After decades of war, drought, poverty, and oppression, the Afghani people have endured almost every calamity known to human kind. Now independent researchers have uncovered a new horror in Afghanistan, this one brought by NATO occupation forces that include 2,500 Canadians: Depleted Uranium (DU).
Depleted Uranium is a toxic and radioactive waste, a residue leftover from the enrichment of natural uranium for use in nuclear reactors and bombs. DU is 67% denser than lead and is much prized by the military for use in its weaponry. DU warheads, rather than flattening on impact, actually get sharper as they punch through the protective armor of an enemy tank or bunker. Once it has penetrated the target it explodes into a cloud of flaming plasma and dust, flash-frying everything and everyone inside the structure. Even worse, this radioactive dust is not consumed by the explosion. Once released into the environment, it is impossible to clean up. With a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years, it will keep on killing and causing disease. Forever.
Carried by the wind, it spreads to contaminate the soil, crops, and water of the surrounding area. Inhaled or ingested by humans and other animals, it damages DNA causing a variety of horrifying health effects, including various forms of cancer, immune disorders, internal organ damage, and extreme birth defects. The effects grow worse as time goes on as chronic exposure passes genetic damage on to future generations. There is no treatment and no cure for uranium exposure.
In 2003 scientists from the Uranium Medical Research Center studied urine samples from Afghan civilians from six different sites around the country. Every sample taken had uranium levels 400 to 2000% higher than normal. A UMRC reported that the “field team was shocked by the breadth of public health impacts coincident with the bombing. Without exception, at every bomb site investigated, people are ill. A significant portion of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal contamination by uranium.”
The effects this is having on the population are obvious to the residents. Jooma Khan, a grandfather in Laghman province was quoted by an interviewer: “After the Americans destroyed our village and killed many of us, we also lost our houses and have nothing to eat. However, we would have endured these miseries and even accepted them, if the Americans had not sentenced us all to death. When I saw my deformed grandson, I realized that my hopes of the future have vanished for good... I know we are part of the invisible genocide brought on us by America, a silent death from which I know we will not escape.”
While the Canadian military claims to have eliminated DU from its munitions, the Canadian forces are fully integrated into NATO occupation forces. When Canadian troops call in air strikes during combat operations the bombs dropped come from American planes using DU ordinance. Canada must stop contributing to this ongoing war crime and pull its troops out now!