The United States first used depleted uranium bombs during the military invasion of Iraq in 1991. Apparently pleased with the debut, the Americans pounded them on Yugoslavia nine years later. These days, world news media have been awash with reports that NATO is using depleted uranium bombs against Libya.
Leaving aside the legal and moral aspect of the attacks, a question arises: can’t NATO crush Colonel Gaddafi’s Armed Forces without radioactive exposure?
Shells, bombs and cruise missiles stuffed with depleted uranium easily pierce through thick and heavy armor. That’s why the American military value them so much. According to political research centers in Germany, about 300 radioactive shells were fired at Saddam Hussein’s troops from the air and from the ground during the first campaign, launched in 1991. Twenty-one US tanks were hit by mistake.
The consequences were not slow to arrive. In 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a rise in cancer diseases in five provinces in southern Iraq. Air, water and soil were contaminated with radiation. Leukemia south of Baghdad assumed epidemic proportions. By 2009, cancer rates grew to thousands of new cases per year.
The uranium filling boomeranged on NATO troops. In the densely populated Yugoslavia, leukemia symptoms were particularly extensive with radiation levels 10 to 1,000 times above normal. More than 250 Italian soldiers died from cancer-related diseases. As for civilians, here’s just one example. Leukemia rates among new-born babies in former Yugoslavia have soared from one per 1,000 prior to NATO’s uranium attacks to between 10 and 15 per 1,000 now.
Is there any point in using radioactive shells in Libya? Can’t NATO manage without them?
There is absolutely no point in that. It could be that the Americans have something to test, considering the tasks they need to fulfill. But how does all that fit in with the UN resolution on Libya?
At present, there is absolutely no need in using such kind of shells. Although the quantity of uranium is small, radioactive shrapnel, when penetrating into a human body, creates big problems for the treatment of the wounded.
The aim of the UN resolution on a no-fly zone over Libya, which took shape before our very eyes, is formulated very precisely: not just shutting the air space but protecting civilians. Nothing beyond that. No one authorised NATO to fight on the side of one warring faction against the other, let alone use depleted uranium shells.
Even if these shells explode in a desert far from residential areas, for many Libyans this is a postponed death sentence. The same happened in Iraq where depleted uranium bombs were also used in a desert. A brief look at cancer statistics in Iraq and former Yugoslavia is enough to imagine what awaits Libyans in the near future.