Book Review METAL OF DISHONOR

Book Review by David Muller
President of South Movement RRP $A19.95

A new generation of weapons is in place around the world. These weapons contain a dense material- depleted uranium. DU weapons make all others so much scrap metal, giving the U.S. military machine and military contractors a huge advantage. This "poisonous radioactive uranium" compound has been recycled into the production of millions of rounds of large and small calibre weapons.

These weapons were used for the first time in combat history during the Gulf War. Their widespread use has never before been monitored. More than 14,000 large calibre rounds(105mm and 120mm) and over 940,000 small calibre rounds (25mm and 30mm) were fired in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, scattering between 300 and 800 tons of depleted uranium waste throughout the Gulf.

The race for unrestrained military dominance that this new weapon not only kills those it targets, it poisons soldiers who handle it, civilians for hundreds of miles surrounding the battlefields who breathe the air and drink the water, and unborn generations. DU is a delayed response weapon. It will take decades and generations before we know the true casualties as more veterans and their children cope with rare and unknown conditions, cancers, deformities and congenital diseases.

In November 1995 I interviewed Dr. Siegwart Guenther of the Austrian Yellow Cross International about the connection between deformed babies in Iraq and Gulf War Syndrome's symptoms-chronic fatigue, chronic headache and join pain, gastrointestinal distress, insomnia and memory loss (Depleted Uranium shells: Dead Children, Sick Soldiers.) More than a year later the problem is growing worse with many thousands now seriously ill and demoralized. Disoriented or homeless veterans are now part of the count of those suffering from Gulf War Syndrome.

Metal of Dishonor grew out of the work of the Depleted Uranium Education Project and the other organizations that met at the United Nations Church Center in New York on September 12, 1996. Scientific papers, scholarly briefs, and forceful arguments-some based on talks given at the September 12 meeting-make up the articles in this book. Scientists, medical and legal experts, political analysts and community activists wrote them.

The book attempts to explain the uses of depleted uranium in weapons and to present what is already known about exposure to low-level radiation and its threat to the environment and to all of humanity. Most important, this collection of articles is a resource for those ready to challenge the long history of government cover-ups and denials regarding military toxins and poisons.

Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, "More than 100,000 United States GIs have symptoms of what is being called, for lack of a better term, Gulf War Syndrome. Thousands of cases of bizarre and previously unknown diseases, high rates of birth defects and deformities, cancers and leukemia's are being documented throughout the Persian Gulf region. The effect of these radiological weapons must be investigated." Sara first became aware of the dangerous radioactive impact of depleted-uranium weapons in 1991. She was researching for Ramsey Clark's book on the Gulf War, The Fire This Time. That book predicted that the people of the Gulf region will have to face the effects of radiation poisoning for years to come.

What raised her concern was a secret report by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) prepared in April 1991, a month after the end of the war. Leaked to the London Independent and published that November, this early report described the potential problems of radioactive dust spreading over the battlefields and getting into the food chain and the water. At that time it warned that forty tons of radioactive debris left from DU weapons could cause over five hundred thousand deaths. Now we find the amount of radioactive debris left behind is over three hundred tons.

The chapters by Helen Caldicott, Michio Kaku, Leonard A. Dietz, Rosalie Bertell and Jay M. Gould scientifically delineate the perils of low-level radiation and meticulously document the extensive knowledge the military possessed about DU's long-term consequences long before the Gulf War. Dietz explains with mathematical detail how uranium metal burns rapidly on impact and forms tiny airborne particles that can travel tens of miles to be inhaled or ingested into the body where they lodge in vital organs. Caldicott makes an interesting but daring leap to correctly characterize the Gulf War as a nuclear war.

Kaku writes, "Our troops were used as human guinea pigs for the Pentagon. Thousands must have walked through almost invisible clouds of uranium dioxide mist, not realizing that micro-sized particles were entering into their lungs."

Gould links increases in cancers and auto-immune diseases to the impact of low-level radiation on the population surrounding nuclear weapons complexes, test sites and nuclear reactors. Bertell lists the major scientific studies that have defined the danger for many years.

A look at the experiences of earlier victims of U.S. war preparations helps expose how cover-ups, stonewalling, and fraudulent promises of compensation for unfortunate mistakes are standard operating procedures. Former Army Nurse Carol Picou, who volunteered for front-line duty, describes her horror at passing the thousands of burning Iraqi vehicles-many destroyed by DU projectiles-on the "highway of death." Then she describes the devastating deterioration and ruin of her own health and of the others in her unit from contact with the toxins in the region, as well as the government's stonewalling and denial of responsibility.

New weapons composed of radioactive material are classified as conventional weapons and are deployed around the world by U.S. and NATO forces in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti. These weapons are flooding the world arms market. U.S industry provides seventy-five percent of all weapons sold worldwide. Desert Storm was a great advertisement for the DU weapons it sells.

Editor John Catalinotto explains, 147 combat deaths suffered by US in Gulf War was a very important figure to the military planners and to the major corporations who profit from military production. Lower casualty figures may mean less domestic resistance to future conflicts. If the real casualty figures become a topic of debate, if long-term illness, genetic deformities to future generations and environmental damage become issues, opposition to new military adventures will surely grow.

Today the entire population of Iraq is besieged by diseases. We know that waterborne parasites and bacteria and malnutrition in Iraq is responsible for many recognizable diseases, and for wasting and death. But what about reports of a sharp rise in spontaneous abortions, cancers, and other "new diseases"? The Iraqi Ministry of Health is systematically documenting some of these health problems. Dr. Barbara Nimri Aziz describes the war's impact on a field of wheat, a flock of chickens, on the children. The UN sanctions on Iraq keep information on the scope of the catastrophe from reaching the world. Dr. Siegwart Guenther boldly brought a spent DU bullet from Iraq to Germany, where he was arrested for transporting radioactive material. But what about the tons of NATO weapons containing DU that are stored, tested and transported throughout Europe? Or the radioactive NATO shells and land mines exploded in Bosnia?

Lockheed Martin, Boeing (now merged with McDonnell Douglas), General Electric, Raytheon and AT&T have been involved for decades in the production of weapons that threaten the health of millions. How can these corporations resist a super weapon, made out of cheap material, that creates a demand for a whole new round of weapons?

Military contracts are a source of growing demand on government spending. The billions of dollars that they consume come at the cost of cutbacks in every social program from jobs programs to education, health care, infant immunization programs, subsidized housing, rebuilding infrastructure or environmental cleanup. People's needs are never part of the calculation. Weapons are U.S. industry's most profitable export items. DU weapons manufacturers are truly merchants of death.

The book inspires people to motion-informed, mobilized and angry. Technology was supposed to be able to liberate all of humanity from want. On occasions it has exposed humanity to unprecedented suffering and death. If we don't come to grips with the effects of technology used against life, that same technology, that liberator, will destroy us. Weapons technology is not the liberation we should seek.

Mass protest stopped nuclear testing, stopped the use of Agent Orange, helped end the Vietnam War. This book should certainly help the process in bringing about a complete ban on depleted uranium weapons.


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