The Morality Of Weapons Systems
By PAUL LIKOUDIS
“DU is more of a problem than we thought when it was developed. But it was developed according to standards and was thought through very carefully. It turned out, perhaps, to be wrong” — Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush.
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The photographs are gruesome beyond description (those who wish may see them here):http://www.xs4all.nl/~stgvisie/VISIE…formities.html.
They are newborn Iraqi babies, born without heads and limbs, sometimes they are blood red, sometimes black, sometimes covered in an unknown white film, sometimes with gaping holes in their torsos that expose their internal organs.
They are, say doctors in Iraq and international experts from Europe, Japan, and the United States, the result of the United States’ heavy use of weapons made of depleted uranium in Gulf War I and Operation Iraqi Freedom, which have left densely populated parts of Iraq a radioactive toxic wasteland, where adult cancer and childhood leukemia rates are soaring.
During a presidential campaign where abortion at home and the American military occupation of Iraq are pivotal issues before the electorate, there ought to be a serious public discussion on the morality of weapons used in Iraq.
“This is such a serious issue,” said Dr. John Hittinger, a professor of philosophy at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and a nationally recognized expert on moral issues related to the military and warfare.
In a recent telephone interview, The Wanderer asked Dr. Hittinger, who previously taught at the United States Air Force Academy, if the use of depleted uranium in Iraq (as well as in Bosnia and Afghanistan) constituted a war crime and genocide.
He was reluctant to say it was, explaining that to meet the definition of genocide in international law, one has to establish a “deliberate and systematic intent to eliminate a people.”
But, he added, “I don’t say that to clear our conscience. We can’t hide behind the doctrine of double-effect, or legalisms, and we need to face squarely the indiscriminate effect on Iraqi civilians.
“This has the beginnings of a genocidal effect, so serious questions need to be raised. Although this is not a deliberate, direct, planned attack on the unborn of Iraq, it is such a serious matter because we are attacking the sources of life in Iraqi men and women. There is a potential here for a genocidal effect.”
Dr. Hittinger has impeccable Catholic credentials: a cum laude graduate of Notre Dame University, he earned his doctorate from the Catholic University of America; he is a former managing editor of the Review of Metaphysics; he was the first civilian professor of philosophy at the Air Force Academy; he is writing a book on the morality of warfare; and he is an internationally recognized authority on Aquinas and Jacques Maritain.
He told The Wanderer that it “is time for the Catholic bishops and the informed Catholic laity to revisit the whole ‘war and peace’ issue,” which, he said, “is necessary now that the Cold War is behind us and a protracted ‘war on terrorism’ is before us.
“We need a whole new debate and new parties to the debate,” he added, “in light of the breakdown of the international system.”
A Controversial Issue
The United States’ use of depleted uranium weapons has sparked international outrage around the world. After the Gulf War I, thousands of returning war veterans claimed exposure to DU weapons was the cause of debilitating illnesses.
The Pentagon has routinely insisted, from then until now, that exposure to DU poses no threat to American soldiers. In a $6 million, five-year study released October 19, the Pentagon again insisted that DU is not radioactive or toxic enough to harm U.S. soldiers.
According to a report by Matthew L. Wald for The New York Times, published October 19:
“The conclusion, said Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, deputy director of the Deployment Health Support Directorate of the Defense Department, is that ‘this is a lethal but safe weapons system’.”
But soldiers of Gulf War I, and returning soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom, have a different story.
In April 2004, New York Daily News reporter Juan Gonzales broke a story on how soldiers from the New York National Guard, recently released from Iraq, tested positive for radiation poisoning. And on September 29, Gonzales reported that one of those soldiers, Gerard Darren Matthew, recently became the new father of a deformed baby girl. Matthew also suffers daily from severe headaches, blurred vision, painful urination, and extreme lethargy, according to this report.
In “Committing a War Crime,” Michael Jansen, Middle East reporter for the Irish Times, wrote on September 30 about the growing fear throughout the entire region that depleted uranium dust from exploded weapons is spreading far beyond Iraq, into Jordan, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
DU weapons, reported Jansen, “scatter fine radioactive particles which are carried by the wind and ingested by human beings, animals, and plants. The indestructible particles last forever. Therefore, the areas where DU munitions have been deployed — the Middle East, the northern Indian subcontinent, and the Balkans — have been contaminated with endlessly destructive radioactive dust. . . .
“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated that half a million people would die by the end of the 21st century due to radioactive debris and dust left in Iraq, which makes its way into the rivers, lakes, and seas of the world and the atmosphere which surrounds it.
“While Jordan has expressed concern about possible contamination by airborne particles escaping from Israel’s nuclear reactor, there is a far greater danger from DU dust blown across the desert from Iraq.
“Doug Rokke, ex-director of the U.S. Army’s DU project in 1994 and 1995 and a former professor of environmental science at a Florida university, said: ‘They’re using it now, in Fallujah; Baghdad is chockablock with DU — it’s all over the place.’
“An Iraqi doctor specializing in blood disease at one of the capital’s universities told this correspondent that thousands of Baghdadis had developed cancer since 1991 and warned that incidence of the disease will rise due to the use of DU munitions during the 2003 war. Dr. Jenan Ali, a senior specialist at the Basra College of Medicine, said that in the decade after the 1991 war there was a 100% rise in child leukemia and a 242% increase in all cancers in the region.
“Birth defects are also much higher than normal. Malignancies and defects have also soared in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. war, but no statistics are available in that chaotic country.
