Irving Wesley Hall / Notinkansas.us – 2006-04-30 00:10:32
(April 28, 2006) — Bush’s impending, insane nuclear attack on Iran has provoked an unprecedented rebellion within the top leadership of the United States military. At the same time, depleted uranium (DU) is steadily taking down our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s time for the soldiers to follow the lead of their commanders in order to end the war.
Was Army Sergeant Michael Lee Tosto the first American victim of the Bush Administration’s March 2003 “Shock and Awe” attack on Iraq? The 24-year old North Carolina tank operator died “mysteriously” in Baghdad on June 17, 2003.
The Iraqi capital was saturated with radioactive dust from the initial explosions of 1,500 American bombs and missiles, many of them made from solid depleted uranium. After the saturation bombing, the city was the scene of street battles with M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, A-10 Warthog attack jets and Apache helicopters, all firing DU munitions.
The army told Sergeant Tosto’s family that he died from pulmonary edema and pericardial effusion, or cardiac failure, after showing flu-like symptoms.
Young Michael Tosto believed George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. He believed he had been deployed to Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein from nuking the United States. Michael died before we all learned that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are nuking the world.
Michael Tosto died, young and innocent, when they nuked him.
After Michael ‘s funeral, a fellow soldier contacted Michael’s wife Stephanie and told her that his buddy started coughing up blood, his lips turned blue, and he was dead within 48 hours after the first symptoms.
According to Tom Flocco, upon whose story this account is based,
“. . . the Tostos say their GI was in excellent health–in his prime of life. And Stephanie Tosto told United Press International, ‘When my husband died, the casualty officer asked me, ‘Is it possible that Michael had heart problems?’ Michael did not have heart problems. One other time they asked me if he had asthma. He was never sick.”
Inhaling depleted uranium causes pulmonary edema. Symptoms include bleeding lungs, bronchial pneumonia, and vomited blood. Pericardial effusion is a common cause of death among leukemia patients. Michael’s mother, Janet Tosto, reported that military officials told her that her son Michael’s military autopsy exhibited elevated levels of white blood cells. Exposure to depleted uranium can cause Lymphocytic leukemia.
Tom Flocco consulted Dr. Garth Nicolson of the Institute for Molecular Medicine in Huntington Beach, California who said, “Just one microscopic particle–let alone thousands–trapped in a soldier’s pulmonary system for one year can result in 272 times the annual whole body radiation dose permitted U.S. radiation workers.”
Gulf War Illness: the Sequel
It is happening again to a new generation of veterans. Some of today’s soldiers were in day care centers in 1991 when Dick Cheney first authorized the wholesale use of radioactive munitions. It is happening again despite the fact that 70% of all Gulf War I veterans are on medical disability fifteen years after the end of the first war against Saddam Hussein.
We are witnessing the same symptoms of radioactive poisoning today as fifteen years ago. We are hearing the same denial of reality from Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense (DoD).
The government spokesman in Michael’s death claimed, “We don’t think depleted uranium has anything to do with it.”
After the publication of “Depleted Uranium For Dummies” last month, a reader emailed me with a demand. “You claim that half million soldiers are sick because of the tons of depleted uranium used in 1991. I’d like to hear the government’s side of the story.”
Well, the Department of Defense’s estimate, as you might expect, is lower. Much lower.
According to the Pentagon, depleted uranium hasn’t caused even one GI’s illness or a single veteran’s death.
If you still believe that the Bush Administration doesn’t lie to its citizens or Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense doesn’t lie to the troops, please click to another website. I don’t want to be the first to break the news to you.
Soon you might begin to doubt Condoleezza Rice’s warning about Saddam Hussein’s imminent nuclear attack on America or Dick Cheney’s claim that Hussein was responsible for taking down the Twin Towers. You might question why on 9/11 acting Commander-in-Chief Dick Cheney couldn’t find one available U.S. fighter jet to send aloft during the hour that, allegedly, nineteen Saudis and Egyptians with box cutters were crisscrossing the East Coast in hijacked commercial airliners!
