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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
Marin Depleted Uranium Resolution Heats Up
GI's Will Come Home To A Slow Death
By Carol Sterritt
"There are only two things worth knowing in life, but I forget what they are."
John Hiatt, American songwriter
Now I remember what the two important things are. One is that the situation is dire. (And thus we need the artist and musician, the soul healer and the clown, more than ever.)
The other is that despite the horror of the day, there are people who are so brave and beautiful in both thought and action that one is moved to tears.
Look at the mindfulness of actions here in this county. For years, certain people in Marin have devoted a large portion of their lives to an outfit called the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition. Inside that group, some members are beginning a major work that could affect military service today and in the future when a draft might be instituted.
One such Peace and Justice member is Yvette Wakefield. For over eighteen months, she has examined the Depleted Uranium issue. A county employee, she has often read the inscription on the 20 North San Pedro Building. This inscription reads: "The mission of health and human services is to promote and protect the health, well-being, self-sufficiency and safety of all people in Marin."
Yvette could not reconcile what she learned about depleted uranium (DU) with the idea of health and human safety. For one thing, she had befriended Leuren Moret, a geoscientist who is now a world renowned authority on DU. Moret, who comes from a Quaker background, once worked at Livermore Labs. She now travels the world speaking out against the "omnicide" destructiveness of this material.
The Creation of A World Class Activist
How could someone like Moret, who once worked for the war industry, become a friend of a "peacenik," like Wakefield. Or for that matter, how could she herself become a peace activist? Well, back in 1991, Moret had a major realization. According to Moret, "In 1991 I became a whistleblower at the Livermore Nuclear Weapons Laboratory near San Francisco, CA. Richard Berta, the Western Regional Inspector for the Department of Energy, told me, "The Pentagon exists for the oil companies and the nuclear weapons labs exist for the Pentagon."
The more Moret learned, the more she became convinced that research and work involving depleted uranium was immoral. Beginning in 1991, depleted uranium was used to support three policies: One, to test the radiobiological effects of 4th generation nuclear weapons (still under development); Two, to blur and break down the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons; Three, to make it easier to reintroduce nuclear weapons into the US military arsenal.
While at her job at Livermore, Moret watched America wage a short and apparently victorious Gulf War. In just a few short weeks, and after only 110 American casualties, we routed Iraq from Kuwait. But the true toll of this war upon our young servicemen and women occurred over the next decade. Of the 700,000 troops who served in the region, 267,000 suffered from some form of disability. Not only that, but some soldiers "infected" their spouses with disabilities similar to their own. Or they suffered the tragedy of having a child born with birth defects. Some victory, huh?
At first, in its usual fashion, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Pentagon simply denied that this was happening. Those men and women, who had been hale and hearty before their military service, were now branded "malingerers."
But internationally, other researchers spoke on record that these illnesses had nothing to do with malingering. Testimony from Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, Former Chief of the Naval Staff, India reads, "DU weapons emit Alpha particle dose impacting a single cell from U-238 some 50 times the annual dose level. Cancer is initiated with one alpha particle, its daughter isotopes effect generations as the isotopes bio-concentrate in plants and animals. They then travel up the food chain. It is a nuclear weapon because the energy is derived from the nucleus of the atom. The particles enter the body through the lungs, the digestive system or breaks in the skin.
"One gram of DU releases more than 12,000 particles per second. The radiation slowly kills the cells that make life possible. The Gulf War syndrome of 1991 did just that (reported by Dr. Asaf Durakovic, Prof. of Medicine, Georgetown University, and discoverer of the Gulf War Syndrome.)"
Our military has lobbed more than 500 tons of DU munitions on Afghanistan. Professor Yagasaki has calculated that 800 tons of DU is the "atomicity equivalent to 83,000 Nagasaki bombs." This fact he presented to the World Uranium Weapons Conference in Hamburg in October 2003. The amount of DU used in Iraq in 2003 equals nearly 250,000 Nagasaki bombs. Just as the Gulf War vets and their families have been imperiled by their service in Gulf War I, those veterans about to return from the Iraq war will undoubtedly face similar consequences.
The Local FallOut
This is why Yvette Wakefield is concerned. Should Marin County expend the energy and funding to nurture its children with healthy baby clinics, education Kindergarten to twelfth grade, sports programs and parks and recreation, only to then hand our kids at age eighteen over to the military? And not just any military, but one that plans on dispatching its personnel to a killing field where they will, even if surviving the "normal" activities of the battlefield, come home to a life of infirmity, sickness and hospitalization? Wakefield has problems with this idea.
A trained paralegal, she began work on a County wide resolution that would proclaim the unacceptability of any Marin citizen serving in any area of the world where their health might forever be destroyed by DU.
Her working draft of this resolution reads: Therefore in view of those dangers posed by exposure to depleted uranium, Marin County requires that all Marin residents serving in the United States Armed Forces and its Reserves be prohibited from serving in those areas where depleted uranium weaponry is used. This is because we acknowledge that our residents should not be required to face the life-threatening and lifelong health problems of radiation poisoning. Their having faced the normal dangers of combat should be enough. Soldiers who survive their military service are entitled to return home to a normal life of working, having families and friends and engaging in normal activities.
