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The Devilís Arsenal: the weapons of war

By Kellie Tranter - posted Monday, 15 August 2011


White phosphorus is a napalm like substance that is highly toxic, highly dangerous and highly destructive. Questions have arisen about the use by coalition forces generally, and by the United States in particular, of radioactive material like depleted uranium and chemicals like white phosphorus in theatres of war including Iraq and Afghanistan. It's been virtually impossible to get straight answers out of the puppet masters, but the use of such substances against other human beings is a matter about which concerned citizens of all countries should know and have a right to know.

On 23 October 2009, in answer to a question put by Senator Ludlam, Air Chief Marshal Houston said: I will be quite categorical here. No chemical or radiological weapons are used by the coalition in Afghanistan.

The answer was "clarified" in December 2009 with “…it is understood that some foreign defence forces may use or reserve the right to use, Depleted Uranium ammunition in Afghanistan…”

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Five months before Mr Houston’s testimony - as a result of a tragic incident involving an 8 year old Afghan girl named Razia - Colonel Gregory Julian, a spokesman for the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that Western forces in the country do use the chemical:

In the case of white phosphorus it is used on the battlefield in certain applications…It is used as an incendiary to destroy bunkers and enemy equipment; it’s used for illumination.

In May this year Danish Daily Information reported that leaked documents for the period 2005-2009 revealed that Danish and foreign coalition forces used white phosphorus not only in eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan, but also in populated areas of Helmand’s Green Zone, an area obviously familiar to our troops.

More recently Pakistani physicians and experts have suggested that U.S. drones are using chemical munitions in attacks on the basis of civilians being afflicted with unusual skin, optic and respiratory diseases.

Isn't it about time the ADF were questioned again, and required to give much more considered and thorough answers, about their knowledge of the use of chemical weapons in Afghanistan?

Depleted uranium

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Depleted uranium is thought to cause mutations to DNA and to be carcinogenic. Experts have suggested that when shells made of it strikes solid objects the tremendous impact creates micron sized particles of uranium dioxide that can be inhaled into the lungs, and uranium dioxide not being water soluble, it lodges there and radiates adjacent tissue. Given that it has a half life of about 4½ billion years, ought we not be aware whether or not our country is associated with its use in munitions?

A series of leaked U.S. cables has Belgium’s government assuring the U.S. that the country’s domestic banon depleted uranium weapons would not apply to US shipments through Antwerp:

Also in response to questions about the potential for harm to the interests of the US  or other allies who use depleted uranium, our contacts have pointed to several points.  Noting our concerns about restrictions on the transit of US material, the bill makes “absolutely no mention” of the issue.  The accompanying committee report of the bill notes explicitly that Belgian forces can freely participate, plan, and assist operations with troops using depleted uranium….   

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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