The Splendid Failure of Occupation
Part 5: America and depleted uranium, infatuation or deliberation
By B.J. Sabri
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 5, 2004, 13:38

We need to involve the world, the globe, because we�re talking about freedom not just for the United States, not just for Iraq, but indeed freedom for people around the world.� [1] [Emphasis added] �Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader

Is it reasonable to include different subjects such as the U.N.�s role in the occupation of Iraq, the U.S. hyper-imperialistic agenda, and radioactive �depleted� uranium (DU) all in one argument? Because the invasion of Iraq is the first hyper-imperialistic experiment in supposedly civilized times aimed at imposing enslaving colonialism on that country through ruses and fascist barbarity, the answer is yes, if we treat them as connected pathways leading to the supremacist ideology, expansionist imperialism, and military choices of the United States, and by default Israel.

However, to include all these separate subjects, particularly the U.N., in one argument, and then insert the issue of radioactive �depleted� uranium used by the U.S. in its wars of aggression seems rather questionable. This is true, especially knowing that the U.N. never endorsed its use in the wars it authorized, such as the Gulf War (1991), where the US used semi-spent but still radioactive nuclear material for the first time since it dropped its nuclear bombs on Japan during WWII. Nevertheless, aside from subtle technicalities, the inclusion of the U.N. is valid: since the U.N. authorized that war, it is, therefore, responsible for all of its destructive consequences on Iraq and its people. Besides, after that war, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole arbiter of Iraq�s fate, while the rest of the UN was just watching, approving, or engaging in shameless bureaucratic masturbations in front of the US genocidal posture toward Iraq that lasted for 13 years, continued through invasion, and now is protracting under occupation.

In addition, before and after the temporary rupture between imperialist powers inside the U.N. consequent to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, the distinction between U.S. impositions and U.N. resolutions has become so irrelevant to the point of transforming the U.N. into a postscript placed at the end of an American text. Under this transformation, if we indict one, we must indict the other. This is especially true when it comes down to the crime of using radioactive material in military operations. After the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was unthinkable that the power that detonated the first and last atomic bombs in history would intentionally re-use radioactive material again in its aggression against small nations with no capability for retaliation.

The culpability of the U.N. system in relation to the American use of DU is flagrant and requires no verification�it never condemned its use in battle. Consequently, we ended up with a paradox whereby two imperialist states (the U.S. and the U.K.) preaching on the immorality of WMD and claiming a self-given mandate to ban them, deliberately used them against their designated enemies! This conveniently and ideologically structured dualistic attitude toward the use of WMD resembles an association of paid assassins giving solemn public seminars on the virtues of nonviolence and the value of human life.

When we inveigh against the U.N. for its silence on the use of DU, we have to remember that treating this organization as if it were an independent entity, and including it in all situations requiring criticism, is unfair. That is because we already know that the Security Council controls the U.N.; we also know that the U.S. controls the S.C.; therefore, the S.C. could not criticize the use of radioactive shells. This leaves us with the General Assembly, i.e., if the S.C. could not condemn the use of DU, maybe the General Assembly could have taken that assignment instead. That did not happen either, as even the General Assembly remained silent like a stone. Moreover, we know that the U.N. is not in the business of codifying what weapons its members can or cannot develop. In addition, we would be na�ve to believe that the U.N. is capable of devising any rule regulating the use of any weapons. Interestingly, if the U.N. cannot make big members agree to clean up or prohibit the use of landmines, how can we expect it to enforce a ban on the use of �dirty bombs� (DU shells) whose use is, so far, an exclusive American and British privilege, until they sell them or give them to someone else . . .

At this point, we have to introduce a powerful contradictory element in the conspiracy of silence as exercised by European powers regarding the U.S. use of DU in its war of aggression in Yugoslavia/Kosovo: NATO (a 99 percent Western-European military alliance with a 1 percent share belonging to Turkey) which launched that war under U.S. command had no say on the U.S. decision to employ DU on European soil!

