Thursday, November 04, 2004

Iriaqi Dead, Depleted Uranium

1) It's quite obvious that Americans are heartbroken,

and shocked, about all the Iraqi deaths brought about
due to the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003. The sense
of communal shame and regret has been truly
heartwarming, rivalled in scale only by that following
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Vietnam. Such shame clearly
had an effect on the elections:

100,000 Iraqis Dead: Should We Believe It?
by Stephen Soldz
November 03, 2004

"One justification for the Iraq war was to remove the
barbarous regime of Saddam Hussein, thereby freeing
Iraqis from the threat of death at the hands of his
regime. Yet, from the first days of the war, accounts
have surfaced of Iraqi civilian deaths at the hands of
"coalition forces" and from the increased crime and
chaos that have swept much of the country.

The United States and its British and other allies
claim they do everything in their power to prevent
civilian casualties. Yet, repeatedly accounts have
appeared of civilians dying at checkpoints, in passing
American convoys, in house searches, and in the
relentless bombing campaigns that are allegedly
precision strikes on known terrorist hideouts. Reports
have also surfaced about increased murder rates.[1] If
the rates of Iraqi civilian deaths increased
significantly since the invasion, it would undercut
the last remaining rationale for the war.

So, how many Iraqis have died since the invasion in
March 2003 and the subsequent occupation and war? The
United States has repeatedly insisted that it doesn't
keep track of civilian deaths. In the infamous words
of General Tommy Franks, "We don't do body counts"[2]
(though, claims remain that the US does do secret body
counts[3]). Furthermore, when the Iraqi health
Ministry attempted to count civilian deaths, they were
summarily ordered to stop by the US occupation

2) Depleted Uranium in Iraq:

Uranium pollution in Iraq damaging
Depleted uranium in Iraqi soil, air may cause health

by Hina Alam
Indiana Daily Student
Tuesday, November 2, 2004

If you thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,
then consider this: the ongoing conflict in Iraq will
leave behind a legacy of depleted uranium, which will
affect not just the U.S. troops, but also the Iraqi
people, maybe over generations, said Diane Henshel,
associate professor of public and environmental

"Isn't that paradoxical? We went there to 'free' those
people and we ended up imprisoning them in a lifetime
of ill health. And for generations to come," said
sophomore Lauren Lindsay, as she examined the evidence
of pollution that Henshel put together.

Iraq's pollution levels are beginning to be examined,
and Henshel, who studies environmental pollutants,
added her expertise to the study in an article
published in September's issue of Nature. Examining
the overall pollution damage will be the first step on
a long road to cleaning up the contaminated country,
the article said.

The damage to the environment, and therefore human
beings, began in the 1970s, according to the article.
This was when the country underwent rapid
industrialization with little attention paid to toxic
wastes and fumes.

The conflict in Iraq has only compounded the problem
and one of the most pressing issues is that of
depleted uranium. It is a dense material used to blow
holes in heavily armored vehicles.

And depleted uranium was used in Iraq most extensively
by the United States.

"If you go on the Internet and look at depleted
uranium and who generates it, we are by far the
largest generators of depleted uranium in the world,"
Henshel said. "Nobody is even close to us. We are
close to 90 percent of the depleted uranium that's
generated in the world ... United States activity or
U.S. companies, I guess. Maybe it is not 90 percent,
but we are at, like, 800 tons and the next country
down is below a 100. We are ten-fold of the next
country down."

Depleted uranium is mainly in two places, she said.

"There are some Abrams tanks which use depleted
uranium, and depleted uranium is in the penetrators
(the warheads of missiles), which are some of the
weapons used out there -- a number of them actually,"
Henshel explained.

As penetrators, depleted uranium is the lead point.
The whole purpose of these weapons, she said, was to
be harder and denser than other metals so they
penetrate through other metals.

"As they penetrate through the other metals, the
description is that they get sharpened," she said.

