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US Congressman calls for transparency over depleted uranium

Congressman Jim McDermott has written to US Secretary of Defense Hagel to urge the Pentagon to release all available information on its use of DU in Iraq.
14 November 2014 - ICBUW

According to the Congressman, transparency over DU use is urgently needed as ‘prolonged exposure to DU, especially through inhalation or ingestion of DU dust, can cause a myriad of potential long-term health consequences’. He expresses particular concern over workers on contaminated scrap metal sites and civilians who live nearby.

Jim McDermott In his letter McDermott argues that releasing the information would be 'beneficial to all parties', noting that the work of demining organisations in areas contaminated by both explosive remnants of war and DU is being hampered by the lack of transparency. The US State Department is a major donor for mine action work in Iraq.

McDermott also underlines the political benefits of greater openness, recognising that the US has a responsibility for the toxic legacy of the wars in Iraq and the unintended ramifications of the use of certain munitions. Therefore ‘Removing the physical manifestations of our military legacy in Iraq would help foster mutual understanding, vital to our future strategy in the country.’

The letter adds to the growing pressure on the US government to provide transparency over its use of DU in Iraq. The US-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) recently filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), asking for the release of all DU firing coordinates in the country. 

Resolution A/1/69 L.43, which was backed by 143 states on the 31st of October and will be voted on again by the UN General Assembly in December, calls for transparency over the use of DU and for the international community to help states affected by the weapons. The US, together with the UK, France and Israel were the only four states to oppose the resolution.

Following the vote, UK Special Forces veteran Ben Griffin launched a Change.org petition calling on the UK and US to stop opposing the resolutions and to take responsibility foir the contamination that they have caused in Iraq.

A limited number of target coordinates were published by Dutch peace organisation PAX earlier this year. The data, made available through a FoI request Dutch Ministry of Defence, revealed that DU had controversially been used against a wide range of targets and in populated areas. "These data are only the tip of the iceberg," said Wim Zwijnenburg from PAX. "Together with other organisations we are calling for more transparency and to make sure that the toxic waste is removed."