PLOWSHARES IN MARYLAND: FIRST ACTION AGAINST DEPLETED URANIUM IN U.S.
[Baltimoreà January 6, 2000: --See the Video "Metal of Dishonor" Special Guest: Elizabeth McAlister from the Jonah House will speak on the case of the Plowshare 4--Also hear, Sanctions Challenge Delegates, Mr. Walter Black and Sharon Ceci All Peoples Congress Hall, 426 E. 31st Street (Greenmount Ave & 31st St) Time: 7 to 9 PM]
By John Catalinotto
Four anti-war activists from the pacifist group Plowshares were arrested Dec. 19, 1999. The four were charged with breaking through a fence at a Maryland Air National Guard Base and damaging two A-10 "Warthog" jet assault planes.
The group targeted the Warthogs because the plane is one of the Pentagons main users of weapons made with depleted uranium.
This protest action was the first major civil-disobedience action taken specifically against DU weapons. Such weapons are not only part of the lethal U.S. war arsenal, they are also a danger to the environment for years after their use in battle.
Among the four was long-time activist Philip Berrigan, a former Catholic priest arrested more than 100 times for civil disobedience. The others were the Rev. Stephen Kelly, Elizabeth Walz and Susan Crane. The four live at Jonah HouseBerrigans communal home for peace activists in West Baltimore, Md.
According to the military, the protesters used bolt cutters to get on the base in Essex at about 4 a.m. Baltimore police said the activists hit an A-10 Thunderbolt jet with hammers and threw what appeared to be blood on the plane.
The Warthog planes are capable of firing up to 4,000 rounds of DU-reinforced shells per minute. They fired DU shells against tanks and other armored vehicles in Iraq during the 1991 war and in Yugoslavia last spring.
Depleted uranium is a radioactive metal 1.7 times as dense as lead. Millions of tons of DU are available in the United States because it is the waste product of the process used to make enriched uranium for atomic bombs and nuclear power plants. When DU is used to reinforce the core of ammunition it can easily penetrate the armor on tanks shielded by ordinary steel.
When the DU-reinforced shell strikes the tank, the DU ignites. Tiny particles of radioactive uranium oxide are loosed into the air for miles around. Humans can inhale these particles, which then become hot spots of radioactivity inside the body.
Iraqi doctors report higher than usual levels of childhood leukemia, other cancerous diseases and birth defects in the areas of Iraq where most of the DU shells were fired in 1991.
International Action Center Co-coordinator Sara Flounders, co-editor of the "Metal of Dishonor," called the Plowshares civil disobedience "a courageous action that will help bring increased awareness of the dangers posed by this weapon."
Flounders demanded the authorities release the Plowshares activists and said, "The real criminals are those who make the $8 million Warthogs and those who use them to spread warfare and radioactivity around the world."
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