These are the stories Sergeant Tosto took to his grave. But no one ever told him that the depleted uranium munitions packed into his tank could kill him.
That’s right. As far as the Department of Defense is concerned, depleted uranium is “40 percent less radioactive than natural uranium,” is “not a serious external radiation hazard,” and thus is not considered dangerous According to the military’s pamphlet, “Depleted Uranium Information for Clinicians”revised on September 17, 2004, a year and a half after Michael Tosto’s death, “Findings have shown no kidney damage, leukemia, bone or lung cancer, or other uranium-related adverse health outcomes.”
The Pentagon commissioned several studies in the ‘nineties as hundreds of thousands of Gulf War vets were becoming “mysteriously” sick. One published in 2000, concluded that DU “could pose a chemical hazard” but that Gulf War veterans “did not experience intakes high enough to affect their health.”
According to Pentagon spokesman Austin Camacho, the only soldiers meriting the military’s concern are those wounded by depleted uranium shrapnel or those who were inside tanks during an explosion, and “studies of about 70 such cases from the first Gulf War showed no long-term health problems.”
This stupefying— vets call it criminal—DoD denial helps explain the military’s reaction to Michael Tosto’s death. They would not allow Stephanie Tosto to see her husband’s body until after the autopsy in Germany and after he was packed in a casket for burial.
Dan Tosto, the dead soldier’s father, wondered why Michael was wearing white gloves, appropriate for dress blues but not for Michael’s green burial uniform. At the funeral, Stephanie reached under a glove and found Michael’s wedding ring missing. The army later explained that the dead soldier’s belongings were possibly contaminated.
Wedding Ring Contaminated With What?
Perhaps the mysterious metal “contamination” explains why the Army sent the family brand-new dog tags, rather than Michael’s original set, and why they didn’t immediately call his wife at the emergency phone number he was carrying.
After the tank driver was buried, Stephanie received her husband’s medical records. They described his arms as red and swollen, classic signs of exposure to depleted uranium dust.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Secretary General of the International Commission of Health Professionals, and President of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, commented on Michael Tosto’s symptoms. She said that the armed services investigation was incomplete without a thorough “testing for potential depleted uranium [which] includes chemical analysis of uranium in urine, feces, blood and hair; tests of damage to kidneys, including analysis for protein, glucose and non-protein nitrogen in urine; radioactivity counting; or more invasive tests such a surgical biopsy of lung or bone marrow.”
As you will read in the next installment, according to the DoD’s own Regulation #700-48, such tests are mandatory. Surprised? Wait until you read next time how the government responds to living contaminated soldiers who request tests for radiation poisoning.
We cited Dr. Doug Rokke in previous installments of the “Over the Rainbow” blog. He was the military’s top expert on all aspects of depleted uranium, until he was fired for telling the truth. He was the chief biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons safety officer in the first Gulf War, and he reports that many American deaths were from “friendly-fire” DU weapons. The Tosto family will never know if this was Michael’s fate.
According to Gay Alcorn of The Age, “Rokke was ordered to decontaminate shot-up vehicles and tanks and to investigate health effects on troops. Dressed in protective gear and masks, he and his team crawled over tanks and other vehicles, sending some back to the US. Those considered too radioactive to move were buried in a giant hole in the ground.
“The US Army made me their expert,” Rokke told reporter Julie Flint. “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 led me to one conclusion: uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone – those on the firing end and those on the receiving end.”
According to Flint, Rokke “suffers from serious health problems including brain lesions and lung and kidney damage. When government doctors finally agreed to test him in November 1994, three-and-a-half years after he fell ill, while he was director of the Pentagon’s Depleted Uranium Project, he was found to have 5,000 times the permissible level of radiation in his body – enough to light up a small village.”
