These soldiers are sick of it. Literally.
Eight sick soliders from the 442nd Military Police put the pieces together.
A shell coated with depleted uranium pierces a tank like a hot knife through butter, exploding on impact into a charring inferno. As tank armor, it repels artillery assaults. It also leaves behind a fine radioactive dust with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
Depleted uranium is the garbage left from producing enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and energy plants. It is 60 percent as radioactive as natural uranium. The United States has an estimated 1.5 billion pounds of it, sitting in hazardous waste storage sites across the country. Meaning it is plentiful and cheap as well as highly effective.
Reed says he unknowingly breathed DU dust while living with his unit in Samawah, Iraq. He was med-evaced out in July 2003, nearly unable to walk because of lightning-strike pains from herniated discs in his spine. Then began a strange series of symptoms he’d never experienced in his previously healthy life.
At Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C, he ran into a buddy from his unit. And another, and another, and in the tedium of hospital life between doctor visits and the dispensing of meds, they began to talk.
“We all had migraines. We all felt sick,” Reed says. “The doctors said, ‘It’s all in your head.’ “
Then the medic from their unit showed up. He too, was suffering. That made eight sick soldiers from the 442nd Military Police, an Army National Guard unit made up of mostly cops and correctional officers from the New York area.
But the medic knew something the others didn’t. Dutch marines had taken over the abandoned train depot dubbed Camp Smitty, which was surrounded by tank skeletons, unexploded ordnance and shell casings. They’d brought radiation-detection devices. The readings were so hot, the Dutch set up camp in the middle of the desert rather than live in the station ruins.
“We got on the Internet,” Reed said, “and we started researching depleted uranium.”
Read the rest of the Wired article.
There’s a lot of depleted uranium out there – affecting everyone who comes near it. Remember Agent Orange? This is probably worse. I blog on this every once in a while. It’s still not a topic that’s getting picked up in the public realm very much. I suspect we’ll be talking about it at some point, though. The use of weapons with depleted uranium may well be considered a war crime.
According to military guidelines, our soliders should have been made aware of the dangers of working with and around depleted uranium, and trained on ways to avoid prolonged exposure to its toxicity and radioactivity. The soldiers in this article say they got nothing of the kind. It’s not even clear whether their unit ever tested for radiation in the area.
The use of depleted uranium transcends the general ugliness of this administration – so nothing’s stopping Republicans from standing up on this issue, right? Support the troops – right? Right? … right?