How absurd is it that we have the government on the one hand pulling back from using a hollowed out mountain in Nevada to store nuclear waste because of a fear (legitimate I grant) that hundreds or thousands of years hence, some earthquake or other catastrophe could cause the stored waste to leak into the water table, while on the other hand we have this same government deliberately taking some of the most dangerous waste–the actual uranium from the used fuel rods–and putting it into bombs, shells and bullets to be splattered and burned all across the landscape?
And I should note that it’s not just remote places like Iraq and Kuwait and Afghanistan that are being covered in super toxic and radioactive uranium dust–and I’m not just talking about the stuff that gets picked up in the wind and carried around the globe, or the stuff that gets inhaled by our troops and carried home internally, bad enough as that is.
The truth is that depleted uranium weapons are being exploded and burned right here in the USA in training operations. The center of Hawaii’s Big Island, for example, which is a military zone, is heavily contaminated by DU ammunition fired by tanks there. The same is true of Vieques Island, long a favored target for the Navy, which for years has fired DU shells from its ships at the populated island, and also launched DU-tipped missiles and dropped DU-loaded “bunker-buster” bombs at it.
While I don’t have direct knowledge, I’d say it’s a safe bet that there are a number of sites on the Mainland US where DU munitions have also been widely used–maybe White Sands Proving Ground the Marine training area near Joshua Tree National Monument in Southern California, or other such training and testing areas.
The simple truth is that our own government, besides committing an ongoing atrocity in the Middle East, is also poisoning our own country with uranium oxide.
Our Nobel Peace Prize president should take note. President John F. Kennedy reportedly moved to halt open air testing of nuclear weapons after looking at the rain falling outside the window of the Oval Office and asking a science advisor whether it was delivering nuclear fallout to his front lawn (he was told that it was). Maybe President Obama should consider that the rain today is delivering uranium dust to his wife’s and daughters’ garden in the back yard of the White House. At least he should take a look at pictures of the horribly deformed babies being born to mothers in Iraq (and of the lucky babies that are stillborn), thanks to the radioactive warfare that the US military has been employing against both that country and Afghanistan–his “necessary” war.
There is another irony here too. The US is expressing concern about Iran enriching uranium, and possibly creating a nuclear bomb, which in the unlikely event that it were ever used, might spread some radioactivity around parts of the Middle east, yet it is the US which already has spread 2000 or more tons of uranium dust all over Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 18 years–far more than any small Iranian bomb could release.
Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist. He is author of Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage Press, 2003) and The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at thiscantbehappening.net