Two things emerge from this contradiction. First: NATO, where three of its members are also permanent members of the S.C., has used (through the U.S.) DU ammunitions; therefore, NATO cannot condemn itself, consequently NATO members of the S.C.: the U.S., the U.K., and France are not going to condemn the use of DU elsewhere. It follows that the U.N., being an expression of hegemonic powers and not a collective will of all nations, cannot outlaw, prohibit, or condemn the use of radioactive material. Second, the only time we heard European states complain about DU was after the U.S. used it in Yugoslavia. The complaint was not accidental�many NATO troops started to show the effects of radioactive contamination! What happened later was even more remarkable�a few days after the European short-lived outcry, the U.S. denied that DU is noxious to humans. Suddenly, the matter ended in the wastebasket and no one heard about it anymore! As for radioactive contamination of the local population . . . not even a word!

This has two important implications: (1) if Western European governments and respective nations are unconcerned to the point of complacency about the use of DU on nearby Eastern European soil, and do not care that some of their citizens are sick because of it, why should they care about Yugoslavians, Kosovars, or Iraqis? (2) Emphatically, the lack of world condemnation against the use of DU munitions in Iraq (1991) and in Yugoslavia/Kosovo (2000) paved the way for the U.S. to use them again in Iraq.

To sum it up, the use of radioactive �depleted� uranium (DU) in war is not only a monument to the appalling moral failure of the United States, but also a solid demonstration of the genocidal intent and criminality of three successive presidents: George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush. The charge of genocidal intent and criminality is not baseless. George H.W. Bush used it in Iraq knowing that it would kill in two ways: (1) instantaneously by carbonization, and (2) slowly by progressive systemic diseases. William J. Clinton refused to clean it up in Iraq, and, then used it in Yugoslavia. George W. Bush, wanting to surpass the record of his two predecessors and to demonstrate his �unflinching� determination to wage his war of �civilization,� unleashed more radioactive material on Iraq than ever before.

Consequently, is there any military rationale for using DU twice in Iraq, particularly knowing that its use had already wreaked havoc on the health of the Iraqi population since 1991 and that its side effects would last for many generations to come?

The answer requires some elaboration. If six B-2�s (stealth bombers) flying at 50,000 feet of altitude, when most traditional surface-to-air missiles can only reach 40,000 to 42,000 feet (if they are accurate), can destroy an entire country, then why use DU? If U.S. bombers, cruise missiles, and conventional bombs can destroy an emaciated and unarmed enemy such as Iraq, then why use radioactive munitions to subdue an enemy that had already surrendered even before the start of hostilities?

Originally, the U.S. designed �depleted� uranium shells as an anti-tank weapon, considered effective against a hypothetical overwhelming Soviet tank attack on Western Europe, because the shells could easily pierce through the outer shield of heavily hardened vehicles thus killing and carbonizing their inhabitants inside. The first phase of the latest U.S. aggression on Iraq, however, consisted only of aerial bombardment of Baghdad, while a land invasion was proceeding from south (Kuwait) to north and from West (Jordan) to center. A scant look at the opposing forces would immediately reveal that the use of DU shells was unnecessary because the few decrepit Iraqi tank divisions remaining from the Gulf War could not have posed any danger for the invaders, even in the case of a limited intense ground war. What reinforces the notion against that use is the fact that during a 13-year war of attrition, the U.S. had already devastated what remained of vital Iraqi military infrastructures and ground to air defenses thus making a ground war a useless option. To conclude, my position is that there were no military rationales or advantages, none whatsoever, to use radioactive uranium on Iraq.

Consequently, is the U.S. experimentation with mass killing by DU or other means due to: (1) overkill because of stringent military requirements or (2) infatuation with killing as an integral part of imperialistic wars, and (3) rational and deliberate calculation because of �hidden� purposes, ideological aberrations, or prospects for building an unchallenged hyper-imperialistic empire?

First, the overkill theory is inapplicable here for one reason: if there is no resistance capable of stopping an overpowering attack, killing more or less enemy soldiers cannot effect or change the outcome of war. That leaves us with the other two theories�infatuation and deliberation. However, discussing these two theories in relation to the use of radioactive material or other destructive conventional weapons is not straightforward and requires a few analytical premises to distinguish meaning, contextual applicability, and intentionality. Moreover, even if we can find a comprehensive explanation for these three theories, we may not be able to fit it in all situations. How can we resolve this dilemma?

