Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2014
A squadron of twelve US A-10 gunships has arrived in the Middle East and is being made ready for airborne attacks against ISIS in Iraq. The Pentagon previously confirmed that the warplanes will use depleted uranium (DU) weapons “if they need to.” Earlier this summer, Iraq called for a global ban on the toxic and radioactive munitions and asked for help from the international community in dealing with DU contamination left from 1991 and 2003.
The aircraft arrived with 300 US airmen from the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne Air National Guard Station, Indiana.
The US Air Force announced Nov. 24 that the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which previously provided close air support for the war in Afghanistan, had arrived with “several A-10 Thunderbolt IIs.” It did not disclose the precise number. “They’re going over there because there’s a need … to be postured for a combat rescue mission,” said Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman.
The Air Force declined to say where the A-10s would be stationed. However Janes Defense Weekly reported that they are based in Kuwait, a country familiar with cleaning up DU and one where the unauthorized use of DU on training ranges has caused political and diplomatic tension in the past.
In a report to the United Nations Secretary General earlier this year, Iraq urged: “[T]he United Nations, the specialized agencies (International Atomic Energy Agency, World Health Organization and UN Environment Program), all state members of the UN and non-governmental organizations to adopt a proactive approach towards the danger of the use of depleted uranium in armaments and ammunitions and to condemn such use…efforts should be made to draft a binding and verifiable international treaty prohibiting the use, possession, transfer and trafficking of such armaments and ammunitions.”
DU is classed as a Group 1 Carcinogen by the World Health Organization, and there has been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah in 2004, and Basra during the 1991 US war on Iraq.
“The US’s utter disregard for the views of the government of Iraq, which it claims to be helping, is staggering,” said International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons Coordinator Doug Weir. “It has done everything possible to avoid responsibility for historical contamination in Iraq and continues to oppose efforts to clean up and determine the public health impact of the weapons—even as it builds on that hazardous legacy by deploying the weapons once again.”
On Dec. 2, the United Nations, for the second time in two months voted overwhelmingly for a resolution urging member states to provide assistance to states affected by DU contamination. The vote was 150 to four, with only the US, France, Israel and England voting against. On Oct. 31, the same resolution passed 143 to four.
—Al Jazeera, Nov. 29; International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, Nov. 27, 2014