She is now building a case for her resolution. She has set up a public forum on August 12, at 7:30 PM at the First United Methodist Church 9 Ross Valley Drive, San Rafael. Both Leuren Moret and Dennis Kyne will be speaking at the event. Their talk is titled "Depleted Uranium - The Trojan Horse of A Nuclear War." Once people in Marin hear the truth of the DU deployment, and they realize the horrific consequences born by the populations in the Middle East and our soldiers, they can be counted on to be supporters of this County wide resolution.
Where DU Policies Came from, And Why They Continue
The use of depleted uranium can be traced back to certain Nixon-Kissinger era decisions. When our country was stymied by the 1973 oil embargo, Nixon remarked that we have to make sure that an oil embargo will never happen again. Perhaps he would have been stopped by the test ban treaty of 1963, signed by Russia and the United States, both super powers at that time. According to the treaty, nuclear war was outlawed. But one way for a nation to achieve sovereignty over another nation was and is to utilize depleted uranium weaponry. Although such weaponry will not necessarily offer up a mushroom cloud, the wake of its devastation can be as deadly. Thus a policy of using depleted uranium in weapons began. It first surfaced in the Arab-Israeli war, Fall 1973, when Israel received and used such weapons from the United States. It used these weapons under our country's supervision. (Never think for a moment that the Muslim nations hate us for our shopping centers and our democracy, our backyard swimming pools and our skyscrapers. They hate us for what we have done, and are doing, to them.)
The population-devastation politics of DU continues to this day. It is an effective policy. Witness what is occurring to the civilian population in Iraq. Following the Gulf War, birth defects and cancer cases rose exponentially. In one Baghdad hospital, which in pre-war days saw a single birth defect a week, there soon occurred three and four birth defective babies in a single day. (According to Moret, these defects are a deliberate contamination of the population.) For the past thirteen years, rare leukemias and bone cancers have been on the rise there. And of course, in the days of sanctions, the hospital supplies and equipment to help those affected were unavailable. Now, after the devastation of the "shock and awe" campaign of Spring, 2003, supplies are equally non-existent. Also, hospitals are now faced with the consequences of having only sporadic electricity and a lack of clean water. (The Bagdad population has survived the past winter by utilizing rainwater, collected in pots and pans put out on their roofs.)
The stories related to birth defects are heart-breaking. Some Iraqi babies are born with eyeballs the size of lemons protruding from their eye sockets. Some babies have no brains. Some babies are born without any skin. Some pregnancies, although carried close to full term, result in a birth of only a lump of flesh, with no discernable torso, limbs or head or facial features.
Our soldiers are coming home from our Middle East "adventures" with bodies pushed to the breaking point. On KPFA radio in June, it was revealed that of nine returning servicemen to New York City, six tested positive for unusually high levels of radioactivity in their bodies. Those with the highest levels already feel its effects. They are mind-numbingly tired; they have rashes, muscle aches and pains, and their nervous systems are impaired.
The Horrific Working of Pernicious Materials
These men were average soldiers in terms of their war experiences. But for certain soldiers, especially those who have survived the destruction of their tanks, the radiation diseases hit hard and heavy.
By its nature, DU is aerosolized when impacted by explosion. Also the metal components of DU-hardened tanks become a deadly, inhale-able radiation upon explosion. The men and women experiencing this first hand are unaware that every breath they take during these events is impacting their lungs and blood streams with nano-sized charged particles that begin the ruin of their health immediately.
Unlike the Japanese survivors of atomic blasts, who first felt radiation sickness within three days to a week, our soldiers can experience symptoms almost immediately. This is the result of the aerosol effects of the materials. The radioactive dust can be pulverized to the point that it is one hundred times smaller than bacteria. The particles go from the air to the lungs to the blood stream. They then end up attacking the body's mitochondria. The results range from multiple sclerosis type illnesses, to Parkinson's, to chemical sensitivities, and of course, at a somewhat later date, various cancers.
Our nation's youth will sacrifice their prime years to this devastation, wearing adult diapers, shuffling along with walkers, using oxygen tanks, and trying to live with blindness and hearing loss.
Meanwhile, our nation's policy shapers have big plans inside our country as well. In both Ohio and Kentucky, DU processing plants are underway. Both these areas have high unemployment rates. The local populace, desperate for work and a steady income, will have few qualms about what they are doing or why they are doing it. They will be told that the work is safe, and indeed it will seem so. There is no stench to uranium processing; the tiles and linoleum in the plants will no doubt be spotless. Those who recruit them will seem friendly and kind. The fact that the DU workers may have health problems five or ten years down the road is not a big matter for concern. After all, if you don't consider reality, how can it bother you?
I ask that if you are moved by this account of Depleted Uranium devastation, you make a commitment. Red circle the date of the public forum, August 12th, on your calendars. For further information, call 415 721 2844. The lives you save are your own. After all, the air a Baghdad housewife breathed in this morning can be in your lungs by tomorrow afternoon.
Public Forum "Depleted Uranium - The Trojan Horse of A Nuclear War." 7:30 PM at the First United Methodist Church 9 Ross Valley Drive, San Rafael
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