The weapons used and still being used in Afghanistan and the tribal area by the foreign troops are not just ‘ordinary’ weapons, but also incendiary weapons like White Phosphorus and weapons containing Depleted and Non-Depleted Uranium. These are extremely dangerous inhumane weapons capable of delivering tremendous suffering and destroying whole generations of people and eco systems, contaminating the land, nature and wildlife.
White phosphorus is a material made from a common allotrope of the chemical element phosphorus that is used in smoke, tracer, illumination and incendiary munitions.
White phosphorus munitions are not banned and commonly used. They are generally designed to be used by militaries as smokescreens to obscure their operations on the ground and to illuminate and mark targets at night.
The U.S. and other international forces in Afghanistan were using white phosphorus rounds against Taliban rocket positions as recently as October 2011.
White Phosphorus munitions cause particularly severe injuries, including chemical burns down to the bone. It has the tendency to stick to the skin and absorb into the body through the burned area producing poison resulting in liver, heart and kidney damage, and in some cases multiple organ failure. Wounds contaminated by white phosphorus can reignite days later when bandages are removed. A wound will continue to burn unless deprived of oxygen or until completely consumed.
The accepted lethal dose when White Phosphorus is ingested orally is 1 mg per kg of body weight, although the ingestion of as little as 15 mg has resulted in death. It may also cause liver, heart or kidney damage. There are reports of individuals with a history of oral ingestion who have passed phosphorus-laden stool ("smoking stool syndrome").
A dreadful example of a White Phosphorus victim is the 8-year-old Afghan girl, Razia, who was injured when a white phosphorus shell ripped through her home in the Tagab Valley of Kapisa province in June 2009. When she reached the operating room, white powder covered her skin, the oxygen mask on her face started to melt, and flames appeared when doctors attempted to scrape away the dead tissue.
Most depleted uranium arises as a by-product of the production of enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors and in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The use of Depleted Uranium in munitions is controversial because of questions about the long-term health effects and its long radioactive half-life (4.468 billion years for uranium-238, 700 million years for uranium-235).
As you can imagine the use of nuclear weapons will have its effect on generations of people and whole eco systems. Sadly enough Depleted and Non-depleted Uranium have been used in weapons in Afghanistan.
Widespread field studies in Afghanistan point towards a large scale public health disaster.
In 2002, the UMRC (Uranium Medical Research Centre) sent field teams to interview and examine residents and internally displaced people in Afghanistan. The UMRC did research in several areas, among Jalalabad, Kabul and Nangahar and they went back to Afghanistan for a broader survey and revealed a potentially larger exposure than initially anticipated…
The field team report “Uranium contamination of Afghanistan” by Ted Weyman 2003 is only released in Japan.
The UMRC collected urine specimens and soil samples and researched them in an independent research lab in England.
UMRC's field team found Afghan civilians with acute symptoms of radiation poisoning, along with chronic symptoms of internal uranium contamination, including congenital problems in newborns.
The team was in shock to find out that both in Jalalabad and Kabul; Depleted Uranium was causing the high levels of illness, showing concentrations 400% to 2000% above that for normal populations, amounts which have not been recorded in civilian studies before.
The people examined in Kabul who were directly exposed to US-British precision bombing showed extreme signs of uranium contamination. These included pains in joints, back/kidney pain, muscle weakness, memory problems, confusion, disorientation, or flu-type illnesses, bleeding, runny noses and blood-stained mucous. Even the study team itself complained of similar symptoms during their stay. Most of these symptoms last for days or months.
In Nangahar without exception, every person donating urine specimens tested positive for uranium contamination. The concentrations were 100 to 400 times greater than those of the Gulf War Veterans tested in 1999.
When the UMRC field team went back to Afghanistan for a broader survey in the fall of 2002 they revealed a potentially larger exposure than initially anticipated. Approximately 30% of those interviewed in the affected areas displayed symptoms of radiation sickness. New born babies were among those displaying symptoms, with village elders reporting that over 25% of the infants were inexplicably ill. At every bombsite investigated, people are ill. A significant portion of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal contamination by uranium.
Research shows that Afghanistan was also used as a testing ground for a new generation of “bunker buster” bombs containing high concentrations of other uranium alloys than Depleted Uranium. UMRC (Uranium Medical Research Center) lab results indicated high concentrations of NON-Depleted Uranium, with the concentrations being much higher than in Depleted Uranium victims from Iraq.
Another danger is the unexploded munitions, not just from the fighting and decades of foreign invasion and war, but also from the exercise areas of the current foreign troops.
Especially in danger are kids and shepherds. Kids tend to play and collect metal for money. The shepherds graze their sheep’s on slopes littered with bullets, grenades, and in a recent case, an anti-aircraft rocket, according to the U.S. military.
There is very little to indicate there's any danger. Fencing is nonexistent, and the few signs there warning that this area is a firing range is in faded English. For a largely illiterate population that speaks mostly Dari and Pashto, it's almost impossible for them to understand their lives are at risk.
I wonder how the foreign powers will leave Afghanistan this time, after ‘losing’ yet another war…
Will there be medical aid to treat all the ill Afghans, clean up contaminated land, clean up their unexploded munitions and restore the infrastructural damage they caused? Or will the foreign troops just go and continue attacks with drones and increase surveillance with blimps, leaving behind a public health disaster?
I truly hope the foreign powers take responsibility for their actions and refrain from making excuses.