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Over the Rainbow in Iraq
                                                                                                            Photo illustration
Loading depleted uranium shells onto an A-10 "Warthog"

Depleted Uranium Series
Part 1

Revised May 20, 2006

The Progressive Magazine


Dick Cheney Is No Wizard of Oz

Did you read the story about United States Army 1st Lt. William “Eddie” Rebrook IV, whose arm was shattered and artery severed by a roadside bomb in Iraq? The Army discharged him because of his injuries. But the Pentagon refused to allow him to go home until he paid $700 for his blood-soaked body armor discarded on the battlefield by the evacuating medics.

The Charleston Gazette quoted his mother as saying, “It’s outrageous, ridiculous and unconscionable. I wanted to stand on a street corner and yell through a megaphone about this.”

That’s how I feel after researching this story about Dick Cheney, deadly depleted uranium, and its effects on American and Coalition troops. In 1991, then Secretary of Defense Cheney authorized the first massive use of depleted uranium munitions by United States forces. As a consequence the lives of almost 2/3rds of the men and women who served in the Gulf War have been destroyed. Their families have been ripped apart, and their children are being born with tragic deformities. Does the same fate await most of the one million troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq? Read on and judge for yourself.

Inspiring Story of Major Matt Tully

This series of blogs was inspired by news articles about National Guard Major Matt Tully, a local attorney, whom I’ve never met but deeply respect. On 9/11, he was working as a brokerage firm paralegal in the World Trade Center and was almost killed. He changed into uniform and served for three days as the No. 2 National Guardsman providing security for the crash site. He subsequently returned to law school and set up practice in our area of central New York state.

Despite the post 9/11 anti-Arab hysteria, Tully defended Joe Mansour, a Lebanese American working in a federal prison. Mansour began receiving derogatory e-mails and death threats after 9/11. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee awarded Matt Tully its 2005 Pro-Bono Attorney of the Year. Tully also spoke out against the looming war in Iraq that the Bush Administration was hyping on a false connection between 9/11 and the government of Iraq.

Matt Tully is an active member of the American Bar Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Knights of Columbus, National Rifle Association, Reserve Officers Association, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Given Tully’s 9/11 experience, pro bono work, and earlier opposition to the war, I was troubled to read last year in the Oneonta Daily Star that Tully had been called to duty in Iraq. Tully was quoted as saying, “I was very vocal in my opposition to the war in Iraq,” and adding that he believed President Bush’s policy of pre-emptive strikes to be un-American and that the United States should not invade another country unless it commits an act of war upon America.

Maj. Matthew Tully
Maj. Matthew Tully, New York National Guard

Unlike the young draftees of the Vietnam War era, 40 percent of those serving in Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld’s war are National Guard, and Army Reserves. They’re our neighbors. They leave behind families, mortgage payments, and vital jobs serving our community.

I knew I had to write something in our website to express support.

Iraq and Nazi War Criminals

As a former professor of political science, I completely agreed with Tully on the illegality of a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States. I cannot imagine a lawyer and member of the American Bar Association taking any other position. After all, American jurists played a key role in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals that began in October 1945. The German defendants were charged not only with the systematic murder of millions of people, but also with planning and carrying out the war in Europe. The court sentenced twelve Nazi officials to be hanged, three to life in prison, and four to serve prison sentences of 10-20 years.

Nuremberg Tribunal
Nuremberg Tribunal

The Nuremberg Tribunal prompted subsequent expansion of international law that condemns the waging of aggressive war as the “supreme” war crime that inevitably leads to crimes such as the slaughter of civilians and mistreatment and torture of prisoners.

As Marjorie Cohn, Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego and Chairperson of National Lawyers Guild, testified last year, aggressive war “violates the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of force, unless carried out in self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council. The United States has ratified both the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, making them part of the supreme law of the land under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.”

Mr. Tully’s opposition to the war also struck a personal chord. I was a draft counselor during the Vietnam War. Like Mr. Tully’s legal position against the Iraq War, my opposition to the Vietnam War was not only moral. It was political. As a high school teacher at the time, I had studied the disastrous Japanese and later French colonial wars against the Vietnamese. I knew that the American war against a popular guerrilla resistance was not winnable. It would turn out to be a meat grinder for America’s youth and all Vietnamese. And it would waste billions of dollars needed at home for education, health care, and eradicating poverty.

