Depleted Uranium -
The Real Dirty Bombs
By Christopher Bollyn

Lost in the media circus about the Iraq war, supposedly being fought to
prevent a tyrant from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, is the salient
fact that the United States and Britain are actively waging chemical and
nuclear warfare in Iraq - using depleted uranium munitions.

The corporate-controlled press has failed to inform the public that, in
spite of years of UN inspections and numerous international treaties, tons
of banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD) - used and unused - remain in
Iraq. Indeed, both chemical and radioactive WMD have been - and continue to
be used against U.S. and coalition soldiers.

The media silence surrounding these banned WMD, and the horrendous
consequences of their use, is due to the simple fact that they are being
used by the U.S.-led coalition. They are the new "Silver Bullet" in the U.S.
arsenal. They are depleted uranium weapons.

Depleted uranium (DU) weapons were first used during the first Gulf War
against Iraq in 1991. The Pentagon estimated that between 315 and 350 tons
of DU were fired during the first Gulf War. During the 2003 invasion and
current occupation of Iraq, U.S. and British troops have reportedly used
more than five times as many DU bombs and shells as the total number used
during the 1991 war.

While the use of DU weapons and their effect on human health and the
environment are subjects of extreme importance the Pentagon is noticeably
reluctant to discuss these weapons. Despite numerous calls to specific
individuals identified as being the appointed spokesmen on the subject, not
one would answer their phone during normal business hours for the purpose of
this article.

Dr. Doug Rokke, on the other hand, former director of the U.S. Armyís
Depleted Uranium Project, is very willing to talk about the effects of DU.
Rokke was involved in the "clean up" of 34 Abrams tanks and Bradley armored
vehicles hit by friendly fire during the 1991 Gulf War. Today he suffers
from the ill effects of DU in his body.

Rokke told American Free Press that the Pentagon uses DU weapons because
they are the most effective at killing and destroying everything they hit.
The highest level of the U.S. and British governments have "totally
disregarded the consequences" of the use of DU weapons, Rokke said.

The first Gulf War was the largest friendly fire incident in the history of
American warfare, Rokke says. "The majority of the casualties were the
result of friendly fire," he told AFP.

DU is used in many forms of ammunition as an armor penetrator because of its
extreme weight and density. The uranium used in these missiles and bombs is
a by-product of the nuclear enrichment process. Experts say the Department
of Energy has 100 million tons of DU and using it in weapons saves the
government money on the cost of its disposal.

Rather than disposing of the radioactive waste, it is shaped into penetrator
rods used in the billions of rounds being fired in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
radioactive waste from the U.S. nuclear weapons industry has, in effect,
been forcibly exported and spread in the environments of Iraq, Afghanistan,
the former Yugoslavia, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.


"A flying rod of solid uranium 18-inches long and three-quarters of an inch
in diameter," is what becomes of a DU tank round after it is fired, Rokke
said. Because Uranium-238 is pyrophoric, meaning it burns on contact with
air, DU rounds are burning as they fly.

When the DU penetrator hits an object it breaks up and causes secondary
explosions, Rokke said. "It's way beyond a dirty bomb," Rokke said,
referring to the terror weapon that uses conventional explosives to spread
radioactive material.

Some of the uranium used with DU weapons vaporizes into extremely small
particles, which are dispersed into the atmosphere where they remain until
they fall to the ground with the rain. As a gas, the chemically toxic and
radioactive uranium can easily enter the body through the skin or the lungs
and be carried around the world until it falls to earth with the rain.

AFP asked Marion Falk, a retired chemical physicist who built nuclear bombs
for more than 20 years at Lawrence Livermore lab, if he thought that DU
weapons operate in a similar manner as a dirty bomb. "That's exactly what
they are," Falk said. "They fit the description of a dirty bomb in every

According to Falk, more than 30 percent of the DU fired from the cannons of
U.S. tanks is reduced to particles one-tenth of a micron (one millionth of a
meter) in size or smaller on impact.

"The larger the bang" the greater the amount of DU that is dispersed into
the atmosphere, Falk said. With the larger missiles and bombs, nearly 100
percent of the DU is reduced to radioactive dust particles of the "micron
size" (virus size -ed) or smaller, he said.

While the Pentagon officially denies the dangers of DU weapons, since at
least 1943 the military has been aware of the extreme toxicity of uranium
dispersed as a gas (or dust particles -ed).

