A decade on and depleted uranium contamination stills blights Iraq
To mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion, a new report has
highlighted continuing uncertainties over the impact and legacy of the
use of 400 tonnes of depleted uranium (DU) weapons in Iraq. The report
reveals the extent of DU's use in civilian areas for the first time.
In a State of Uncertainty (http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/205.pdf) published by Dutch peace organisation IKV Pax Christi (http://www.ikvpaxchristi.nl/en/home),
has sought to do what the US has so far refused to do – reveal how
widely the weapons were used in Iraq, and in what circumstances. It also
analyses the costs and technical burdens associated with DU use,
arguing that a decade on, many contamination problems remain unresolved –
leaving civilians at risk of chronic DU exposure.
States argue that the use of controversial DU munitions is justified against armoured vehicles, yet In a State of Uncertainty
documents their use against a wider range of targets in 2003, with
attacks often taking place within civilian areas, leaving residents at
risk from contamination. This resulted from both the US's use of DU in
medium calibre ammunition for aircraft and armoured fighting vehicles,
and the frequency of urban combat operations in 2003.
The report also finds that the Iraqi government has struggled with
the cost and technical challenges posed by the legacy of contamination, a
situation compounded by the US's refusal to release targeting data. The
Iraqi government acknowledges that there are more than 300 sites with
known contamination, based on the limited data available, with new sites
regularly discovered. Clean-up of sites typically costs around
US$150,000, but varies considerably depending on the setting, extent and
level of contamination.
"The 300 or so known sites may be the tip of the iceberg," said and ICBUW spokesperson. "While
it is obviously difficult to extrapolate directly from other conflicts,
in the Balkans, where 1/60th of the quantity of DU was used, we saw
somewhat over 100 contaminated sites, we would therefore expect the
total number of contaminated sites in Iraq to be far higher than the 300
identified by the Iraqi authorities."
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