For years after the war ended, men would approach me on the street to thank me for saving their lives, and, equally important, for empowering them to refuse to serve in a war of aggression against a people who posed to no threat to the United States.

I agonized over Major Tully’s particular dilemma when his National Guard division was called. Unlike the individual civilians I counseled in the 1960s, Tully was a commissioned officer with loyalty to his unit, the famous Rainbow Division of the New York State National Guard.

“It’s kind of like a barroom brawl,” Tully was quoted as saying. “If you’re in a bar with your brother, and he gets in a fight, whether he started it or not, you help him finish it.”

New Yorkers in Saddam Hussein’s Home Town

Hence the heroic life of a man I didn’t know prompted me to set aside a few days a week from the comic novel, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore! I’ve almost finished about Pat Robertson-type Christianity. I wanted to learn about the men and women of the Rainbow Division stationed in Forward Operating Base Camp Danger in Saddam Hussein’s former palace in Tikrit on the desert banks of the Tigris River.

I was in the middle of drafting the first installment of this “Over the Rainbow” blog, when I watched George W. Bush’s Oct. 13, 2005 choreographed teleconference on the eve of Iraq’s constitutional referendum. The Camp Danger base commander had ordered ten of his soldiers to feed the president and the American citizens a fairy tale scripted by chickenhawk Republican operatives in Washington.

By now I had been regularly reading the on-line official military reports from Central Command headquarters, news stories from reporters at Camp Forward Danger, interviews with the base commander, and in-depth analyses of the occupation and Iraqi opinion. I knew that the words the troops had been ordered to mouth on camera were misleading, false, and designed to present a rosy picture of the rapidly deteriorating military and political situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

As an informed citizen I was outraged. So I changed the focus of my first “Over the Rainbow” blog to contrast the fictional script concocted by Bush’s stateside propagandists with the facts on the ground, including quotations on the growing resistance to the occupation by the base commander Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto
   Maj. Gen. Joseph Taluto

At this writing, the Rainbow Division Guardsmen have served the first of three possible six-month tours of duty. Most, including Matt Tully, have arrived home safely. The Oneonta Daily Star reported his return last month. I was in for a second shock. On his way home, Tully had been co-opted into a meeting with Vice-President Dick Cheney.

I had been researching Gulf War Illness for a decade so I knew about Cheney’s responsibility for the greatest tragedy to strike the United States military since the Civil War. I knew that depleted uranium contamination was the wild card in every returning vet’s deck, one that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Pentagon don’t want them or us to know about.

Dick Cheney and Matt Tully!

Here was the man who helped destroy many of one generation of American citizen soldiers enlisting a local hero to help take down the next!

Cheney Preparing to Nuke Our Own Troops

My March letter-to-the editor expressed my initial response. This series of blogs is an elaboration, covering the Gulf War Illness, the developing scandal of the effects of depleted uranium on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the frightening prospect of a nuclear attack on Iran that will send a radioactive cloud over the 136,000 American troops stationed next door.

This is not a rant. The lives of a million American soldiers and their families are too precious for irresponsible charges. Yes, I’m emotionally involved. You will be too—more so than you can now imagine. I spent weeks doing the research, checking the facts, examining the scientific evidence, and consulting the experts, some who worked inside the Pentagon until they were fired for warning soldiers and veterans with the truth.

Every fact in this piece is fully documented. Every assertion is based on publicly available knowledge that you are invited to verify. I urge readers to point out the slightest error of commission or omission. I will immediately correct it and, if you wish, acknowledge your contribution on this website. We also solicit additional information. As before, we will respect any requests of anonymity from those in uniform or government.

Iraq Vets in Danger? Do the Math

Exactly 696,841 men and women served in the U.S. military during the 1991 Gulf War. The conflict on the ground lasted only 100 hours. According to the Pentagon, there were 147 U.S. troops killed in battle, 235 more killed as a result of “non-hostile” causes, such as accidents, and 467 service members wounded.

But according to a February 2006 Veterans Affairs report, of the 696,841 U.S. military personnel who were deployed in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm between Aug. 2, 1990, and July 31, 1991, at least 11,910 have since died and 260,209 have filed claims for disability benefits. Of those 260,209 claims, 198,951 have been granted as service-connected, and 31,696 are pending. That means 30.3% of Desert Shield and Desert Storm vets are either dead or officially disabled as a result of their service.

