Saturday, July 23, 2005

Cynicism and the Use of Depleted Uranium

The essay Cynicism and the Use of Depleted Uranium is directly below my comments, keeping in mind that, “the greatest evil we do is to deny the evil we do (link).”

Of all the issues we in this country are faced with today the illegal invasion/occupation of Iraq is at the top of the “important list.” Within BushCo’s war policies one thing in particular has got to be not only looked at, but we must act, and the sooner rather than later as a lot of lives are at stake due to the use by the U.S. of Depleted Uranium.

While the Pentagon and Rumsfeld’s War Department continue to deny DU has harmful affects on humans, every bit of research says exactly the opposite. DU kills! If you read nothing else, you have got to read “Metal of Dishonor” as well as watching the DVD, “Poison Dust.” Both articulate what DU is, what it does and how it does what it does—kill; deform babies; poison the land and water and air; the use of DU simply stated is nuclear war.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi’s have been killed and crippled by DU over a 15 year period of time, not to mention the untold numbers in Bosnia and Kosavo. American troops that have been exposed are getting sick; having babies being born deformed; people are dying due to DU use by this nation and still the Pentagon denies DU causation. We from Vietnam that were contaminated by Agent Orange understand what the veterans of this BushCo war of choice will be facing. The veterans of the first Bush war in the Gulf know what those returning from Iraq will face—the same denials they have been faced with the past 14 years.

For those of you involved with anti-recruitment efforts the issue of Depleted Uranium use and contamination is as good as anything and better than a lot, in terms of educating potential enlistees about what they will be faced with if they enlist in today’s military. Nothing speaks as loudly as what we see—the DVD Poison Dust does not just speak, it “screams.”

We cannot sit quietly by while people are being poisoned by their own country only to be cast aside when they come to back to what was once their home, the U.S. Get the video Poison Dust and start having “home presentations” of it. Use it not only to bring more attention to the issue of DU use and contamination, but use it also in your anti-recruitment efforts. It does turns heads to say the least as it gives a lot to think about that recruiters will never, ever bring up during their “sales” pitch.

Here is one of the email responses I got back when I sent this out on my mailing list: “The anti-DU movement appears to be well organized and well financed, but scientific accuracy is not their strong point … if you were a soldier, how do you feel about taking away a weapon that enables them to kill tanks every time they shoot at them ... there are a lot of guys alive today because of that one shot, one-kill capability when they confronted Iraqi armor in the desert. Why do you push their stuff?”

This shows just how important it is to keep getting solid information and research put up and out about DU. When you read that comment keep in mind that I have had many such ludicrous and absurd statements sent to me—we do have a lot of work ahead of us in the fight to help veterans contaminated by DU get the recognition and proper medical help they deserve. Apparently the individual that wrote the above email to me, and the others like him/her, have either never read or just completely ignore verifiable studies like the one the statement below is from and that have been in the public domain for 15 years.

“US soldiers are returning from Iraq to die of "mysterious" ailments - and the depleted uranium (DU) poisoning scandal just won't go away, despite efforts to cover it up. Protesters in New Haven spoke out last week against the U.S. military's use of DU, its effects on US troops, and cutbacks in veterans' medical benefits. The DU test costs $1,000, so the U.S. government won't test for DU poisoning. "More than 240,000 Gulf War veterans are on permanent medical disability and more than 11,000 are dead. They have been denied testing, medical care, and compensation for depleted uranium exposure and related illnesses since 1991," say reports. A U.S. government study found that 67% of post-Gulf War babies have serious birth defects or serious illnesses.”

The Pentagon and the Department of War have done a good job with their disinformation campaign about Depleted Uranium. They are running the same game they did on and about Agent Orange use and contamination during the American War in Vietnam. Not much has changed over the years has it? Not in terms of the propaganda we are bombarded with; if anything that has gotten much worse since BushCo.

I read the book “Metal of Dishonor” over a year ago. Like a lot of people, I did not know that much about DU. After reading the book I went on a crash course reading everything I could access on DU. Since then I’ve had email conversations with some of the top DU researchers in the country. It is for that reason I believe so strongly that the use of DU weapons is nuclear war, period. That is what motivated me to “advertise” the book, “Metal of Dishonor” and the DVD, “Poison Dust” - the DVD is an especially great tool for presenting good solid documented fact about DU and its effects on people.

Get the DVD at the least and put it to work! I have no interest in this other than the desire to use everything at our disposal to educate our fellow Americans about how are own troops are being poisoned by the very military they serve—and are then ignored by the very Veterans Administration (pdf link) that is supposed to be there to provide veterans with medical care.--Jack

Now on to the essay by Kim Hawkins and Robert Shetterly:

Cynicism and the Use of Depleted Uranium
by Kim Hawkins and Robert Shetterly
July 23, 2005

As the controversy swirls around Karl Rove and how blatantly or surreptitiously he disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame to the press, it's important to remember that the preceding issue was the question of whether Iraq was importing yellow cake uranium from Niger to make nuclear weapons. Rove, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, et al., wanted to use this issue to terrify the American people and win support for the attack on Iraq. They wanted Saddam, al Qaeda, Osama, and Mushroom Cloud, like four horsemen of the apocalypse, to be synonymous in the American mind. What could frighten people more than terrorists willing to detonate atomic bombs and spread radioactive fallout?

Of course, even when they knew it wasn't true that Iraq had imported yellow cake - thanks to Joseph Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame - the administration continued to cynically hype the fear. They knew that only a threatened and credulous public would support this war. But the cynicism that allows elected leaders to use a false fear of nuclear weapons to manipulate people doesn't begin to match the cynicism of those same leaders who are using nuclear weapons themselves and lying about it.

