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The Plowshares vs. Depleted Uranium.

Elizabeth Walz, Steven Kelly, Phil Berrigan, Susan Crane.

At Dawn on Sunday, December 19, 1999, Philip Berrigan, Susan Crane, Rev. Steve Kelly S.J., and Elizabeth Walz were arrested at the Warfield National Guard base by Federal Air Police as they were disarming two A 10 Thunderbolts (also nicknamed the Warthog). Phil and Elizabeth worked together on one plane, hammering on the Gatling gun in the nose of the plane and on the pylons under the wings, and pouring their blood into the engines of the plane. Father Steve and Susan did similar transformation to a second plane and that, in addition, Steve climbed onto a wing, peeled back the vinly cover and poured his blood into one of the engines of the plane. They hung their banner: PLOWSHARES VS. DEPLETED URANIUM on the site.

All four were stopped by Federal Air Police who were not quite content with the speed with which Steve and Susan complied with their orders and sprayed Steve with pepper spray - "to get my attention," as Steve Kelly later reported. Susan was tackled by security when she did not desist.

The four had prepared the following statement, which explained their reason for the action. They have been arraigned and will face trial at a later date.

Plowshares versus Depleted Uranium

December 19, 1999 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

Attack a village with an A-10 Warthog and leave a trench.

Attack a village with an A-10 Warthog firing depleted uranium and leave a poisoned graveyard -- the people dead, plants dying or sterile, the earth eternally toxic.

The A-10 is an aircraft built around a gun -- a 30 mm 7 barrel Gatling that can spew 3.900 rounds per minute. This criminal plane fired 95% of the depleted uranium deployed by the U. S. during the Gulf War, leaving behind 300-800 tons (Dutch Laka Foundation) poisoning humans and the elements in Kuwait and Iraq.

Sanctions (a crime against humanity) and depleted uranium (a war crime) have killed 2 million Iraqis since the war's end. Said Dr. Jannan Ghalib while showing Olivia Ward of the Toronto Star a photograph album of malformed babies: "This one, no head. This one, legs fused together. Another, no limbs and tiny buds on the misshapen chest. Then a face with no eyes, just flaps of skin over the empty sockets. Another with a huge water swollen head with no brain." (Atomic Veteran's Radiation News, Vol. 3, No. 6)

Depleted uranium is a delayed response weapon which burns its way through tank armor and oxidizes, throwing radioactive particles as far away as 25 miles. When ingested, these particles cause chemical and radioactive damage to the bronchial tree, to kidneys, liver and bones, causing somatic and genetic trauma. Cancer often results.

Iraq and Yugoslavia are template wars, blueprints for future imperial wars -- targeting the total of a society -- military, civilians, the unborn, the infrastructure, the ecology, the health and spirit of a people. These wars even overflow against the troops that fight them. 90,000 American Gulf War veterans are now chronically ill. A U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs study of 251 veteran's families in Mississippi shows that 67% had children with severe illnesses or birth defects.

The U. S. has made another fatal mistake with depleted uranium -- it has given it away to a score of other countries, openly inviting them to make their own weapons, fight their own nuclear wars and infest the planet with more radiation.

December 19th ends Advent - a time of reparation and conversion. We mark this day by mourning the civilians killed in America's wars - nine civilians to every soldier, and by converting one hellish instrument of their death. They die forgotten and alone - no grateful nation to sorrow their passing - no flags nor official ritual. They are expendable; they are the true cannon fodder.

We come to the Maryland Warfield Air National Guard Base to convert the A-10, as Roman Catholic Christians, in obedience to God's prohibition against killing. Also, to embody Isaiah's vision of a disarmed world where hearts are converted to compassion and justice and the weapons are converted to the tools of peace. Finally, to atone for another nuclear war in Iraq, and a third in Yugoslavia.

So help us God.

Jon Katz, Anabel Dwyer, and  Ramsey Clark helped defend the Plowshares activists in court.  See


This child was born in Iraq in the years since the Gulf War, when over three hundred tons of highly toxic depleted uranium were fired in weapons at Iraq. While there is no direct evidence (or research for that matter) linking depleted uranium exposure with such birth defects, doctors in Iraq report a tenfold increase in certain kinds of birth defects (including webbed or fused fingers and toes, missing eyes and vital organs, and severe brain damage) since the end of the war--and many US Gulf War Veterans have parented children with similar birth defects. Picture courtesy of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's Campaign against Depleted Uranium.

  1. DU is a dense radioactive waste used in munitions because it can pierce 4 inches of armor. It is radioactive; it is a heavy metal; it poisons environment and people. It has a half life of 4.5 billion years.
  2. Uranium-238 is mined and U-235 and U-234 removed in an enrichment process for nuclear weapons and power plants. What remains, depleted of the enriched isotopes, is a radioactive waste. Stockpiles of depleted uranium have accumulated since the 1940's, (about 500,000 tons). The government has been looking for a use for this radioactive waste to reduce storage difficulties and costs.
  3. DU has physical properties that are useful to the military. It is almost twice as dense as lead. On impact, it ignites and aerosolizes, spreading fine dust particles of DU that can travel far as 26 miles.
  4. The US began producing DU ammunition in 1978; the munitions were first used during the Gulf War. 940,000 DU shells were fired from U.S. planes and 14,000 DU shells were fired from tanks. 300-800 tons of DU particles and dust were scattered over ground and water in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The majority of the DU rounds fired in the Gulf were from the Fairchild A-10 '"tank-killer" aircraft. About 564,000 pounds of DU were fired from A-10 planes during the Gulf War.
  5. DU weapons are toxic, radioactive weapons which cannot be contained in time or space, and are indiscriminate weapons which violate international law.
  6. In the US Army base in Doha, Kuwait, an ammunition vehicle caught fire on July 11, 1991. An estimated 9,000 pounds of DU were burned. During the Gulf War, 29 US vehicles were contaminated with DU through friendly fire incidents. Soldiers inside the vehicles were wounded; soldiers assigned to recover the vehicles were contaminated. Thousands of Iraqi vehicles were contaminated by DU. American soldiers entered these vehicles to salvage equipment, look for souvenirs or pose for pictures. They were not warned that there was DU dust on the equipment and in the air.
  7. Of the 697,000 US troops in the Gulf, over 90,000 reported medical problems. DU could be responsible for respiratory, liver, and kidney dysfunction, memory loss, headaches, fever, low blood pressure and birth defects.
  8. The people of Iraq - particularly in the south - have been contaminated through the air, water, soil and crops. Doctors in Iraq have documented an increase in leukemia and other cancers.
  9. DU threatens unborn generations. Children are the most affected because DU accumulates in their bones, replacing calcium. High rates of leukemia, lymphoma, bone cancer have been recorded in Iraq. DU causes birth deformities: children are born with shortened or webbed arms and legs, lacking eyes, mouth, brain, and abnormalities in the number and shape of organs. 10. The military use of DU has contaminated areas of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bosnia, US military bases in Vieques, Puerto Rico and Okinawa, Japan as well as neighbors of weapons manufacturers, such as in Colonie, NY where the National Lead Plant was manufacturing DU penetrators. Research and development of DU penetrators and armor has been done at the nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD