This Story Contains Graphic Photos!
The United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) convey the
illusion (contrary to scientific evidence) that the health
risks of depleted uranium can easily be dealt with by cordoning
off and "cleaning up" the "affected areas"
targeted by the US Air Force's A-10 "anti-tank killers."
What they fail to mention is that the radioactive dust has
already spread beyond the 72 "identified target sites"
in Kosovo. Most of the villages and cities including Pristina,
Prizren and Pec lie within less than 20 km. of these sites,
confirming that the whole province is contaminated, putting
not only "peacekeepers" but the entire civilian
population at risk.
LOW INTENSITY NUCLEAR
Professor of Economics,
University of Ottawa, author of "The Globalization
of Poverty", second enlarged edition, Common Courage
The death from leukemia of eight Italian peacekeepers
stationed in Bosnia and Kosovo sparked an uproar in the
Italian Parliament, following the leaking of a secret military
document to the Italian newspaper La Republicca. In Portugal,
the Defense Ministry was also involved in what amounted
to a deliberate camouflage of "the cause of death"
of Portuguese peacekeeper Corporal Hugo Paulino. "'Citing
"herpes of the brain', the army refused to allow his
family to commission a postmortem examination."1 Amidst
mounting political pressure, Defense Minister Julio Castro
Caldas advised NATO Headquarters in November that he was
withdrawing Portuguese troops from Kosovo: "They were
not, he said, going to become uranium meat". 2
As the number of cancer cases among Balkans
"peacekeepers" rises, NATO's cover-up has started
to fracture. Several European governments have been obliged
to publicly acknowledge the "alleged health risks"
of depleted uranium (DU) shells used by the US Air Force
in NATO's 78-day war against Yugoslavia.
The Western media points to an apparent "split"
within the military alliance. In fact there was no "division"
or disagreement between Washington and its European allies
until the scandal broke through the gilded surface.
Italy, Portugal, France and Belgium were fully
aware that DU weapons were being used. The health impacts
--including mountains of scientific reports-- were known
and available to European governments. Italy participated
in the scheduling of the A-10 "anti-tank killer"
raids (carrying DU shells) out of its Aviano and Gioia del
Colle air force bases. The Italian Defense Ministry knew
what was happening at military bases under its jurisdiction.
Washington's European partners in NATO including
Britain, France, Turkey, Greece have DU weapons in their
arsenals. Canada is one of the main suppliers of depleted
uranium. NATO countries share full responsibility for the
use of weapons banned by the Geneva and Hague conventions
and the 1945 Nuremberg Charter on war crimes. 3
Since the Gulf War, Washington launched a
"cover-up" on the health impacts of DU toxic radiation
known as the "Gulf War Syndrome", with the tacit
endorsement of its NATO partners.
While NATO had until recently denied using
DU shells in the 1999 war against Yugoslavia, it now admits
that although it did use DU ammunition, the shells "have
negligible radioactivityпїЅand [a]ny resulting debris posing
any significant risk dissipates soon after the impact."
4 While casually denying "any connection between illness
and exposure to depleted uranium", the Pentagon nonetheless
concedes --in an ambiguous statement-- that "the main
danger posed by depleted uranium occurs if it is inhaled."
And who inhales the radioactive dust, which
has spread across the Land?
The shrouded statements from European governments
convey the uncomfortable illusion that only peacekeepers
"might be at risk", --i.e. radioactive particles
are only inhaled by military personnel and expatriate civilians,
as if nobody else in the Balkans were affected. The impacts
on local civilians are not mentioned.
In docile complicity, a new media consensus
has unfolded: the mainstream press concurs without further
scrutiny that only "peace-keepers" breathe the
air. "But what about everybody else."6 In Kosovo
some 2 million civilian men, women and children have been
exposed to the radioactive fallout since the beginning of
the bombing in March 1999. In the Balkans, more than 20
million people are potentially at risk:
"The risk in Kosovo and elsewhere in
the Balkans is augmented by the uncertainty of where DU
was dropped in whatever form and what winds and surface
water movements spread it further. Working the fields, walking
about, just being there, touching objects, breathing and
drinking water are all risky. A British expert predicted
that thousands of people in the Balkans will get sick of
DU. The radioactive and toxic DU-oxides don't disintegrate.
They are practically permanent." 7
Keep in mind that the heavily armed "peacekeepers"
together with United Nations staff and civilian personnel
of "humanitarian" organisations entered Kosovo
in June 1999. The spread of radioactive dust from DU, however,
started on "day one" of the 78 day bombing of
Yugoslavia. With the exception of NATO Special Forces --who
were assisting the KLA on the ground-- NATO military personnel
was not present on the battlefield. In other words, there
was no radioactive exposure to NATO troops during a "push
button" air war, which the Alliance forces waged from
the high skies. Yugoslav civilians are, therefore, at much
greater risk because they were exposed to radioactive fallout
throughout the bombings as well in the wake of the war.
Yet the official communiquпїЅs suggest that only KFOR troops
and expatriate civilians "might be at risk" implying
that local civilians simply do not matter. Only servicemen
and expatriate personnel have been screened for radiation
The first signs of radiation on children,
including herpes on the mouth and skin rashes on the back
and ankles have been observed in Kosovo.8 In Northern Kosovo
--the area least affected by DU shells (see Map at http://balkans.unep.ch/du/targetmap.html)
-- 160 people are being treated for cancer.9 The number
of leukemia cases in Northern Kosovo has increased by 200
percent since NATO's air campaign, and children have been
born with deformities.10 This information regarding civilian
victims --which the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)
has been careful not to reveal--- refutes NATO's main "assumption"
that radioactive dust does not spread beyond the target
sites, most of which are in the Southwestern and Southern
regions close to the Albanian and Macedonian borders.
These findings are consistent with those from
Iraq, where the use of depleted uranium weapons during the
1991 Gulf War resulted in "increases in childhood cancers
and leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, lymphomas, and increases
in congenital diseases and deformities in foetuses, along
with limb reductional abnormalities and increases in genetic
abnormalities throughout Iraq."11 Pedriatic examinations
on Iraqi children confirm that:
"childhood leukemia has risen 600% in
the areas [of Iraq] where DU was used. Stillbirths, births
or abortion of fetuses with monstrous abnormalities, and
other cancers in children born since [the Gulf War in] 1991
have also been found." 12
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
and the World Health Organization (WHO) have tacitly accepted
NATO-Pentagon assumptions concerning the health impacts
of depleted uranium. When UNEP conducted its first assessment
of DU radiation in Kosovo in 1999, NATO refused to provide
the mission with maps indicating the locations of "affected
areas" (points of impact where DU shells had fallen).
On the pretext that "there was insufficient
data available to comprehensively address the issue of the
impacts of depleted uranium ordnance," UNEP produced
an inconclusive and noncommittal "desk study"
which was appended to the 1999 Balkans Task Force Report
(BTF) on the environmental impacts of the War. 13 UNEP's
desk study pointed to the "possible use of DU"
thereby implying that it was still unsure as to whether
DU shells had actually been used.
UNEP's evasiveness -claiming lack of sufficient
data-- contributed, in the wake of the bombings, to temporarily
dissipating public concern. More generally, the UNEP-UNCHS
Balkans Task Force report tends to downplay the seriousness
of the environmental catastrophe triggered by NATO. Amply
documented, the catastrophe was the deliberate result of
NATO maps (indicating where DU shells had
been targeted) were not required for UNEP and the WHO to
conduct an investigation on the health impacts of depleted
uranium radiation. A study of this nature --inevitably requiring
a team of medical specialists in pedriatics and cancer working
in liaison with experts on toxic radiation-- was never carried
out. In fact, UNEP's stated "scientific" assumption
precluded from the outset a meaningful assessment of the
health impacts. According to UNEP:
"the effects of DU are mainly localized
in the places DU has been used and the affected areas are
likely to be small". 15 See the 1999 desk study, op.
This proposition (which is presented without
scientific proof) is shared by UNEP's sister organization,
"You would have to be very close to a
damaged tank and be there within seconds of it being hitпїЅThese
soldiers were very unlikely to have been exposed.'' 16
These statements by UN bodies (quoted by NATO
and the Pentagon to justify the use of DU weapons) are part
and parcel of the camouflage. They convey the illusion that
the health risks to peacekeepers and local civilians can
easily be dealt with by cordoning off and "cleaning
up" the "targeted areas."
The WHO has warned, in this regard, that depleted
uranium could affect children playing in these areas "because
childrenпїЅ tend to pick up pieces of dirt or put their toys
in their mouth."17 What the WHO fails to acknowledge
is that the radioactive dust has already spread beyond the
affected areas, implying that children throughout Kosovo
are at risk.