Rokke’s crew — 100 employees — was devastated by exposure to the fine dust. “When we went to the Gulf, we were all really healthy,” Rokke said. “However, after performing clean-up operations in the desert. . .30 staff members died, and most others — including Rokke himself –developed serious health problems. Rokke now has reactive airway disease, neurological damage, cataracts, and kidney problems.”
I conducted a telephone interview with Doug Rokke last month, after sending him “Dummies” to fact-check. He described the permanent rashes on his arms. “They’re weeping as we speak,” he said. I recalled Michael Tosto’s autopsy report. What was hidden under the white gloves?
The papers Rokke wrote describing his findings are sobering. He recorded levels of contamination that were 15 times the army’s permissible levels in tanks hit by DU, and up to 4.5 times such levels in clothing exposed to DU.
Rokke told Alcorn, “After everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve done, it became very clear to me that you just can’t take radioactive wastes from one nation and just throw it into another nation. It’s wrong. It’s simply wrong. . .”One way or another, the Pentagon will pay a price. DU is a war crime. It’s that simple. Once you’ve scattered all this stuff around, and then refuse to clean it up, you’ve committed a war crime.”
According to Gulf War vet and retired Air Force Major, Denise Nichols, there are many reasons why Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense won’t admit that DU is harmful.
“They don’t want to assume responsibility for the astronomical healthcare costs of so many poisoned veterans. . .and they don’t want the rest of the world to know that they have essentially poisoned two entire nations.”
If They Admit It’s Killing Our Troops, They Can’t Use It
Doug Rokke gave journalist Vince Guarisco another reason. “We warned the Department of Defense in 1991 after the Gulf War. Their arrogance is beyond comprehension. Once they acknowledge that there are actual health effects of depleted uranium munitions, then they can’t use them any more; the house of cards falls apart.”
Now, can you understand the DoD’s secrecy about the details of Michael Tosto’s death? Can you understand the strange silence last month of Maj. Richard J. McNorton, the CENTCOM’s special officer in charge of helping bloggers obtain accurate information? He is still ignoring my requests to confirm or to allow me to disprove the following account in “Dummies”:
“An official June 2005 United States Central Command communiqué reported that soldiers of the 62nd Quartermaster Company from Fort Hood, Texas were supplying Camp Forward Danger’s water from the Tigris River. . .it seems that it is not tested for radioactivity.
“Our men and women of the New York State National Guard have just spent six months taking radioactive showers and washing small open wounds in a depleted uranium broth. They’ve eaten over 500 meals with food, plates, and silverware washed with hot water, in two senses of the word. . . without knowing it.”
Given the serious implications for my neighbors in the Rainbow Division, they expected a prompt response from McNorton. Not a word.
Does it still seem strange to you that the Pentagon maintains that, from 1991 to 2005, only 7,035 Gulf War vets—were “wounded” in the conflict?
In the opinion of those now responsible for defending our country, the discrepancy between 7,000 and 518,000 vets on disability (many with Gulf War Illness’s “ill defined symptoms”) is just a “mystery.”
What is no mystery is that, within the last month, seven high-ranking retired military officers have publicly called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Most are immediate retirees high in the chain of command in the Middle East deeply involved in Cheney and Rumsfeld’s war.
On Democracy Now! April 17, 2006, retired Col. Sam Gardiner, respected lecturer at several United States military war colleges, called these denunciations “unprecedented in United States history.”
Unprecedented Officers’ Revolt
The military revolt against the Bush Administration’s catastrophic Middle East policies surfaced last November when previously hawkish Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha channeled the top brass’s opposition to the war. Col. Gardiner suggested that the seven recently retired officers were being encouraged to speak out by those still in service. The brass is horrified by the military consequences of bringing Iran into a war we’ve already lost. Nothing like this happened even during the military’s darkest days when Nixon secretly invaded neighboring Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
In another first, a group of West Point graduates, has denounced the war. The graduates pledged to refuse to serve in Iraq. Additional reports suggest that the Joint Chiefs have made clear that they oppose an attack on Iran. Another group of officers has threatened to resign if the United States continues its plans to expand the war in the Middle East to a second major oil producer. Think about that next time you pump gas.
