Shortly after Hiroshima (and Nagasaki), American nuclear researchers finally got around to examining the effects of plutonium on the human body. "There were two kinds of experiments," says Peter Montague, director of the Environmental Research Foundation. "In one kind, specific small groups (African-American prisoners, mentally retarded children, and others) were induced, by money or by verbal subterfuge, to submit to irradiation of one kind or another.
In all, some 800 individuals participated in these 'guinea pig' trials. In the second kind, large civilian populations were exposed to intentional releases of radioactive isotopes into the atmosphere." Far from a momentary lapse amidst post-"Good War" paranoia, these U.S. radiation experiments have left a trail of declassified documents that stretches three miles long.
In Iraq (commencing in 1991), Afghanistan (since 2001), Yugoslavia (1999), and testing ground such as Vieques, Puerto Rico (only recently halted), the U.S. has continued to spread the radioactive aromatherapy via depleted uranium (DU) armor-piercing shells. "When fired, the uranium bursts into flame and all but liquifies, searing through steel armor like a white hot phosphorescent flare" explains James Ridgeway in the Village Voice.
The heat of the shell causes any diesel fuel vapors in the enemy tank to explode, and the crew inside is burned alive. As grisly as that may sound, the effects of DU do not end with the scorched bodies of Iraqi "collateral damage." Anti-nuclear activist Dr Helen Caldicott explains that DU shells create "tiny aerosolized particles less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled" and can travel "long distances when airborne." "There is no safe dose or dose rate below which dangers disappear," John Gofman, a former associate director of Livermore National Laboratory, one of the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb, and co-discoverer of uranium-233, reminds us. "Serious, lethal effects from minimal radiation doses are not 'hypothetical,' 'just theoretical,' or 'imaginary.' They are real."
Second elementary question: Who are the real rogues here?