‘Friendly Fire’ Newsletter 1

In this Issue:

Editorial

Report: The McDermott Bill

Report: GAO Study

Article: Let’s get the story straight

Report: Dutch Military and DU contamination in Iraq

Editorial

At the moment of writing this editorial, the situation of the Japanese hostages in Iraq still remains unclear. A group named the “Saraya al-Mujahidin” kidnapped three Japanese civilians. One of them, Noriaki Imai, 18 years old, works on the Depleted Uranium (DU) issue. The NO DU Hiroshima Project and five other Japanese organisations against the military use of DU have done an emergency appeal to save Noriaki Imai and the other two hostages. As a journalist, Noriaki went to Iraq to investigate cases of radiation sickness due to DU contamination. He has planned to publish a picture collection revealing the damage caused by DU. He is working from a sincere desire to let as many people as possible know the reality of the damage.

We call on everyone to use their personal contacts to try to free the hostages. A recent release of a Dutchman held hostage in Dagestan was mediated by a speed skate coach and a soccer trainer!

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News on April 3 reported that DU was found in the urine of 4 out of 9 US soldiers coming back home from Iraq with health problems. The GI’s were stationed in As Samawah, the capital of Iraq’s province Al Muthanna, which is also the area where currently Dutch, Japanese and Moldavian troops are staying. Apparently realizing that this news reveals a serious situation, no one less than Senator Hillary Clinton immediately demanded health checks for all returnees from Iraq.

The list of grassroots and other non-governmental organisations, politicians and institutes that demand a clean up of affected areas and to investigate DU poisoning has steadily grown over the years. Even the British Royal Society and the US General Accounting Office have joined the list. However, nothing has happened so far. Because of this, ICBUW is zealous for an immediate ban on the military use of DU in weapons.

The ICBUW Office has started and coordinates a wide range of actions. For example, an assessment is currently carried out to determine the most appropriate sponsor state, which will bring the draft Convention for the prohibition on the military use of DU in weaponry into the United Nations, and other states, which would be willing to serve as a co- sponsor. We keep you posted on developments after a May ICBUW meeting with the founding organisations. Decisions have to be made, for instance, about the membership criteria.

Meanwhile, in Belgium, a National Coalition is set up which has already met twice. Such National Coalitions are a means to lobby governments, and to organise public actions and meetings to influence the opinion makers.

This first issue of FRIENDLY FIRE features contributions from Maarten H.J. van den Berg (RISQ) on developments in As Samawah, Dan Bishop (IDUST) on necessity to publish correct information on DU, and Gretel Munroe (Grassroots Actions for Peace) on the US McDermott Bill and the US General Accounting Office.

Lizzy Bloem,
Henk van der Keur,
ICBUW Office
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The McDermott Bill

By Gretel Munroe | Grassroots Actions for Peace

On April 10, 2003 Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Washington) introduced the Depleted Uranium (DU) Munitions Study Act of 2003 (H.R. 1483) to the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically the bill asks for studies of the health effects of DU to be done jointly by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency to identify sites in the U.S. where DU munitions had been manufactured or used as in test firing, and would study the air, water and soil/vegetation at these sites for possible DU contamination. The bill also requires clean-up of contaminated sites.

At the present time the McDermott Bill is in three committees: the House Subcommittee on Health, the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Armed Services.

Congressman McDermott, a physician, has been concerned about Gulf War veterans illnesses for some time. He has also been to Iraq where he talked with pediatricians and learned of their concerns about increased cancer rates in children and increases in congenital abnormalities in infants.

Initially the McDermott Bill had six co-sponsors in Congress. My congressman, Edward Markey, (Democrat, Massachusetts) was one of the original co-sponsors. There are now 31. McDermotts office would like to have at least 50 co-sponsors. Grassroots Actions for Peace intends to work on this issue and increase the number of co-sponsors in conjunction with other grassroots groups.

The McDermott Bill, H.R. 1483, can be accessed at Thomas.loc.gov/ by plugging in the number of the bill on the computer screen.

There is a movement in progress to ask different Senators such as Sen. Hilary Clinton and Sen. Edward Kennedy to work towards having a companion bill in the Senate. Such a bill would essentially ask for studies of the health effects of depleted uranium and an environmental clean-up of sites in the U.S. contaminated by DU. However, it might be a somewhat different bill. Several years ago, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney introduced a bill in the House of Representatives asking in addition for a ban on DU munitions, including manufacture and use of DU weapons until it could be proved that DU was harmless. Congresswoman McKinney lost in the primaries (before the 2002 elections) and consequently the bill died. A possible Senate bill would probably not go this far.

GAO Study

by Gretel Munroe | Grassroots Actions for Peace

The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) is doing a study of the health effects of exposure to DU in veterans of the 1991 Gulf War as well as policies of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in identifying and medically treating veterans exposed to DU. Congressmen Robert Filner (Democrat of California) and Ciro Rodriquez, (Democrat, Texas) persuaded the GAO to take on this study. Results of the study will be available by June.

Let’s get the story straight

by Dan Bishop | IDUST

Once again I find myself cringing at an op-ed piece about depleted uranium written by a well-meaning but misinformed activist. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than pleased to see another article presenting the hazards and problems associated with DU brought before the public. We can’t get enough publicity, to be sure. Minor misstatements here and there probably don’t hurt our cause too much, but over time they could undermine our credibility. We don’t need to provide our opponents with ammunition….

>>Read the full article

Dutch Military in Iraq delays troop transfer from suspected DU contaminated area

by Maarten H.J. van den Berg | RISQ

When Dutch marines arrived in a base camp near the town of As Samawah, Iraq, to replace American troops last summer, they measured unacceptably high levels of radioactivity. Yet troop transfer from the area was delayed by three weeks, putting both Dutch and American troops at risk of exposure to depleted uranium (DU)…