Sunday, October 14, 2012

Rachel Thompson | NEW LEFT PROJECT
The Uranium Weapons Network and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons(ICBUW) are hoping that a precedent will be set in disarmament politics when the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly meets this month.
The UN First Committee discusses and proposes resolutions to the plenary session of the UN General Assembly.  This year a resolution sponsored by the Non-Aligned Movement will table a resolution concerning depleted uranium.  ICBUW have been advocating for the text to include a request that states take a precautionary approach to depleted uranium (DU) weapons.
The use of depleted uranium (DU) in weapons has proved controversial from its development in the 1960s through to the present day.
During the earliest stages of its research and development programme, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) discovered that DU released a chemically toxic and radioactive dust that contaminated areas they fired it into. The UK has since used uranium weapons in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, without a full understanding of what effect this contamination would have, but knowing that it was a potential hazard to human health and the environment. The concerns surrounding the use of DU would only be investigated once it had been fired and the damage was done. Where research has been undertaken, it has been retrospective and has focused largely on the impact on veterans, not on civilians who are faced with chronic exposure. The DU issue is complex – its use raises issues of environmental and social justice and post-conflict peace building and redevelopment. However, the main users, the UK and the US, have consistently sought to frame it as a question of military capability in order to diminish humanitarian and environmental concerns . Over the years scientific research has emerged showing that DU has the potential to cause cancer, damage DNA, lead to birth defects and that it can contaminate soil and groundwater. Yet, user nations state that there is insufficient evidence of a causal link between such problems and its use, when in fact they should put humanitarian concerns first and adopt a precautionary approach.  This article will examine the impact of DU and show that it is hypocritical and wrong for the UK’s to continue to use DU munitions. When there are scientific uncertainties regarding the damage caused by a weapon, those uncertainties should not be used as an excuse for continuing its use.
What is Depleted Uranium?

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