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|Harsh Kapoor: SAAN -Mailer (June 14, 1999) (fwd)|
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - <firstname.lastname@example.org> is the temporary home of the nettime-l list while desk.nl rebuilds its list-serving machine. please continue to send messages to <email@example.com> and your commands to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. nettime-l-temp should be active for approximately 2 weeks (11-28 Jun 99). - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Date: Sun, 13 Jun 1999 22:43:08 +0200 From: Harsh Kapoor <email@example.com> To: nettime <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: SAAN -Mailer (June 14, 1999) South Asians Agianst Nukes - Mailer June 14, 1999 =================================== Contents: # 1. New Scientist on depleted uranium 2. Cold War's End Leaves Danger of Nuclear War [LATimes, 4/13/99] --------------------------------------------------------- #. 1 From: New Scientist <http://www.newscientist.com/ns/19990605/newsstory6.html> Too hot to handle Rob Edwards IN 1991 Doug Rokke went to the Middle East as a US army health physicist to clean up uranium left by the Gulf War. He helped decontaminate 23 armoured vehicles hit by shells in "friendly fire" incidents. Today he has difficulty breathing. His lungs are scarred and he has skin problems and kidney damage. Rokke, a major in the US Army Reserve's Medical Service Corps, has no doubt what made him ill--contact with radioactive metal.Three years after he worked in the Gulf, the US Department of Energy tested his urine. They found that the level of uranium in his sample was over 4000 times higher than the US safety limit of 0.1 micrograms per litre. Now aged 50 and an environmental scientist at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Rokke is campaigning to stop the US firing uranium weapons in the Balkans. "It is a war crime to use uranium munitions when men, women and children are exposed to them without any medical screening or care," he says. "It is totally, totally wrong." Depleted uranium, or DU, is a radioactive heavy metal. It is the waste left over when the isotope uranium-235 is extracted from naturally-occurring uranium to fuel nuclear power stations and build nuclear bombs. DU typically consists of 99.7 per cent uranium-238. As a by-product of the nuclear industry, DU is cheap and plentiful. And DU shells are a very effective weapon against tanks and armoured cars. They can pierce several inches of armour-plated steel thanks to DU's extremely high density. They're better at penetrating armour than traditional anti-tank weapons made of tungsten. DU was used for the first time in battle during the 1991 Gulf conflict with Iraq. The US Department of Defense says that US planes and tanks fired 860 000 rounds of ammunition containing 290 tonnes of DU. British tanks fired 100 rounds containing less than 1 tonne of DU, according to the Ministry of Defence. Gulf veterans such as Rokke believe exposure to this DU is one of the causes of Gulf War Syndrome, the unexplained illness or group of illnesses that has afflicted thousands of soldiers since the war. Iraqi scientists also claim that DU was responsible for a rise in the numbers of cancers and birth defects in southern Iraq. But both the US and British governments dispute this. They say there is no evidence that DU has damaged the health of military personnel. But the row is erupting again with the US admission it is using DU weapons in the two-month-old war against Serbia. In a press briefing in Washington DC on 3 May, Major General Charles Wald, vice-director for strategic plans and policy for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that A10 Warthog aircraft had fired DU munitions against Serbian forces. The US Joint Chiefs' spokesman, James Brooks, told New Scientist that AV-8 Harriers and Abrams battle tanks in the Balkans also carried DU munitions. The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has said that no DU is "in use" by British forces. But there are more than 20 British Challenger tanks, which fired DU ammunition in the Gulf conflict, stationed in Macedonia ready for action if ground troops move into Kosovo--a move supported by Britain as the limitations of an air offensive become apparent. NATO says that DU has been used against Serbian forces since the second week of May. "It has not been used extensively," says a NATO spokesman. "It has never been proved that the use of DU endangers the health of people. It is no more dangerous than mercury." Neither NATO nor the US will say how just much DU has been fired in the Balkans. But there are 40 A10s and 6 Harriers in action, capable of unleashing a lot of uranium. A10s, for example, are armed with a 30-millimetre Gatling gun that can fire 3900 shells a minute, one in five of which contains 300 grams of DU. This means that each A10 could release 234 kilograms of DU a minute. If US and British tanks take part in a ground offensive, observers say more DU is likely to be fired. As well as its ability to pierce armour plating, DU has the unfortunate tendency to ignite on impact, creating clouds of uranium oxide dust--facilitating its spread in the environment and increasing the danger posed by the alpha radiation it emits. Mike Thorne, a uranium expert from AEA Technology at Harwell in Oxfordshire, formerly part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, points out that as an alpha-emitter, it poses a similar risk to plutonium if it gets inside the body. As such, even the tiniest amounts could cause cell damage that marginally increases the risk of cancer. DU also emits dangerous beta radiation. Its main component, uranium-238, has a half-life of 4.46 billion years. Thorne argues that it could in theory contribute to Gulf War Syndrome: "In view of its poorly defined biochemical effects, DU could be a contributory factor," he says. Chemically, DU poses a great threat to the kidneys, where high concentrations can lead to organ failure. But according to Thorne, even small amounts could have subtle but ill-understood effects. That is why a major study by the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1989 recommended reducing the safety limit for uranium in kidneys from 3 micrograms per gram to 0.3 micrograms per gram. There is evidence that civilian authorities take the threat from DU very seriously. In the aftermath of the Gulf conflict, the UK Atomic Energy Authority came up with some frightening estimates for the potential effects of the DU contamination left by the conflict. It calculated that if 23 tonnes of DU were inhaled--8 per cent of the amount actually fired