A declassified memo written by James B. Conant and two other physicists
working on the U.S. nuclear project during the Second World War, and sent to
Brig. Gen. L.R. Groves on October 30, 1943, provides the evidence:

"As a gas warfare instrument the [radioactive] material would be ground into
particles of microscopic size to form dust and smoke and distributed by a
ground-fired projectile, land vehicles, or aerial bombs," the 1943 memo

"In this form it would be inhaled by personnel. The amount necessary to
cause death to a person inhaling the material is extremely small. It has
been estimated that one millionth of a gram accumulation in a personís body
would be fatal. There are no known methods of treatment for such a

The use of radioactive materials "as a terrain contaminant" to "deny terrain
to either side except at the expense of exposing personnel to harmful
radiations" is also discussed in the Groves memo of 1943.

"Anybody, civilian or soldier, who breathes these particles has a permanent
dose, and itís not going to decrease very much over time," Leonard Dietz, a
retired nuclear physicist with 33 years experience told the New York Daily
News. "In the long run - veterans exposed to ceramic uranium oxide have a
major problem."

"Inhaled particles of radioactive uranium oxide dust will either lodge in
the lungs or travel through the body, depending on their size. The smallest
particles can be carried through cell walls and "affect the master code -
the _expression of the DNA," Falk told AFP.

Inhaled DU can "fool around with the keys" and do damage to "practically
anything," Falk said. "It affects the body in so many ways and there are so
many different symptoms that they want to give it different names," Falk
said about the wide variety of ailments afflicting Gulf War veterans.

Today, more than one out of every three veterans from the first Gulf War are
permanently disabled. Terry Jemison of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs said
that of the 592,561 discharged veterans from the 1991 war in Iraq, 179,310
are receiving disability compensation and another 24,763 cases are pending.

The "epigenetic damage" done by DU has resulted in many grossly deformed
children born in areas such as southern Iraq where tons of DU have
contaminated the environment and local population. An untold number of
Americans have also been born with severe birth defects as a result of DU

The New York Daily News conducted a study on nine recently returned soldiers
from the New York National Guard. Four of the nine were found to have
"almost certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded DU shells.

Laboratory tests revealed two manmade forms of uranium in urine samples from
four of the 9 soldiers. The four soldiers are the first confirmed cases of
inhaled DU from the current Iraq war.

"These are amazing results, especially since these soldiers were military
police not exposed to the heat of battle," said Dr. Asaf Duracovic, who
examined the soldiers and performed the testing. "Other American soldiers
who were in combat must have more DU exposure," Duracovic said. Duracovic is
a colonel in the Army reserves and served in the 1991 Gulf War.

The test results showing that four of nine New York guardsmen test positive
for DU "suggest the potential for more extensive radiation exposure among
coalition troops and Iraqi civilians," the Daily News reported.

"A large number of American soldiers [in Iraq] may have had significant
exposure to uranium oxide dust," Dr. Thomas Fasey, a pathologist at Mount
Sinai Medical Center and an expert on depleted uranium said, "And the health
impact is worrisome for the future."


"I'm hotter than hell," Rokke told AFP. The Dept. of Energy tested Rokke in
1994 and found that he was excreting more than 5,000 times the permissible
level of depleted uranium. Rokke, however, was not informed of the results
until 1996.

As director of the Depleted Uranium Project in 1994-95, Rokke said his task
was three fold: determine how to provide medical care for DU victims, how to
clean it up, and how to educate and train personnel using DU weapons.

Today, Rokke says that DU cannot be cleaned up and there is no medical care.
"Once you're zapped - you're zapped," Rokke said. Among the health problems
Rokke is suffering as a result of DU contamination is brittle teeth. He said
that he just paid out $400 for an operation for teeth that have broken off.
"The uranium replaces the calcium in your teeth and bones," Rokke said.

"You fight for medical care every day of your life," he said.

"There are over 30,000 casualties from this Iraq war," Rokke said.

The three tasks set out for the Depleted Uranium Project have all failed,
Rokke said. He wants to know why medical care is not being provided for all
the victims of DU and why the environment is not being cleaned up.

"They have to be held accountable," Rokke said, naming President George W.
Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and British prime minister Tony
Blair. They chose to use DU weapons and "totally disregarded the

Christopher Bollyn
Dear colleagues and scholars

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