depleted uranium
Despite the fact that depleted uranium munitions employed by the US and NATO forces during combat operations in former Yugoslavia and Iraq ruined the lives of countless innocent civilians and servicemen, the powers that be appear reluctant to even discuss this problem and eager to punish those who go against their wishes.

The fate of Frieder Wagner is a peculiar example of what happens when you stand up to the establishment's injustice. A notable director who won the prestigious German Grimme Award, responsible for numerous documentaries for the ARD and ZDF channels, he quickly became a pariah after making a movie called Deadly Dust (Todesstaub) about the use of depleted uranium (DU) shells by NATO forces in the Middle East and in the former Yugoslavia.

In an exclusive interview with Sputnik, Wagner explained that Deadly Dust is based on an earlier documentary called The Doctor, the Depleted Uranium, and the Dying Children (Der Arzt und die verstrahlten Kinder von Basra) that he filmed for WDR.

In April 2004 the movie was screened during the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. But even though that autumn it received the ÖkoMedia award, it was never screened again. And no matter what ideas he came up with, the TV channels that he previously worked with stopped sending him new orders for some reason.
"I contacted a head of the WDR editorial office whom I'd worked with before and asked him what happened. He paused for a second and then told me "The WDR editorial office considers you a 'difficult' person. And most importantly, the topics you suggest are especially hard. Right now I've got nothing more to tell you"," Wagner explained.
He added that about a year ago he met with Siegesmund von Ilsemann, an editor at Spiegel magazine who wrote a comprehensive report about the 'deadly dust' and its effects, and who revealed to the astonished director that the use of depleted uranium by the military literally became a taboo subject in Germany.
"He told me that the issue of DU munitions use and its consequences became taboo in Germany. And no TV channel or newspaper would allow even him - a person who worked on this subject for a long time - to publish anything related to it," Wagner added.
DU shells are made of byproducts of uranium enrichment. Their superior armor-piercing capabilities make them a potent anti-tank weapon, especially considering that when an armored vehicle gets hit by such a shell, the impact and subsequent release of heat energy causes it to ignite, incinerating the target's interior. But it's the 'deadly dust' produced by a DU shell detonation that is probably the most insidious aspect of this type of ordnance.
"At such a high temperature the substance - depleted uranium - burns down to nano-particles, each of them a hundred times smaller than a red blood cell. And due to their extremely small size, these particles 'travel' through a human body, infiltrating brain, lungs, kidneys, placenta, bloodstream and even sperm and egg cells which causes severe developmental diseases in newborns," Wagner said.

Comment: Gulf war syndrome: United States veterans suffering from multiple debilitating symptoms

Depleted Uranium

In addition to the chemical and biological warfare, there is another disturbing legacy left by the American invasion of Iraq: depleted uranium. DU is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. Its name implies it is a harmless material, but in actuality it is still a highly poisonous, radioactive, heavy metal. The term depleted comes from the process of extracting and removing the highly radioactive isotope U-235 from natural uranium and thereby leaving the relatively stable and less radioactive isotope, U-238. After U-235 is extracted from U-238 for use in nuclear weapons and breeder reactors, only U-238 remains. Although it is considerd depleted because it no longer contains U-235, U-238 still emits one-third of its original level of radioactivity.

The DoD claims that DU is used only on bullet tips and tank shells in order to enhance penetration of steel as easily as butter. The truth is that the entire bullet or shell, not just the tips or coating, contain U-238, making them especially hazardous. Furthermore upon explosion the uranium can be present at a nano-scale. Dr. Doug Rokke, a retired major who served as the director of the US Army Depleted Uranium Project in the mid-90s is a specialist in uranium cleanup efforts. He was an advisor for DU science and health for the Centers for Disease Control, US Institute of Medicine, Congress, and the DOD. Rokke has been at the forefront in efforts to alert health and military officials about DU's enormous health risks:
It is important to realize that DU penetrators are solid uranium 238. They are not tipped or coated! DU oxides are shed during flight spreading minute contamination all along the flight path. The Cannon bore is also contaminated as is the inside of each tank or bradley fighting vehicle or LAV. During an impact at least 40 % of the penetrator forms uranium oxides or fragments which are left on the terrain, within or on impacted equipment, or within impacted structures.
US and British forces used Operation Desert Storm as a testing ground for the widespread employment of DU during Gulf War I. It is estimated that over 940,000 30 mm uranium-tipped bullets and 14,000 large-caliber depleted rounds were released. Even before the second Gulf War, between 350 and 800 tons of DU residue, with a half-life of 4.4 billion years, permeated the ground and water of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Such immense radioactive pollution has exposed countless people. Inhalation and ingestion of DU were unavoidable for troops in proximity to exploding shells. In addition, soldiers spent long hours sitting in tanks, handling uranium-laced shells and casings. Weapons were also taken home as souvenirs. Families of veterans came in contact with the substance after handling clothing laced with it.

According to him, US forces actively used DU munitions in Kosovo, Somalia, Libya and during both Iraqi campaigns, not to mention that they keep using them in Afghanistan up to this day.
"I've travelled to Iraq and Kosovo myself. We collected soil, water and tissue samples. All tissue samples contained depleted uranium particles, and even worse, they contained the so called uranium-236 which can only be produced artificially," he said.
He also pointed out that the families of 16 out of 109 Italian soldiers who died of cancer sued the Italian government. During the trials, which the plaintiffs won, it was established that the fatal disease in all cases was caused by the use of DU munitions in Iraq and Kosovo. And yet, much to Wagner's surprise, no global wave of outrage spearheaded by the UN, Amnesty International and similar organizations took place over these developments.
"It should've happened a long time ago. In 2001 in Germany and in many other European nations the press wrote a lot about the first deaths among the Spanish and Portuguese soldiers in Kosovo. The then-Defense Minister of Germany Rudolf Scharping nearly lost his position. But then NATO and the UN decreed that this topic must be removed from the media - and they succeeded," Wagner surmised.