Peace garden created on army range

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By Rachel Thompson

The International Day of Action against Depleted Uranium Weapons was held on 6 November to coincide with the United Nations Day for Prevention of the Exploitation of the Environment during Wars and Armed Conflicts.

Previous actions have been held outside the Ministry of Defence’s HQ or US Embassy to draw attention to the use of this radioactive and chemically toxic weapon but this year we decided to do something different.

During the past 12 months, the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) has worked on two campaigns, Don’t DU it; focused on the test-firing of DU in Scotland; and #Act4Iraq, assisting Dr Samira Alaani, a Paediatrician from Fallujah, with a petition demanding that the World Health Organisation and the Iraqi Ministry of Health release the data from a study into the rates of birth defects: change.

In March 2013, we forced the MoD to cancel plans to fire DU as a part of the ‘life extension programme’ of CHARM3, the UK’s only remaining DU round, which were due to take place this year. Even though they knew from the outset that DU would not be publicly acceptable, the MoD has fired DU into the Solway Firth as a part of its test firing programme for over 30 years. More than 31 tonnes of DU remain at the bottom of the Firth and the MoD has no idea how this impacts ecosystems.

UK forces then used these weapons in Iraq, which when fired leave a toxic dust that may be the cause of the birth defects and cancers that are devastating families in these regions. We felt that we needed to do something to demonstrate the link between the controversial testing of the weapons, and the suffering associated with their use.

I have spent a lot of time in Scotland this year and I am yet to meet a person who is not shocked at the fact that Scotland is used for test-firing DU. Scots are outraged at the horrendous consequences documented in Iraq and this inspired our plan to create a memorial garden on the range dedicated to Iraqi children and families.

Early in the morning of the Day of Action, the intrepid guerrilla gardeners descended on the range en masse, people had traveled from all over Scotland and England. A small fence was erected and a peace sign marked out, with bulbs planted inside. The plaque was put in place by 80-year-old Frances Goulay, who had traveled for more than four hours on three buses from Irvine, Ayrshire.

The plaque read:
“Depleted uranium weapons were tested on this range from the 1980 to the present day.
Thirty one tonnes of DU now lie at the bottom of the Solway Firth. These same weapons were used in both the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War leaving an appalling toxic legacy.

“This peace garden was created by the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium on November 6th 2013 to mark the United Nations’ Day for Prevention of the Exploitation of the Environment during Wars and Armed Conflicts.

“It has been planted in solidarity with the children and families of Iraq suffering the terrible consequences of toxic wars waged in their country. –#Act4Iraq”

As some of the group were busy creating the memorial, others began hanging peace cranes from the trees. The cranes had been sent from the Gensuikyo Council in Japan. Peace marchers had walked the length and breadth of Japan and had been presented with the handmade cranes by children and peace workers. Millions were made and then sent around the world to campaigners.

The end result was inspiring and emotional, creating a space for reflection and solidarity in a place that has played a role in so much tragedy. Plans are already afoot to create a ‘peace walk’ on the path leading to the garden next spring when the bulbs begin to bloom.

Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice