Veterans For Peace, an UN-recognized non-governmental organization and veterans' advocacy group, calls for Dr. Howard Dean to use his professional responsibility as a physician, and his influence in the Democratic National Committee to end the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions.
It is urgent that people of conscience in this country act now. An increasing number of studies has linked DU with Gulf War syndrome, and DU is strongly implicated in birth defects among veterans' children. Disturbing reports of suspected radiation-related problems among Iraq war veterans are surfacing.
Children in Afghanistan and Iraq are exposed to radiation from DU munitions in walls, in soil, and, in one study in which Dr. Rokke participated, from spent projectiles scattered in city streets. Babies have been born in these countries having no eyes and lacking crowns on their skulls. Anemia, cancers, liver and kidney dysfunctions, and infections due to immune system deficiences occur more frequently than before the wars.
Depleted uranium, a by-product of uranium enrichment, is used in the manufacture of weapons having kinetic penetrator properties. Such munitions were developed for heavy armor scenarios. It is has been very widely used, even when no armor is used by opponents. It ranges in caliber from 7.62mm (M-60 machine gun round) to 120mm, so is delivered by artillery, tanks, small arms, and aircraft. Fragments, fine oxide dust, and the remains of the rounds themselves pose considerable health hazards to indigenous populations, and to our own military people. The armor on vehicles has DU components.
DU has a half-life of 450 billion years, meaning it will remain toxic and dangerous. The military has known about the toxicity of depleted uranium since before the First Gulf War, but has failed to act, even to protect its own personnel. Dr. (and Army Reserve Lt. Colonel) Douglas Rokke has participated in Army studies, and has written and spoken extensively on the Army's denial of DU's effects.
The McDermott Bill, HR 1483, calls for testing of veterans exposed to DU, their children, and environments exposed. The bill has languished in the House, and still does not have the sponsorship to bring it to a vote in 2005. The Republican majority cannot be trusted to act responsibly in this matter of urgency.
The Veterans Adminstration must be tasked with testing of veterans and their children. Dr. Douglas Rokke's work should form the basis of a military response to this threat to human life. We must budget cleanup of DU residue into planning for civic action is countries where we have used these munitions.
DU munitions are weapons of mass destruction. Veterans For Peace calls for an immediate end to the use of DU in weapons and in the manufacture of any military equipment used by our soldiers and Marines.