28 August 2003
WEAPONS INSPECTION REPORT: U.S: AIR FORCE BASE, SPANGDAHLEM, Germany
CIVIL INSPECTORS DENIED ENTRY AT SPANGDAHLEM AIR FORCE BASE:
POSSESSION AND USE OF ILLEGAL WEAPONS, VIOLATION OF U.S. AIR FORCE LAW AT ISSUE
August 28, 2003 - An international team of nine civil weapons inspectors, concerned about the illegal use of poisoned weapons by the U.S. Air Force, today requested permission to enter the U.S. Air Force base at Spangdahlem. The group had earlier asked in writing to meet on 28 August with the base commander, Colonel Stephen Mueller.
The goal of the inspection was to receive confirmation from Col. Mueller that U.S. and German military personnel have been informed of the health and environmental hazards and the illegal status of uranium weapons - often called depleted uranium (DU). The inspectors brought with them information on the laws of war, and U.S. Air Force rules binding on U.S. pilots. Because the uranium weapons are made of toxic heavy metal and long-lived radiological contaminants, they are illegal under U.S. Air Force law and international laws and customs of war that forbid the use of poison or poisoned weapons or weapons that cause unnecessary suffering (WUS). (See attachment)
The team also intended to hold surprise interviews with Air Force personnel about their understanding of uranium weapons' hazards. Additionally, some inspectors hoped to conduct a general inspection into the possible storage of heavy "bunker buster" weapons - some suspected of containing large amounts of uranium, and others possibly carrying the B61-mod11 thermonuclear warhead -- since information on the storage of these weapons is kept secret by the military.
Previous inspections of suspected U.S. weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sites, conducted by a Canadian Inspection Team (www.rootingoutevil.org), and elsewhere by a group of U.S. citizens, took place in the U.S. earlier this year, in addition to others in Holland and Germany. Today's inspections should be seen as a part of this continuing campaign which will not cease until the U.S. government changes its unilateralist policy and joins the community of nations with a consistent position on weapons inspections, nuclear disarmament, and the universal applicability of international law.
The civilian inspectors -- representing Swedish, U.S: and German peace and environmental groups - were met by German security troops who are employed at Spangdahlem only as military police protecting base operations. The inspectors interviewed a German soldier who at first said he didn't know about uranium weapons. The soldier later said he had heard about the hazards of uranium weapons, admitted that he would not like to protect WMD, but asked what he could possibly do about them and whether the team would seriously expect him to give up his income, to desert his military service. He was informed that disobedience of illegal orders would be his duty under international law. He was also asked what he thinks about the fact that these uranium weapons, just recently used against Iraq -- falsely accused of still having atomic, biological and chemical WMD -- and about the Iraqi soldiers who were told by U.S. authorities to desert from their Army. The soldier was unable to answer because the interview was stopped by his superior officer who ordered the gate closed, and directed the team to the main entrance.
At the main gate, the team was met by official military police who were not willing to answer any questions. The inspectors were told that the commander was "flying" and unavailable for a meeting. A request to meet with the Second in Command was also denied. After more than an hour, a Lt. Col. Laird of the base Security Forces came outside the gate to tell the team that only the base Public Relations office is responsible to meet with the team and would know which of the team's questions could be answered.
Spangdahlem AFB and Uranium Weapons:
Spangdahlem is the only U.S. military base in Germany with the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft. The planes use 30mm uranium anti-tank ammunition and can fire 60 such rounds per second.
This chemically and radioactively toxic DU ammunition has been used in several military actions. The A-10 Thunderbolt based here - and operated by U.S. pilots flying directly from Spangdahlem - fired thousands of 30mm DU shells in the 1999 bombardment of Kosovo and Serbia known as Operation Allied Force. These A-10s have also been deployed at U.S. bases nearer to Iraq from which they were used to bomb Iraqi cities in the recent U.S. and British aggression.
DU munitions are made from uranium-238, radioactive waste left over from the process of uranium enrichment used in reactor fuel and nuclear weapons production. An unknown percentage of the uranium munitions are also known to be contaminated with highly radioactive transuranic (heavier than uranium) elements. Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health at the U.S. Department of Energy Dr. David Michaels, said in a January 20, 2000, letter that, "One may normally expect that depleted uranium contains a trace amount of plutonium."
On January 17, 2001, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology discovered traces of uranium-236 in the uranium weapons debris left in Kosovo. Because uranium-236 is made only in a nuclear reactor, the discovery means that the uranium weapons used in Kosovo were definitely contaminated with other highly radioactive fission and transuranic products from nuclear fission. The Pentagon was then pressured to acknowledge, February 3, 2001, that some of its uranium weapons are contaminated with plutonium, neptunium and americium.
Background to Inspections
GAAA, was founded in 1996 to pressure the nuclear weapons states regarding formal treaty obligations to abolish their nuclear arsenals. Since then, GAAA has observed that the biggest nuclear power, the United States, has unilaterally withdrawn from several international agreements regarding nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Simultaneously, the United States, in its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, announced the possible use of its nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that might threaten U.S. interests. The U.S. is also producing new nuclear weapons, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the so-called "mini-nuke" and "robust earth penetrator."
GAAA co-coordinator Marion Kuepker said today that, "The overwhelming dominance of United States' military forces worldwide are today meant to threaten the other nuclear weapon states and keep them from interfering with the expanded U.S. policy of stealing the world's resources in the name of 'free trade' and the 'war on terrorism.' These U.S: threats include diplomatic and economic pressure, at the UN and elsewhere, to hide and deny the effects of the regional and indiscriminate use of uranium weapons, which the Pentagon deceptively calls 'conventional'."
Many of the inspectors are part of a "bike-for-peace" tour between nuclear weapons bases in Germany that began Aug. 22nd in Kaiserslautern. The bike tour included stops at U.S. Air Force bases at Ramstein and Spangdahlem. An additional weapons inspection will take place September 1, at the German military base at Büchel, where German pilots are trained to fly Tornado jet aircraft that can be armed with the U.S: B-61 thermonuclear bombs stored at the base. September 1 is the 20th anniversary of the famous Mutlangen Blockade -- joined by a group of German judges -- against the deployment of the Pershing II missiles. The date is the day in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, beginning of the Second World War which would eventually claim 55 million lives. Sept. 1 is now memorialized as a national anti-war day with vigils and demonstrations taking place across the country.
The inspectors at Spangdahlem were: Oscar Schön, from Sweden and with the environmental group Fältbiologerna; Otto Reger, of the German Peace Society of War Resisters, DFG-VK; Marion Kuepker, of Germany's Non-violent Action for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, GAAA; Roland Blach from DFG-VK and GAAA; Sabine Römer and Johannes Plotzki both of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Frieden, Trier; Till Stübler ,Germany, of the anti-globalization group Attac; Achim Schmitz of Pressehütte Mutlangen; John LaForge of Nukewatch in the USA; and Stephanie Lips, of Youth Environmental Project, JUP in Germany.