The book has just been published, it is not an easy topic, rather heavy stuff. It deals with the most serious crimes against humanity and against nature, to such an extent that all of us should be concerned with it. The documentary filmmaker and author Frieder Wagner has been dealing with the subject of uranium weapons for quite some time. Among others, he has realised the films “Todes-staub” (Deadly Dust) and “Der Arzt und die verstrahlten Kinder von Basra” (The Doctor and the contaminated Children of Basra). His concern, as he writes, is to foil the cover-up strategy of the military, industry, governments, but also of the media and to help spread the truth that uranium weapons are weapons of mass destruction and should therefore be outlawed and banned worldwide. Wagner learned about uranium weapons and their effects for the first time in 2002 when he met the doctor and scientist Dr Siegwart-Horst Günther. He was the first to draw attention to the terrible consequences of the so-called uranium ammunition after the Gulf War in 1991. Putting his life at risk, he proved that the use of uranium weapons by the USA and its allies caused fatal diseases among the population and soldiers as well as severe malformations in new-borns (Günther’s disease).
What is depleted uranium, why are projectiles made from it and why are these weapons so dangerous?
The isotope U 238 is depleted uranium (DU), whose density is about 70% higher than that of lead. Like lead, it is also a heavy metal and is thus highly toxic. In addition, it is a so-called alpha emitter with a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years! Depleted uranium is a by-product of the production of nuclear fuel rods for nuclear power plants. According to Frieder Wagner, to sell it to the armaments industry is a profitable alternative to expensive and complicated disposal for the nuclear industry.
“Depleted uranium has two very important, outstanding properties in military applications: If the metal is formed into a pointed rod and accelerated accordingly, it easily penetrates steel and reinforced concrete due to its enormous weight. The result is abrasion of this uranium rod, which self-ignites when exposed to the enormous frictional heat reaching temperatures between 1,000 and 5,000 degrees Celsius”. After the explosion, millions of very small uranium particles get into the atmosphere and can seriously injure or even kill anyone who inhales this fine dust. These uranium oxide particles are respirable because they are 100 times smaller than a red blood cell, and they contaminate the soil, air and water wherever these weapons have been used so far. When inhaled, the nano-sized uranium oxide particles can cause cancer and leukaemia. As with AIDS, the immune system collapses and the kidneys and liver are damaged. Along with the blood, the particles also move to the brain, to the female oocytes and to the male semen. This leads to chromosome- breaks and thus to changes in the genetic code. This means that the children of these people often suffer from deformities, as do their children and grandchildren. Entire generations will thus be damaged over many decades and centuries as their genetic code has changed incurably, as Wagner writes.
The problem concerns all of us because radioactive particles are not confined to one place. The winds and storms in the area keep the fine, invisible ‘deathly dust’ whirling around and it can be carried to areas where no combats have taken place. Wagner illustrates this with the example of the Kurdish town of Erbil in northern Iraq, which is many hundreds of kilometres away from any battleground. “There was an unusual increase in cases of leukaemia in children and infants, caused by a type of leukaemia that otherwise only occurs in old people. Urine samples of the sick children, dust from the air filter of a car driven locally and organ samples of a slaughtered cow raised on the grasslands of Erbil were examined. The result was appalling, as all the samples contained high concentrations of uranium 238. The dust from the car’s air filter was contaminated even 1,000 times higher than the highest samples from the battlefields of Basra.”
In 2003, Wagner visited the children’s hospitals in Baghdad and Basra together with Professor Dr Günther. What he saw there he describes impressively in his book. He was confronted for the first time with the reality of the consequences of depleted uranium projectiles. He saw babies with severe, terrible deformities that were not viable. The fathers of these babies had participated in the wars as soldiers and were therefore contaminated. A doctor told them in a hoarse voice: “Until 1991 in Baghdad, according to our records, we had within 1,000 births at most one with minor defects and no more than one every 14 days. Today we have here almost every day one or two such deformities, and they all resemble the deformities we got to know after the Chernobyl catastrophe”. In Basra they were told that today ten times more patients suffer from cancer than before the war in 1991, and that 20 times more babies are born with malformations – and the trend is rising. But also in families of soldiers of the allies babies with severe deformities were born.
Since the Gulf War in 1991, the US army has used uranium weapons in its wars under the tacit toleration of NATO allies. In Kosovo as well as in Bosnia and Serbia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Syria. Wagner also raises the question of where Germany stands when it comes to uranium ammunition. With regard to the peace movement in the 1980s, the “German Bundeswehr” did not equip its tanks with uranium ammunition. Wagner: “This policy has been disrupted the first time when the German government abstained from voting for the first time in December 2014 at the last resolution of the UN General Assembly to outlaw uranium ammunition worldwide …”. The ban on uranium weapons failed again in 2014 due to the veto of three members of the Security Council, namely the USA, Great Britain and France. Wagner writes: “Such an exemplary view as that of small Belgium will not be hold here in Germany for the time being. Belgium was the first country in the world to ban the production and use of uranium weapons. In Belgium it is also forbidden to trade with this controversial weapon and also to store and transport these weapons by Belgium. The corresponding law passed by the Belgian parliament in 2007 came into force on 21 June 2009.”
Frieder Wagner’s book contains a rich collection of evidence and facts that will open everyone’s eyes. It contributes significantly to clarify the dangers of radioactive ammunition. The silence about the “taboo subject uranium ammunition” must finally come to an end. The topic concerns all of us, because it concerns the future of our children and our earth. The book stirs us up and shocks, it must be widely distributed to become a basis to require a ban on the use of uranium weapons from the governments of the world. Wagner: “No power in this world has the right to make entire regions, autocratically chosen battlegrounds, uninhabitable and to poison and kill people long after the war has ended. In this way we destroy the habitat of our children and grandchildren, and they will one day rightly curse us for it.” •
(Translation Current Concerns)
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