“While the Pentagon uses DU munitions to save the lives of its troops, DU may be killing more than the number who would have died if this munitions had not been deployed. The use of DU in 1991 and 2003 is also considered responsible for malignancies in U.S. veterans and birth defects amongst their children. While only 467 U.S. troops were wounded during the 1991 war, of the nearly 600,000 discharged personnel one-third are receiving disability compensation and another 25,000 cases are pending. The figure does not include those who have died. Amongst the 169,000 veterans of the current conflict, 16% had applied for treatment by July 2004. . . .
“According to an August 2002 UN report, the use of DU munitions breaches the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, the Genocide Convention, the Convention Against Torture, the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980, and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.”
Just The Facts
One pertinent web site on problems caused by weapons made of depleted uranium is www.idust.net, operated by the International Depleted Uranium Study Team. It contains a library of news reports and editorials from the world’s press on the consequences of exposure to DU weapons. Others are part of the University of Wisconsin’s depleted uranium project, www.uwec.edu/grossmzc/belowmc.html, and www.citizen-soldier.org; they document the illnesses of Gulf War I and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans and the Pentagon’s refusal to acknowledge veterans’ illnesses. The Deerfield, Mass.-based Traprock Peace Center (www.traprock
peace.org) has an extensive library on DU-related media reports and scientific and legal studies.
The following historical information on the use of DU weapons is taken directly from citizen-soldier:
“The American and British militaries first used DU weapons during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf in 1991. Army and Marine M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks fired 120mm rounds that each contained 10.5 pounds of depleted uranium. The M1 and M60 model tanks fired a 105 mm round with 8.5 pounds of DU in each shell. The Pentagon later estimated that 14,000 such rounds were expended during the war; 7,000 were fired in Saudi Arabia during target practice, 4,000 were used against Iraqi forces, and another 3,000 were consumed by fires or other accidents.
“Another 940,000 30mm DU rounds were fired by A-10 ‘Warthog’ jets in support of their ‘tank killing’ operations during the brief war. All told, the Pentagon has estimated that 320 tons of depleted uranium was fired by U.S. and UK units. As of today, not an ounce of this toxic residue has been removed by either the U.S. or any other agency.
“Months before the Gulf War, the Army’s Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command published the following warning: ‘Following combat, the condition of the battlefield and the long-term health risks to natives [sic] and combat veterans may become issues in the acceptability of the continued use of DU for military applications.’ The report added that DU has been ‘linked to cancer when exposures are internal’. . . .
“[T]he Army is clearly aware that environmental concerns could eventually undermine support for these dangerous weapons. Not long after the Gulf War ended, an Army colonel stationed at the Los Alamos National Labs wrote to a subordinate: ‘There continues to be concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. If no one makes the case for the effectiveness of DU in battle, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and be deleted from the arsenal.’ His memo ends with the following: ‘I believe that we should keep this sensitive issue in mind when “after action” reports are written.’
“In the first years after the Gulf War, thousands of vets began to experience some chronic health problems and many of them sought evaluation and treatment at either VA medical centers or military hospitals. They reported some or all of the following symptoms: neurological problems, chronic skin rashes, respiratory problems, chronic flu-like symptoms including severe body aches, immune system disorders, severe fatigue, joint pain, gynecological infection, bleeding gums and lesions, and unexplained rapid weight loss.
“Eventually, about 186,000 Gulf vets were examined medically at a VA or military medical facility. Virtually all who reported health problems were eventually told that they suffered from ‘undiagnosed illness.’ Very few have received disability payments for service-connected illness. Despite the large number of sick veterans, the Army surgeon general continued to tell Congress and other investigators that only a tiny number of these cases (where vets had been struck with DU shrapnel) could be attributed to depleted uranium exposure.”
The Toll On The Unborn
A handful of American reporters have tried to alert the American public to DU, including The Chicago Tribune’s Robert C. Koehler, who in a March 25, 2004 report, headlined, “Silent Genocide,” wrote:
“This will not be easy to read, especially if you’ve projected evil out of your own heart, into some cave in Afghanistan or a spider hole in Iraq, reduced the age-old question it inspires to this one: How can we bomb it off the face of the earth? Before the damage we inflict grows greater, before history’s judgment gets worse, before we contaminate the whole world — even before we vote in the next election — we must stop what we’re doing. We must stop now.
“It’s time to listen for a moment not to defense analysts, briefing officers, pols or pundits, but to people like Jooma Khan, a grandfather who lives in a village in Laghman Province, in northeastern Afghanistan. Surely he deserves 30 seconds of our undivided attention.
” ‘When I saw my deformed grandson,’ he told an interviewer in March of 2003, ‘I realized that my hopes of the future have vanished for good. [This is] different from the hopelessness of the Russian barbarism, even though at that time I lost my older son Shafiqullah. This time, however, I know we are part of the invisible genocide brought on us by America, a silent death from which I know we will not escape.’
“We’re waging war-plus in Afghanistan and Iraq — in effect, nuclear war, with our widespread use of depleted-uranium-tipped shells and missiles. . . .
“And DU dust is everywhere. A minimum of 500 or 600 tons now litter Afghanistan, and several times that amount are spread across Iraq. In terms of global atmospheric pollution, we’ve already released the equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombs. . . . The numbers are overwhelming, but the potential horrors only get worse. DU dust does more than wreak havoc on the immune systems of those who breathe or touch it; the substance also alters one’s genetic code. . . .
“This ghastly toll on the unborn — on the future — has led investigators to coin the term ‘silent genocide’.”