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The “NATO Syndrome” — Arms, Profits and Lies

Michel Collon,

Who has been concealing the dangers of Depleted Uranium for the last years, and why?

After years of suffering, Belgian soldiers lodged a complaint against their government. But why has NATO been concealing the truth for the last ten years? If the depleted uranium scandal finally explodes, it is thanks to the out-and-out struggle led for the last ten years in the U.S., Great Britain and France by groups of soldier-victims and by a handful of scientists and courageous militants. Christine Abdelkrim-Delanne has just published The Clean Dirty War. This book describes the history of that struggle.

26,000 U.S. Soldiers Are Suffering from “Unknown Illnesses”

I was wounded on February 26, 1991 by “friendly fire,” which implied the use of depleted uranium munitions, related Jerry Wheat (3rd Armored Division, U.S., which served in the Gulf War). In October, I experienced severe abdominal pain. I left the army. I imagined committing suicide because I wasn’t responding to any kind of treatment. They told me that my illness was not real, and that it was all in my head. Our government ought to stop using depleted uranium. If not, let them at least insure follow-up medical treatment for those who need it. Remember, the sad tradition of governmental shortcomings is not new. About fifty years ago, veterans were used as human guinea pigs for nuclear tests. Then the government tested LSD on others. Then they used agent orange in Vietnam.

After returning from the Gulf in 1991, numerous American and British soldiers complained of physical ailments: cancers, lung and skin problems, cerebral lesions, and monstrously deformed new-born infants. We can observe the same incidents of pathology in the Iraqi population, stated professor Selma Al Taha, director of a genetic laboratory: “Ever since the war, we have registered a significant increase in congenital deformities: hydrocephalus (1), encephalitis, spinal bifida (2), but also monstrous deformities of the limbs, and infants born without a head or a heart.” His colleague, Al Askri, a specialist in nuclear medicine, emphasized “a large increase in thyroid problems and cancers. We are seeing about fifty patients a day with cancer.” This is in the southern part of the country, which was a corridor of intense warfare, where they are now finding a much higher rate of leukemia among infants.

More Extensive, Independent Scientific Inquiry Is Absolutely Necessary

They symptoms of “Gulf War Syndrome” are diverse, and numerous possible causes have been advanced over the years: depleted uranium, mandatory vaccinations given to soldiers, pesticides, the bombardment of chemical plants… The question is complex, and will necessitate more extensive and costly scientific research. The United States and NATO deny that these ailments have any connection at all with depleted uranium, and they deny any wrongdoing on their part. But it is precisely their refusal to undertake any scientific research that has enabled them to deny the existence of the Gulf Syndrome for the last ten years.

The U.S. Army, however, recently ought to have recognized that 132,749 veterans are “unfit for service,” 20% of which have been stricken with “unknown illnesses.” But the U.S. Army is rejecting any study, even the ones conducted by the very official Veteran’s Administration and the Navy Research Center in San Diego, and obstinately insists that it’s about “victims of post-traumatic stress.”

He Who Looks for Nothing, Finds Nothing

The truth is slowly coming out despite the systematic obstruction of the U.S. Army. On May 7, 1991, the German professor Sigwart Gunther discovered strange shell fragments on a highway in the Iraqi desert. “I saw children playing with that stuff. I learned that one little girl who had such a shell fragment died of leukemia.” Four different German institutes discovered abnormally large levels of radioactivity there. The police seized and removed the shell fragments, but that did not prevent Gunther from sounding the alarm. Too bad that hardly anyone at all was paying attention.

In 1992, a study by the Bureau of Technological Evaluation of the U.S. Congress stated that of 148 officially recognized deaths, 34 were cased by “friendly fire.” And it concluded that it is impossible to anticipate the number of deaths among soldiers ultimately attributable to fragments of depleted uranium lodged in their bodies.

Was this the reason why the U.S. Army, after the Gulf War, secretly took back to the U.S. contaminated American and Iraqi material? In any case, in January 1992, under pressure from veterans associations, the Bureau of Investigation of the American Congress launched an inquiry. And in March, the Army’s Department of Health recommended identifying soldiers carrying shrapnel in their bodies to observe and catalogue the signs of chronic renal toxicity and cancer. But even after five years, the number of contaminated soldiers that were identified has never been released.

