Nato must tell us the truth about depleted uranium

Share

The use of depleted uranium ammunition in Kosovo was irresponsible. That irresponsibility finally needs to be admitted. The war itself was justified; the means were not.

The use of depleted uranium ammunition in Kosovo was irresponsible. That irresponsibility finally needs to be admitted. The war itself was justified; the means were not.

The depleted uranium shells are popular with the military because the uranium is unusually dense, and can thus penetrate tank armour. Even in war, however, "collateral damage" - to use the hideous euphemism beloved of the military men - must be kept to a minimum. (Britain, by developing a version of the thermobaric "vacuum bomb" beloved of the Russians in Chechnya, appears to disregard such concerns.)

Nato boasted during the Kosovo war of its glasnost, which Jamie Shea, the then alliance spokesman, regularly contrasted with Milosevic's lie machine. That declared openness was, however, itself a lie in this regard. Nato constantly refused to disclose details about its use of depleted uranium, which had already caused concern because of illness suffered by soldiers and civilians in the Gulf. Several months after the end of the Kosovo war, when The Independent's Robert Fisk questioned Nato about the use of DU munitions, he was told that there was "no releasable information" on the subject.

That coyness itself may have reflected official shame. If so, it was entirely justified. Only in March 2000 did Lord Robertson, Nato Secretary-General, finally confirm that 31,000 rounds of DU-tipped ammunition had been used by American A-10 ground attack aircraft in Kosovo the previous year - especially in south-west Kosovo, in areas now under the control of Italian peacekeepers. In Bosnia, 18,000 rounds of DU ammunition were fired. Now, when there have been 30 cases of serious illness among Italian soldiers who served in Bosnia and Kosovo, and following cases of leukaemia among Dutch peacekeepers, Nato finally admits there may be a problem. It is to be discussed at two meetings next week. (Even now, the effect on civilians is still virtually ignored.) Sweden, which holds the EU presidency, says that it is "important that we act". Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, suggests that DU-tipped ammunition should be banned because of the potential risk.

Nato may be right in the narrow sense when it argues that there is no "proven link" between the use of DU-tipped ammunition and cancer. That is hardly surprising, however, if insufficient questions have been asked. The generals and the politicians have until now seemed determined not to confront difficult issues. But ostrichism is no way to run an alliance.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker