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Over the Rainbow in Iraq
                                                                                                            Photo illustration
Loading depleted uranium shells onto an A-10 "Warthog"

 

Depleted Uranium Series
Part 2

DU shell
An ammunition specialist examines a 105mm
armor-piercing round to be used in an M-1 Abrams
main battle tank during the first Gulf War in 1991
.


Revised May 20, 2006

Dick and Hillary’s Dirty Little Secret
by Irving Wesley Hall

A Desk Warrior’s Wet Dream

I can assure you that depleted uranium munitions are a Pentagon desk warrior’s wet dream. The United States first used them on a large scale when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense, the post now held by Donald Rumsfeld.

Three of the United States military’s main weapons systems used DU ammunition both in Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 Gulf War, and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan:

• M-1 Abrams tanks

• Bradley Fighting Vehicles

• A-10 Warthog attack jets (pictured above).

Some estimate as much as 4,000 tons of DU munitions have been exploded since 1991.

DU is a waste product of the uranium enrichment process, and has been used by the U.S. and British military for a variety of artillery shells, armor plating for tanks, and ballast for airplanes. A 120-mm. tank round contains about nine pounds of solid DU.

Depleted uranium is almost twice as dense as lead and can penetrate steel more effectively than any other material. Bullets and shells made of DU can cut through tank armor as if it were Jell-O. It’s not only useful for piercing tanks, but also destroying underground shelters and caves.

Depleted uranium rounds
Depleted uranium rounds

Even without explosives inside, the bombshell ignites upon impact at a temperature of about 5,400 degrees Celsius. Not only does it demolish equipment and hiding places, but it burns everyone inside to a crisp. As armor, the material is impenetrable by most steel ballistics.

If you enjoy the macho rush of killing people and destroying property wholesale, DU is your bosom buddy.

DU shell

The miraculous powers of DU were confirmed in Israel’s 1973 war when the American-made ordinance was tested under U.S. supervision. It must have inspired a rush of awe comparable to the thrill that greeted the invention of gunpowder, napalm, and the atom bomb.

As David Rose reported in an excellent article in the November 2004 Vanity Fair:

In 1991, the U.S. used DU weapons to kill thousands of Iraqis in tanks and armored vehicles on the ‘highway of death’ from Kuwait to Basra. The one-sided victory ushered in a new era of ‘lethality overmatch’ — the ability to strike an enemy with virtual impunity. A Pentagon pamphlet from 2003 states that a central objective of the American military is to “generate dominant lethality overmatch across the full spectrum of operations,” and no weapon is better suited to achieving that goal than DU.

The value of depleted uranium was spelled out more simply in a Pentagon briefing by Colonel James Naughton of the Army’s Materiel Command in March 2003, just before the Iraq invasion: “What we want to be able to do is strike the target from farther away than we can be hit back . . . We don’t want to fight even. Nobody goes into a war and wants to be even with the enemy. We want to be ahead, and DU gives us that advantage.”

George Bush Sr.’s Memory-erasing Little War

The U.S. suffered only 147 fatal combat casualties in the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

I was living in Manhattan when the troops returned home. I listened to the crowds cheer when General “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf’s jeep passed by. Confetti rained from skyscrapers like a gentle snow. The United States ruled! The old defeatist “Vietnam Syndrome” blew away like flower petals in a desert windstorm.

The victory made President George Bush Sr.’s popularity soar. The weapons-for-hostages-for-dollars-for-death-squads “Iran-Contra” scandal that plagued the Reagan-Bush administration was relegated to the newspapers’ back pages. Few paid attention when the B.C.C.I. scandal revealed that Bush Sr. had secretly funneled $5 billion of taxpayer money to fund Saddam Hussein’s huge program of weapons of mass destruction.

As Alan Friedman recounts in Spider’s Web, The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq the 1991 Gulf War ended a decade-long cozy economic, military, and intelligence relationship between the Saddam Hussein regime and the Reagan-Bush administration which supplied Iraq with dozens of deadly biological specimens, chemical agents, and nuclear enrichment equipment. One motive was the Pentagon’s curiosity about the effectiveness of these biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction that it rightly assumed Iraq would use against Iranian troops.

Depleted uranium was an unsung hero of the Gulf War. The Pentagon admits it fired 320 tons of DU in its first massive use during the conflict, although some experts estimate as many as 370. Smaller amounts were also used in Serbia and Kosovo during Clinton’s 1999 war against Yugoslavia. U.S. forces in Iraq now conduct daily bombings of suspected resistance sites in populated areas using DU munitions.

Imagine the enormous potential of depleted uranium!

Large amounts are available, and it’s inexpensive for reasons explored in future installments. The five walls and roof of the Pentagon could be sheathed with depleted uranium against another air attack. What about depleted uranium-plated limousines for President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld? Could the material be adapted as impregnable body armor for Vice President Cheney’s hunting companions?

Not likely.

Frozen Peas In a Condom

Unfortunately for the American troops who employed these weapons over the past fifteen years, “DU is perhaps the most lethal time-released agent ever to be unleashed on mankind except for maybe one exception — its kin — the Atom Bomb,” says Vincent L. Guarisco, a lifetime member of the Alliance of Atomic Veterans, veterans who were exposed to nuclear radiation since World War II.

Hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans and their spouses are still learning this deadly reality the hard way.

Rose’s Vanity Fair article recounts Susan Riordon’s recollection of the return of her husband, Terry, in 1991:

Terry, a security captain, served in intelligence during the war: his service record refers to his setting up a “safe haven” in the Iraqi “theatre.” Possibly, Susan speculates, this led him behind enemy lines and exposed him to DU during the long aerial bombing campaign that preceded the 1991 invasion. In any event, “when he came home, he didn’t really come home,” she says.

At first, Terry merely had the usual headaches, body pain, oozing rash, and other symptoms. But later he began to suffer from another symptom which afflicts some of those exposed to DU: burning semen. “If he leaked a little lubrication from his penis, it would feel like sunburn on your skin. If you got to the point where you did have intercourse, you were up and out of that bed so fast — it actually causes vaginal blisters that burst and bleed.”

“It hurt [Terry] too. He said it was like forcing [semen] through barbed wire,” Riordon says. “It seemed to burn through condoms; if he got any on his thighs or his testicles, he was in hell.” In a last, desperate attempt to save their sex life, says Riordon, “I used to fill condoms with frozen peas and insert them [after sex] with a lubricant.” That, she says, made her pain just about bearable. Perhaps inevitably, he became impotent. “And that was like our last little intimacy gone.”

Rose reports Susan’s description of Terry’s last days:

By late 1995, Terry was seriously deteriorating. Susan shows me her journal-she titled it “The Twilight Zone” —  and his medical record. It makes harrowing reading. He lost his fine motor control to the point where he could not button his shirt or zip his fly. While walking, he would fall without warning. At night, he shook so violently that the bed would move across the floor.

He became unpredictably violent: one terrible day in 1997 he attacked their 16-year-old son and started choking him. By the time armed police arrived to pull him off, the boy’s bottom lip had turned blue. After such rages, he would fall into a deep sleep for as long as 24 hours, and awake with no memory of what had happened. That year, Terry and Susan stopped sleeping in the same bedroom. Then “he began to barricade himself in his room for days, surviving on granola bars and cartons of juice.”

As he went downhill, Terry was assessed as completely disabled, but there was no diagnosis as to why. His records contain references to “somatization disorder,” post-traumatic stress, and depression. . .Through 1998 and 1999, he began to lose all cognitive functions and was sometimes lucid for just a few hours each week. . .

Shortly before Terry Riordan’s death, Susan learned about Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and former professor of Nuclear Medicine at Georgetown University. After the Gulf war, the Department of Veterans Affairs put Durakovic in charge of Nuclear Medicine Service at its Medical Center in Wilmington, Delaware. By the time Susan Riordan contacted him, the military had tossed him away like a radioactive potato because of his research into the effects of depleted uranium and his unwillingness to hide his findings from suffering veterans and their puzzled loved ones.

Quoting Rose again:

Susan received Dr. Durakovic’s urine-test results-showing a high DU concentration eight years after Terry was presumably exposed. She reported that the results came through on a Monday. “Tuesday he was reasonably cognitive, and was able to tell me that he wanted his body and organs to go to Dr. Durakovic,” she remembers. “He knew it was too late to help him, but he made me promise that his body could help the international community . . . On Thursday, he was dead.”

“It was a very strange death. He was very peaceful. I’ve always felt that Asaf allowed Terry to go: knowing he was DU-positive meant he wasn’t crazy anymore. Those last days he was calm. He wasn’t putting the phone in the microwave; he had no more mood swings.”

After Riordon’s death, Dr. Durakovic and his colleagues found accumulations of DU in his bones and lungs.

Terry Riordan joined the military “to be all he could be.” Thanks to depleted uranium, he spent his last days wearing diapers and shooting morphine.

More than 300,000 Sick and Dying Guinea Pigs

Terry Riordan’s agonizing story is still repeating itself in the lives of thousands of Gulf War vets. 697,000 healthy men and women served in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Another 432,000 were deployed to the region in the war's aftermath. In the 15 years since the war, more than 15,000 veterans who were on medical disability are now dead.

Hundreds of thousands more have a wide variety of symptoms we will describe in the next installment. The Pentagon classifies them as “undiagnosed” or throws them into the misleading catchall category of “post traumatic stress disorder” or PTSD.

As we reported in the last installment, the latest VA figures show nearly 300,000 ill Gulf War vets have had their disability claims granted as service-connected. The majority of their illnesses fall under the category of Gulf War Illness. That’s 28.5% percent of the 697,000 who served! For purposes of comparison, many years after the wars in which they served, the disabled veterans from World War II total 8.6 percent; 5 percent from the Korean War, and 9.6 percent from the Vietnam War.