We're talking about Depleted Uranium (DU). DU is a cheap by-product of nuclear energy and the production of nuclear weapons. It is a heavy metal, 1.7 times more dense than lead. Artillery shells, missiles, and bombs encased in DU will penetrate practically anything - tanks, fortified bunkers, hospitals, schools. DU is also radioactive.

When a Depleted Uranium shell explodes it is pyrophoric, that is, it burns intensely, sending into the air billions of microscopic, radioactive, uranium oxide particles, so fine that they can be breathed through a gas mask. They become wind born, blow everywhere, enter the water, the food chain. When they are swallowed or inhaled, they lodge in every part of a person's body, emitting toxic radiation that damages DNA and causes cell mutations. The mutations, in turn, cause an incredible variety of cancers, birth defects, miscarriages, and debilitating conditions that resist treatment.

DU is primarily made up of uranium 238, but our stockpile of it is contaminated with neptunium and plutonium which are thousands of times more carcinogenic than uranium. Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to the effects of radiation than adults.

The United States and Great Britain used hundreds of tons of Depleted Uranium in the first Gulf War, and they have used thousands of tons in this current war. (A dose the size of an M&M is potentially fatal.) During the first war they were used primarily in the desert, now they are used in the cities. In the area around Basrah where DU was used extensively in the first war, the incidence of childhood leukemia has increased by 700 percent, overall cancers by 1000 percent, birth deformities by 2000 percent.

People also experience immunodeficiency disorders, AIDS-like syndromes, kidney and liver dysfunction, neurological problems, rashes, vision degradation, sexual dysfunction, and psychological disorders - to name a few of the problems. In effect, the people of Iraq are suffering as though they are the victims of a nuclear war. They are. The United States has inflicted a low level, slow motion nuclear war on the people and country of Iraq.

But the Iraqis are not the only ones suffering. Nearly 356,000 American and British troops, more than half of all soldiers deployed in the first Gulf War, have experienced symptoms of exposure to Depleted Uranium (commonly called Gulf War Syndrome). Many have died of cancers and mysterious ailments. The radioactive particles from DU are taken up by body fluids and travel around the body, damaging multiple organs. They cause the body's communication system to break down. That is why Gulf War Syndrome presents itself with innumerable, seemingly unrelated ailments.

There is a 67% birth defect rate among the children of returning veterans from the first Gulf War! Veterans with DU contamination are also transferring it to their wives through sexual contact (it is carried in the semen), the result of which is an increased rate of cervical cancer. And many women have repeatedly miscarried.

In 1996 and 1997 the United Nations Human Rights Tribunals condemned Depleted Uranium weapons for illegally breaking the Geneva Convention and classed them as "weapons of mass destruction." But the U.S. and British governments have repeatedly denied that the radioactive dust from DU is harmful and blocked research into the effects.

In 1997 Dr. Asaf Durakovic, then Professor of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at Georgetown University said, "The [U.S.] Veteran's Administration asked me to lie about the risks of incorporating depleted uranium in the human body ...uranium does cause cancer, uranium does cause mutation, and uranium does kill. If we continue with the irresponsible contamination of the biosphere, the denial of the fact that human life is endangered by the deadly uranium isotope, then we are doing disservice to ourselves, disservice to the truth, disservice to God and to all the generations who follow." His research was blocked.

In 1995 a leaked U.S. report said, "The potential for health effects of DU exposure is real; however, it must be viewed in perspective… the financial implications of long-term disability payments and healthcare costs would be excessive." In other words, from the "perspective" of a government that wants to continue using these weapons, wants to continue the lucrative arms trade, wants to shield the manufacturers from liability, better to keep it all secret and deny everything. In other words, from this "perspective" it is acceptable to poison hundreds of thousands of your own troops, millions of civilians, and poison a country's environment forever, rather than use a different weapon.

The biggest danger our troops and the Iraqi people face is the most insidious and the most invisible. It is one that won't go away when the troops come home. It won't solve the quagmire we have created over there. The half life cycle for DU is 4.5 billion years. It is not going away simply because we withdraw and the press goes home. The toxic pollution from DU can never be cleaned up. Nor will it stay in Iraq. Once in the air, it can blow anywhere. The mutation damage done to human cells will continue to be passed in perpetuity - much like a sick joke around the internet. What this administration is committing is a silent, quiet genocide of both planet and people.

Cynicism manifests itself in many ways. One of the most common is the way people cynically inure themselves to corruption by the politically and economically powerful. We say to ourselves that corruption is so oppressively entrenched and intransigent that, what's the use of fighting against it? Thus, we diminish ourselves, we render ourselves powerless. Our cynicism defeats us. And we accept defeat even knowing that by accepting we relinquish our ability to have control over the injustices in our society. But, as long as we can grill the hamburgers, squeeze out the car payments, dress the kids in clean clothes, patch the roof, and escape catastrophe, the big picture will leave us alone.

This is not true, though. The big picture won't leave us alone. There is another kind of cynicism that is more insidious. That is the cynicism of the powerful.
We must ask ourselves, what kind of respect does a government have for its people if it lies to them and hides the truth from them, truth that is endangering their lives? In what kind of cynical disregard are the victims trapped?

The use of Depleted Uranium demonstrates that our government has no respect for its own soldiers. They are only a means to an end. Discards. The use of DU also demonstrates the U.S. government has no long-term concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people, democracy or no. They are an expendable impediment to our real goals. Depleted Uranium is real. The cynical denial of its danger endangers us all. And the most cynical fact of this war is that the only weapon of mass destruction in Iraq is the one we brought there.

Robert Shetterly is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. See his website. Kim Hawkins is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy and the first Gulf War. She lives in Trenton, Maine.
Copyright 2005 ©


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