This tacit complicity of specialized agencies
of the UN is yet another symptom of the deterioration of
the United Nations system, which now plays an underhand
role in covering up NATO war crimes. Since the Gulf War,
the WHO has been instrumental in blocking a meaningful investigation
of the health impacts of depleted uranium radiation on Iraqi
children, claiming "it had no data to conduct an indepth
UNEP AND NATO WORKING HAND IN GLOVE
Amidst the public outcry and mounting evidence
of cancer among Balkans military personnel, UNEP conducted
a second assessment in November 2000 which included field
measurements of beta and gamma particle radiations in 11
so-called "affected areas" of Kosovo.19
Despite NATO's earlier refusal to collaborate
with UNEP, the two organizations are currently working hand
in glove. The composition of the mission was established
in consultation with NATO. The representative from Greenpeace
(involved in the 1999 study) had been dumped. NATO maps
were readily available; the investigation was to focus narrowly
on the collection of soil, water samples, etc. in 11 selected
sites ("affected areas") out of a total of some
72 sites within Kosovo (see NATO map below, at http://balkans.unep.ch/du/targetmap.html
The broader health issues were not part of
the mission's terms of reference. The two medical researchers
dispatched by the WHO in 1999 (as part of the desk study
mission) had been replaced with experts from the US Army
Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (see
http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/default.htm) and AC Laboratorium
Spiez (ACLS), a division of the Swiss Defense Procurement
AC Laboratorium Spiez (ACLS) has actively
collaborated in chemical weapons inspections in Iraq. Under
the disguise of Swiss neutrality, ACLS constitutes an informal
mouthpiece for NATO. ACLS has been on contract with NATO's
"Partnership for Peace" financed by the Swiss
government's contribution to the PfP.20
Although the November mission was still under
UNEP auspices, the Swiss government was funding most of
fieldwork with ACLS --a division of the Swiss military--
playing a central role. The mission --integrated by representatives
linked to the Military establishment-- was working on the
premise (amply reviewed on ACLS's web page) that DU radioactive
dust does not (under any circumstances) travel beyond the
"point of release." 21
The results of the report to be published
in March 2001 are a foregone conclusion. They focus on radiation
levels in the immediate vicinity of the target sites . According
to the mission's "back to office report" (January
"пїЅ [A]lready at this stage the Team can
conclude that at some of the DU locations, the radiation
level is slightly higher above normal at very limited spots.
It would therefore be an unnecessary risk to the population
to be in direct contact with any remnants of DU ammunition
or with the spots where these have been found." 22
If radioactivity were confined to so-called
"very limited spots", why then have KFOR troops
been instructed by their governments "not to eat local
produceпїЅ have drinking water flown in пїЅand that clothes
must be destroyed on departure and vehicles decontaminated."23
According to Paul Sullivan, executive director of the National
Gulf War Resource Center, depleted uranium in Yugoslavia
could affect "agricultural areas, places where livestock
graze and where crops are grown, thereby introducing the
specter of possible contamination of the food chain."
(In November 2000, Gulf War veterans affected by DU launched
a class action law-suit against the US government).
CONTAMINATION OVER A LARGE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA
According to NATO sources (communicated to
UNEP), some 112 sites in Yugoslavia (of which 72 are in
Kosovo) were targeted during the war with depleted uranium
antitank shells. Between 30,000 and 50,000 DU shells were
Scientific evidence amply confirms that the
DU radioactive aerosol spreads from "the point of release"
over a large geographical area suggesting that large parts
of the province of Kosovo are contaminated. "[R]adioactive
derivatives can linger in the air for monthsпїЅ ''Just one
particle in the lungs is enoughпїЅ a single particle could
travel to the lymph nodes, where the radioactivity would
lower the body's defenses against lymphomas and leukemia''
According to World renowned radiologist Dr.
When used in war, the depleted uranium (DU)
bursts into flame [and] releasing a deadly radioactive aerosol
of uranium, unlike anything seen before. It can kill everyone
in a tank. This ceramic aerosol is much lighter than uranium
dust. It can travel in air tens of kilometres from the point
of release, or be stirred up in dust and resuspended in
air with wind or human movement. It is very small and can
be breathed in by anyone: a baby, pregnant woman, the elderly,
the sick. This radioactive ceramic can stay deep in the
lungs for years, irradiating the tissue with powerful alpha
particles within about a 30 micron sphere, causing emphysema
and/or fibrosis. The ceramic can also be swallowed and do
damage to the gastro-intestinal tract. In time, it penetrates
the lung tissue and enters into the blood stream. ...It
can also initiate cancer or promote cancers which have been
initiated by other cancinogens". 25
The targeted sites within Kosovo (see NATO
map at http://balkans.unep.ch/du/targetmap.html) although
concentrated on the South-western border are scattered throughout
the province. Most of the villages and cities including
Pristina, Prizren and Pec lie within less than 20 km. of
the 72 DU target sites confirming that the entire province
NATO WAR CRIMES
The bombing of Yugoslavia is best described
as a "low intensity nuclear war" using toxic radioactive
shells and missiles. Amply documented, the radioactive fall-out
potentially puts millions of people at risk throughout the
In March 1999, NATO launched the air raids
invoking broad humanitarian principles and ideals. NATO
had "come to the rescue" of ethnic Albanian Kosovars
on the grounds they were being massacred by Serb forces.
