Depleted Uranium won’t bring peace to Ukraine

11:14 20.09.2023 •

DU penetrator from the A-10 30mm round.

Militarism is obsolete, for God’s sake. Its technology is out of control, writes Robert Koehler, a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

The latest shred of news that has left me stunned and terror-stricken is this, as reported by Reuters: “The Biden administration will for the first time send controversial armor-piercing munitions containing depleted uranium to Ukraine. It follows an earlier decision by the Biden administration to provide cluster munitions to Ukraine, despite concerns over the dangers such weapons pose to civilians.”

The war (like all wars) has to stop, but NATO and the U.S., just like Russia itself, are looking not for peace and conflict resolution but victory. Killing the enemy is what matters, the more the better.

War is humanity’s most horrific addiction. When it takes hold of a people’s soul, all environmental and human concerns vanish. And today – indeed, throughout the course of my lifetime – with the development of nuclear weapons, we’ve been at the brink of self-generated extinction. And we’re still playing with it, rather than trying to move beyond it.

Depleted uranium – DU – is one of the playthings of war: At 1.6 times the density of lead, DU shells are the last word in penetration power: locomotives compressed to the size of bullets. The shells ignite the instant they’re fired and explode on impact.

I first started writing about depleted uranium in 2003, when I heard Doug Rokke (who died two and a half years ago) speak in Chicago. Doug, a career soldier, was involved in the first Gulf War, leading a team of soldiers whose job was to clean up the war zones in the aftermath of our bombing raids.

As I wrote then: Depleted uranium “isn’t really depleted of anything. It’s dirty: U-238, the low-level radioactive byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. And when the ammo explodes, poof, it vaporizes into particles so fine — a single micron in diameter, small enough to fit inside red blood cells — that, well, ‘conventional gas mask filters are like a barn door.’ But the horror of DU is what happens after the battles are over. DU stays in the environment, and has been linked to huge rises in cancer and birth defects in the conflict zones. As Doug Rokke said: “You can’t clean it up.”

But so what? According to Sydney Young, writing for the ‘Harvard International Review’: “Governments that use depleted uranium have a vested interest in preventing research that suggests it has negative effects on human health. For instance, the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, and France all opposed a 2001 United Nations resolution to document depleted uranium in war.”

Noting the horrific extent to which the Ukraine war has stalemated, Jeet Heer writes at ‘The Nation’: “The time is surely ripe for a diplomatic push. Unfortunately, the passions ignited by war always make negotiations difficult” and, alas “a strong ‘taboo’ against public discussion of diplomacy pervades the NATO countries,” Robert Koehler concludes.


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