Balkan War Syndrome is a term used to describe the side effects suffered by soldiers during the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.
The main contributor to the increasing number of cases reported seems to be the use of depleted uranium in NATO anti-tank missiles, which apparently increases the armour-piercing power of these weapons.
Sixteen ex-soldiers who served in the Balkans, from six different countries, have already died from leukemia. Their families and colleagues mostly blame the American government as it was the only country to use depleted uranium shells in the conflict. Some ex-soldiers in Great Britain are also planning to sue the Ministry Of Defence for the suffering they have been caused as a result of radiation exposure and lack of protection.
Naturally enough, the Pentagon says that depleted uranium has little or no effect on the environment or on soldiers/civilians who are exposed to it.
In Europe, things are a bit more realistic. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has given strict instructions to its staff for visits to Kosovo and other areas that have been bombarded with depleted uranium shells. They are as follows:
- that no pregnant women should be sent to Kosovo
- that staff should be offered an alternative posting upon request
- that any official sent to Kosovo must have their file marked 'service in the field' to facilitate any claim for compensation in the event of illness resulting from contamination
The real losers out this whole situation are the people of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will be suffering the consequences (cancer, birth defects) of the use of these weapons for years to come.
See also: Gulf War Syndrome