Think of what happens when sharpening a pencil," she
said. "You lose all the fragments that are being
pulled away to sharpen it. It's not just that it is
being pushed into a sharper point."

The pencil-like shape of the penetrator causes the
depleted uranium to scatter, Henshel said.

"When penetrator hits the hard top, a hard surface
especially like another metal ... you get some
fragmentation and some disintegration at the tip of
the penetrator and again some release of depleted
uranium into fragments that then essentially becomes
the dust in the air," she said.

Heavy metals in general have the potential to interact
with and disrupt calcium processes, and calcium helps
control signaling in the brain and signaling between
the cells and release of hormones and nerve
transmitters, she said.

"If you disrupt calcium control signaling, which can
happen in a high dose or even moderate dose situations
... tests have shown changes in learning, changes in
the ability to remember and changes in reflexes, so
there are a host of different things that can happen,"
Henshel said.

A small cohort from Desert Storm have depleted uranium
shrapnel in their bodies, and they've been tracked
over time with publications coming out about them
every two years or so. The amount of uranium in their
bodies has made a difference.

"Behavior in terms of response, based on computer
tests, was the first thing to show up," she said.

Within a number of years the amount of depleted
uranium was leaking out from shrapnel in their bodies
and moving around in their systems. There is depleted
uranium showing up, for example, in their urine,
Henshel said.

Henshel said she believes that over time, people in
Iraq are going to be exposed to increasing
concentration in their bodies.

"They will have increased problems with changes in
behavior, (and) increasing problems with their
kidneys. And at high enough levels you will start to
see effects on their sperm count," she said.

Another problem is women who are pregnant or are going
to be pregnant in a situation where they are exposed
to depleted uranium in the dust on a daily basis.
Daily exposure to depleted uranium in the dust means
that what is circulating in their blood streams at any
given time includes some radioactive uranium, she
said, and uranium is a heavy metal that can affect a

"There are studies that indicate that birth defects
are increasing in the areas of high depleted uranium
concentration of the Gulf War," Henshel said.

Uranium is part of the environment, but what happens
with depleted uranium is that it is being used in such
high intensity in one area that there is an increased

"And that gives rise to a situation where it ends up
in dust and can get into people through air and
water," she said.

The real concern is that depleted uranium is not
intensely radioactive as uranium is used in reactors,
Henshel said.

"There is an assumption that A: there is no
radioactivity going on which is not true, and B: there
is an assumption that this is not the only concern."

The other problem, she said, is that it is not going
to be just uranium that is a problem in the war torn
area, because it is not just uranium that

"There are other heavy metals that disintegrate --
some of the other heavy metals we have very little
toxic information about," she explained.

While a lot is known about titanium and cadmium, there
is whole host of heavy metals that are used in weapons
in small concentrations, of which not much is know,
but they are going to end up in the soil, in the air,
in water of the people in any war torn area in Iraq,
Henshel said.

As far as the troops are concerned, some of them might
have depleted uranium showing up in their bodies --
some show less and some show more. If some of them
have high intakes of milk or other sources of calcium,
they will be able to eliminate it quickly from their
bodies. High calcium levels limit how much uranium
replaces calcium in certain parts of the bodies. Other
people that, for whatever reasons -- economic or
otherwise -- do not consume enough calcium or milk may
harbor depleted uranium.

As the knowledge of depleted uranium and its effects
on Iraqi people gets out in the world, Lindsay said,
it could make the United States look worse.

Political science Professor Michael McGinnis said, "it
looks bad in terms of environmental effects, but
again, this is nothing new."

World opinion of the U.S. is already at an all-time
low, said Dina Spechler, associate professor of
political science.

"In the end, people who live in Iraq will manifest the
greatest problems. The chemicals accumulate and they
stay in people's bodies all the time and increase in
concentration over time- and we don't know what we are
dealing with," Henshel said.

-- Contact staff writer Hina Alam at

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