The forensic reports by the FBI and Europol confirm that
the massacres did not occur. In a cruel irony, Albanian
Kosovar civilians are among the main victims of DU radiation.
To maintain the cover-up, NATO is now prepared
to reveal a small fraction of the truth. The military Alliance
--in liaison with NATO member governments-- wants at all
cost to maintain the focus on "peacekeepers" and
keep local civilians out of the picture, because if the
entire truth gets out, then people might start asking questions
such as "how is it that the Kosovar Albanians, the
people we were supposed to rescue are now the victims?"
In both Bosnia and Kosovo, the UN has been careful not to
record cancer cases among civilians. The narrow focus on
"peacekeepers" is part of the cover-up. It distracts
public opinion from the broader issue of civilian victims.
The primary victims of DU weapons are children,
making their use a "war crime against children."
The use of depleted uranium munitions is only one among
several NATO crimes against humanity committed in Iraq and
According to official records, some 1800 Balkans
peacekeepers (Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo) suffer from health
ailments related to DU radiation.26. Assuming the same level
of risk (as a percentage of population), the numbers of
civilians throughout former Yugoslavia affected by DU radiation
would be in the tens of thousands. British scientist Roger
Coghill suggests, in this regard, that "throughout
the Balkan region, there will be an extra 10,150 deaths
from cancer because of the use of DU. That will include
local people, K-FOR personnel, aid workers, everyone."27
Moreover, according to a report published in Athens during
the War, the impacts of depleted uranium are likely to extend
beyond the Balkans. Albania, and Macedonia but also Greece,
Italy, Austria and Hungary face a potential threat to human
health as a result of the use of radioactive depleted uranium
shells during the 1999 War.
While no overall data on civilian deaths have
been recorded, partial evidence confirms that a large numbers
of civilians have already died as result of DU radiation
since the war in Bosnia:
"DU radiation and an apparent use of
defoliants by US/NATO troops against Serbian land and population
[in Bosnia], have caused many birth defects among babies
born after the US/NATO bombing and occupation; the magnitude
of this problem has stunned Serbian medical experts and
panicked the population." 28
A recent account points to several hundred
deaths of civilians solely in one Bosnian village:
The village is empty, the cemetery full. Soon
there will be no more room for the dead. Among refugee families
who moved to Bratunac from Hadzici [in the outskirts of
Sarajevo] there is a hardly a household not cloaked in mourningпїЅOn
them are fresh wreaths, some with flowers that have not
yet wilted. On the crosses the years of death 1998, 1999,
2000 and the grave of a 20 year-old woman at the end of
the rows. She died a few days agoпїЅ No one could even imagine
that in only one or two years the part of the cemetery set
aside for civilians would be doubly fullпїЅ It happens often
that one of the natives of Hadzici will suddenly die. Or
they will go to see the doctor in Belgrade and when they
come back their relatives will tell us that they are dying
of cancerпїЅ [C]hief doctor Slavica JovanovicпїЅconducted an
investigation and proved that in 1998 the mortality rate
far exceeded the birth rate. She showed that it wasn't just
a question of fate but something far more seriousпїЅ 'Zoran
Stankovic, the renowned pathologist from the Military Medical
Academy (VMA) determined that over 200 of his patients from
this area died of cancer, most probably due to the effects
of depleted uranium in dropped NATO bombs five years ago.
But someone quickly silenced the public and everything was
hushed up. 'You see, our cemetery is full of fresh graves
while the people from Vinca [Nuclear Institute] claim that
uranium isn't dangerous. What other kind of evidence do
you need if people are dying?пїЅ' The refugees from Hadzici
arrived in Bratunac in a sizeable number. There were almost
5,000 of them. There were 1,000 just in the collective centers.
Now, says Zelenovic, 'there are about 600 of them left.
