When posting articles I am often asked what I think. Usually I am interested in what YOU think.
In the case of DU, mycoplasma, and Gulf War Syndrome I think it our responsibility as nurses to know enough about it to direct our patients, friends, and families to private physicians who will help them.
Politically I will sound like a broken record (Oh come on a CD does it too). Our government including the VA and the Pentagon need to STOP LYING to us!. No way it is a security issue to keep our veterans sick and lied too.
The War Against Ourselves
An Interview with Major Doug Rokke
Doug Rokke has a PhD in health physics and was originally trained as a forensic scientist.
When the Gulf War started, he was assigned to prepare soldiers to respond to nuclear,
biological, and chemical warfare, and sent to the Gulf. What he experienced has made him
a passionate voice for peace, traveling the country to speak out. The following interview was
conducted by the director of the Traprock Peace Center, Sunny Miller, supplemented with
questions from YES! editors.
QUESTION: Any viewer who saw the war on television had the
impression this was an easy war, fought from a distance and soldiers
coming back relatively unharmed. Is this an accurate picture?
ROKKE: At the completion of the Gulf War, when we came back
to the United States in the fall of 1991, we had a total casualty count
of 760: 294 dead, a little over 400 wounded or ill. But the casualty
rate now for Gulf War veterans is approximately 30 percent. Of
those stationed in the theater, including after the conflict, 221,000
have been awarded disability, according to a Veterans Affairs (VA)
report issued September 10, 2002.
Many of the US casualties died as a direct result of uranium
munitions friendly fire. US forces killed and wounded US forces.
We recommended care for anybody downwind of any uranium dust, anybody working in and around
uranium contamination, and anyone within a vehicle, structure, or building that's struck with uranium
munitions. That's thousands upon thousands of individuals, but not only US troops. You should provide
medical care not only for the enemy soldiers but for the Iraqi women and children affected, and clean up
all of the contamination in Iraq.
And it's not just children in Iraq. It's children born to soldiers after they came back home. The military
admitted that they were finding uranium excreted in the semen of the soldiers. If you've got uranium in the
semen, the genetics are messed up. So when the children were conceived--the alpha particles cause
such tremendous cell damage and genetics damage that everything goes bad. Studies have found that
male soldiers who served in the Gulf War were almost twice as likely to have a child with a birth defect
and female soldiers almost three times as likely.
Q: You have been a military man for over 35 years. You served in Vietnam as a bombardier and you are
still in the US Army Reserves. Now you're going around the country speaking about the dangers of
depleted uranium (DU). What made you decide you had to speak publicly about DU?
ROKKE: Everybody on my team was getting sick. My best friend John Sitton was dying. The military
refused him medical care, and he died. John set up the medical evacuation communication system for the
entire theater. Then he got contaminated doing the work.
John and Rolla Dolph and I were best friends in the civilian world, the military world, forever. Rolla got
sick. I personally got the order that sent him to war. We were both activated together. I was given the
assignment to teach nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare and make sure soldiers came back alive
and safe. I take it seriously. I was sent to the Gulf with this instruction: Bring 'em back alive. Clear as
could be. But when I got all the training together, all the environmental cleanup procedures together, all
the medical directives, nothing happened.
More than 100 American soldiers were exposed to DU in friendly fire accidents, plus untold numbers of
soldiers who climbed on and entered tanks that had been hit with DU, taking photos and gathering
souvenirs to take home. They didn't know about the hazards.
DU is an extremely effective weapon. Each tank round is 10 pounds of solid uranium-238 contaminated
with plutonium, neptunium, americium. It is pyrophoric, generating intense heat on impact, penetrating a
tank because of the heavy weight of its metal. When uranium munitions hit, it's like a firestorm inside any
vehicle or structure, and so we saw tremendous burns, tremendous injuries. It was devastating.
The US military decided to blow up Saddam's chemical, biological, and radiological stockpiles in place,
which released the contamination back on the US troops and on everybody in the whole region. The
chemical agent detectors and radiological monitors were going off all over the place. We had all of the
various nerve agents. We think there were biological agents, and there were destroyed nuclear reactor
facilities. It was a toxic wasteland. And we had DU added to this whole mess.
When we first got assigned to clean up the DU and arrived in northern Saudi Arabia, we started getting
sick within 72 hours. Respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding, open sores started almost immediately.
When you have a mass dose of radioactive particulates and you start breathing that in, the deposit sits in
the back of the pharynx, where the cancer started initially on the first guy. It doesn't take a lot of time. I
had a father and son working with me. The father is already dead from lung cancer, and the sick son is
still denied medical care.
Q: Did you suspect what was happening?
ROKKE: We didn't know anything about DU when the Gulf War started. As a warrior, you're listening
to your leaders, and they're saying there are no health effects from the DU. But, as we started to study
this, to go back to what we learned in physics and our engineering--I was a professor of environmental
science and engineering--you learn rapidly that what they're telling you doesn't agree with what you
know and observe.