It’s time for the troops to seize this brief opportunity to transform American history. Why? Let’s examine the price our brave citizen-soldiers are paying for the arrogance of the Bush Administration and Donald Rumsfeld’s DoD. In future articles we’ll show in detail what the troops in Iraq can do legally when we review the recent documentary, “Sir! No Sir!” It shows the critical role of Vietnam GIs in ending that earlier war of aggression against a people who posed no threat to the United States.
Last February, Juan Gonzales of the New York Daily News reported that “nearly 120,000 veterans – more than one of every four who served in Iraq and Afghanistan – have already sought treatment at Veterans Health Administration hospitals for a wide range of illnesses, according to an internal study the VHA completed late last year.
“An additional 35,000 – more than 29% of the total – were diagnosed with ‘ill-defined conditions,’ according to the study, which was prepared in October by VHA epidemiologist Dr. Han Kang but has yet to be publicly released.”
“‘Those numbers are way higher than during the Persian Gulf War for ‘ill-defined’ symptoms,'” said one Department of Veterans Affairs official who asked not to be identified.”
As we detailed in “Dummies,” depleted uranium contamination causes virtually every known illness from acute skin rashes, severe headaches, muscle and joint pain, and general fatigue, to major birth defects, liver infection, kidney failure, depression, cardiovascular disease, brain tumors, and almost every type of cancer. In fact, the figure of 35,000 sick vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with “ill-defined conditions” may be too low.
Gonzalez reported that, “more than 30% of those sick veterans are afflicted with some type of mental disorder, mostly post-traumatic stress and depression. . . a far higher rate of mental problems among our troops than during the Persian Gulf War, and levels comparable to what was found among U.S. troops during the Vietnam War.”
Two previous military studies of combat troops in Iraq found that 17% to 25% of U.S. soldiers suffer from major depression or combat stress.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a debilitating change in the brain’s chemistry that includes flashbacks, sleep disorders, panic attacks, acute anxiety, emotional numbness, and violent outbursts. Dozens of soldiers have committed suicide or murdered their spouses, Can PTSD, in some cases, be another phrase for Gulf War Illness?
Sara Flounders reported in August 2003, shortly after Michael Tosto’s death, “For years the government described Gulf War Syndrome as a post-traumatic stress disorder. It was labeled a psychological problem or simply dismissed as mysterious unrelated ailments. In this same way the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration treated the health problems of Vietnam vets suffering from Agent Orange poisoning.”
Dr. Leuren Moret reports that a medical doctor in Northern California told her that he and other doctors, trained by the Pentagon before the 2003 war, were advised to diagnose and treat soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq for mental problems only.
What’s Going To Happen To All These Sick Vets?
How can so many get the specialized care they need? The half million Gulf War vets who are already on medical disability have never received adequate care from the VA.
Paul Rieckhoff is a former lieutenant with the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq and founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Juan Gonzalez quoted him as saying, “With numbers this high, the problem is going to grow fast. We’re seeing system wide there are major problems. Most local VAs [Veterans Administration centers] just aren’t prepared for the influx of sick veterans.”
In February the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs “does not have sufficient capacity to meet the needs of new combat veterans while still providing for veterans of past wars.”
What’s worse is that, since 1998, veterans are eligible for free health care for only the first two years after being demobilized. After that, an ailing veteran has to prove his or her illness is service-connected. In the next article we’ll describe what that burden has meant to ailing Iraq vets.
Medical professionals in hospitals and facilities treating returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan have been threatened with $10,000 fines and jail if they talk about the soldiers or their medical problems.
Reporters have been prevented access to more than 14,000 medically evacuated soldiers flown nightly from Germany to Walter Reed Hospital near Washington, D.C. What is the DoD hiding?
