U.S. Military Is In DU Denial
By Susu Jeffrey
13 April, 2006
name is John Marshall. I was exposed to DU (depleted uranium). I am
100 percent disabled and I am pissed-off. In fact, I was advised by
a couple of my counselors not to do this [interview] because I’m
so angry with the government—at the VA system, at the way I’m
treated and other veterans are treated. It’s very impersonal.
They don’t give you any time. They ask us to go fight their wars,
do the dirty work and then they can’t take care of you."
Most people don’t believe
the U.S. has been poisoning its own troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,
or they’ve heard about uranium "tipped" bombs—like
fingernail polish painted on the outside of a shell casing. On the contrary,
these are solid uranium core projectiles.
"I got a thank you (letter)
from some lieutenant colonel. 'Thank you for serving our country. We
express our deepest gratitude but we believe you were one of these men
who were exposed to depleted uranium either through shrapnel or inhalation
"I’m 35, I take
17 medications, I’ve had cancer—lymphatic cancer, Hodgkin’s
disease—Lennert’s lymphoma was the initial diagnosis—immune
At age 35 John Marshall should
be beginning to peak in his career. As a handsome man, married with
three children, Marshall exudes energy. He looks strong, earthy, limps
a bit on the left, has a thick build with a lean neck and chin. The
military was his career. Being exposed to DU has been called a death
"Of course they [the
VA] downplay everything. There’s latency periods. The bottom line
is, they don’t know the long-term effects. Everybody’s going
to react different. Some are going to get sick. Some might be able to
last a little bit longer. I’ve been sick since I’ve been
On Jan. 6, 1991, Corporal
John Marshall flew to the Persian Gulf and waited for the equipment
for his mechanized infantry group to arrive. "A Bradley is a tin
casket" with a 25 mm cannon and "every piece of armament you
can think of" but no outside shielding armor. Marshall didn’t
feel safe inside a Bradley. He preferred being a ground soldier, trusting
his legs more than an aluminum transport on tracks.
"I was a team leader
on the ground. I had my own fire team. I didn’t want to be a [Bradley]
gunner because I didn’t want to be responsible for the men’s
lives because if a gunner screws up, you got nine men dead. And I didn’t
want to take that burden. And that’s where a lot of my guilt,
my survivor guilt, comes from.
"I was with the 2nd
Armored Division, forward, it was brigade sized, and we were attached
to the 7th Corps, 1st Infantry Division. The initial reports were that
in the first 24 hours of the ground war 3,000 out of 4,000 just in my
brigade were supposed to die. That was scary going into Iraq. That’s
what they projected. Thank God things didn’t work out that way.
"When the ground campaign
kicked off [February 24, 1991] we cleared numerous bunkers. We did lots
of things that I don’t really want to talk about too much. We
went north into Iraq, then we did a fish-hook to cut off the supply
lines and communication of the Republican Guard. They were retreating.
It was a Kill and Destroy Mission, kill and destroy everything that
was enemy. That’s what we did.
"We had some resistance.
Most of them were not Republican Guard. Most of them were civilian Iraqis.
But on the night of the 26th we hit a dug-in position and everybody
in the vehicle was pretty much banged up except for two of us."
Marshall was asked to go
up in the Bradley gun turret. "I could have done it. I should have
done it. I had the capability. Partially it was a small percent of fear
but I’d rather fight on the ground. We dismounted; we were throwing
hand grenades down the hatch—a lot of times Iraqi tanks would
play possum with us.
"When we hit that [resistance]
the rest of the task force continued on. We got separated from them
for the entire night. We were maneuvering for the entire night alone.
We were getting out [of the Bradleys], we were engaging. So anyway we
managed to get through the night and on the morning of the 27th we came
across a large enemy bunker complex. We figured it’s a company
size, there’s 120-or-so Iraqis. There’s 18 men in two Bradleys
and these guys are surrendering to us.
"So we’re taking
them prisoner. The LT [lieutenant] finally gets radio contact with the
commander and says we have prisoners." They were ordered to take
the prisoners to a support unit to the south and then rendezvous with
the rest of the task force.
"I just checked on one
of my soldiers who had a gash on his head and then the commander comes
over the radio and says get the fuck out of there—there’s
supposed to be a counter attack by a large element.
"I started walking and
all of a sudden we started taking heavy fire. Two sabot rounds hit our
Bradley within 6 feet of me. It’s a dart of depleted uranium.
I’m breathing radioactive dust and the toxins from the Bradley.
I got sparks flying all over me.
