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Allies Poisoned U.S. Troops: Gulf War Syndrome Hurts Veterans, U.S. and Iraqi Kids

  • A German researcher has linked Gulf War Syndrome to uranium-tipped rounds used primarily be U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf War. He is calling for a ban on these weapons.
By Siegwart-Horst Gunther

In natural uranium, the proportion of the isotope 235 is only about 0.7 percent; the greater part is uranium-238. As only uranium-235 is suitable as fissile material for use in nuclear power stations, the uranium ore has to be enriched by artificially increasing the proportion of this isotope. As a result, there are large quantities of waste produced by this procedure, i.e. of so-called depleted uranium (or D.U.) Consisting almost solely of the isotope 238.

In Europe, these waste products from the uranium industry are stored in specially shielded deposits at considerable costs because of their high toxicity and radioactivity. In order to reduce these high costs, depleted uranium of the isotope 238 is passed on to interested parties, mostly free of charge.

Depleted uranium has properties which make it highly attractive for the armaments industry:

  • It is practically the heaviest naturally occurring substance.
  • The D.U. projectiles, the development of which is presumably based on German technology, have great penetrating power and are better suited for the purpose of penetrating steel armor plating than any other weapon.

It is also an inflammable material. It ignites immediately on penetrating armor plates, releasing highly toxic and radioactive substances on combustion.

D.U. projectiles were used for the first time by the Allied troops during the Gulf War in 1991 -- with devastating effects and consequences.
At the beginning of March 1991, I detected projectiles in an Iraqi combat area which had the form and size of a cigar and were extraordinarily heavy. At a later point in time, I saw children play with projectiles of this kind; one of them died from leukemia. As early as the end of 1991, I diagnosed a hitherto unknown disease among the Iraqi population which is caused by renal and hepatic dysfunctions.

My efforts to have one of these hitherto unknown projectiles examined brought me into serious trouble in Germany: The material was highly toxic and radioactive. The projectile was confiscated by a large police detachment, carried away under enormous safety precautions and stored in a specially shielded deposit.

During the last five years I have been able to carry out extensive studies in Iraq. Their results produced ample evidence to show that contact with D.U. ammunition has the following consequences, especially for children:

  • A considerable increase in infectious diseases caused by most severe immunodeficiencies in a great part of the population;
  • Frequent occurrence of massive herpes and zoster affections; AIDS-like syndromes;
  • A hitherto unknown syndrome caused by renal and hepatic dysfunctions;
  • Leukemia, aplastic anemia, malignant neoplasms; and
  • Congenital deformities caused by genetic defects, which are also to be found in animals.

The results of my studies show similarities to a clinical picture described recently by the term of the so-called "Gulf War syndrome" in American and British soldiers and their children. The congenital deformities caused by genetic defects in American and Iraqi children are similar.

According to U.S. statements, vaccinations against anthrax and botulism, malaria prophylaxis, benzenes used for delousing, pyridostigmin bromide taken as a prophylaxis against the nerve gas soman, the insecticides DEET or permethrin as well a the D.U. ammunition used are held responsible for the development of this syndrome. Poisonous gas was not used during the Gulf War.

The Allied troops were not informed about the dangers to health caused by the D.U. projectiles until nine days after the end of the war. With the exception of the uranium ammunition, the Iraqi Army had not been exposed to these dangerous factors. Like all heavy metals, such as lead or cadmium uranium is highly toxic. The human body must not get into contact with them.

According to statements by the U.S. Army, about 14,000 high-caliber shells alone were fired during the Gulf War. According to estimations by the British Atomic Energy Authority, about 40 tons of this type of ammunition are supposed to be scattered in the frontier area between Iraq and Kuwait; other experts even assume that there are 300 tons of it. Not more than 10 percent of these projectiles have been detected; the greatest part of them have been blown over and covered with sand or are lying deep in the ground. As in these desert regions rains also occur, the toxic substances are permeating into the ground- water and thus entering the food chain, a source of danger in the long run.

Saudi Arabia had demanded that all vehicles and instruments of war that had been destroyed by uranium ammunition on their territory be collected by the U.S. Army: this material was carried away and transported to America.

A study carried out in 1993 by three American scientists is said to have shown that about 50,000 Iraqi children had already died during the first eight months after the Gulf War from the detrimental effects of the D.U. projectiles.

In the opinion of American nuclear scientist Leonard Dietz, the arms technology of the uranium projectiles is as revolutionizing as the Machine-gun was during the First World War. The Gulf War was however, as he said, also the most toxic in history.

In March 1994, reports were published in the U.S. about 251 families of veterans of the Gulf War living in Mississippi. Sixty-seven percent of the children of these families were born with congenital deformities their eyes, ears or fingers are missing or they are suffering from severe blood diseases and respiratory problems.

In my position of physician and scientist I call on those responsible, as well as on the public to prohibit the use of D.U. ammunition, which is already at the disposal of several states at present. This also applies especially to recently developed laser weapons, the use of which leads to blindness in the victims.