FAIR-L Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting Media analysis, critiques and news reports
On April 1st, ABC's Nightline did a segment that criticized the one-sided coverage of the war -- on Serbian TV. Reviewing supposedly absurd claims, ABC aired what it described as «this astonishing claim» from a Belgrade news account:

«They even use radioactive weapons...which are forbidden by the Geneva Convention.»

Astonishing, perhaps -- but is it true? The fact is, the United States is using radioactive weapons against Yugoslavia -- and this threatens to have health consequences in Kosovo for decades to come.

The weapons in question are anti-tank shells and bullets made of depleted uranium (DU), a toxic, radioactive byproduct of nuclear fission. Favored for their ability to destroy tanks, this ammunition is carried by such U.S. forces as A-10 Warthogs and Apache helicopters, both of which received substantial media attention when introduced into the war.

Ironically, only the day before Nightline's broadcast (3/30/99), ABC World News Tonight had reported the same «astonishing» news that Serbian TV had: Describing the A-10, ABC's John Martin noted that «it could pierce any armor by firing depleted uranium bullets at 3,900 rounds a minute.»

But depleted uranium has received almost no sustained media attention.

One of the few reporters to discuss the substance, Kathleen Sullivan of the San Francisco Examiner (4/1/99), reported that Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon refused to answer questions about its use by A-10s, saying operational details were «verboten from this podium.»

Nonetheless, the health risks posed by inhaling the dust from depleted uranium, as well as the contamination of the physical environment, have raised the concerns of numerous public health and veterans rights groups.

The World Health Organization is still studying the high cancer rates that plague southern Iraq, where much of the fighting during the Gulf War took place. Likewise, DU's possible role in causing or exacerbating Gulf War Syndrome is still a topic of fierce debate.

CBS's Mark Phillips recently presented in-depth reporting on the possible health effects of DU in Iraq (12/1/98, 12/10/98). Since the U.S. began using DU in Yugoslavia, however, no network has returned to the subject.


Please contact national and local media and urge them to investigate the use of depleted uranium as a weapon in Yugoslavia.

During the Gulf War, activists raised questions about the potential consequences of DU, but these issues were not explored until inexplicable illnesses began showing up in U.S. veterans and Iraqi children. This pattern should not be repeated in Kosovo.

ABC -- Nightline mailto: Niteline@abc.com

CBS News mailto: audsvcs@cbs.com

For more media contacts, go to


For more on the current war in Yugoslavia, go to


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