Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Salt for Carthage 

Saddam, as you have no doubt heard, gassed his own people, which proves (in the absence of other, debunked justifications for war) that was a Bad Man who needed to be Taken Out. America, a civilized bomb-dropping nation, would never gas its own people. But the radioactive dust our weapons generate, while slower to take effect, is potentially just as devastating to the U.S. troops who inhale it -- and the damage may extend to their children as well. NY Daily News reporter Juan Gonzalez has been covering returning soldiers and their mysterious ailments for the last five months:
In early September 2003, Army National Guard Spec. Gerard Darren Matthew was sent home from Iraq, stricken by a sudden illness.

One side of Matthew's face would swell up each morning. He had constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated . . . .

Shortly after his return, his wife, Janice, became pregnant. On June 29, she gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria Claudette.

The baby was missing three fingers and most of her right hand.

Matthew and his wife believe Victoria's shocking deformity has something to do with her father's illness and the war - especially since there is no history of birth defects in either of their families.

They have seen photos of Iraqi babies born with deformities that are eerily similar . . . .

Matthew was a truck driver in Iraq with the 719th transport unit from Harlem. His unit moved supplies from Army bases in Kuwait to the front lines and as far as Baghdad. On several occasions, he says, he carried shot-up tanks and destroyed vehicle parts on his flat-bed back to Kuwait.

After he learned of his unborn child's deformity, Matthew immediately asked the Army to test his urine for DU [Depleted Uranium, which is used in armor-piercing rounds and shells -- S.]. In April, he provided a 24-hour urine sample to doctors at Fort Dix, N.J., where he was waiting to be deactivated.

In May, the Army granted him a 40% disability pension for his migraine headaches and for a condition called idiopathic angioedema - unexplained chronic swelling.

But Matthew never got the results of his Army test for DU. When he called Fort Dix last week, five months after he was tested, he was told there was no record of any urine specimen from him.

A few months ago, The News submitted a 24-hour urine sample from Matthew to [an independent German lab] . . . . It contained a total uranium concentration that was "4 to 8 times higher" than [control specimens], Gerdes reported.

"While the levels of DU in Matthew's urine are low," Gerdes said, "the DU we see in his urine could be 1,000 times higher in concentration in the lungs."

DU is not like natural uranium, which occurs in the environment. Natural uranium can be ingested in food and drink but gets expelled from the body within 24 hours.

DU-contaminated dust, however, is typically breathed into the lungs and can remain there for years, emitting constant low-level radiation.
Of course, American troops are not the only ones at risk; ordinary Iraqis are likely to be feeling the after-effects of our WDMD's (weapons of delayed mass destruction) for generations to come. In May of 2003, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the radiation levels in a Baghdad neighborhood where children routinely played in the husks of bombed-out tanks:
No one has warned the vendor in the faded, threadbare black gown to keep the toxic and radioactive dust off her produce. The children haven't been told not to play with the radioactive debris. They gather around as a Geiger counter carried by a visiting reporter starts singing when it nears a DU bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser. It registers nearly 1,000 times normal background radiation levels on the digital readout.

The Monitor visited four sites in the city - including two randomly chosen destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles, a clutch of burned American ammunition trucks, and the downtown planning ministry - and found significant levels of radioactive contamination from the US battle for Baghdad.

In the first partial Pentagon disclosure of the amount of DU used in Iraq, a US Central Command spokesman told the Monitor that A-10 Warthog aircraft - the same planes that shot at the Iraqi planning ministry - fired 300,000 bullets. The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 - a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq.
That was sixteen months ago.

Other bloggers who have been tracking the DU issue include Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla, who found this in a story about a damning DU report that was suppressed by the World Health Organization --
A major Ministry of Defence-funded survey study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has found that babies whose fathers served in the first Gulf war are 50 per cent more likely to have physical abnormalities. They also found a 40 per cent increased risk of miscarriage among women whose partners served in the Gulf . . . .

Similar evidence was found in US research from a Veterans Administration study, published within the last year, that shows children of Gulf War vets have twice the
normal rate of birth defects. A US study released this month shows women who
served in the first Gulf War suffered three times the normal rate of miscarriages in the period just after the conflict.
-- and Rorschach at No Capital, who linked to this report about an Arab-American charity organization that has called for a thorough study of Iraq's rising cancer rate.

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