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The Pentagon’s Dirty Bombers: Depleted Uranium in the USA

By David Lindorff – 10/26/2009

The Nuclear Regulator Commission is considering an application by the US Army for a permit to have depleted uranium at its Pohakuloa Training Area, a vast stretch of flat land in what’s called the “saddle” between the sacred mountains of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island, and at the Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu. In fact, what the Army is asking for is a permit to leave in place the DU left over from years of test firing of M101 mortar “spotting rounds,” that each contained close to half a pound of depleted uranium (DU). The Army, which originally denied that any DU weapons had been used at either location, now says that as many as 2000 rounds of M101 DU mortars might have been fired at Pohakuloa alone.

But that’s only a small part of the story.

The Army is actually seeking a master permit from the NRC to cover all the sites where it has fired DU weapons, including penetrator shells that, unlike the M101, are designed to hit targets and burn on impact, turning the DU in the warhead into a fine dust of uranium oxide. Hearings on this proposal were held in Hawaii on Aug. 26 and 27.

Uranium particles, whether pure uranium or in an oxidized form, are alpha emitters, and can be highly carcinogenic and mutagenic if ingested or inhaled, since they can lodge in one part of the body—the kidney or lung or gonad, for example—and then irradiate surrounding cells with large, destructive alpha particles (actually helium atoms), until some gene is compromised and a cell become malignant.

Among the sites identified by the NRC as being contaminated with DU are:

Ft. Hood, TX
Ft. Benning, GA
Ft. Campbell, KY
Ft. Knox, KY
Ft. Lewis, WA
Ft. Riley, KS
Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD
Ft. Dix, NJ
Makua Military Reservation, HI

Other locations identified as having DU weapons contamination are:

China Lake Air Warfare Center, CA
Eglin AFB, Florida,
Nellis AFB, NV
Davis-Monthan AFB
Kirtland AFB, NM
White Sands Missile Range, NM
Ethan Allen Firing Range, VT
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

An application for a 99-year permit to test DU weapons at the NM Inst. Of Mining and Technology claimed that that site’s test area was “so contaminated with DU… as to preclude any other use”!

DU weapons have also been used by the Navy at Vieques Island off Puerto Rico (the Navy claimed it was a “mistake.”)

The Pentagon continues a long history of claiming that DU–which is the uranium that is left after the fissionable isotope U-235 is removed to make nuclear fuel and bombs–is not dangerous, although this official stance is belied by the warnings it has given to its troops (though not to civilians in battle zones), to stay well clear of tanks and other equipment destroyed by US tanks, which used DU weapons as the ordnance of choice in both the Gulf War and the current Iraq War. During both wars, DU ammunition was used by Army and Marine tanks, by the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the A-10 ground support jet, the Marine Harrier jet, and specially equipped F16 fighter jets. The Navy also switched from DU ammunition to tungsten ammunition in its Phalanx anti-missile ship defense system because of health and environmental concerns with the DU ammo.

In both wars, a high percentage of troops have returned with many physical ailments–auto-immune problems, cancers, and later, birth defects in offspring–which have been referred to as Gulf War and now Iraq War Syndrome. As many as a quarter of returning vets from the Gulf War have reported strange illnesses and cancers and the numbers are rising for Iraq War vets. As well, statistics from the National Institutes of Health show that counties hosting bases and test facilities where DU has been uses also show high cancer rates. This is certainly true for Hawaii’s Big Island, which has the highest cancer rates for the Hawaiian archipelago. Meanwhile, the lung cancer rate for the Ft. Knox area is 105-127 per 100,000 for the 2001-2005 period, high by state and national standards. The rate is among the highest in the state of Washington for Pierce County, where Ft. Lewis is located.

The Pentagon denies that it uses depleted uranium in bombs, missiles and cruise missile warheads, but military personnel have reported their use in all three delivery systems, and reports exist of DU bunker-buster bombs, DU-tipped penetrator warheads on Tomahawk cruise missiles and on some air-to-ground missiles.

It’s a good bet that all US munitions containing DU have been widely tested at various US military bases and testing grounds.

The bottom line is that at the same time that US government is continuing to warn about the danger of terrorists acquiring the materials to make a “dirty” bomb that could spread radioactive material in the US, the US military has for years been doing exactly that, and continues to do so, with no intention to clean up its messes, many of which are allowing depleted uranium to percolate into ground water or flow down streams to more populated areas.

Of course, it could have been worse. The M101 mortar that litters Pohakuloa was actually designed as a range-finder for the Davy Crocket mortar, which back in the late 1950s and the 1960s, and up until 1971 was designed to allow infantry troops to fire a small “tactical” nuclear mortar shell at targets just one to two miles distant. Some 700 of these “little nukes”, that had a power of “just” several kilotons or less, were made and actually made their way into the arsenals of troops in Europe and elsewhere during the Cold War. Fortunately there are no reports of any of them having been fired off at any of the military’s firing ranges–especially given that their radiation effect radius was larger than their firing range, meaning that launching one was an automatic suicide mission.

(Actually firing it would have been suicide.)

