Iraq and Kosovo may be thousands of miles apart, but they share the dubious distinction of contamination with radioactive residue from depleted uranium (DU) bullets used in American air strikes. After several years of silence, US officials finally admitted that 340 tons of DU were fired during the Gulf war. In Kosovo, American delays in providing details of quantities and target points have frustrated international efforts to assess health risks.
The men guarding the ruins of the remote Kharanj oil pumping station near Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia don’t wander around much. Parts of this facility, destroyed by American air raids during the 1991 Gulf war, remain “hot” — radioactive. The guards confine themselves to one small building, avoiding wreckage contaminated by US bullets made of depleted uranium (DU).
Driving into the former battlefield, one passes Iraq’s rich Rumeila oil fields and the demilitarized zone with Kuwait, which is littered with rusting tanks and vehicles. Many are hot.