And they certainly had nowhere else to go' пїЅ Someone dies
of cancer every third day; there is no more room in the
* * *
The NATO "Map Of Sites As Being Targeted
By Ordnance Containing Depleted Uranium during the 1999
Kosovo Conflict" is attached. The Map can also be consulted
Selected photographs of Iraqi children affected
by DU radiation attached. Complete list of photos at:
If unable to access the document, go first
to http://www.web-light.nl/ and follow the link to "Depleted
Uranium" and then to "Extreme Deformities in Iraqi
Children". Some of these photographs are by renowned
scientist and expert on DU radiation Dr. Siegfried Horst
* * *
1 The Independent, London, 4 January 2001.
2 See Felicity Arbutnot, "It Turns out
that Depleted Uranium is Bad for NATO" Troops, Emperors
11 October 2000. See also interview with F. Arbutnot.
3 In all, some 17 countries including Russia,
Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea are known to have DU
weapons in their arsenal. See Vladimir Zajic, Review of
Radioactivity, Military Use, and Health Effects of Depleted
Uranium, 1999 at http://vzajic.tripod.com/. See John Catalinotto
and Sara Flounders, Is the Israeli Military using Depleted
Uranium Weapons against the Palestinians? International
Action Center, http://www.iacenter.org/, New York, 2000
4 Agence France Presse, 4 January 20001.
5 United Press International, 5 January 2001.
6 See Felicity Arbutnot, op cit.
7 Piot Bein, "More on Depleted Uranium",
Emperors Clothes at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/arbuth/port.htm.11
8 According to Dr. Siegfried Horst Guenther,
"Uran Geschosse: SchwergeschпїЅdigte Soldaten, missgebildete
Neugeborene, sterbende Kinder, Ahriman Verlag, http://www.ahriman.com/guenther.htm,
Freiburg, 2000. See also International Action Center, "Metal
of Dishonor, How the Pentagon Radiates Soldiers and Civilians
with DU Weapons", Second Edition, International Action
Center, http://www.iacenter.org/, New York, 2000.
9 Beta News Agency, Belgrade, 13.50 GMT, 10
Jan 2001, in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 12 January
11 See Rick McDowell, "Economic Sanctions
on Iraq", Z Magazine, November 1997.
12. Carlo Pona, "The Criminal Use of
Depleted Uranium", International Tribunal for U.S./NATO
War Crimes in Yugoslavia, International Action Center, http://www.iacenter.org/,
New York, June 10, 2000. See also "Metal of Dishonor",
13 See UNEP/UNCHS Balkans Task Force Final
Report "The Kosovo Conflict -Consequences for the Environment
& Human Settlements" at http://balkans.unep.ch/fry/fry.html;
see the "desk study" on "The Potential Effects
on Human Health and the Environment of the Possible Use
of Depleted Uranium (DU)" at http://balkans.unep.ch/du/du.html;
see also "UN considers New Data on Depleted Uranium
in Kosovo", UNEP, Geneva, 20 September 2000.
14 See Michel Chossudovsky, NATO Willfully
Triggered an Environmental Disaster, at www.emperors-clothes.com.
15 See the 1999 UNEP "desk study",
16 According to a toxicologist at the International
Agency for Research on Cancer which is a division of the
WHO, Associated Press, January 5 2001.
17 According to WHO specialist, quoted in
the Boston Globe, January 10, 2001.
18 Boston Globe, June 27 2000, statement of
Mark Parkin, an expert with the International Agency for
Research on Cancer.
19 See UNEP Press Release at http://balkans.unep.ch/du/missions.html).
20 See AC Laboratorium Spiez (ACLS) website
22 See UNEP Press Release at http://balkans.unep.ch/du/missions.html;
see also UNEP, "Advisory Note on Current work on DU
by UNEP" at. http://balkans.unep.ch/press/press010111.html.
23. Arbuthot, op cit.
24 According to British radiologist Roger
William Coghill, quoted in Associated Press, 5 January 2000.
25 Rosalie Bertell, Email Communication, May
26 RTBF, Belgian French Language Television,
9 January 2001
27 Calgary Herald, 4 January 2001.
28 Tika Jankovitch, "Chemical/Nuclear
Warfare in Bosnia: Eyewitness To Hell" Comments by
Jared Israel, Emperors Clothes at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/tika/hell.html.,
9 January 2001.
29 Dubravka Vujanovic "Someone Dies of
Cancer every Third Day; There is no More Room in the Cemeteries"
, Nedelni Telegraf, Belgrade, 10 January 2001. On the same
subject see Robert Fisk, "I see 300 Graves that could
bear the Headstone: 'Died of Depleted Uranium', The Independent,
London, 13 January 2001
(C) Copyright by Michel Chossudovsky, Ottawa,
January 2001. All rights reserved. Permission is granted
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