How about the service members who were deployed in the irradiated Persian Gulf area after July 31, 1991? Out of 432,498 who served, at least another 3,742 veterans have died. As of February 2006, the claims of 92,789 have been granted as service-connected, with another 13,929 pending. 96,531 out of 432,498 is 22.3%.

So of 1,129,339 men and women who served in the Persian Gulf during the war and its aftermath, 375,137 claims have been filed and 291,740 have claims have so far been granted and listed as service-connected. That's 27.2% of all Persian Gulf veterans. If you look at the total number who have filed claims — 375,137 — the percentage jumps to 30.5, representing the number of veterans who are having what they believe are service-related problems and have gone through the hoops to file claims.

In just fifteen years, more than 30% who served during the conflict and nearly 25% of those deployed in the Persian Gulf afterwards are dead or officially listed as disabled. These percentages for post-conflict deaths and disability are higher than for any previous U.S. conflict in modern times, including World War II.

Now, let's compare the 320 tons of depleted uranium used in the 1991 conflict with estimates as high as 10 times that amount used since 2003 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Depleted Uranium Shell
Depleted Uranium Shell

Depleted Uranium, Time-Release Poison

The initial 320 tons is still there. Depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Some of the radioactive particles are as small as bacteria. They cannot be filtered so they permeate the air, water, soil, vegetation, and animal life. Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are inhaling and ingesting them every day. They accumulate throughout the body like time-release poison, so the symptoms often develop years later.

The substance is so deadly that, before the war, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Erik K. Shenseki ordered the posting of elaborate regulations for handling contaminated clothing, munitions, and equipment. But how many active duty soldiers reading this have even heard of those regulations?

320 tons in a 100-day war in 1991 produced a 30% casualty rate. Since 2003, as many as 3,000 tons have been used in this war without end. The typical tour of duty in the present conflict is six months. Many regular, National Guard and Reserve troops are serving second, third and fourth tours.

What percentage of the million troops who’ve served will eventually be stricken? You do the math.

As you will read in the coming installments of this series, Iraq War vets are already getting sick, dying, and producing children with horrible birth deformities.


Cheney’s Long Reign of Terror

Here’s a summary of the series.

Cheney was de facto Commander in Chief on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He divided his time between watching events on CNN and keeping Bush out of the loop, flying in circles under a phony threat to Air Force One. Cheney never ordered interception of four hijacked airplanes crisscrossing the Northeast for an hour despite fifty years of Air Force training and preparation for just such an attack. If you shied away from 9/11 “conspiracy theories” like I did, that fact about Cheney should start you thinking.

The Iraq War is Cheney’s war. He was the point man fabricating the string of lies that persuaded Congress and the American people to support the unprovoked war on Iraq. Even though he knew all his “intelligence” was phony, he created and perpetuated the lie that linked Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attack in order to manipulate our patriotism and mislead our troops.

Cheney is also the driving force behind an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran that, according to all intelligence estimates, is years away from developing a nuclear weapon and is abiding by international law. The radioactive fallout from Cheney’s next attack will doubly contaminate everyone in the Middle East, including the hundreds of thousands of troops now serving in the area as well as those who will have to be deployed when all hell breaks loose after the attack.

If this isn’t enough, Dick Cheney is leading the conspiracy to install a police state in America with the tacit cooperation of both political parties. I don’t want to live to see the end of more than two hundred years of American Constitutional government. That’s why I’m writing these pieces instead of poking fun at millionaire televangelists in We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!

How Troops Can Protect Themselves
How We Can Protect America

In future postings, we’ll describe how depleted uranium contaminates the air, soil, and water so that the men and women of the Rainbow Division took radioactive showers during their six months in Camp Forward Danger, but never knew it. We’ll explain in simple language how D.U. attacks the body and why the symptoms are so diverse. There is no treatment and no cure. However, we will suggest practical tips that troops can take in the field to avoid some of the exposure, and some do’s and don’t’s to lessen contaminating their homes when they return.

We’ll also provide information on projects any citizen can join to stop Cheney and corporate America from killing our soldiers and destroying our country.

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