Pentagon Brass Suppresses Truth About
Poisonous Uranium Munitions Threaten World
The use of weapons containing uranium violates
existing laws and customs of war and “constitutes a war crime or crime against
humanity,” according to a leading U.S. expert on humanitarian law.
Karen Parker, a San Francisco-based expert in
armed conflict law, told American Free Press that the use of radioactive
uranium weapons violates the Hague and Geneva Conventions as well as the
Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980.
Although no treaty specifically bans DU weapons,
they are illegal “de facto and de jure,” Parker said. However, a class action
lawsuit by victims of DU weapons will probably be required for a court to ban
their use, she said.
‘ILLEGAL FOR ALL COUNTRIES’
“A weapon made illegal only because there is a
specific treaty banning it is only illegal for countries that ratify such a
treaty,” Parker wrote in a paper, “The Illegality of DU Weaponry,” presented at
the International Uranium Weapons Conference in Hamburg, Germany last October.
However, “a weapon that is illegal by operation of existing law is illegal for
Parker, a delegate to the UN Commission on Human
Rights since 1982, provides legal advice to the UN on DU weapons and other
matters of humanitarian law.
“DU weaponry cannot possibly be legal in light of
existing law,” Parker said.
“In evaluating whether a particular weapon is
legal or illegal when there is not a specific treaty, the whole of humanitarian
law must be consulted,” Parker wrote.
According to humanitarian law, the illegality of
DU weapons is based on four criteria:
The first is the “territorial” test. Weapons may
only be used in the legal field of battle. Weapons may not have an adverse
effect off the legal field of battle.
The second is the “temporal” test, meaning that
weapons may only be used for the duration of an armed conflict. A weapon that
continues to act after the war violates this criterion.
The territorial and temporal criteria are meant to
prevent weapons from being “indiscriminate” in their effect.
The third rule is that a weapon cannot be unduly
inhumane. The Hague Convention of 1907 prohibits “poison or poisoned weapons.”
Because DU weapons are radioactive and chemically toxic, as the military knows,
they fit the definition of poisonous weapons banned under the Hague Convention.
WHAT THE MILITARY KNOWS
The Defense Department is well aware of the toxic
effects of DU. In an official presentation by U.S. Army Reserve Col. J. Edgar
Wakayama at Fort Belvoir, Va. on Aug. 20, 2002, the dangers of exposure to DU
were clearly spelled out:
“Inhalation exposure has a major effect on the
lungs and thoracic lymph nodes,” Wakayama read from a slide. “The alpha
particle taken inside the body in large doses is hazardous, producing cell
damage and cancer. Lung cancer is well documented,” he noted.
“Urine samples containing uranium are mutagenic
[capable of producing mutation]” and “the cultured human stem bone cell line
with DU also transformed the cells to become carcinogenic,” Wakayama read.
DU deposited in the bone causes DNA damage because
of the effects of the alpha particles, Wakayama stressed. One gram of DU emits
12,000 high-energy alpha particles per second.
The fourth rule for weapons, the “environmental”
test, says that weapons cannot have an unduly negative effect on the natural
Wakayama advised, “Heavily contaminated soil
should be removed if the area is to be populated with civilians.”
Wakayama described the dangers to children playing
in contaminated soil and the leaching of DU into local water and food supplies.
DU FAILS ALL LEGAL CRITERIA
DU weaponry fails all four tests, Parker says.
Because it cannot be contained to the battlefield, it fails the territorial
test. Airborne DU particles are carried far from the battlefield affecting
distant civilian populations and neighboring countries.
Because the uranium dispersed on the ground and in
the air cannot be “turned off” when the war is over, DU fails the temporal
“The airborne particles have a half-life of
billions of years and have the potential to keep killing . . . long after the
war is over,” Parker wrote.
“The status of DU as nuclear, radiological, poison
or conventional does not change its illegality. When the weapons test is
applied to DU weaponry, it fails,” she concluded.
DU weapons fail the humaneness test because of how
they kill, Parker says, “by cancer, kidney disease etc, long after the
hostilities are over.
“DU is inhumane because it can cause birth defects
such as cranial facial anomalies, missing limbs, grossly deformed and
non-viable infants and the like, thus affecting children . . . born after the
war is over,” Parker said.
“The teratogenic [interfering with normal
embryonic development] nature of DU weapons and the possible burdening of the
gene pool of future generations raise the possibility that the use of DU
weaponry is genocide,” she wrote. “Willfully causing great suffering or serious
injury to body or health” of civilians constitutes a grave breach of the fourth
Geneva Convention, and this is “exactly what DU weapons do.”
Finally, because DU weapons cannot be used without
unduly damaging the natural environment, they fail the fourth rule for weapons,
the environmental test.
“No available technology can significantly change
the chemical and radiological toxicity of DU,” the Army Environmental Policy
Institute reported to Congress in 1994. “These are intrinsic properties of
“Regarding environmental damages, users of these
weapons are obligated to carry out an effective cleanup,” Parker wrote. “The
cost of legal claims and environmental cleanup for the gulf wars alone could be
“Use of DU weaponry necessarily violates the
‘grave breach’ provision of the Geneva Conventions, and hence its use
constitutes a war crime or crime against humanity,” Parker concluded.
Questions regarding the legality of DU weapons
were sent in writing to the Pentagon’s appointed spokesman on DU matters, James
Turner told AFP that he was “not qualified” to
answer such questions.
By press time the Pentagon had not responded to
repeated requests for information.