But they were exposed to this poison under fairly strict controls. Soldiers were instructed to avoid knocked out tanks and, if they had to enter them, to wear dust masks and restrict their exposure to a couple of hours.
The western media have given very little exposure to other victims of DU, the people who live in the areas of Kuwait and Southern Iraq where these munitions were used. Since the end of the Gulf War, children have been born in Iraq with mutations caused by something used in the war. At least one of those somethings was DU. Nobody has been issuing warning and dust masks to civilians living in the region today. Indeed until the story blew up in the media in relation to the western soldiers, the toxicity of DU was a well kept secret.
While the western powers also claim to want to see an end to Saddam they only want this to happen in circumstances that will install a new puppet under their control. The last thing they want is ordinary Iraqi workers and peasants to gain control, an example that would threaten all the other Western sponsored dictatorships of the region.
The advance of the Western armies ended in 1991 precisely at the moment that large numbers of people in northern and southern Iraq rose against Saddam Hussein. Part of the reason was the fear that liberation for the mostly Kurdish people of the north could threaten the stability of Turkey which also brutally represses its Kurdish minority.
But also, as we reported in 1992
"In the there may have been up to 100 shoras or workers councils [formed]. These were active in the fight against the Baathists. They also came into conflict with the nationalists ... and the Stalinists of the March of Communism (RAWT) group.
Shoras called for self-determination, bread, work and freedom including freedom to strike, for a shoras government, for womens equality and that people should control their own economic and political destiny. It would appear that a revolution which began as a nationalist one was being taken further by workers fighting for a social revolution.".
When the war ended with tens of thousands Iraqi dead and an electricity and sanitation supply deliberately "bombed into the stone age", the west followed up with sanctions. It is now estimated by the UN that these sanctions, which have prevented repairs to sewage and water plants on the one hand and denied basic medicines on the other, have been responsible for the deaths of around one million people, many of them children. Other sources put this figure at 1.5 million.
Denis Halliday on resigning his post as UN administrator of the Oil for Food program in Iraq stated that The conditions in Iraq are appalling. Malnutrition is running at about 30% for children under 5 years old.... This is directly attributable to the impact of sanctions, which have caused the breakdown of the clean water system, health facilities and all the things that young children require".
When the US aircraft carrier the JFK visited Dublin in July of 1996, almost every politician in Dublin was telling us to welcome that killing machine. 175,000 people applied to the National Lottery for tickets to visit it. The US embassy admitted that planes launched from the JFK dropped 3.5 million pounds of explosive during the Gulf War. Planes from the JFK also took part in the turkey shoot on the Basra Road where tens of thousands of retreating Iraqi conscript soldiers were massacred after they had been defeated. US carriers have also been essential to the maintenance of the sanctions since the end of the war.
In the 1980s in Western Europe, when Saddam was gassing the Kurds with western supplied weapons, the media ignored it. The truth was still there, if you happened to come across a leaflet from an activist group. So in the 1990s the media ignored the suffering of the people of Iraq, again as a result of western arms, although you might still come across a leaflet on the streets.
The media likes to portray anyone opposed to the 1991 Gulf War or opposed to the sanctions as being some sort of secret friend of Saddam Hussein. In fact there is nothing we would like to see better than the Iraqi people putting an end to his long, bloody reign.
The Gulf War and the sanctions in the years since demonstrate that there can be no humane intervention by the imperialist powers. The Wests interventions are designed purely to protect and expand the control of the areas where they send their armies. While they spend millions protecting the lives of each of their soldiers they have left the battle fields of Iraq and Kosovo littered with poisonous Depleted Uranium and cluster bomblets that will continue to kill and main the local civilian population for years to come.