The major media will talk about holes in the
Administration case on Iraq, weaknesses in the accusations about Halabja,
and even occasionally an article about sufferings of Iraqi civilians. What
they won't talk about is the huge number of U.S. casualties from our first
In two articles in the Washington Post in
mid-January David Brown said that 1600,000 Gulf War veterans may be in
"less than optimal health since the war". He talked about "muscle aches"
and "stress". He could not bring himself to mention the "D" word, as in
"Disabled". The VA officially reports that 159,238 soldiers who were in
the Gulf in 90'-91' are disabled. Of that number over 111,000 are 10% or
more disabled. According to the report 8,000 Gulf War vets have died. The
report that mentions all this came out in September, but I don't know of
one U.S. newspaper that has mentioned it.
At a Veterans Day event at Yale I met a vet suffering from
uranium poisoning. He was in charge of a unit dealing with the Gulf War
soldiers who were contaminated from "friendly fire" shelling. Of the 100
men and women in his decontamination unit, 30 have died and all but one is
sick. As the U.S. gets ready to send soldiers into Iraq we should remember
what happened to our troops in Desert Storm.
Major Doug Rokke (Ret.) has top notch credentials. He
served as health physicist for the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Assessment
team in Iraq. He directed development of radiation and safety education
and field procedures at the Bradley Radiological Laboratories. He’s got a
doctorate. He’s also has a 40% army disability because his uranium in his
urine is 5000 times the permissible level. The former skier now has
In 1991 his team was brought in to cleanup contamination
caused when U.S. troops fired DU weapons accidentally against U.S. troops
("friendly fire" casualties). DU is basically reprocessed nuclear waste.
No one told him how dangerous this would be. His team went into smashed up
tanks without radiological protective suits. Within 72 hours they were
getting sick, respiratory problems, rashes that bled. Over the years team
members died. Rokke says they were abandoned by the Defense Department.
Rokke himself was fired from his job at Bradley Labs in 1996 after he
wrote a report saying the Army had huge liability for contamination from a
base in Alabama.
We’re led to believe that Gulf War casualties were
minimal. At the close of the fighting in 1991 less than 800 were killed
and wounded. But first a trickle and then a river of American soldiers
have gotten sick. The enormous numbers of casualties is not confined to
soldiers who fought in the Gulf War. The V.A. has awarded disability to
another 60,000 soldiers who went into the Gulf countries after the war was
over. These are considered "theater" veterans. 2,000 of Gulf War "theater"
veterans have died. This is very alarming. It means that the Gulf area
(Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) is still highly contaminated. The chief
suspect is DU, "depleted uranium".
Rokke says the name is a mistake. "There’s nothing
depleted about it". He says the dangerous "alpha proportion" actually goes
up in the processing. Over 900,000 DU projectiles were fired during the
Gulf War. When the weapons hit, about half of the uranium was released as
tiny particles. The radioactivity in them lasts practically forever.
Rokke is scathingly critical of authorities. For years
Gulf War illnesses were dismissed as mental problems due to stress. Only
400 Gulf War veterans have ever been tested for uranium poisoning. Rokke
had his own radiological-biological assay done in 1994, but doctors didn’t
tell him of the dangerous uranium levels in his body for 2 ˝ years and he
was director of the project! [Read about Rokke's work at
There's plenty of questions the VA report doesn't cover.
Like how many of the disabled are 30%, disabled, 50% disabled or 100%
disabled. The report doesn’t' even say what the disabilities are. We're
not talking about many people with lost limbs, after all. I tried
unsuccessfully to find more information. The VA division that printed the
report has a jawbreaker name of "Office of Performance Analysis and
Integrity Data and Information Services". When I called the VA in
Washington no one had heard of the division and no one could tell me how
to find it.
According to the British press DU will certainly be used
in the next invasion of Iraq. The Herald (Scotland) January 22
reported that two British armored regiments will be using DU anti-tank
shell. The British has brought tungsten-tipped shells in response to
criticism by veterans groups but it won't abandon DU. The article mentions
that one reason that DU is so popular is because it's virtually free. It's
made of the unwanted waste of the atomic energy agency. [It's a
two-for-one. War and garbage disposal at the same time.] The
Herald also reports "The Royal Navy has also stopped using DU shells
for the Phalanx rapid-fire anti-missile gatling guns fitted to most
surface warships as a last-ditch defence, because the American
manufacturer ceased production to avoid potential lawsuits."
DU isn't the only culprit suspected in Gulf War illnesses.
There's also the PB pills that were supposed to ward off some effects of
sarin gas. There's the anti-anthrax shots that soldiers were forced to
take. These "medicines" that got many GI's sick immediately and are
thought to be part of the toxic mix that disabled so many soldiers.
Obsessed with a quick triumph and low body counts the U.S.
military fought the Gulf War without calculating the long term effects on
its soldiers of its hi-tech weapons and "miracle" pharmaceuticals. Now the
politicians are again sending the troops in harms way. U.S. parents will
be gambling that the military brass that failed so wretchedly in Desert
Storm will this time protect the health of their sons and daughters. The
odds are poor. if the war starts Iraqi soldiers and civilians will be the
main casualties, but U.S. soldiers will likely also pay a steep price for