In June of 1991, when I got back to the States, I was sick. Respiratory problems and the rashes and
neurological things were starting to show up.
Q: Why didn't you go to the VA with a medical complaint?
ROKKE: Because I was still in the Army, and I was told I couldn't file. You have to have the
information that connects your exposure to your service before you go to the VA. The VA obviously
wasn't going to take care of me, so I went to my private physician. We had no idea what it was, but so
many good people were coming back sick.
They didn't do tests on me or my team members. According to the Department of Defense's own
guidelines put out in 1992, any excretion level in the urine above 15 micrograms of uranium per day
should result in immediate medical testing, and when you get up to 250 micrograms of total uranium
excreted per day, you're supposed to be under continuous medical care.
Finally the US Department of Energy performed a radiobioassay on me in November 1994, while I was
director of the Depleted Uranium Project for the Department of Defense. My excretion rate was
approximately 1500 micrograms per day. My level was 5 to 6 times beyond the level that requires
continuous medical care.
But they didn't tell me for two and a half years.
Q: What are the symptoms of exposure to DU?
ROKKE: Fibromyalgia. Eye cataracts from the radiation. When uranium impacts any type of vehicle or
structure, uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium explode all over the place. This can be breathed in or
go into a wound. Once it gets in the body, a portion of this stuff is soluble, which means it goes into the
blood stream and all of your organs. The insoluble fraction stays--in the lungs, for example. The radiation
damage and the particulates destroy the lungs.
Q: What kind of training have the troops had, who are getting called up right now--the ones being
shipped to the vicinity of what may be the next Gulf War?
ROKKE: As the director of the Depleted Uranium Project, I developed a 40-hour block of training. All
that curriculum has been shelved. They turned what I wrote into a 20-minute program that's full of
distortions. It doesn't deal with the reality of uranium munitions.
The equipment is defective. The General Accounting Office verified that the gas masks leak, the chemical
protective suits leak. Unbelievably, Defense Department officials recently said the defects can be fixed
with duct tape.
Q: If my neighbors are being sent off to combat with equipment and training that is inadequate, and into
battle with a toxic weapon, DU, who can speak up?
ROKKE: Every husband and wife, son and daughter, grandparent, aunt and uncle, needs to call their
congressmen and cite these official government reports and force the military to ensure that our troops
have adequate equipment and adequate training. If we don't take care of our American veterans after a
war, as happened with the Gulf War, and now we're about ready to send them into a war again--we
can't do it. We can't do it. It's a crime against God. It's a crime against humanity to use uranium
munitions in a war, and it's devastating to ignore the consequences of war.
These consequences last for eternity. The half life of uranium 238 is 4.5 billion years. And we left over
320 tons all over the place in Iraq.
We also bombarded Vieques, Puerto Rico, with DU in preparation for the war in Kosovo. That's
affecting American citizens on American territory. When I tried to activate our team from the Department
of Defense responsible for radiological safety and DU cleanup in Vieques, I was told no. When I tried to
activate medical care, I was told no.
The US Army made me their expert. I went into the project with the total intent to ensure they could use
uranium munitions in war, because I'm a warrior. What I saw as director of the project, doing the
research and working with my own medical conditions and everybody else's, led me to one conclusion:
uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for
everyone, not just the US or the Canadians or the British or the Germans or the French but for the
American citizens of Vieques, for the residents of Iraq, of Okinawa, of Scotland, of Indiana, of
Maryland, and now Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Q: If your information got out widely, do you think there's a possibility that the families of those soldiers
would beg them to refuse?
ROKKE: If you're going to be sent into a toxic wasteland, and you know you're going to wear gas
masks and chemical protective suits that leak, and you're not going to get any medical care after you're
exposed to all of these things, would you go? Suppose they gave a war and nobody came. You've got to
start peace sometime.
Q: It does sound remarkable for someone who has been in the military for 35 years to be talking about
when peace should begin.
ROKKE: When I do these talks, especially in churches, I'm reminded that these religions say, "And a
child will lead us to peace." But if we contaminate the environment, where will the child come from? The
children won't be there. War has become obsolete, because we can't deal with the consequences on our
warriors or the environment, but more important, on the noncombatants. When you reach a point in war
when the contamination and the health effects of war can't be cleaned up because of the weapons you
use, and medical care can't be given to the soldiers who participated in the war on either side or to the
civilians affected, then it's time for peace.
For more information on DU, see the WISE Uranium Project, www.antenna.nl/wise/uranium/;
National Gulf War Resource Center, www.ngwrc.org;
or Veterans for Common Sense,
Sunny Miller's interview was originally broadcast on WMFO
(Boston) in November 2002 and is available for re-broadcast at www.traprockpeace.org.