in the Gulf--this could cause "500 000 potential deaths". This was "a theoretical figure", it stressed, that indicated "a significant problem". Potential deaths The AEA's calculation was made in a confidential memo to the privatised munitions company, Royal Ordnance, dated 30 April 1991. The memo offered to send a team to Kuwait to clear up the DU--an offer that was never taken up. The high number of potential deaths was dismissed last year as "very far from realistic" by a British defence minister, Lord Gilbert. "Since the rounds were fired in the desert, many kilometres from the nearest village, it is highly unlikely that the local population would have been exposed to any significant amount of respirable oxide," he said. The Balkans war, however, is not being fought in a desert but in areas where people have, or did have, houses. As a result of earlier pressure from Gulf veterans, the British government commissioned two reports. In April this year, Lord Gilbert quoted the 1993 investigation by the Defence Radiological Protection Service, which concluded "that there was no indication that any British troops had been subjected to harmful over-exposure to DU during the Gulf conflict". But the other report, published by the Ministry of Defence in March, did acknowledge that troops could have inhaled DU dust in the Gulf and that this "could theoretically lead to damage to lung tissue and subsequently to a raised probability of lung cancer some years later". The ultimate irony is that DU could poison the very land that NATO is trying to protect, says Rokke. "The aim of this war is to enable the Kosovars to return home. But unless the uranium is cleaned up, those that survive the Serb atrocities and the NATO aerial attacks will have to return to a contaminated environment where they may become ill." From New Scientist, 5 June 1999 © Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 1999 ------------------------------------------- # 2. From: Los Angeles Times, 4/13/99 Cold War's End Leaves Danger of Nuclear War Russia's disintegration threatens our security more by inadvertence than by design. By ROBERT SCHEER [LATimes, 4/13/99] Back in the days of the Bush administration, Gen. Lee Butler, commander of the Strategic Air Command, would once a month go through a practice phone conversation with the White House concerning the end of the world. "Gen. Butler, what is your recommendation?" the Bush stand-in would ask upon receiving an alert from NORAD that the Soviets had launched a nuclear strike against the United States. Butler had to answer fast, because, in a real attack, the president would have had only 12 minutes to decide whether to launch thousands of nuclear missiles in retaliation. "Use them or lose them" would be the refrain running through Butler's brain, well-versed in elegant nuclear deterrence theories of ladders of escalation. "I had to say the words recommending the death warrant of tens of millions of people, of civilization--20,000 weapons on both sides exploding within 12 hours--knowing the planet can't withstand that." It still can't. Butler, a 33-year military veteran who rose to be director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is retired now, and the Soviet Union is but a memory. Yet what haunts him, and what occasioned his rare willingness to be interviewed, is that the Cold War's end has increased, not decreased, the prospect of accidental nuclear war. Twenty-thousand nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War still stand poised for launching, and the MAD doctrine that guided them is very much in force. Neither the U.S. nor Russia has abandoned nuclear war fighting as the cornerstone of their respective national defense policies. "We still target them with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert," Butler observed. "The world truly has been transformed, but what has not been transformed is our thinking about it." Russia's political and economic disintegration now threatens our security more by inadvertence than by design, prompting key Cold War military establishment veterans like Butler to sound the alarm: "The Russian command and early warning system is in a state of great decline; about two-thirds of the satellites they relied on for early warning capability are inactive or failing. They're experiencing false alarms now on almost a routine basis, and I shudder to think about the morale and discipline of their rocket forces. There are worrisome aspects to all of that. That's why people like myself are so puzzled and dismayed that our government won't even address the problem." Addressing the problem requires bold leadership on nuclear disarmament that's been sadly lacking in the Clinton years. There have been some cosmetic arrangements with the Russians as to nuclear safety and targeting issues but no real follow-up on arms control measures aggressively pursued by George Bush. Give credit where due: Bush recognized that the end of the Cold War permitted--nay, mandated--that the U.S. set an example by reducing the size and lowering the alert status of its nuclear force. As Butler recalls, "The single most important arms controls were George Bush's unilateral measures back in 1991, which took all of the tactical nuclear weapons off the ships and brought many back from Europe, took the bombers off alert and accelerated the retirement of the Minuteman II force. And Mikhail Gorbachev followed suit. It's ironic that today we have a Republican Congress that thwarts arms control progress, and yet it was a Republican administration that really moved the ball down the field." Clinton has never been very interested in nuclear disarmament, and these days seems bent on alarming the Russian leadership by expanding NATO's membership and military role in Eastern Europe, including a NATO- led war against Russia's neighbor, Yugoslavia. This has strengthened the hand of hard-line communists and nationalists who control the Duma, undermining chances for nuclear arms control progress. Those elements also point to Clinton's endorsement of the harebrained effort to revive the "star wars" Strategic Defense Initiative as further evidence that the U.S. is not committed to arms control. Boris Yeltsin has his flaws, but humiliating him and undermining more moderate forces in Russia is the path of disaster. In 1995, Yeltsin was awakened in the middle of the night because one branch of his crumbling military had failed to inform another of prior knowledge of a Norwegian rocket launch, which they confused with a U.S. Trident missile. Fortunately, this error was corrected before Yeltsin's 12 minutes of decision-making passed. No wonder Butler is concerned.