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Depleted Uranium Situation Worsens
By Doug Rokke
The delivery of at least one hundred GBU-28 "bunker buster" bombs containing depleted-uranium warheads by the United States to Israel for use against targets in Lebanon will result in additional radioactive and chemical toxic contamination, with consequent adverse health and environmental effects throughout the Middle East. Israeli tank gunners are also using depleted-uranium tank rounds, as photographs verify.
Today, US, British, and now Israeli military personnel are using illegal uranium munitions—America and the United Kingdom's own "dirty bombs"—while US Army, US Department of Energy, US Department of Defense (DOD), and UK Ministry of Defence officials deny that there are any adverse health or environmental effects as a consequence of the manufacture, testing, or use of uranium munitions, so that they may avoid liability for the willful and illegal dispersal of a radioactive toxic material—depleted uranium (DU).
The use of uranium weapons is absolutely unacceptable and a crime against humanity. Consequently, the citizens of the world and all governments must force the cessation of uranium weapons use. I must demand that Israel now provide medical care to all DU casualties in Lebanon and clean up all DU contamination.
American and British officials have arrogantly refused to comply with their own regulations, orders, and directives that require DOD officials to provide prompt and effective medical care to all exposed individuals ("Medical Management of Unusual Depleted Uranium Casualties," DOD, Pentagon, 10/14/93; "Medical Management of Army Personnel Exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU)," US Army Medical Command, 4/29/04; Section 2-5 of US Army Regulation 700-48).
They also refuse to clean up dispersed radioactive contamination, as required by Army Regulation 700-48, "Management of Equipment Contaminated With Depleted Uranium or Radioactive Commodities" (Department of the Army, September 2002) and US Army Technical Bulletin 9-1300-278, "Guidelines for Safe Response to Handling, Storage, and Transportation Accidents Involving Army Tank Munitions or Armor which Contain Depleted Uranium" (Department of the Army, July 1996). Specifically, Section 2-4 of United States Army Regulation 700-48 (dated September 16, 2002) requires that:
(1) Military personnel identify, segregate, isolate, secure, and label all RCE (radiologically contaminated equipment),
(2) Procedures to minimize the spread of radioactivity will be implemented as soon as possible,
(3) Radioactive material and waste will not be locally disposed of through burial, submersion, incineration, destruction in place, or abandonment, and
(4) All equipment, to include captured or combat RCE, will be surveyed, packaged, retrograded, decontaminated and released.
The previous and current use of uranium weapons, the release of radioactive components in destroyed US and foreign military equipment, and releases of industrial, medical, and research-facility radioactive materials have resulted in unacceptable exposures. Therefore, decontamination must be completed as required by US Army Regulation 700-48 and should include releases of all radioactive materials resulting from military operations.
The extent of the adverse health and environmental effects of uranium weapons contamination is not limited to combat zones but includes facilities and sites where uranium weapons were manufactured or tested, including Vieques; Puerto Rico; Colonie, New York; Concord, Mass.; Jefferson Proving Grounds, Indiana; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Therefore, medical care must be provided by the United States Department of Defense to all individuals affected by the manufacturing, testing, or use of uranium munitions. Thorough environmental remediation also must be completed without further delay.
I am amazed that fifteen years after was I asked to clean up the initial DU mess from Gulf War I, and over ten years since I finished the depleted-uranium project, US Department of Defense officials and others still attempt to justify the use of uranium munitions while ignoring mandatory requirements. I am dismayed that DOD and Department of Energy officials and representatives continue making personal attacks aimed to silence or discredit those of us who are demanding that medical care be provided to all DU casualties and that environmental remediation is completed in compliance with US Army Regulation 700-48. But beyond the ignored mandatory actions, the willful dispersal of tons of solid radioactive and chemically toxic waste in the form of uranium munitions is illegal and does not even pass the test of common sense.
According to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DU is a "dirty bomb." The department issued "dirty bomb" response guidelines on January 3, 2006 for incidents within the United States, ignoring DOD use of uranium weapons and existing DOD regulations. These guidelines specifically state that "a radiological incident is defined as an event or series of events, deliberate or accidental, leading to the release, or potential release, into the environment of radioactive material in sufficient quantity to warrant consideration of protective actions. Use of an RDD or IND is an act of terror that produces a radiological incident." Thus, the use of uranium munitions is an "act or terror," as defined by DHS. Finally, continued compliance with the infamous March 1991 Los Alamos memorandum that was issued to ensure continued use of uranium munitions cannot be justified.
In conclusion, the president of the United States, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and the prime minister of Israel must acknowledge and accept responsibility for the willful use of illegal uranium munitions—their own "dirty bombs"—resulting in adverse health and environmental effects.
President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and Prime Minister Olmert should order medical care for all casualties and thorough environmental remediation, and stop the illegal use of depleted-uranium munitions.
Doug Rokke is a Vietnam veteran and the former director of the US Army Depleted Uranium Project. He has a PhD in health physics and was originally trained as a forensic scientist. When the Gulf War started in 1991, he was assigned to prepare soldiers to respond to nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, and was sent to the Gulf. What he experienced has made him a passionate voice for peace, traveling the country to speak out.