The U.S. Army Has Bee Repeatedly Caught in the Act of Lying

The U.S. Army has systematically concealed potentially alarming information. For example, five months after the end of the war, a fire raged for six hours on the U.S. military base in Doha, near Kuwait City, destroying four Abrams Tanks, 660 rounds of 120mm shells and 9,720 rounds of 25mm shells, all of which were depleted uranium munitions. Three thousand five hundred (3,500) soldiers were present and they detected radiation contamination far beyond normally allowable limits. No warning describing the dangers of inhaling depleted uranium particles was distributed among personnel who cleaned the hangar without any protection whatsoever, and who even drank water from a nearby jerry can. But at the end of the day, officers showed up to post “radioactivity procedures.” And two months later, decontamination teams were all wearing protective masks, gloves and overalls.

Over the last seven years, the U.S. Army has even refused to reveal the number soldiers that were contaminated in the teams charged with repairing—without any protection—combat vehicles that were damaged by “friendly fire.” 

U.S. veterans and authorities have engaged in a battle of statistics since 1992. Up until March 1998, the Pentagon maintained that depleted uranium contamination effected only 35 people. But recently declassified secret documents permitted Dan Fahey, a researcher, to force the Pentagon to publicly acknowledge its “error,” and that there were 113 victims instead of 35. At least.

The determination of veterans has been a decisive element for countering the bad faith of American authorities who are still stonewalling and planting the seeds of doubt. Fahey sums it up like this: He who looks for nothing, finds nothing.

Two Outstanding Women, Sara and Carol, Launched the Resistance

Sara Flounders is the co-founder of the International Action Center (IAC), an organization presided by Ramsey Clark (former U.S. Attorney General) who
has led a struggle against all of the imperialist wars undertaken by the United States: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Libya, Somalia and the Gulf War.

Sara Flounders has interviewed more than one hundred soldiers since 1992 and began the initial research on the connection between the “Gulf Syndrome” and depleted uranium. In her 1997 book, “Metal of Dishonor,” she published one of the first eye-witness accounts given by a veteran. “I volunteered for patriotic reasons, said Carol H. Picou, I wanted to help. I became a drug and alcohol medical health counselor ... We were the foremost hospital going into Iraq, into Kuwait, into Basra. There was ammunition lying everywhere, there were rounds lying everywhere, there were bunkers that were blown up, and we passed through this unprotected, our medical unit of 150. Out of 150 who went to the front, 40 are sick, six have died from homicides, suicides, and heart attacks and cancer. I stopped my vehicle and I took photos along the highway. There were things I had never seen before. I was concerned. Driving down the highway—we called it the “highway to hell”—you know it as the "highway of death"—we thought for sure we were going to die on that road. No one warned us of contaminants.”

“I Can No Longer Control My Bowel Movements, Or My Sphincter Muscle”

When I was in Iraq, I started noticing these black specks all over my skin, so I reported it. My health started changing. I was getting sick, I couldn't control my bowels and my bladder anymore. They said it was something mechanical, you need to have it checked once you return back to the United States. So I started seeking answers, and as I did, I was threatened with losing my military career. An atomic veteran (3) called me and said, ‘You have depleted uranium poisoning." In 1992 I was diagnosed by a civilian doctor as suffering from toxic exposure, chronic encephalopathy of the brain, an abnormal active immune system, a suppressed auto-immune system and antibody development and chemical poisoning.”

The army would not accept this as ‘mainstream medicine’ for my medical examination and I was discharged with ‘Bowel and Bladder Incontinence--Etiology Unknown.’ I have long-term/short-term memory deficit. I have toxic encephalopathy—a disease of the brain. I have developed thyroid deterioration. I have developed suspicious squamous cancerous cells of the uterus. I have tested twelve times for the military and they want to keep repeating my tests. My muscles have deteriorated. I have no control over my bowels or my bladder at all any more. Our babies are born with birth defects. We Gulf War veterans have our babies born without thyroids.

Since then, Carol has spoken out on the subject around the world. Her courage, as well as the actions taken by Sara Flounders and the International Action Center, have laid siege to the wall of silence.

Another Story about Money?

Who profits from the crime? Who has a financial interest in the use of tons of depleted uranium? In September, a colonel in the Yugoslav army, who was in charge of an investigation of the sites bombed by NATO, and who was responsible for the protection of his soldiers, told me of the existence of armor-piercing metals that are either as good or better than depleted uranium. But the use of depleted uranium solved the thorny problem of the disposal of nuclear waste (which remains radioactive for millions of years). The nuclear industry has thus transformed certain countries—and certain peoples—into nuclear dumping grounds. Not being an expert, I cannot judge the ‘merits’ of the various possible alternative components of armor-piercing munitions. It will be important for reliable independent researchers to examine this. When one sees the use of weaponry as criminal as this, isn’t it necessary to discover what financial interests are concealed by it?