Let us start by first addressing the concept of killing as an underlying and unifying factor between these two unrelated notions. If infatuation means an extreme irrational fondness of something, and deliberation is a rational and predetermined decision to act in a certain way, then how does killing as a unifying factor between these two opposing notions work, and how does it apply vs. the use of unconventional weapons or conventional but with an unconventional potency? If the purpose of war is the mass killing and destruction of an adversary nation, and if ideological rationales buttress that war, as in the case of the U.S. (where every recent U.S. president thrives to designate an adversary, wage war against his nation, and then build a presidential library to display his trophies), then mass killing becomes ideological, too!

Conclusively, if one makes wars deliberately, then killing is deliberate. If war and killing are deliberate, then what is the condition under which killing can become either infatuation or deliberation? Can it be both?

Unless it is accidental, and regardless of motive, the killing of another person has always been a deliberate action meant to end the life of an adversary through extreme violence, be it through strangling, poisoning, stabbing, shooting, etc. No culture in history has glamorized and glorified killing more than American popular culture where the motion picture industry made �killing� a form of family entertainment.

Filmmakers and writers compete to create scenes where the killer invents extraordinary gruesome means to inflict the most horrible acts of fictional killing, including eating internal organs. An example of this was when a macabre film, depicting a psychopathic killer who eats the liver of his victims with a side dish of fava beans accompanied by the pleasure of drinking Italian wine, had earned for its makers millions of dollars and Oscars to the two leading actors. The success of a film devoid of any artistic, philosophical, or literary values had one incontrovertible meaning�the viewers enjoyed the storyline.

The question remains, is the enjoyment derived from watching or reading fictional mayhem, killing, or infliction of physical harm comparable to, or can it transmute to enjoyment of real acts of violence? The answer is uncertain because of the unreliability of any sampling due to denials and other factors. There are, however, strong indications that the culture of violence is endemic in nature where physical pain and suffering become glamorous and camouflaged as entertainment such as in �bull riding� (animal cruelty), �boxing� (human cruelty).

It is not farfetched to assert that in a culture such as this, the possible ecstasy derived from the killing of real people is no different from the ecstasy that comes from reading or seeing an imaginary killing, as both provide a sense of sadistic pleasure for those who imagine it and those who actually do it. In real terms, when American opinion polls approve phrases used by politicians and opinion makers such as, �Hunting down the 'terrorists' and killing them,� then the passage from the imaginary to the real is a matter of natural transition. In particular, pay attention to the word, �hunting,� which now, among other things, means a form of sport or game, which in turn gives pleasure! In this case, both, individual and mass killings, in any war, aside from being a means to defeat an enemy, are also an exteriorized pleasure derived from ending a human life through violence where the license to kill erases both the sense of guilt and the boundaries that separate between fiction and reality of the act of killing itself.

A question: do you think that the mentality and culture of the U.S. military and civilian leadership are different from the mentality and culture that created them?

If you are skeptical, let us read what one of the assistants of Robert McNamara (a former �defense� secretary) told Solly Zuckerman (a former scientific advisor to the British Ministry of �Defense�) about how the US would have attacked the Soviet Union during the 1960s.

Says the assistant, �First we need enough Minutemen to be sure that we destroy all those Russian cities. Then we need Polaris missiles to follow in order to tear up the foundations to a depth of ten feet, maybe helped by Skybolt. Then, when all Russia is silent, and when no air defenses are left, we want waves of aircraft to drop enough bombs to tear the whole place up down to a depth of forty feet to prevent the Martians recolonizing the country. And to hell with fallout[2] [Emphasis added].

