Let there be light!” said God, and there was light!
“Let there be blood!” says man, and there’s a sea!

English poet, Lord Byron (1788–1824)

As US and NATO forces continues pounding Afghanistan with cruise missiles and smart bombs, people who be acquainted with aftermaths of two previous wars fought by US around the world, fear after Gulf and Balkan war syndrome another Syndrome the ‘Afghan War Syndrome’. A state of vague aliments and carcinomas, linked with usage of Depleted Uranium as part of missiles, projectiles and bombs in battle field. People of Afghanistan , who had been dying in starvation up till now, are likely to savor a modern form of death; death owing to radioactive materials pulverized over barren mountains and harsh plains in modern world’s war on terrorism. And the fear is that Afghan people will not be alone to go through it. People neighboring Afghans are equally at risk. World has attained globalize outline, now, all crop and spoil are equally shared among people.

What Depleted Uranium Is?

Depleted uranium is the super weapon of the '90s; used in the Gulf War and the conflict in Kosovo. DU is not a weapon itself but a heavy metal used in production of armaments. DU is a rather benign sounding name for uranium-238, the trace elements left behind when the fissionable material is extracted from uranium-235 for use in nuclear reactors and weapons. For decades, this refuse was a radioactive nuisance, piling up at plutonium processing plants across the US . By the late 1980s there was nearly a billion tons of the material left over in US dumps. Then weapons designers at the Pentagon came up with a use for the tailings: they could be molded into bullets and bombs. The material was free and there was plenty at hand. Depleted Uranium is 1.7 times denser than lead and this means that it can form the core of a shell which will easily penetrate steel armor of tanks and other military vehicles. This makes it perfect for use in armor-penetrating weapons, designed to destroy tanks, armored-personnel carriers and bunkers. It is triumph of military technology. It smashes through a tank's armor better than anything else. At high speed, it slices through tanks like a hot knife through butter. All flying bombs (Tomahawk, JDAM, etc.), are made of DU metal. DU is a concern because it's a by-product of the process that is used to make nuclear power fuel or nuclear weapons. Although ‘depleted' of its powerfully radioactive component, DU does still contain minute traces of radioactivity.

When the tank-busting bombs explode when a hardened missile strikes target, around 70% of the DU burns and oxidizes, bursting into minute particles that can be inhaled or ingested as dust. This can be harmful because of the residual radioactivity of the DU, possibly leading to cancer, but also because uranium itself, as a heavy metal, is toxic and can lead to kidney failure and other health problems. DU is toxic only if the dust is inhaled or ingested, or if DU-contaminated shrapnel enters the body. The inhaled lethal dust, sticks to the fibers of the lungs, and eventually begins to wreck havoc on the body: tumors, hemorrhages, ravaged immune systems, leukemia’s. Un-oxidized DU metal in the downed craft and in unexploded ammunition, rockets, bombs and missiles rusts away into a very fine black dust. This dust, too, spreads around through air, water and via people, animals and mobile objects that move over it.

Staying in a contaminated area is risky because one never knows how one might ingest a particle of DU oxide, and one particle is all one needs to become sick. The radioactive and toxic DU-oxides don't disintegrate. They are practically permanent. DU has a half-life of more than 4 billion years, approximately the age of the Earth. It means thousand of acres of land in the Balkans, Kuwait and southern Iraq have been contaminated forever. If our apprehension is spot on, Afghan terrain would be as well to catalog.

The stockpiling of DU weapon is spreading. AS DU is becoming more popular with defense establishment around the world, more than 20 countries are now having DU in their arsenal, Pakistan is among one of. A few months back among the exhibits at IDEX 2001 held at Karachi , was a model of the new 125mm armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) projectile with depleted uranium (DU) long-rod penetrate, which is being developed by the Pakistani National Development Complex (NDC) for use with T-80UD tanks.


The amount of DU used in the Gulf War was approximately 100 times greater than the amount used in Kosovo. In all, the US hit Iraqi targets with more than 970 radioactive bombs and missiles. Roughly half of the 320 tons of DU fired in the Gulf War was shot in Kuwait , to oust Iraqi occupation troops. Months of bombing of Iraq by US and British planes and cruise missiles in Gulf War has left behind an even more deadly and insidious legacy: tons of shell casings, bullets and bomb fragments laced with depleted uranium. As allied bombing was intense in part of southern Iraq , epidemic of carcinomas has erupted consequently in that part of Iraq . At present the desert dust carries death all around southern Iraq .

Although downplayed by the US administration and Western media, Iraqi physicians have been reporting sharp increases in cancers such as lymphomas and leukemia in Southern Iraq , as well as an increase in birth defects. Since 1990, the incident rate of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent. One Iraqi Oncologist who studied cases of rising leukemia among southern Iraqi population terms conditions in southern Iraq as another Hiroshima . M ost of the leukemia and cancer victims aren't soldiers. They are civilians. And many of them are children. According to mortality figures compiled by UNICEF as many as 180 children dying every day in Iraq . Callous part of this occurrence is that because of UN sponsored embargo, Iraqi hospitals be short of drugs and equipments to face the endemic. Children are dying in their mother’s lap without food and pills. They are at heart ration for cold tummy of death. Iraqi physicians call it "the white death"-leukemia.

Iraqis and Kuwaitis aren't the only ones showing signs of uranium contamination and sickness. But what soldiers often didn't know was that depleted uranium poses a threat to victor as well as vanquished. Gulf War veterans, plagued by a variety of illnesses; have been found to have traces of uranium in their blood, feces, urine and semen.

The number of Gulf War vets who were in contact with radioactive tanks or breathed contaminated dust could be in ten of thousands. The shadows of that war ago still haunt them. The world came to know about Gulf War Syndrome – a variety of mysterious ailments, when US and allied countries soldiers returned to their homes carrying symptoms of yet unknown aliment/ malady. Doctors labeled it Gulf War syndrome, on account of the fact that this malady had no previous record to be classified. With the exception of US defense establishment, every one believes that this state is straight outcome usage of DU in conflict. Iraqi cancer victims and American former soldiers suffering from Gulf War Syndrome are joining forces to sue the US government over the use of DU missiles and projectiles in Gulf War.

Balkan Syndrome

NATO planes fired 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium, DU, ammunition into Serbia and Kosovo during the NATO air war in 1999. Now fears of a "Balkans Syndrome" related to the depleted uranium used in allied armaments in Bosnia and Kosovo are raging across Europe . Already medical teams in the region have detected cancer clusters near the bomb sites. The leukemia rate in Sarajevo , pummeled by American bombs in 1996, has tripled in the last five years. A United Nations report found evidence of radioactivity at eight of 11 sites tested in Kosovo that were struck by NATO ammunition made with depleted uranium. There is concern about civilians who stray too close to the lingering dust at the sites of crushed tanks.

History repeats itself in Balkan and akin to Gulf war; it’s not just the assailed Serbs who are ill and dying but NATO and UN peacekeepers in the region are also coming down with cancer. Eight Italian soldiers who served in the region under NATO’s banner during past one and half year have died of leukemia. Five Belgians, two Dutch, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech are in addition to victims of DU. Consequently, Italy asked NATO to institute a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium in its armaments until more studies are done. France and Portugal added their voice to Italy . France launched an enquiry into the effects of DU on their soldiers In Kosovo and Portugal withdrew its soldiers from Kosovo. The Portuguese Defense Minister went public by declaring that Portuguese soldiers were not going to become uranium meat by taking part in further military expedition. In the meantime, Canada stopped using its own DU weapons two years ago and has taken steps to deal with sick veterans, offering to pay for soldiers to be tested for DU exposure at independent American centers. However, Ottawa , like Washington , has so far rejected calls for a ban on weapons made from Depleted Uranium.

The US Defense Department doesn't want to admit that DU is harmful because they don't want the liability. The Pentagon has shuffled through a variety of rationales and excuses. First, the Defense Department shrugged off concerns about Depleted Uranium as wild conspiracy theories by peace activists, environmentalists and Iraqi propagandists. When the US 's NATO allies demanded that the US disclose the chemical and metallic properties of its munitions, the Pentagon refused. It has also refused to order testing of US soldiers stationed in the Gulf and the Balkans.

To hope against hope.

As described above, DU should be stored as a radioactive waste, and instead powerful people in the helm of affairs are spreading this malignant refuse around the globe risking million of lives those who are directly drawn in combat or indirectly exposed to it by living in combat field.

Afghan people are not solitary at risk but people bordering them are equally at peril. As wind and rivers could take DU across the borders, therefore it is not very unlikely that in the coming days we people in Pakistan also be sharing spoil and hazard of toxic DU with Afghan people. If DU enclose weapon are on the cards in this war, in that case the United States should reconsider its use in our courtyard. At least we could demand perpetrator of ‘infinite justice’ of doing justice to we people by making sure of not using ammunition with DU in war against Taliban regime, as it will render million of people across Afghan border at risk of life.

M.K. Gandhi had once written that morality is contraband in war. But world should have to disagree with him by stirring international conscious in favor of morality and ethos in all forms of war. All is not fare in war.

Warfare, for all its chaos, does not shelve ethics and morality. Chemical weapons are banned by international agreement. Antipersonnel land mines are on their way out. DU rounds should go the same route. They may be military wonders. But they're ethical horrors that the world should get rid of sooner the better.