Are Vaccinations to Blame? Anti-Fatigue Pills? Or Big Business?

Various theories attempt to explain the ‘Gulf War and Balkan Syndrome.’ According to Pamela Asa, a researcher in the field of nuclear biology, the U.S. Army clandestinely introduced a non-authorized substance, squalene, into the cocktail of vaccinations administered to soldiers. The reaction? First of all, the U.S. Army denied that its laboratories used squalene. Then, it admitted its use, but only after the war. Finally, it admitted to have experimented with it before the war, but it refused to open its archives. A Congressional investigation, however, showed that the number of vaccinations actually administered was seventy times greater than the official figures. The soldiers served as guinea pigs for secret experiments.

The same accusation was made against the French army. Their pyridostigmine tablets (used to prevent the effects of poison gas) were mandatorily administered to soldiers without legal authorization, despite the drug’s dangerous side effects. In the U.S., this product has still not obtained authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Another suspect: the Canard enchaîné revealed that “the biggest secret is that the French general staff experimented with anti-fatigue pills whose sale was forbidden in France.” 14,000 cases of Modafinil were shipped under a false name while at the same time the French army refused to disclose to its soldiers what they were ingesting (and many refused to do so). Such a magic anti-fatigue pill evidently promised juicy benefits. But French law forbade, under penalty of imprisonment, each such test carried out without having informed the subject of the nature of the drug and its risks. Did the French army break the law in order to serve gross financial interests?

Abdelkrim’s book examines several suspects, including a pesticide. What can one conclude? First of all, that there is a conspiracy of silence organized by the United States and NATO, which is responsible for the uncertainty that is exacerbating the agony of its victims. Secondly, the symptoms suffered by western soldiers could come from a different set of factors: uranium, vaccinations, special medications for local pollution. But, in each of
these cases, “The Clean Dirty War” demonstrates that Western armies have all used these dangerous products while at the same time concealing their risks. They stick to the theory that “its all in their heads,” because each investigation reveals more serious faults. Thirdly, the populations of Iraq and the Balkans have not received vaccinations or other products, so it’s very likely that it is depleted uranium that is causing cancers and monstrous deformities. The use of these criminal weapons, therefore, must be forbidden.

They Know, but They’re Keeping Their Mouths Shut

Four months after the Gulf War, the U.S. general staff published a set of instructions in case of an accident during the transport of depleted uranium munitions. It was a revealing document. It stated that if the packaging were damaged, it would have to be replaced before transport was continued. A test for radioactive contamination would have to be made. If the subject was contaminated, he/she was obliged to be decontaminated according to methods described “in Chapter 7 …” Note the strict measures applied to a transportation accident, not to mention an explosion! Is there a serious danger here?

Of course there is, and they know it. On July 22, 1990, Lieutenant-colonel Ziehm wrote in an official report that there was and there continues to be concern about the impact of depleted uranium on the environment. “If DU penetrators proved their worth during our recent combat activities, then we should assure their future existence … through Service/DoD proponency. If proponency is not garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a valuable combat capability … Keep this sensitive issue in mind when after action reports are written.” (p. 202). U.S. military leaders know perfectly well what is going on and they have organized a conspiracy of silence in order to avoid protests.

Why Was Dr. Asaf Durakovic Discharged?

This conspiracy of silence continues to this very day. Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a professor of nuclear medicine, was in charge of examining soldiers from the 144th New Jersey Transport Corps, and sent 24 of them to the Veterans Administration clinic in Boston. Tests were conducted, which revealed traces of radioactivity. His records and specimens were destroyed and, in February 1997, his position was terminated for ‘budgetary reasons.’ At the same time, Drs. Burroughs and Slingerlan also lost their jobs for having requested state-of-the-art research equipment. Durakovic wrote to Clinton to denounce a plot whose victims were veterans. There was no response. 

But protests were being organized in Europe. In January 1999, a group of Non-Governmental Agencies launched a large-scale information campaign in Manchester, England. And some countries were disturbed by it. In August, the Finnish environmental minister organized a team of investigators to go to Kosovo. NATO refused to cooperate with them, but the team persevered and concluded that the risks were serious. In November, the Italian government approved a critical diplomatic note. In Belgium, a series of articles by Frederic Loore caused a sensation in the Journal du Samedi. Minister Flahaut at first tried to minimize its impact, then retreated.

What Exactly Do Government Ministers Know?