If you think that was only a hallucination by a disturbed assistant, and are still skeptical, then please link to the following audio-video clip (special thanks to political writer Kim Petersen for catching it) and shown by CNN, where you can see the actual killing of an Iraqi and the ecstasy of the American soldiers who killed him. [3] There are many other examples of pleasurable killing in U.S. wars. A few of these include the My Lai massacre in Vietnam where Charlie Company massacred 504 defenseless villagers [4] [5]; American earthmovers burying over 8,000 Iraqi soldiers alive without giving them the chance to surrender (1991) [6], and when American soldiers, after raping a young Vietnamese woman, stuck dynamite in her vagina and then blew her to pieces [7]. Note: while the My Lai massacre, where U.S. soldiers dismembered and cut off heads and limbs of Vietnamese men and women came to the surface and made news headlines, the burying of over 8,000 Iraqis alive remains obscure!

The expectation that one person, one thousand, or more would die consequent to a violent action, especially in war, has a very specialized attribute: because it is premeditated, it comes with a definitive psychological component derived from the inner certainty that the act of killing is satisfying as it is equivalent to the sensation of a �mission accomplished.� Satisfaction entails a very specific meaning�pleasure. A pilot that bombards a defenseless city repeatedly on different days passes beyond the stage of duty to a sense of pleasure, where an emerging psychological rapture makes the person who is experiencing the sensations that precede the bombardment calm on the outside but perturbed on the inside . . . this sensation cannot be but trepidation. Fear is not valid in the Iraqi example, as Iraq had no effective air defense. If the same pilot would bombard Moscow, then fear could be a component because Russian air defense are well equipped and capable of shooting him down.

Although trepidation is an undefined sensation of anxiety and not pleasure, nevertheless it manifests itself as a pleasurable expectation that people will die because of bombardment. A repeated pleasurable expectation is a form of infatuation and that is for one good reason. Because the pilot is killing people under orders, therefore, he is a paid professional killer; because he kills repeatedly, he is a professional serial killer; and because he is a serial killer, he is infatuated with killing regardless whether it is a professional killing or due to the emergence of killer instincts. Let me explain. The more people (soldiers or civilians) the pilot kills, the more he experiences pleasure along the following sequence: he attacked, killed, and survived! Further, as the killing increases proportionally to the number of attacks he is conducting, so is his physiological arousal that now goes beyond the normal threshold required to accomplish a hazardous job to include a pleasure for being able to inflict death with impunity! Keep in mind that during the killing, the pilot does not see death actually happening beneath him, but he, certainly, can sense and visualize it . . . It was part of his indoctrination.

Nevertheless, all the above is not conclusive as far as establishing a relation where killing is consequent to obeying military orders is actually infatuation with the act of killing itself; the fact remains that the behavior of a superpower determined to inflict horrendous casualties among its invented adversaries definitively denotes homicidal tendencies that could have an affinity with pleasure. Finally, the infatuation with the idea of killing during war happens regardless of its origin, i.e., consequent to an order, because soldiers kill out of sadism, psychopathic tendencies, deranged sense of patriotism, fear, racism, or just killing for the pleasure of killing. What differentiates US wars from wars by other nations is that the notion of mass killing and total destruction of adversaries has become an object of desire, and an ideological prize as well. To prove this, US war generals always threaten others with sending them back to the �stone age�!

The passage from the pilot or soldier examples to the ruling classes may follow different paths but it is essentially identical to them in one sense�interior psychological satisfaction of mass killing as a synonym of victory or even national or personal achievement. Robert McNamara exemplified this when his department invented the tabulation of ratios between the number of U.S. soldiers killed in battle and the number of their killed adversaries. To add to the national pride of the U.S., the tabulations went back in history to include examples of the American-Indian wars.

Since we excluded overkill as a motive, and having tentatively established infatuation with killing as a possible underlying factor in the use of radioactive material, now we have to consider the third alternative��deliberation.�

In part six, we shall discuss whether �deliberation� is at the origin of the U.S. employment of radioactive �depleted� uranium in Iraq.



[2] Solly Zuckerman, Nuclear Illusion & Reality





[7] William Gibson, The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam

Next, Part 6: Deliberation, or Isaac Newton and the Naughty Apple

B. J. Sabri is an Iraqi-American anti-war activist. He can be reached at:

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