The Guardian March 21, 2001

War or Peace. NATO in the Balkans

by Professor Rui Namorado Rosa
(Communist Party of Greece) The so-called "humanitarian" intervention of NATO in the Balkans during the '90s was a false military solution which made an already complicated political situation still more complex. The situation was further aggravated by the use of illegal weaponry.
The uranium used in ammunitions acts as a Chemical and Radiological Warfare agent. The head of the ammunition or missile behaves not only as a mechanical component of a kinetic weapon [relying on physical force] but also, and above all, as a non-conventional warhead propelled by a kinetic projectile. We know today the consequences of the use of ammunitions with depleted uranium in the Persian Gulf and the Balkans: dramatic to the civilian populations and serious, though on a lesser scale, to the very forces of aggression or occupation on the field. After the Gulf War, when health damage accumulated among the veteran soldiers and the civilian Iraqi populations were already being recognised at large, the use of the same weapons in the Balkans is still more criminal. The extreme violence and cruelty, inherent to these weapons, and the tortuous mystification of facts carried out by NATO to hide this ugly reality and deceive public opinion, need be deciphered. The depleted uranium ammunitions were conceived and developed long before the Gulf War, in early the seventies, during the "Cold War". Fortunately the Cold War prevented a Hot War. And, as we realise today, it also prevented the use of weapons with depleted uranium. Large quantities of penetrating ammunitions lay immobilised in NATO arms magazines. The Gulf War (1991) came along and they were "tested" then. It was necessary to consume in order to produce again, because in the realm of imperialism the arms business cannot stop. They were then used for proclaimed "humanitarian reasons" in the Balkans (Bosnia-Herzegovina 1994- 95, Kosovo 1999). Today, besides NATO countries more than 20 other countries already hold weapons with depleted uranium, most sold with the approval of the Pentagon. A generalised arms race is developing after their use was regretfully "legitimised" by NATO. One can foresee a sinister scenario of regional fratricide wars and of regional imperialist interventions where these weapons will proliferate. The military intervention in the Balkans illustrates imperialism's unwavering determination in widening its economic interests around the world and in consolidating its geo-strategic domination over all peoples. NATO carried out an aggressive intervention in the Balkans which worsened an already complex political situation and which destroyed lives and infrastructures and damaged the environment and the public health in the region. It did not inform on the nature of the weapons being used, thereby worsening their consequences upon civilians and soldiers and even their own occupation forces. The use of such weapons, knowing their consequences after 20 years of tests in the USA and elsewhere and several years past over their use in the Gulf War, constitutes a premeditated crime. But NATO does not want to recognise it. To deceive public opinion and postpone its discredit, NATO resorted to successive falsehoods stating, namely: * "that uranium would have unique properties to be chosen and used in penetrating ammunitions," when tungsten and its alloys are indeed superior in that respect, and are not a chemical or radiological agent; * "that the uranium used in these arms does not have serious and lasting consequences upon the environment and public health", when, as a matter of fact, the biological effects of assimilated uranium and the mechanisms of its dispersion in the environment and mobilisation into the food chain are known; * "that the Gulf and Balkan syndromes did not exist or were due to other still mysterious causes", when there is evidence that many pathologies appearing in both war theatres and affecting both soldiers and civilians are coincident; * "that depleted uranium was chosen due to its low cost", thus referring to its cost to the "big five defence contractors" (like Lockheed) but omitting the price paid for when incorporated in lethal weapons, and when it is known that depleted uranium is potentially a nuclear fuel, when burned in peaceful "breeder reactors", at the rate of five barrels of oil per gram of uranium; * "that the arms used were of depleted uranium", when the presence of uranium isotope 236 and plutonium, later found in the battle field, prove that recycled uranium was also used or used instead, fact that makes things still worse; * "that the arms used were penetrating "ammunitions" for the destruction of tanks and armoured vehicles", omitting to mention the use of missiles carrying a much higher load of uranium on other targets (Bosnia-Herzegovina 1995, Iraq 199 6, Yugoslavia 1999). It is now urgent to persist on the path of mobilising the international Community ... and to persist to the effect that the European NATO countries effectively adopt the moratorium approved by the European Parliament, to which they have yet to abide, and promote the definitive banishment of the use of such arms, following the resolution adopted by the Council of Europe. What is at stake is the choice between Peace or War. Because of the delay in accepting the nature of the weapons used in the Gulf and the Balkans, the civilian populations and even the aggression or occupation forces were exposed to increased risks and aggravated consequences. Because of the delay in recognising the serious and lasting environmental and sanitary consequences of these weapons, there is a delay in taking urgent measures that can yet reduce, where possible, the risks and, at least, remedy the harm already done. With this War the Europeans learned a lesson and lost their innocence. Consciences are changing. We shall continue the struggle for NATO's dissolution and shall oppose any attempt of militarisation of the European Union. And affirm once again our solidarity with the brotherly peoples of the Balkans.
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The above are extracts from a paper presented in a workshop entitled Balkans-Environment-Depleted Uranium-European Union, at a conference organised by the GUE/NGL Group and the Euro-MP group of the Communist Party of Greece, in Thessaloniki, Greece, February 23-2, 2001.

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