By Nov. 5 the number of individual air missions was up to 120 per day, adding F-16 and
F-15 fighter-bombers out of U.S. bases in Kuwait.
The turning point in the war to oust the Taliban government came on Nov. 6 at Mazar-e Sharif, a key city in the northern plains. Attack aircraft rained down hundreds of MK82 500-lb bombs. B-52 bombers used carpet bombing to kill thousands of Taliban forces. It was here that U.S. forces dropped the first BLU-82 Daisy Cutter bomb, each weighing 15,000 lbs, producing devastation over a 600-yard radius. All the weapons used by the U.S. air attack included depleted uranium shielding.
Depleted uranium (DU) is produced during the uranium enrichment process. The U-235 used to produce fuel for reactors generating electricity is removed, leaving the U-238 isotope. The material is extremely dense and increases the penetration ability of weapons; it is used to coat shells and warheads on missiles and bombs. On impact, the shell, with its uranium and traces of americium and plutonium, vaporizes and becomes very tiny particles of radioactive dust. When it is inhaled it can stay in the body, emitting radiation.
The DU used in U.S. weapons comes from the uranium mines in Saskatchewan.
In 1996 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring that DU weapons were illegal “weapons of mass destruction.” In 2002, the U.N. Human Rights Convention passed a resolution urging a ban on the use of any DU weapons. We will have to wait to find out the impact of these weapons on the people of Afghanistan and the men and women in the U.S., Canadian and NATO armed forces.
Warnock is a Regina political economist and author. This is an extract from his forthcoming book Afghanistan: The Creation of a Failed State, to be published by Fernwood in 2008.
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