"That’s what I’m
talking about. If I’d gotten in that turret that night maybe I
could have changed the situation. Maybe we wouldn’t have been—and
maybe people wouldn’t have been—but, then I got behind this
bunker. There’s about 15 Iraqis inside there. And I tried to shoot
them but my weapon jammed. So I cleared my weapon. M-16. It was a terrible
weapon. It jammed all the time.
"And those Iraqis, they
were crying, they were defecating themselves, urinating themselves.
They were so shell shocked, absolutely so traumatized by the situation.
So I felt a bit of empathy. Anyways, that didn’t work out. One
of my soldiers is shooting at a truck, I’m pumping 203-rounds,
it’s a grenade launcher, I managed to get my rifle operational.
I didn’t worry about these [Iraqi] guys. They were out of the
fight. They just wanted to surrender.
"Things happened. There
was an Iraqi running towards me and—I capped him. I used to see—if
I kept my eyes open I could see him all the time."
Three days into the war John
Marshall had shrapnel in his shoulder that might have been DU-contaminated,
and dust in his lungs. Embedded reporters on American TV showed soldiers
firing into the distance—rounds and rounds of blasts chasing the
horizon. In February 1991 the dust storms were so fierce soldiers two
feet away looked like shadows.
In February 2006 a spike
in DU over Britain was made public in the Oct. 12, 1999, Aldermaston
Report. And CNN reported the U.S. lung cancer rate jumped six-fold for
the first two months of the year. DU dust doesn’t stay put just
as radiation hits from Chernobyl bounced around the world on air currents.
It is estimated that lung cancer incubates 2 to 5 years after DU inhalation.
Four and a-half years ago the Afghan bombing campaign began. Three years
ago Iraq War 2 exploded. And if it’s in the air, it’s in
As of March 2006, there is
not a single veteran with confirmed DU health problems, according to
VA testimony in the Minnesota Senate Agriculture, Veterans and Gaming
Committee. Sen. Steve Murphy’s (D-Red Wing) Veterans Health Screening
Bill died when Rep. Kathy Tingelstad (R-Andover) refused to hear the
bill in the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee.
Veterans are given the Ames test which is actually not specific enough
to ascertain DU contamination. All of us have uranium in our urine because
uranium is ubiquitous in the environment. The real DU test costs $1,000.
The wars cost more than $1 billion a week.
Power & Weapons
Depleted uranium comes from
enriching uranium for nuclear weapons or for nuclear reactor-grade fuel.
Uranium for nuclear power or weapons is so refined that more than 99
percent of it is a "by-product"—depleted uranium. To
some, exporting DU waste as weapons in the Third World represents a
Machiavellian policy solution to the toxic waste management problem.
If more nuclear power facilities are built, more, much more uranium
will be refined with mountains of DU waste. Already there are tons and
tons of depleted uranium, shipped around the United States and processed
into solid bars.
Depleted uranium (DU) is
a heavy metal, more dense than lead. Processed DU bars come in various
sizes and are cut to length. These solid bars become the bones, the
core, the "penetrator," the innards, of 15 kinds of munitions,
sized 20 to 120 millimeters, manufactured by Alliant TechSystems.
Alliant TechSystems, ATK
on the stock exchange, is headquartered in Edina, just off Highway 169.
ATK made more than $3 billion last year. "We are the largest provider
of small-caliber ammunition to the Department of Defense, supplying
more than 95 percent of all the rounds used for combat and training,"
ATK’s website boasts.
The corporate headquarters
is a posh suburban executive building with smoked windows. The pond
between the freeway and Lincoln Drive is a settlement trap for contaminants
from stormwater runoff, and a dewatering drain for development on low
lands. Normally wetland vegetation can filter stormwater enough to attract
Unfortunately the property
managers at the ATK building mow, fertilize and water their lawn into
turf perfection. They have ringed the pond with rocks to discourage
geese—a lifeless yard but crows frequently perch on their roof.
ATK management treats their lawn the same way they treat people—it’s
their world view. (In ancient northern Europe crow was the corpse eater,
crow carried away dead warriors. But in southern Europe the Romans heard
crow as a symbol of the future, crying "Tomorrow, tomorrow,"
War always starts out with
hope and delivers death. If war worked it would have worked by now.
To turn the crow warning into a future hope consider the crow’s
foot as a peace sign without the circle. The peace sign was created
by Lord Bertrand Russell during Easter of 1958 for a nuclear disarmament
march in England. The design relates to the international semaphore
alphabet: N for nuclear, D for disarmament, in a circle indicating complete,
worldwide total. Nuclear disarmament requires alternatives to nuclear
power; nuclear power was sold to the American people as the "peaceful
atom." We’ve always know "the peaceful atom is a bomb."