(Because of the brutality of the Iraq War, the number of veterans from previous wars including World War II now suffering from PTSD has also dramatically increased since Bush and Cheney’s 2003 invasion.)

According to Abel Bult-Ito, associate professor of biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks:

“Our troops in Iraq will be severely affected by this radioactive war, not only because a lot more depleted uranium has been used and continues to be used, but also because they have been there a lot longer than during the Gulf War. Hundreds of thousands of our troops will come down with Gulf War Illness as a result of depleted uranium poisoning, and thousands will die from it. Thousands of their children will be born with genetic diseases, cancers, and birth defects.”

DU deforms children
   Child born to U.S. veteran of Gulf War

Killing More of Our Own Than the Enemy

Gulf War soldiers were unwitting guinea pigs for a gigantic military experiment. The primary — if unwitting — lesson learned from this experiment was how the Pentagon could concoct the correct combination of substances to eventually kill off most of the troops deployed in a conflict. This lesson was unpalatable to the American people, but selling the substances has proven very profitable for powerful armament and pharmaceutical corporations with friends in Congress. This is the reason many soldiers and their families will be shocked to be reading about depleted uranium for the first time in this series.

The facts are part of public records, but have been covered up by both Democratic and Republican administrations, and ignored by the corporate media, many with financial ties to the profiteers of death in the “military-industrial complex” cited by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961.

Depleted uranium is a bi-partisan killer

For instance, 2008 presidential hopeful and then-first lady Hillary Clinton held hearings on Gulf War Illness in the mid-90’s. She heard the horror stories firsthand from the veterans themselves, but did nothing to halt the use of depleted uranium. In Bill Clinton’s war against the former Yugoslavia, most shells and missiles, used largely in civilian areas, contained DU! Now, 10 years later, recent pressure from ailing vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan prodded Hillary Clinton to call for “better testing.”

Hello, Hillary? You’re a million soldiers too late.

Thanks to George Bush Sr. and Dick Cheney’s authorization of DU munitions in 1991, the United States government in two wars has killed or disabled more American soldiers than it has killed enemy troops. And it’s just begun.

After Dick Cheney’s recent hunting accident he managed his grief well. We shouldn’t have been surprised. He’s had plenty of practice.

How Come Nobody’s Heard About This?

Because of the bipartisan cover-up and despite this unparalleled catastrophe to an entire generation of veterans, Veteran Vincent L. Guarisco reports that, “only approximately 14 percent of Americans at best understand the full matrix surrounding depleted uranium.”

“Over the Rainbow” is designed to fill that void and, especially to alert the serving and returning members of the Rainbow Division of the New York State National Guard. We are living in extraordinary times. Thousands of men and women volunteered to defend their country from a threat that was exaggerated at best, and manufactured, at worst entirely and knowingly manufactured by the cabal around Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Iraq had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction, many of which were provided secretly by the Reagan-Bush administration in the 80’s. Iraq had no connection to the attacks on 9/11. Saddam Hussein was kept in power for a decade thanks to overt and covert support from the same politicians who lied us into a war that has killed nearly 2,500 citizen soldiers, maimed ten times that number, and will eventually destroy the lives and families of nearly a million more. In future installments, we will deal with the larger toll among the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

According to an internal study the Veterans Health Administration completed late last year, nearly 120,000 veterans — more than one of every four who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — have already sought treatment at VHA hospitals for a wide range of illnesses, many of them ominously described as “undiagnosed” or due to “post traumatic stress disorder.”

Flash! Troops Vote to End the War!

In the first of this series we warned that the American Legion’s call to bust up peaceful protests against war placed them outside the mainstream of American democracy. Since then, Congressman John Murtha called “an America Legion kind of Democrat” by his constituents has joined the large majority of the U.S. public that wants the troops withdrawn this year.

We also called for Bush to allow the troops to vote on the war. He didn’t. But a first-ever professional poll of U.S. troops fighting on the ground in Iraq was released Feb. 28, the date of our last installment.

Do you support the troops? Well, here’s what they want.

An overwhelming majority of 72 percent of American troops in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year.

29 percent of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately.” Notably, 89 percent of the reserves and 82 percent of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year. 82 percent is the same percentage of Iraqis who want us to leave according to a 2005 poll.

President Bush’s approval rating is now down to 29 percent, an all time low. Serial killer Cheney’s is down to 18 percent. Obviously people are catching on.

Every member of the military takes an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Repeat, “domestic.”

Demand testing

Don’t Just Sit And Watch Do Something!

Fellow citizen, you have two choices. Help stop this slaughter, or share responsibility for the disaster befalling your neighbors now in uniform. The troops can’t bring themselves home. You can.

Warn every youngster you know against military propaganda. It’s not patriotic to die for a lie. Help counter the seductive appeals of military recruiters preying on our high schools. Insist that our young people hear both sides! It’s the American way.

A veterans’ peace group in your area has speakers ready to address your community’s high schools and colleges. Email the groups listed on the sidebar at the left.

—  Irving Wesley Hall

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