You don’t want to see what depleted uranium does to human beings.
Depleted Uranium is left over from the enrichment of uranium 235. It is exceptionally hard, and has been employed by militaries both to penetrate armored targets and to reinforce their potential targets like tanks against enemy fire. Though less radioactive than the original uranium, DU is toxic and is considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a “radiation health hazard when inside the body.”
The weapon saw widespread use in the First Gulf War, and its affects on the health of U.S. soldiers was later dubbed “Golf War Syndrome”. (At least it was semi-recognized; the severe birth defects and other health issues this weapon has caused among the Iraqi population have simply been ignored or denied).
This disgusting weapon was used again by the Americans during their “liberation” of Fallujah in 2004. Still suffering from the aftermath, the people of Fallujah have seen an unnatural spike in cancer cases and hideous birth defects.
And now, Washington admits that DU was used in Syria — even though it promised otherwise.
As Foreign Policy reports:
Officials have confirmed that the U.S. military, despite vowing not to use depleted uranium weapons on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, fired thousands of rounds of the munitions during two high-profile raids on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled Syria in late 2015. The air assaults mark the first confirmed use of this armament since the 2003 Iraq invasion, when it was used hundreds of thousands of times, setting off outrage among local communities, which alleged that its toxic material caused cancer and birth defects.
The idea that such a weapon could be used without every major U.S. leader being dragged to the Hague makes our stomach turn.
FP points out the obvious:
The spent ammunition littering eastern Syria after the attack, along with the wreckage of the trucks, was almost surely not handled appropriately by the occupying authority — that is, the Islamic State. Even if civilians driving the trucks were not initially exposed to the toxic remnants of DU, scavengers and other local residents will likely be placed at risk for years to come.
“What will happen with the destroyed vehicles? Usually they end up in scrapyards, are stripped of valuable parts and components, and dumped,” said Wim Zwijnenburg, senior researcher at the Dutch NGO Pax. “This puts scrap-metal workers, most likely local civilians, at risk of exposure.”
If there are few ideas for what post-Islamic State governance will resemble in eastern Syria, there are none at all about how to safely handle the depleted uranium that the U.S.-led coalition has placed into the environment.