The U.S. says moves to ban depleted uranium ammunition are an attempt by America’s enemies to blunt our military might. Colonel James Naughton says Iraqi complaints about depleted uranium (DU) shells have no medical basis. “They want it to go away because we kicked the crap out of them,” he says. During the Iraq war, tons of DU weapons will be used by British and American tanks and by ground units. Some people are still suffering from the DU ammunition used in the Gulf War 12 years ago.
Depleted uranium is a by-product of uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors, and it’s valuable because it’s extremely dense?about 1.7 times heavier than lead?and it?s self-sharpening when it penetrates armor. When it’s used defensively, ordinary weapons bounce off it.
The M1 Abrams tank, which will be deployed in Iraq, uses only DU-tipped shells and has DU armor. “In the last war, Iraqi tanks at fairly close ranges?not nose to nose?fired at our tanks and the shot bounced off the heavy armor?and our shot did not bounce off their armor,” says Naughton. “So the result was Iraqi tanks destroyed?U.S. tanks with scrape marks.?
Cancer surgeons in southern Iraq say there was a marked increase in cancers which they suspect were caused by DU contamination from tank battles on nearby farmland. But the Pentagon?s Dr. Michael Kilpatrick says, “To the question, could depleted uranium be playing a role, the medical answer is no.” He says a study of 90 U.S. Gulf War veterans exposed to the dust and to shrapnel from DU rounds in “friendly fire” incidents found no DU-related medical problems.
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