As you know from reading “Depleted Uranium For Dummies,” all of us may eventually become victims of Bush’s “Shock and Awe” campaign against the Iraqi people, because the radioactive fallout has already permeated the world’s atmosphere. We reported the February findings of Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, who was able to obtain official UK readings of the astounding spike in European radiation levels after the massive bombings in Iraq.
Depleted uranium particles traveled 2400 miles in nine days from Iraq to Aldermaston England. The invisible cloud quadrupled Europe’s atmospheric radiation. According to Dr. Busby, “This research shows that rather than remaining near the target, as claimed by the military, depleted uranium weapons contaminate both locals and whole populations hundreds to thousands of miles away.”
Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld’s “time-release poison” from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took only a year to mix completely into the world’s atmosphere. Take a deep breath, and recall your initial reaction to the stunning TV images of a city of five million people engulfed in a firestorm, with mushroom-shaped clouds of radioactive debris illuminating the skyline.
Take a minute to check on your kids playing outside the window in the fresh spring air. Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki, a Japanese physicist, has estimated that depleted uranium munitions since Cheney’s 1991 Gulf War has contaminated the global atmosphere with radiation equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombs. Greenpeace has just estimated that 93,000 deaths occurred because of the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine.
UK environmental scientist Busby was quoted as saying, “To my mind, it’s a human rights issue. Originally, it was an issue relating to whether or not it should be used in Iraq and if the population of Iraq is being contaminated and possibly the Gulf War veterans being contaminated, but now we are seeing that everybody is being contaminated. We are all Gulf War veterans.”
Soldier Says Bush Worse Than Bin Laden
Veterans and soldiers have been contacting “Over the Rainbow” after we guaranteed anonymity. A soldier serving in Iraq, already showing the symptoms of Gulf War Illness, expressed his bitterness.
“I came over here thinking I was fighting to protect our freedoms. It was all bullshit. I’m sick and probably dying. I want to come home. But, that’s really scary because I’m contagious. If I come home I’ll give this shit to my wife and kids. “This was a suicide mission for all of us. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the bunch of them are no better than Osama bin Laden and those sleezebags. The government took patriots and turned us into terrorists.
“It’s just like Osama bin Laden and 9/11. They sent us over here on a suicide mission to murder innocent people.
“Actually our government is worse than bin Laden. At least when a car bomber volunteers, they tell the guy the truth. He knows he will die quickly and painlessly. When he’s blown to bits, he knows his people will take care of his wife and kids.
“Nobody told me I was volunteering to be nuked by DU. The recruiter never said I was going die slowly and painfully. And when I’m dead they’ll dump on my family just like they’re dumping on the people over here.”
The soldier asked if I had heard from public relations officer, Maj. Richard J. McNorton, about the radioactive showers at Camp Forward Danger.
I wonder if the major thinks he lives a charmed life. He’s sucking up depleted uranium particles from Iraq whether he’s stationed downwind in CentCom headquarters in Qatar or across the Atlantic in Florida. Right now GI’s in Iraq and Afghanistan are hunkered down as Cheney’s bloody adventure collapses around them. Our men and women are primarily concerned about looking out for each other. Who is McNorton looking out for?
Obviously Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wants to keep depleted uranium and the radioactive showers a secret from the officers and troops. If the Jews of Europe had known the Nazi shower rooms were poison gas chambers, it would have been much harder to get them to board the trains.
DU must be the stuff of nightmares for Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Rumsfeld. Can you imagine the four of them trying to corral United States Army, Reserves and National Guard troops into transport planes bound for Iraq after they find out about depleted uranium?
This is the fourth in a comprehensive series on depleted uranium dedicated to the New York National Guard to appear on the website We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, where you will find sources, a bibliography, and suggestions for citizen action to eliminate DU munitions. www.notinkansas.us.
Copyright 2006 Irving Wesley Hall.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommcercial, educational purposes.