If DU particles are inhaled,
alpha radiation causes cell damage, lymph cancers and lung cancer. Beta
radiation attacks the eyes and skin. Chemically, DU acting as a heavy
metal affects bone and kidneys. DU has a half life of 4 ½ billion
years. America has a national debt of $8.4 trillion. No matter how you
count it, cancer and debt is on the rise in our country.
When a DU munition is fired
it burns through a target (or a missed target) and self-sharpens as
it moves, leaving a trail of contaminated dust, like smoke, in its wake.
It is a superbly efficient weapon. As a health risk it is guaranteed:
disaster, heartbreak, physical agony, financial ruin, and emotional
yo-yo on a time scale without end, except in retrospect.
About 340 tons of DU munitions
were fired during Iraq War 1. In the Balkans, notably Kosovo, approximately
11 tons of DU were delivered. The Christian Science Monitor reports
estimates of 75 tons (official U.S. military figure) to 1,000 tons of
DU munitions used in Iraq War 2 so far. Most of the bullets and shells
lodge in the soil.
The Department of Defense
recommends the removal of heavily-contaminated soil and long-term monitoring
because the soil leaches DU poisons into the water. Crops grown in the
soil and water from local supplies spread DU toxins into the food chain.
And humans, at the top of the food chain, ingest the poisons and pass
along strengths and weaknesses to the next generation if they reproduce.
There is an "observed
higher prevalence of birth defects among infants conceived postwar to
Gulf War veterans of both sexes," reported Araneta, Schlangen,
Edmonds, et al, in their study "Prevalence of birth defects among
infants of Gulf War veterans in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia,
Hawaii, and Iowa," 1989-1993. More study was needed, they concluded.
"The total number of
all types of birth defects was not greater than expected, but whether
the number of specific birth defects was greater than expected could
not be determined," Penman, Tarver and Currier reported in "No
evidence of increase in birth defects and health problems among children
born to Persian Gulf War Veterans in Mississippi." The Center for
Disease Control (CDC) states that "because of the small number
of cases found by the study, the statistical power of the study was
low." According to the CDC, the "normal" birth defect
statistic is one out of every 33 births in the U.S.
While the experts duel with
statistics, DU munitions continue to be fired. The old Twin Cities Army
Ammunition Plant (TCAAP), where DU bullets were made, contaminated the
New Brighton water supply. They say it’s cleaned up now and won’t
be our Love Canal. For years, peace activists have called for a study
tracking the health of Honeywell/Alliant workers who made the DU munitions.
Of the 580,000 Iraq War 1
veterans, 56 percent have applied for disability treatment and benefits.
Depleted uranium is the sin of the father visited upon the next generation,
whether it’s parental illness, death, or birth defects and genetic
damage inherited by untold generations. Brothers, if you’re going
over, bank your sperm. Sisters, if you’re going over—have
your babies first.
Iraq is a nuclear war. DU
munitions are weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Yes, there are WMDs
How do you ask for forgiveness?
Marshall went through EMDR
(Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for the tape loop of
the Iraqi running toward him. "I could just look at you and see
him. Now I have to think about it to see him.
"Anyway, I continued
firing and I got hit. I got hit in the back. I didn’t feel it.
All I felt was the hot blood running down my back. There was an Iraqi
priest right next to me. He’s crying, he’s got the book
of Koran and he offers me some water and I wasn’t going to drink
the water because I didn’t know if it was contaminated. And I
smoked at the time, and he offered me a cigarette, and I sure as hell
smoked that. I’m surprised they didn’t try to kill me ’cause
I tried to kill them.
"So anyhow, things started
to settle down and our own friendlies got to the other friendlies and
told them you’re shooting up friendlies."
They eventually got evacuated.
Marshall was sent to five different field hospitals and began his traverse
through the VA system. Cpl. John Marshall got cancer, a 15-year cough,
and a Purple Heart. "I lost my career and I lost my health.
"I was very successful
in my career," Marshall states. "I’m really having a
"I’m just tired.
I just feel tired of fighting these bastards in the hospital. They don’t
believe in prevention. My tumor wasn’t sent to pathology. The
government waits. They wait for the veterans to die.
"I try to stay active."
He likes to garden. "Each day is just a matter of survival."
His goal is to live another two years so his family can collect benefits.
"The way I feel, two years seems like forever to me." His
hope is that the two little ones, the boys aged 12 and 8, don’t