“….Uranium dust if ingested has toxic properties; will this be politically acceptable?” MoD (1971)
Ministry of Defence ‘managed’ DU debate
The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) latest report- Managing acceptability: UK policy on depleted uranium weapons, critically assesses the methods that the UK has used to defend its development and use of DU weapons since the 1960s.
Archive material released under the thirty year rule has revealed that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have known from the outset that contamination from DU munitions was likely to be problematic and controversial; as the following extract shows:
“Whilst sponsoring this work [research into uranium based alloys for KE penetrators] RARDE [Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment] is conscious of a number of issues, some political, which it felt needs early Headquarters consideration, and preferably resolution, before effort and finance can be deployed other than on a research programme….”
“….Uranium dust if ingested has toxic properties; will this be politically acceptable? ”
“…there is a significant level of radioactivity in the area of a plate struck by uranium shot… again we would enquire whether this property in a Service shot is likely to be acceptable politically.” – Deputy Director, RARDE , 26 July 1971
Further correspondence during 1971 notes that this request for a decision on DU’s ‘political acceptability’ was deferred until the advantage of DU weapon became apparent. When DU was shown to be effective in joint trials with US and West Germany, rather than assessing risk, strategies were developed to ensure proposals for DU development would gain approval. To get political clearance, hazards were downplayed and cabinet discussions managed.
This tactic of ‘managing the debate’ has continued from the 1960s, in spite of the public outcry over DU’s later use in Iraq during the 1991 and 2003 conflicts, and during the Balkan conflicts over the 1990s. Managing acceptability: UK policy on depleted uranium weapons highlights key questions over the MoD’s transparency and political influence, and its unbalanced approach to civilian protection.
“The MoD’s bias influence over state decisions must be scrutinized by parliament and civil society” said a Campaign Against Depleted Uranium spokesperson. “This is particularly important now when contentious new technologies such as armed drones and autonomous robots are emerging.”
Campaigners hope that the report will increase scrutiny of the UK’s voting record at the UN where the fourth resolution of DU is currently being discussed by the First Committee. “This will be the fourth UN resolution on DU and each has garnered more support than the last.
The text in 2010 called for greater transparency from users in order to facilitate clean up and research and was supported by 148 states,” said an International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons spokesperson. “The UK, US, France and Israel consistently vote against but the growing opposition demonstrates the intrinsic unacceptability of these indiscriminate and polluting weapons.”
The MoD have claimed that since CHARM3 can target accurately it is therefore able to discriminate, they fail to acknowledge the indiscriminate toxic legacy left by depleted uranium and the effect that this has on civilian populations.
CADU are currently seeking legal advice to gain access to the review and also as to whether they have grounds to dispute the findings. For more information on this please see the CADU website: http://www.cadu.org.uk/cadu/cadu-and-uwn-response-to-flawed-article-36-legal-r
The report will be launched on the 25th October 2012 at a public event: Managing Acceptability: The democratic deficit in defence policy and arms control, 7 -9pm, Small Meeting House, Friends Meeting House, Euston, London. Speakers will include Nicolas Mercer, former MoD chief legal advisor, Andrew Feinstein, author of ‘The Shadow World: Inside the global arms trade’, Chris Cole from Drone Wars UK, and Aneaka Kellay, CADU campaigner. For more information and to book contact email@example.com.
The Executive Summary and the full report Managing Acceptability: UK Policy on Depleted Uranium are available here: www.cadu.org.uk/managing-acceptability