Then again, the Pentagon doesn’t exactly have a sterling record about telling the truth where nuclear weapons and DU weapons are concerned. (You start to notice as you look into this stuff that with uranium weapons, the military’s attitude towards troop safety is not a whole lot better than its attitude towards the people at the downrange end of the line.)

Nor is the NRC to be relied on to protect the American public. As an administrative judge wrote in a ruling on a case involving DU contamination at Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana, the NRC exhibited a “more than casual attitude with regard to decommissioning of sites on which radioactive materials remain as a potential threat to public health and safety and to the environment.”

In another case, involving cleanup of the ShieldAlloy Metallurgical Corp.’s site in Newfield, NJ, where DU weapons were made, a judge said, “at the very least, the (NRC) staff has countenanced…a situation that will leave the citizens in the area surrounding the activity site in doubt for close to two decades regarding what measures will ultimately be taken for their protection.”

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Comments Off on The Pentagon’s Dirty Bombers: Depleted Uranium in the USA

Bill Clinton and the Bogus Iran Threat

By Sheldon Richman | FFF | May 8, 2014

Tragically, President George H.W. Bush passed up a chance for a rapprochement with Iran because, after the Soviet Union imploded, the national-security apparatus needed a new threat to stave off budget cutters in Congress. Iran became the “manufactured crisis,” according to author Gareth Porter’s new book by that title.

Doubly tragic, Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton, compounded the dangerous folly by hyping the bogus threat. Why? That might be a good question for progressives to ask possible presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who enjoys basking in her husband’s supposed presidential successes.

Porter writes,

That ramping up of pressure on Iran by the Clinton administration was still driven by the same bureaucratic incentives that had appeared at the end of the Cold War, but it shifted into overdrive because it was linked to support of the Israeli government’s drive to portray Iran as the great threat to peace in the world.

Clinton’s advisers saw the threat of nuclear proliferation as the path to beefing up the national-security apparatus. It was perfect for justifying new weapons systems and a continuing role as world policeman.

Moreover, the military focus on Iran, Porter adds, “dovetailed with the Clinton administration’s move to align its Iran policy with that of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.” Before assuming power, Clinton signaled his intention to be “more explicitly pro-Israel than the Bush administration had been.” To that end, he selected Martin Indyk as his campaign’s Middle East adviser. Indyk had been an adviser to former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir; a researcher at the chief pro-Israel lobbying organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; and cofounder of AIPAC’s spinoff think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Today, Indyk is President Obama’s chief envoy to the failed U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian talks.)

The Clinton administration implemented the “dual containment” policy against Iraq and Iran. But Porter reports that Robert Pelletreau, the Middle East policymaker in the State Department, acknowledges “that it was ‘pretty much accepted in Washington’ that the policy had originated in Israel.”

Was there a case against Iran to justify the policy? The administration charged Iran with abetting international terrorism, beefing up its armed forces, and seeking nuclear weapons. But was there evidence?

Porter’s book is a heavily documented brief showing that Iran never had a policy or took steps to acquire nuclear weapons. It sought a uranium-enrichment capability in order to produce fuel for its civilian nuclear program, but it did not seek weapons. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had issued a fatwa condemning nuclear weapons as a sin against Islam.

As for Iran’s military, the government sought to acquire medium-range missiles, but this was entirely consistent with its defense needs: Saddam Hussein of Iraq was a standing threat (he had launched an eight-year war complete with chemical attacks and missile strikes on Iran’s cities, including Tehran), and Israeli leaders often spoke of the need for a preemptive strike against the Islamic Republic, like the one staged in 1981 against Iraq’s nuclear-power reactor at Osirak.

And terrorism? “Reflecting both the hostility toward Iran within the national security bureaucracy and the influence of the Israeli line on its Iran policy, the Clinton administration also adopted the same a priori assumption that Iran was a threat to the issue of terrorism,” Porter writes. In other words, Clinton didn’t need evidence. Porter provides several examples of Iran being falsely blamed for terrorism committed by someone else. The pattern of blame without evidence persists.

Finally, why were Israel’s leadership and American supporters so determined to put Iran at the center of U.S. foreign policy, especially when Israel’s government had previously, if covertly, cooperated with the Shiite Islamic Republic on the grounds that both countries had a common enemy in Sunni extremism? Porter’s detailed and documented chapter on this aspect of the manufactured crisis concludes,

“The history of the origins and early development of Israel’s Iran nuclear scare and threat to attack Iran over its nuclear and missile programs highlights a pattern in which both the [Yitzhak] Rabin and [Benjamin] Netanyahu governments deliberately exaggerated the threat from Iran, in sharp contradiction with the Israeli intelligence assessment. The ruse served a variety of policy interests, most of which were related to the manipulation of US policy in the region.”

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Book Review, Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Comments Off on Bill Clinton and the Bogus Iran Threat

International Justice, Empire Style

Interventions Watch | May 8, 2014

The New York Times is today running an article on France’s attempt to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, via a U.N. Security Council Resolution.

The article reports that the Resolution has been tailored ‘to address American sensitivities, according to several people who have seen the text’.

What are those sensitivities? Well, according to the article:

In Syria, it faces another quandary: the Golan Heights, disputed territory that is claimed by both Syria and Israel. The United States has long worried that any referral to the court could implicate Israel, a close ally, and bring it before the tribunal.

