Radiation is not a quick killer therefore is useless as a battlefield weapon, unless we escalate into the realms of the neutron bomb. However, both the British and Americans do use uranium weapons which, from the point of view of the civilian populations contaminated by these weapons, function as devices of radioactive pollution, cancer and birth defects being the result.
The thesis of this piece is that poisoning noncombatants with radiation is a war crime. That simple. To maintain otherwise would be to sign off on the notion that armies at war have a license to poison civilian populations indiscriminately. Any argument which supports the murder of civilians, however phrased, is an argument in favor of war crimes.
Absent a neutron bomb, radiation in sufficient quantity can kill in a matter of days, as was demonstrated by an incident which took place at a nuclear processing plain in a place called Tokaimura when I was living in Japan.
What happened was that some exceedingly ignorant workmen created a chain reaction by putting too much high-quality uranium into a device which was essentially a large bucket made of steel. The chain reaction contaminated both the plant itself and the surrounding area. The workmen were all dead of radiation poisoning in a matter of days; presumably they died horrible deaths.
The nuclear power company concerned protested that the device described as being a bucket was actually not a bucket but a high-tech device which looked like a bucket. A commercial TV station got hold of one of these buckets and showed the world. We all know what a bucket looks like, and this was a bucket. A bucket made of steel, a big bucket, but if you found it on the beach you would know you had found a bucket, a basic implement with nothing fancy about it except, perhaps, the quality of the steel from which it was made.
If you make your own chain reaction inside your own bucket, then you can cook yourself and kill yourself, dying in a matter of days, but, generally, radiation works slowly on the body, taking weeks, months or years to produce obvious results.
In my own case, I received radiation to the brain as a follow-up to chemotherapy for brain cancer. I was informed that the risk of the radiation treatment itself causing a secondary cancer could be computed at roughly one in a thousand, possibly a solid cancer of some sort but more likely a cancer of the blood.
I was also told that, if I lived, then the aftermath of the radiation would see my brain mutate and change for a period of ten to fifteen years, causing degenerative changes which I would experience as accelerated aging, with effects that could usually be expected perhaps thirty years in the future cutting in earlier.
The apocalypse schedule of the civilian victims of radiation contamination caused by British and American uranium weapons is not the news drama schedule of the Tokaimura disaster but, rather, a slower, quieter process, happening invisibly in the background.
There are no newspaper articles saying that a radiation-induced cancer started up today in a boy aged seven living in such-and-such a city in Iraq, or in such-and-such a village in Afghanistan, because the process is quiet, silent and invisible, like exactly what it is that is going on inside the slow-cooking casserole pot that my brain has become.
We are in the realm of invisible death, although those who have been on the ground to study the situation have firm evidence of negative outcomes, these being of two kinds:
First, a high incidence, in the contaminated areas, of grotesquely deformed babies; and, second, a high incidence of people suffering from more than one kind of cancer.
The significance of having more than one kind of cancer is that it indicates that some kind of pollution has messed up your body. Every cancer is a separate disease, therefore having one kind of cancer does not, in itself, raise your risk of having another kind of cancer.
My own specialized cancer, for example, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the large B-cell type, in my case a cancer of the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, does not increase my chances of getting skin cancer, bone cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer or any other kind of cancer.
The anomalous statistical pattern shown in contaminated areas such as, for example, Basra, in Iraq, a pattern or people coming down with two or more different cancers, points to environmental contamination, with uranium weapons being the source of that contamination.
On the battlefield, these weapons do not function as radiation weapons but as warheads. Uranium is used in bombs, missiles and anti-tank shells because it is heavy. Something which is heavy, such as steel or lead, makes a good missile. The heavier the better.
Uranium, being significantly heavier than either steel or lead, makes an ideal warhead. Additionally, and this makes it particularly useful for tank warfare, it burns on impact. All going well, striking the enemy tank, the warhead will set fire to the tank.
The fact that it is the nature of uranium warheads to catch fire and burn on impact is the cause of the contamination which results from the use of these weapons, because the burning uranium produces a fine aerosol which disperses across the landscape.
From the point of view of tank crews and the like, the risks posed by uranium munitions which are actually in the tank waiting to be fired are minimal and manageable. The chief reason for this is that the uranium used is largely self-shielding, in that the radioactive particles produced by the decay processes in the uranium are too weak to fight free from the uranium unless they are at or near the surface of the metal.
The shielding required to provide full protection against such weak radioactive particles is trivial. I would be unhappy sleeping with one of these tank rounds tucked under my pillow, but I would have no qualms about storing it in the refrigerator. Close the door on the thing and the whole household would be adequately shielded.
The problem arises when the material disperses as an aerosol and becomes biologically available, entering the human body via food eaten, water drunk and air breathed. With no shielding between the living cell and the radioactive particle, the radiation, weak as it is, lacking the ability to punch through anything as substantial as a refrigerator door, is free to work havoc on the living cell.
British and American soldiers who have been in contaminated areas of Iraq and Afghanistan have, in repeated tests, shown to be passing radioactive uranium in their urine. Their time in country is obviously less than that of the civilian population which resides there, so it may be reasonably assumed that levels of contamination are routinely higher in the civilian populations.
The military personnel are, of course, returning to stable societies where tests can be obtained, and, if they have the motivation, can get themselves checked out. For people actually living in the dislocated societies of Afghanistan and Iraq, which have, to an extent, exchanged the terror of tyranny for the terror of anarchy, things are not so simple.
It may reasonably be assumed that, even at this stage, once we move a little way from the hospital we encounter a world in which many people have no concept of the radiation hazards which have entered their daily lives. And, even if you do learn that the foreign powers of Britain and America have irrevocably poisoned the landscape in which you live, exposing you to radiation hazards which you cannot escape, what are you expected to do about it ? Immigrate to California?
That, then, is the war crimes situation.
If terrorists used radiation weapons in Los Angels, with the result that thousands of babies were born hideously deformed, and thousands of innocent homeowners came down with multiple cancers, then we would hear a lot of talk about the evils of terrorism and about the hideous nature of the enemy.
However, acting in effect as just such terrorists, the British and Americans have been blandly indifferent to the evil which they have inflicted on the civilian populations of the conquered nations. The conquered nations did, after all, get benefits, did they not? In exchange for tyranny they got anarchy, with the rape, murder, theft, torture and kidnapping that goes along with anarchy. And, additionally, a fair few were killed outright in the wars which liberated them into the glorious world of anarchy, meaning they no longer have to worry about such trivia as jellyfish babies and multiple cancers spawning in their flesh and bones.