July 12th, 20004. Movement to Ban DU
Even as DU rounds-a radioactive weapon-proliferate around the world, an international
grassroots movement seeking a ban on their
manufacture and use is growing.
The movement to ban DU weapons began in the latter half of the 1980s. It was launched by people living near DU penetrator production plants and firing ranges in the US who feared that these facilities could affect human health and the environment. In time, as American and British veterans of the Gulf War contracted serious illnesses, the movement became linked to mounting appeals from these veterans and their families.
Through the Internet, conferences, and other means, the movement has grown to include European and American NGOs, scientists, and attorneys involved with environmental issues and the anti-nuclear movement. In January 1999, the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) was born in Manchester, Great Britain. Leader Rae Street (62) also serves as vice-chair of the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), a long-time player in the movement to ban nuclear weapons.
"CND is questioning how to move toward nuclear disarmament now that the Cold War is over. We are especially working on movements pressing for change in the nuclear policy of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), which insists on its right to a first strike. However, DU weapons weren't really considered a problem."
This began to change in October 1998. Street
herself went to the meeting "DU munitions
and Iraq" in Manchester. There, she
first heard a veteran from her own country
testify that depleted uranium had been detected
in his urine. He complained of various health
problems, including joint pain so severe
that walking was difficult. At that meeting
Street also learned that in southern Iraq,
cancer, congenital defects, and stillborn
births are increasing among the general public,
especially children, as well as soldiers,.
"I was shocked above all to learn that it is a radiological weapon. The nuclear abolition movement is important, but we can't overlook the DU problem." Street consulted with her colleagues in the movement. With the agreement of the national CND office, the Manchester CND chapter used its office to start up a separate organization for CADU, which focused on DU weapons.
In its eight-page quarterly newsletter and on its homepage, the group reports on British veterans, government responses, and happenings related to depleted uranium in the US, Canada, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and other places around the world.
"In November, we will hold a two-day "International Conference Against Depleted Uranium Weapons" in this city. To improve the chances for getting a ban on DU munitions, veterans from various countries, people living near production sites and firing ranges, concerned citizens in Iraq and Yugoslavia (Serbia), physicists, physicians, legislators, and others will gather to discuss the issues."
Street and her colleagues are absorbed in preparations, trying to get at least 300 participants. Manchester City, which in 1980 became the first city in the UK to declare itself a "nuclear-free city," will be one of the sponsors.
A US naval test firing and bombing range is located on Viegues Island, Puerto Rico, a US territory located in the Caribbean Sea. Since World War II, the island has been contaminated by the firing of live munitions, including DU shells, in practice maneuvers. Many of the 9,300 island residents have suffered adverse health effects. A strong protest movement that started on the island a little over a year ago seeks a ban on the use of DU rounds and the prohibition of maneuvers.
Last year in Tokyo, a small group of people
who have continued relief efforts for Iraq
since the war created the Depleted Uranium
Research Group to disseminate information
about the weapon.
As the facts about DU munitions become known, cities and national governments are beginning to move. In March 2000, the Davis City Council (California) passed a resolution seeking a ban on the use of DU munitions and sent it to President Bill Clinton. Davis is using the Internet to urge other municipalities to follow suit.
In May 2000, the Environmental Minister of Finland sent a letter calling for "a ban on the use of depleted uranium weapons" to his counterparts in each EU nation. Legislators in the Green Party, Germany's ruling party, began asking their government to pursue an international ban on DU weapons.
Street says, "Concern has really grown over the past year, particularly in Europe and the US. We have to get the facts to more legislators in each country, so they will press their governments to act."
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