The draft text, which could be circulated to all 15 members of the Council next week, gets around the problem by defining the conflict narrowly, as involving the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, its allied militias, and armed opposition forces between March 2011 and the present. It proposes to refer that “situation” to the court in a carefully worded bid to save Israel from becoming ensnared.

So, one ‘sensitivity’ is that any referral to the ICC could open up Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights to legal review. This is obviously unacceptable to the U.S., and so France has worded the resolution in such a way that Israel will be immune from any kind investigation.

Here’s the second ‘sensitivity’:

The second way in which it addresses American concerns is that it exempts “current or former officials or personnel” of countries that have not ratified the Rome Statute — except Syria. That way, if American soldiers are ever involved in the Syrian conflict, they would be immune from prosecution.

So the Resolution will  see to it that U.S. troops and political leaders would also be immune from prosecution if they are ‘ever involved’ – never mind that they are involved *now*.

There is a certain kind of liberal who places great faith in the ICC as a means of resolving conflicts and holding war criminals and human rights abusers to account. Personally, I think that faith is quite badly misplaced.

The ICC in it’s current incarnation is far too open to political manipulation and pressure from the stronger states of the world to be considered a neutral arbiter. This potential Resolution, which grants the U.S. and Israel immunity from prosecution, demonstrates that clearly.

(Incidentally, if it’s vetoed by Russia and or China, watch certain liberals scream about how Russia and China don’t care about accountability, while remaining totally silent about the fact that the Resolution would grant certain parties to the conflict total immunity)

You can look at Libya circa 2011-2014 as another example of this.

In February 2011, during the early stages of the civil war there, the situation was referred to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council,  under pressure from the U.S., Britain and France. Many of us at the time suspected this referral was less about securing justice for victims than it was about further delegitimising the Gadaffi regime as a prelude to military ‘intervention’.

What has happened since has only reinforced that idea.

The only people indicted by the ICC so far have been former Gadaffi regime officials. This is despite the fact there is copious evidence from bodies like the U.N. that rebel forces also committed war crimes and Crimes against Humanity.  In May 2012, the post-Gadaffi Libyan authorities even passed a law which essentially granted those accused of war crimes from within the rebel ranks immunity from prosecution.

You would think, then, that because the Libyan authorities can’t or won’t investigate rebel crimes themselves, that the ICC might issue indictments. But to date? Nothing.

The Libyan authorities have also refused to hand over former Gadaffi regime officials wanted by the court.

As Sarah Leah Whitson from Human Rights Watch put it in 2012, ‘it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that the NTC merely used the ICC as a political tool against Qaddafi, rather than as a tool of justice for the citizens of a nation long deprived of independent courts’.

The same is undoubtedly true of those in the ‘international community’ who pushed for the referral, in my opinion. It was simply a means to an end, the end being regime change. I see no reason to believe that their motivation in attempting to refer Syria is any different.

There could even be grounds for the ICC to investigate NATO over their conduct in Libya.

One of the worst rebel crimes in Libya was the attack on Tawergha in August 2011, in which people were systematically murdered, tortured and displaced on a mass scale. It was  an attack that was heavily coordinated with NATO forces, according to Al Jazeera.

NATO also deliberately bombed media outlets, targeted schools, and even – potentially –  civilian homes. All of which could be war crimes.

The ICC won’t be investigating these potential crimes any time soon, of course. Why? We return to today’s New York Times article for the answer:

Because Syria was also not a party to the statute, the International Criminal Court can open an investigation only with a Security Council referral. It did so with Libya in 2011. That resolution also had language that specifically protected American soldiers from potential prosecution.

It’s because the U.S. granted themselves immunity from prosecution in that conflict as well, as part of their ‘push for international justice’, Empire style.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on International Justice, Empire Style

Israeli Ex-Official: Netanyahu Fear-Mongering over Iran Nuclear Abilities

Al-Manar | May 9, 2014

An Israeli former official said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fear-mongering over Iran’s nuclear program, warning that a strike on the Islamic Republish will lead to an all-out war.

Brigadier General (res.) Uzi Eilam, who for a decade headed the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, said that Netanyahu is employing needless fear-mongering when it comes to Iran’s atomic aspirations, in order to further his own political aims, Israeli website Ynet reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Eilam does not believe that Tehran is even close to having a bomb, if that is even what it really aspires to.

“The main issues are still ahead of us, but it is definitely possible to be optimistic. I think we should give the diplomatic process a serious chance, alongside ongoing sanctions. And I’m not even sure that Iran would want the bomb – it could be enough for them to be a nuclear threshold state – so that it could become a regional power and intimidate its neighbors,” Eliam said.

“Besides, what good would bombing do? It would only unite the Iranian people behind its government, and provide it with an incentive to continue the project, with far more resources. Bombing would achieve the direct opposite of what we desired.”

Eilam was one of the central figures in the development of the Zionist entity’s nuclear and missile programs over the last half century.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Comments Off on Israeli Ex-Official: Netanyahu Fear-Mongering over Iran Nuclear Abilities