When will Minister Flahaut speak the truth? In October 1999 and in February 2000, he affirmed that he had “not been informed of the health risks for soldiers who had participated in the operation in the Balkans.” But in January 7, 2000, he acknowledged that NATO had warned of risks and that he had discretely ordered soldiers to take urine tests upon their return. According to the trade-unionist, Marc De Ceulaer, the NATO warnings were not made pubic because it would have given rise to a movement against sending troops to Bosnia. This demands a public debate in order to establish the truth.

It’s one of two things: 
  1. Either the successive Belgian ministers were not informed by the United States of the dangers of depleted uranium, in which case, wouldn’t Belgium be obliged to leave an organization that has such contempt for human life, including the lives of its own soldiers? or 
  2. The ministers have been informed of the facts, so in this case, wouldn’t they be judged as accomplices?

Paris and London Also Produce Depleted Uranium Weapons. And They Have Hushed Up the Truth.

In 1993, a little English girl, Kimberly Office, died in infancy from serious congenital deformations. Her father, a soldier who served in the Gulf, and her mother, who received support from veterans associations, finally forced the British army to begin a pilot study in 1998. The official result? Nothing.

But are the British authorities trustworthy? They have been producing this type of weaponry since 1979; they have spent a great deal of time getting acquainted with it, and they at first publicly denied having used depleted uranium munitions during the Gulf War. 

The French authorities have long denied either producing or using these kinds of weapons, which have been declared illegal and condemned by the United Nations in a (cautious) resolution in 1996. In 1994, however, the French pacifist magazine, Damocles, revealed the presence of nuclear waste during arms testing. In 1998, it revealed that Giat Industries produced 60,000 rounds of 120mm depleted uranium shells.

Christine Abdelkrim-Delanne questioned French authorities in 1998. Have they analyzed the soil and water samples from testing areas for uranium weaponry? Was the personnel protected? How could they be certain that no French soldiers were contaminated? There was no response.

In August 2000, the Defense Minister, Alain Richard, solemnly swore that no French soldier had ever been a victim of depleted uranium munitions in the Gulf War. But the soldiers organized and their association, Avigolfe, replied sharply by publishing a long list of soldiers who were either seriously ill or dead: Fredereic Bisserieix, dead of tumors at age 32; A.N., who died at age 43 from cancer; M.C., who died of lymphoma; M.L., who died of lung cancer in 1992. The inquiry demonstrated that the military authorities had, like their U.S. colleagues, refused to respond to the agony of the soldiers, refused to release their complete medical records, and refused to undertake serious research on the subject. Abdelkrim’s book pops the bubble of lies and dissimulations concocted by the army and the defense minister.

Now, certain European powers are trying to put the blame solely on the United States and are taking advantage of it to promote their project for a Euro Army. But they are all guilty of the same thing.

The Embargo Prevents Aid from Reaching the Iraqi Population

The pro-NATO media’s current tactic is to limit the debate to include only Western soldiers. But millions of people in Iraq are at risk because inhaling even a minute particle of uranium is sufficient to destabilize the immune system. And the embargo forbids sending aid to them. Another crime on the heels of so many others.

U.S. President George Bush that he would take Iraq back to the stone age. They bombed, in violation of international conventions, numerous civilian sites: electric power plants, pumping stations and water purification systems, oil wells, silos containing grain and food warehouses. It was premeditated cruelty. In October 1990, the Washington Institute for the Middle East recommended striking pumping stations and water purification facilities in Baghdad, without which the urban population had to spend several hours a day searching for water that had to be purified.

They also bombarded, without being preoccupied about the effects on environment and health, military sites that produced chemical and biological agents, nuclear power stations, arms factories, petrochemical complexes and their products, all of which are highly toxic.

The list of crimes that have been committed is long: the terrifying (and illegal) use of “fragmentation bombs,” which sow hundreds of deadly bomblets aimed at the civilian population; thousands of Iraqi soldiers buried alive in the desert; the massacre of thousands of retreating soldiers on “the highway of death” … Fifteen years after Vietnam, the U.S. Army is not one jot more “civilized.”

But the worst crime is certainly the embargo. Even today, an entire people is deprived of the means to feed and care for itself. This outrage should immediately be put to an end. It is among the Iraqi population that depleted uranium has claimed the most victims. An entire generation has been imperiled. Emergency aid must be sent to help them, and research for necessary health care must be funded.

Christine Abdelkrim has visited Iraq, which she described as a “hell filled with cries and suffering” and her book has the merit of showing that depleted uranium and the embargo against Iraq are two aspects of the same barbaric war, which is being waged by people for whom human life does not count.

