranium is naturally “absorbed by the body.” Pentagon did not have any plans to decontaminate Kosovo battlefields, because “minimal quantities” of DU were used and DU is “not harmful”. American DU experts Doug Rokke and Dan Fahey were very concerned. Fahey recommended careful removal of vehicles hit by DU ammo, then excavating and hauling away 30 cm of top soil from contaminated sites to controlled disposal and searching out and disposal of all DU shrapnel and unexploded DU ammunition.

On June 27th, 1999, Yugoslav agency Beta reported after Hungarian “Magyar Nezmet” paper about 30 to 50-fold increase of alpha radiation (specific to DU) near the border with Yugoslavia. A likely source would be a downed NATO plane that was destroyed to hide evidence of NATO loss. British biologist Roger Coghill stated for BBC from a conference on DU effects of the 1991 Gulf War that for its hazards to human health DU should have never been used in combat. Coghill estimated over 10,000 future deaths from DU released in the Balkans during 1999 NATO attacks.

BBC News reported on August 18th, 1999, that humanitarian workers in Kosovo were warned about the DU danger, but not the local population. Between September 26 and 28, 1999, KFOR officers admitted that DU particles may have contaminated soil around targets in Yugoslavia and may be hazardous if inhaled, particularly by children. Peacekeepers were advised to wear protective suits, masks and gloves in DU-contaminated areas or else stay 50 m away from objects shelled with DU ammunition.

Oddly, US DoD spokesman Victor Warzinski said that remains of DU on Kosovo battlefields did not pose a “significant” risk to human health. In June UN de-mining teams were advised by NATO to stay away from vehicles hit by DU bullets. British National Radiation Protection Board advised at the time that main risk stemmed from inhaling DU-contaminated dust.

By the beginning of October 1999, UN agencies, which needed to know the location of DU combat sites to assess war damage in Kosovo, did not receive this “secret” NATO information. David Kyd of the UN-funded Balkan Task Force was frustrated, because NATO did cooperate on identification of other damage. US military representatives in European NATO headquarters refused to give any information on DU, while Pentagon played hide-and-seek with DU information seekers.

A RAND study for Pentagon released on October 19th, 1999, says that anti-nerve agent pills cannot be ruled out as a possible cause for Gulf War syndrome. Bernard Rostker, who from an executive accountant position at RAND became DoD special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, said that from experience in the Persian Gulf, extensive environmental reviews were conducted based upon industrial pollutants and war damage in Kosovo. The statements may well have been a PsyOp preparation for “other” causes of DU-induced illness in Kosovo.

Robert Fisk wrote from Pristina on November 22nd, 1999, that A-10 shot DU bullets for longer than a month at least 40 locations in Kosovo. NATO did not bother to look for and examine survivors of attacks on refugee convoys for possible DU effects. At the site of April 14th tragic attack on refugees, Fisk found similar craters he saw left by anti-armour missiles launched from A-10 in the Gulf War. NATO sources in Kosovo told Fisk that DU was present in the tips of missiles (not 30 mm DU ammunition) that were fired against Serb bunkers and underground military installations. Pentagon spokesman Warzinski denied presence of DU in Tomahawks. Yugoslav authorities apparently did not have DU information about Kosovo because the army had to leave in a hurry.

On February 2nd, 2000, over ten months after US started using DU weapons in Kosovo, NATO’s Lord Robertson confirmed in a letter to UN’s Kofi Annan that A-10 fired 31 thousand bullets containing 10.5 tons of DU. Russian military sources believed that more DU was used. Robertson indicated general areas of DU use in Kosovo, but no detail necessary for site investigations. On March 3rd, 2000, Pentagon’s Steve Campbell confirmed the absence of “significant” risk to health and environment from DU remnants. On March 22nd, three elderly Catholics and a priest from Plowshares Against Depleted Uranium were severely sentenced for damaging A-10 aircraft at a military base in Maryland, USA.

At the end of March 2000, German KFOR units identified a radioactive 5,000 sq. m area inside Kosovo and German ministry of defense was forced to promise radiological examination of its Kosovo troops. On March 28th, Nic Fleming reported in British paper “Express” that thousands times higher than accepted levels of radioactivity were discovered in populated areas by a public health institute in Nis. On April 16th, “Balkan syndrome” was coined in Sunday Times story about a dozen British soldiers who were preparing litigation against the government for alleged exposure to the harmful effects of DU used in the Balkan conflicts. Belgium who had troops in the same Kosovo sector as the British KFOR, started medical tests on 14,000 soldiers who had served in the Balkans.

On April 30th, 2000, after repeated warnings from military officials and others to stop Dr. Rokke speak out about the effects of DU, someone shot through a bedroom window of his home. On May 27th, his locked house in Alabama was ransacked. Another whistle-blower, Professor Siegwart-Horst Günther was arrested and maltreated in June 1995 following his crusade against DU. For one year after release he remained under police supervision. On January 4th, 1999, he appeared before a German court. He was told that if necessary he would be forcefully taken to a closed psychiatric institution. The authorities showed they were very nervous indeed about the DU truth getting out. Felicity Arbuthnot, a writer dedicated to telling the truth about DU since the Gulf War, had been receiving death threats since 1995. Violence and intimidation methods belong to the tools of information warfare and are carried out by miscellaneous “special services”.

On September 21st, 2000 the district court in Belgrade sentenced President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright and 13 other top NATO leaders to a maximum 20 years in prison for the use of DU weapons prohibited under international law and crimes against the civilian population during 1999 NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. The indictments said that the accused were responsible for NATO forces using 10 tons of DU in southern Serbia, causing various types of cancer and death.

In June 2000, Dutch KFOR troops were apparently under risk of contamination by “asbestos.” By November 2000, amidst mounting political pressure Portugal defense minister Julio Castro Caldas advised NATO that he was withdrawing troops from Kosovo (observers believe because they were needed in East Timor, not for DU concerns). At the same time the French and Italians were investigating possible DU contamination of their troops in Kosovo.  

(Back to Part I)

(Part III)