Hurricane Juan and depleted uranium

By Mitzi Bowman*

(BLUE ROCKS, October 24, 2003) -- The Halifax Herald reproduced on October 4, 2003 a capsule commentary from the Canadian Press that the Canadian Forces were cleaning up unexploded shells from the 1940s (WW2) "and other debris". Why isn't the Herald telling us what this "other debris" is or could be?

In the early 1990s (following the Gluf War) the military carried out soft target practice with depleted uranium (DU) along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, in the vicinity of Cow Bay, with a total of six tonnes of radioactive material left on the ocean bottom. The shells were fired from shells were fired from a Phalanx gun which is capable of shooting 4,500 DU projectiles per minute. They also dumped about two tonnes of DU "slugs" into the Bedford Basin of Halifax Harbour. This too was reported at that time in the Chronicle Herald and by the CBC.

A friend told me that CBC Radio reported later in the afternoon of October 4th that 16 shells had washed up on the Eastern Shore and that the Canadian Forces had shut the highways down in the vicinity. The story is not on their website. What's in these shells? Are they DU shells or mustard gas or something else? One determines what's in the shells from the rings painted around them, paint that is eaten away by the salt water.

In response to expressions of outraged concern from the Eastern Shore Fishermen's Association at the time the DY exercises were revealed, Maritime Command declared they had no intention of "cleaning up" the DU, saying that it was safer to leave it where it was. Later they paid an "expert" from Dalhousie University who reportedly agreed that it was safe.

The target practice along the Eastern Shore was itself developed as preparation for annual naval exercises in Vieques Island in Puerto Rico code-named "Caribops". These exercises with the United States navy and the NATO fleet -- protested annually by the People's Front (Halifax) in the 1980s, and by this magazine in recent years -- were annually reported by the Herald and the Daily News as nothing more than "fun in the sun" and an occasion to repaint the naval warships in the balmy Caribbean waters. Yet for more than sixty years the U.S. Navy and its "allies" carried out bombing on Vieques with everything from live bombs to napalm and depleted uranium, resulting in an endemic health crisis, including increased incidents of cancer and other diseases, for the 9,400 residents of this island. The U.S. navy only admitted to this in January, 2000. They too had paid "experts" to try and convince the people of Vieques that it was safe.

Not only was the weaponry of the Canadian Navy a dangerous and unregulated Weapon of Mass Destruction, but it was operating even during "peacetime" as a component of a global police force ready to unleash genocide against any country which does not go along with the United States. Similar shelling took place off the Pacific Coast and Vancouver Island.

In February 1997, the United States deployed from its base in Okinawa, Japan to south Korea a large number of depleted uranium bombs. These are recognized world-wide as inhuman weapons and their use has been banned by international treaties and protocols that classify depleted uranium ammunition as weapons of mass destruction.

Yet they have been used in the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1999 and, most recently, along with cluster bombs, in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. (1)

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, 872 U.S. veterans from every branch of the services and from every war issued a "Veteran's call to conscience to troops and reservists" in April. Speaking of the use of "Operation Desert Storm" in 1991, they eloquently stated: "In the last Gulf War, as troops, we were ordered to murder from a safe distance. We destroyed much of Iraq from the air, killing hundreds of thousands, including civilians. We remember the road to Basra -- the Highway of Death -- where we were ordered to kill fleeing Iraqis. We bulldozed trenches, burying people alive. The use of depleted uranium weapons left the battlefields radioactive. Massive use of pesticides, experimental drugs, burning chemical weapons depots and oil fires combined to create a toxic cocktail affecting both the Iraqi people and Gulf War veterans today. One in four Gulf War veterans is disabled."

One such Canadian soldier who perished from Gulf War syndrome was Capt. Terry Riordan of Yarmouth. He died from his illness in April 1999. His wife, Ms. Sue Riordon, Atlantic director of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, fought Ottawa for adequate financial and medical support for her husband years ago. Hundreds of these veterans live on welfare and are being denied proper psychological support and home care. This also was reported by the Herald on February 9, 2001.

Then comes Hurricane Juan, and shells from the 1940s and "other debris" are being washed ashore. So, what has happened to the radioactive DU from the Gulf War and the nineties? Could it be that the "other debris" includes some of that? What other deadly "debris" lies on the ocean seabed off the coasts of Atlantic Canada? Why doesn't the Department of Defence come clean about what's on the seabed? Are they wroried what the Americans would say?

When I inquired on October 15th of the Chronicle Herald's news department, the person who answered the telephone, Brian Ward of the "assignment desk", did not remember the earlier report, nor did he know anything about the "other debris", but thanked me for the "heads up", promised to "look into it" and get back to me. In the week after Juan, the Herald was openly calling on the public to tell them what was going on.

Yet nothing was reported by the Halifax Herald. Why are we not being told? Do we really have nothing to be concerned about? Or are our concerns worth nothing? Or were they only looking for soft target stories?

After eight days went by, with no return call, I again left a voice message with Mr. Ward on October 23rd. I am still awaiting his call.

So now I am writing to you, shunpiking.

Does anyone know?

Uranium238 (DU) lasts over 45 billion years (Half life 4,5 billion) and, as it discharges its energy, produces "daughters", other radioactive elements, all dangerous, emitting large particle alphas, more energetic beta particles and gamma waves.

Will these "slugs" corrode the tiny radioactive particles swallowed by fish and lobsters, get eaten by humans, get washed ashore and re-suspended into the air to be inhaled by us?

New research reveals that even one particle ingested into the body or inhaled into the lungs can damage DNA and cause mutations that can result in cancers damage to immune systems, central nervous system disorders and if in reproductive organs, result in damage to offspring, mutations that can repeat through generations.

Residents of Halifax, Dartmouth and communities along the Eastern Shore should be told what is happening in their waters and their shorelines.

Endnote

1 This was described as a crime against civilians by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers on April 19, 2003, in violation of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949) and Protocol I, including Art. 54 [Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population] and Art, 55 [Protection of the natural environment];

*Mitzi Bowman and husband Peter Bowman are veteran peace activists in her seventies, authorities on DU, and longtime subscribers and supporters of shunpiking magazine. For further information on DU you may contact Mitzi by e-mail at upthesun@tallships.ca

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

Akira Tashiro, Discounted Casualties; the Human Cost of Depleted Uranium, c2002

ECRR 2003 Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk

Health Effects of Ionising Radiation Exposure at Low Doses for Radiation Protection Purposes, ed. Chris Busby, PhD et al

Chris Busby, Wings of Death; Nuclear Pollution and Human Health, c1995

Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D, Planet Earth; The Latest Weapon of War, c2000