Demand Justice

The former U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark has outlined what has to be done: “Depleted-uranium weapons are an unacceptable threat to life, a violation of international law and an assault on human dignity. To safeguard the future of humanity, we call for an unconditional international ban forbidding research, manufacture, testing, transportation, possession and use of DU for military purposes.

In addition, we call for the immediate isolation and containment of all DU weapons and waste, the reclassification of DU as a radioactive and hazardous substance, the cleanup of existing DU-contaminated areas, comprehensive efforts to prevent human exposure and medical care for those who have been exposed.”

And who should pay for this? The principle “polluter = payer” is merely elementary justice. NATO, the private companies who have produced these arms and the various governments who produce them, or who use or allow these weapons to be used, should appropriate these funds from their military
budgets to fund:
  1. More extensive independent scientific research on the effects of depleted
    uranium and on its established symptoms;
  2. An public awareness campaign for the people of Iraq, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, as well as for solders and other personnel who are at risk
  3. Immediate measures must be taken to isolate and evaluate contaminated
    areas, as well as to clean up nuclear waste and contaminated equipment
  4. Quality health care and compensation for all victims: local populations as well as Western soldiers.
  5. An independent commission of inquiry, composed of scientists who are not connected to the arms industry or to the army, in order discover those responsible for the criminal acts committed in these wars, as well as those who have hushed up information about the dangers of uranium.

Furthermore, the Belgian government must immediately cease, unilaterally and unconditionally, each political embargo which aggravates the situation of the Iraqi people and which forbids sending it aid.

Why NATO Does not Respect Anyone’s Life at All

NATO has been caught in the act once again. But has it been lying only about its perverse weaponry and its ‘clean war’? Or has it also been lying about its true objectives?

Remember: the war against Iraq, the war in Bosnia and the war against Yugoslavia were all ‘humanitarian’ in nature. But today, the Iraqi people remain under a pitiless embargo; Bosnia, which has been transformed into a corrupt, uninhabitable Western protectorate, is out of control, while two thousand civilians were killed in Yugoslavia by the NATO bombardment. As for Kosovo, it has been ethnically “cleansed” by NATO’s protégés, the KLA.

Kosovo has been transformed into a nuclear garbage dump. Last October, I invited Snezana Pavlovic, a nuclear scientist from Belgrade, to take part in a public debate in Brussels on the subject of depleted uranium. She said that “Our government anticipated the use of depleted uranium weapons and organized the protection of solders against whom it was used. In Serbia, the contaminated sites are fenced off and access to them is forbidden, but not in occupied Kosovo, where NATO denies that there is any danger at all. In fact, it is principally Albanian civilians, particularly the children, who will be the victims of depleted uranium.

NATO has screwed itself completely with regard to the health concerns of Albanians. Today, the cancer rate is growing rapidly in Kosovo, as well as in Bosnia. In Bratunac, for example, where Serbian civilians, who fled from areas bombed by NATO in the suburbs of Sarajevo, took refuge, the cemetery is too small, because a refugee dies of cancer every third day.

Lets Fight a War for Sales (Bill Clinton)

This terrifying affidavit makes one ask: what are their real objectives? NATO’s war was really not at all humanitarian, declared Bill Clinton (in private) on the eve of the war: “If we are going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be the key; that's what this Kosovo thing is all about ... its globalism versus tribalism.”

One of those close to the president confirmed it: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonald-Douglas, the designer of the F-15, and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technology is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” [Thomas Friedman, New York Times, March 28, 1999] It was a war waged for superprofits for the multinationals, and a war waged to break the resistance of a country whose intention it was to protect its economic independence. A human life means nothing for those who wish to dominate and exploit the world. Nor do the lives of American, European, Iraqi, Serbian or Albanian soldiers, all of whom were deliberately contaminated.

This is why Javier Solana, the former Secretary General of NATO and today the future head of the Euro Army, organized last summer a “secret defense” of all the projects and analyses of the European military, which provoked the helpless anger of a majority of Euro MPs who were deprived of any say in the matter. Is it up to the people to decide whether or not a war must be fought, or is it up to multinational corporations and generals? Mr. Solana has replied. Today, we are paying for the consequences. We must stop NATO!

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Michel Collon is in post-production with a documentary on the overall situation in Kosovo. Information and reactions:


1. An abnormal increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid within the cranial cavity, which is accompanied by enlargement of the skull, forehead and atrophy of the brain.

2. Incomplete closure of the bones of the spinal column, depriving the spinal marrow of protection.

3. One of the 250,000 soldiers—official U.S. figures—who have been exposed to radiation during American nuclear tests between 1942 and 1963