Politicians Should Support the Troops (Depleted Uranium Remix)

America’s political leadership should better support our troops. Many past and current examples support this statement.

Thousands of American troops were purposefully exposed to nuclear radiation during bomb tests in Nevada. What is worse, our government did not compensate veterans for radiation poisoning and cancer until 40 years later.

During the Vietnam War, veterans were exposed to the corrosive herbicide Agent Orange, which caused joint pain, night sweats, bloody feces, migraines, rashes, violent behavior and cancer. Again, the US government refused to acknowledge this problem for 25 years.

Now, let’s examine the more current examples in the first Gulf War, Bosnia war and the ongoing Iraq War. In these wars, our government has knowingly exposed our troops to a radioactive weapons material known as depleted uranium.

Despite the term “depleted,” DU is very dangerous. Raw uranium contains less than 1 percent of isotope U-235 and more than 99 percent U-238. The raw uranium is enriched to collect the U-235 for nuclear energy, and the remaining U-238 is considered DU. The U.S. currently has approximately 1.5 billion pounds of DU stockpiled.

U.S. politicians and weapons manufacturers chose to develop projectile weapons from DU because it improved armor piercing and incendiary properties, not to mention convenient “disposal” of nuclear waste in foreign lands when used. They also use DU for armor on tanks and other transport vehicles.

U.S. politicians claim DU is safe, but evidence speaks otherwise. It is well known U-238 is a toxic to mammals, particularly to reproductive systems and fetal development. It can cause lower fertility, miscarriage, leukemia and birth defects.

The greatest danger posed by DU occurs when it is internalized by inhalation, ingestion and by the embedment of DU shrapnel in the body. These exposures occur when the weapons detonate and the DU is vaporized to fine dust.

When DU-armored tanks and other DU-armored vehicles are hit by an improvised explosive device or other weapons, the DU armor fragments and vaporizes into dust. The shrapnel can embed in our troops’ flesh and the dust can be inhaled into their lungs.

The dust also settles on cropland and in water, incorporating into the food chain. Once in the body and with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, ionizing radiation is constantly emitted among our trillions of cells; damaging DNA and potentially causing cancer.

In the first Gulf War, almost 750,000 pounds of DU was fired. Following the war, 30 percent of the 700,000 soldiers suffer from symptoms of immune system disorder, chronic pain and memory loss, termed “Gulf War Syndrome.” It is highly likely that DU exposure has contributed to many, or most, of these illnesses.

During the current Iraq War, more than 4.4 million pounds of DU has been used, and American soldiers are again reporting symptoms likely caused by DU. Reported problems include bloody gums, bloody urine, bloody stool, eye sensitivity, depression, impotence, severe rashes, migraines, joint pain and thyroid cancer. Other soldiers have developed other cancers, including brain cancer.

Several soldiers have sued the US Army for concealment of risk. Not only are our leaders hiding the risks and downplaying health problems, they are systematically skewing medical studies, manipulating information and lying about veteran health to avoid liability costs.

The DU is also affecting Iraqi civilians. After the first Gulf War, Iraqi doctors reported sharp increases in cancer, leukemia and fetal deformities among Iraqi children, many being born without eyes, ears, limbs, brains and heads. Gruesome pictures document this, and you may want to have a vomit bag handy if you see them. Doctors treating the children strongly believe DU dust exposure is the cause, and expect deformities and cancer to increase tenfold following the Iraq war, because much more DU is being used used.

The UN Human Rights Commission passed two motions in 1996 and 1997 defining weapons of mass destruction as weapons causing unnecessary suffering, and included DU as such. They urged that WMD be curbed in production. They also argued that use of DU was a breach of numerous international treaties. Additionally, the European Parliament, several nations and more than 80 non-governmental organizations have asked for a ban on production and use of DU weapons.

Politicians should also support our overextended troops by ending the $3 trillion Iraq war. Retired General and former Reagan NSA Director William Odom recently said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We face a deteriorating political situation with an overextended army. The only sensible strategy is to withdraw rapidly but in good order. Only that step can break the paralysis now gripping US strategy in the region. The next step is to choose a new aim – regional stability – not a meaningless victory in Iraq. Withdrawal from Iraq does not mean withdrawal from the region. It must include a realignment and reassertion of US forces and diplomacy.”

Current politicians are not properly supporting our troops in these matters, or they wouldn’t pointlessly keep them in Iraqi quicksand, or knowingly allow them sustained exposure to radioactive poisoning. A hollow “victory” in Iraq is not worth the continued deaths of our troops, and enhanced projectile destructiveness is not worth elevated risks of cancer for our troops and birth defects for children.

Politicians should intelligently end the Iraq war and join international treaties banning DU WMD that is likely poisoning our troops. They should also discontinue pleasing campaign financiers in the weapons industry, and strategically ban other internationally condemned weapons they produce, such as cluster bombs and nuclear bombs.

How can we expect to continue recruiting brave defenders of our country if our politicians continue forcing them to “win” what is a hollow pipe dream? How can we recruit young people to join the military if politicians continue exposing them to WMD unnecessarily?

My concern on these issues and others has compelled me to make the difficult decision to resign from my position as columnist for The Arkansas Traveler, so I can run for United States Congress. My resignation will allow for any possible coverage to be unbiased and without conflicts of interest.

I thank everyone who took time to read my thoughts about the American government and hope everyone understands that my harsh political language is grounded primarily in deep disgust over the Iraq war and was never intended to be taken personally.

I am still young, and my outrage over the war has occasionally caused me to act and speak immaturely toward war supporters – including Moses – who I now know are actually good people guilty of nothing but trusting leaders too much. I feel this opportunity for public service is encouraging me to expand my compassion, because I know that, if elected, I would need to represent everyone fairly and kindly.

I will strive my utmost to better implement the teachings of Christ and Buddha, which, to me, indicate that we should all peacefully love one another as oneself.

I will even learn to love Bush, because he is merely acting under the whim of his environmental programming, but I will never love his political decisions that are causing great global suffering.

Abel Tomlinson is a staff writer for The Arkansas Traveler.

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