Make a Killing
Poison and Profit in
Gulf War II
By Michael I. Niman ArtVoice 7/31/03
The Bush presidency has certainly created some strange bedfellows. Take the peace movement – American peaceniks today are just as likely to gather and listen to right wing warriors as they are to swoon before the call of hairy pacifists.
I remember seeing former US Marine Intelligence Officer and UN
Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter speak last fall at a
The Ice Man Comes to
Last week I went to see another warrior.
This time it was Major Douglas Rokke, speaking in
This strange marriage of warriors and peaceniks stems from Rokke and Ritter’s love of country and their deep devotion to their fellow soldiers – who they see as being needlessly put in harms way to satisfy a political and commercial agenda as the nation’s foreign policy is hijacked by the same president that at least one of them voted for. To save their comrades from the horrific weapons of an unnecessary war, they turned to the people who oppose all wars – and a new movement is born.
Last fall Ritter warned that the impending war wasn’t about
weapons of mass destruction at all. “Don’t
insult my colleagues,” he said, as he explained how his team found no evidence
of any such weapons still in existence. The
war, he explained, was about “imperialism,” plain and simple.
And he didn’t want his fellow Marines, soldiers who signed up in good
faith to defend their country, to be sent off to fight, kill and die in a war
for empire based on lies that Ritter found himself conscience-bound to
Oral Sex and Wars
Time has since proven Ritter right.
While Ritter tours the country talking about
Pluto – God of Hell
Rokke explains that each DU shell fired from an Abrams tank contains ten pounds of radioactive Uranium 238 – a toxic byproduct of nuclear fuel and weapons enrichment programs. By converting DU wastes into DU weapons, the military is taking a liability (impossible to dispose of radioactive wastes) and converting it into an asset (the world’s most powerful anti-tank projectile weapon). The problem with this plan is the fact that DU remains radioactive for four and a half billion years. It also contains traces of other radioactive compounds such as Plutonium, the most toxic substance on earth, named for Pluto, the Roman god of the dead and ruler of the underworld.
When these rounds hit their target, according to Rokke, 40% of their mass is instantly converted into dust, with particles measuring as small as one micron. DU rounds fired from airborne weapons, he went on to explain, weigh 300 grams. With guns firing 4,000 rounds per minute, they are capable of dispersing one ton of DU per minute into the environment.
According to Rokke, the military began using DU weapons in the
first Gulf War despite the fact that they did not, and still do not, have any
plan for cleaning up DU contaminated environments.
Despite this, they used over 370 tons of DU in the first Gulf War,
contaminating large sections of
The results of DU weapons deployment, though unreported in this
country, have been devastating. In
Gulf War Syndrome
It’s this indiscriminant killing that has Rokke traveling the world speaking out, at his own peril, against the policies of his own army (Rokke is still a Major in the Reserves). He sees DU contamination of the battlefield as the key component in a toxic stew that is slowly disabling and killing personnel who served in the first Gulf war. There, he argues, soldiers were given six to eight immunization shots all at once, throwing their immune systems off balance. He claims that contrary to standard procedures, military kept few if any records of the immunizations. He also claims personnel were exposed to unknown pesticides which were applied irresponsibly. Add smoke from oil fires and DU dust, and you have a “toxic mess.” It’s these simultaneous attacks from multiple poisons, Rokke believes, that cause a multiple chemical sensitivity and ultimately, Gulf War Syndrome.
Despite the fact that the military had numerous reports detailing DU dangers, they never warned troops in either Gulf War about the weaponry that they were handling. Hence, soldiers would explore the radioactive ruins of Iraqi tanks, pocket contaminated war trophies, and, according to reports, camp for months at a time on ground contaminated by DU dust particles.
Hence, it should come as no surprise that according to the US
Department of Veterans’ Affairs, approximately 221,000 Gulf war veterans have
permanent war related disabilities, with another 10,000 or so veterans now dead
from war related syndromes. With 696,628 people serving in the first Gulf War,
these casualty numbers represent a casualty rate of nearly one in three.
Add to these figures the numbers of veterans whose disability claims have
been turned down, and the rate rises to nearly one in two.
By comparison, the casualty rate for injuries and death in World Wars I
and II, as well as the Vietnam War, was one in fifteen.
Warriors and Pacifists
This is why warriors like Ritter and Rokke are coming forward to
seek help from the peace movement. It’s
because their former comrades in arms are needlessly dying at the hands of a
military machine that callously poisons them, and a government that needlessly
sends them off to avoidable wars. Ritter
and Rokke are supporting the troops. And
they’re asking other Americans to join them.
This is true patriotism and true support for
Many of these servicepersons enlisted for idealistic reasons – to defend the nation while fighting for liberty and democracy. Even more, however, signed up for economic reasons. Like Jessica Lynch, they hail from economically distressed communities. Like Jessica Lynch, they couldn’t afford the college education that they wanted. In essence, they were caught up in an economic draft, hoping for job training or education benefits. Others just signed up since this was the only job available. Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that between 90 and 95% of the military hail from poor and working class backgrounds. And like Jessica Lynch, the vast majority of them opted for non-combat support positions, far from the front lines. With a DU contaminated battlefield, however, the front lines are now everywhere. Veterans advocates claim that during the first Gulf War, approximately 436,000 troops entered radioactive DU contaminated areas.
The Bush forces, comprised almost exclusively of
“chickenhawks” – people who
advocate war while having evaded military service themselves – hide
behind a banner of “supporting our
troops.” They wrap themselves in
our flag and deride the Ritters and Rokkes of this nation as being unpatriotic
while they slash veterans benefits and
extend hellacious tours of duty for morale drained combatants. They order the
poisoning of large chunks of the world, then order American troops into the
contaminated areas, in effect creating the largest friendly fire incidents in
military history. But worst of all, they claim to support our troops as they in
reality march them off to slow deaths. And they do all this, sending the
children of the patriotic poor off to die, while themselves becoming rich from
Vice President Dick Cheney typifies the worst of the Bush administration. He supported the Vietnam war, yet avoided serving in the military himself, telling one reporter that he "had other priorities in the Sixties than military service." Cheney, the former Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration, left government service to become the CEO of the nation’s 73rd largest defense contractor and oil industry services company, Halliburton. With Cheney’s contacts, Halliburton quickly rose to become the nation’s 18th largest military contractor. Dollars and Sense magazine reports that from 1999 to 2002, Halliburton contributed $700,000 to political fundraisers, with 95% going to Republican causes. Hence it should come as no surprise that the Bush administration just awarded a Halliburton subsidiary a no bid contract to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure with a “cost plus” contract guaranteeing profits to be paid above fluid costs. Hence, Halliburton will rebuild facilities that they initially built for Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War, which were bombed during the second Gulf War. This contract was awarded despite the fact that Halliburton was just fined $2million by the SEC for bribing Nigerian officials in a tax avoidance scam. Under Cheney’s leadership, the company avoided paying almost $400 million in US taxes by creating offshore subsidiaries. Cheney currently still receives deferred compensation of up to $1million per year from Halliburton.
Bechtel is another winner, with a new
Campaign contributions are the name of the game for military contractors who live large off of the government teat. According to a recent report by Dollars and Sense, Northrop Grumman spent nearly $30 million on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2000 through 2002. In return, they received over $24 billion in Department of Defense contracts over the same time period (just a reminder – a billion is a thousand million). Lockheed Martin spent $26 million courting warmongering politicians during this two year period, netting over $47 billion in defense contracts in return. Boeing spent $26 million and netted almost $43 billion in return. General Dynamics got a $17 billion return on their $18 million investment. Raytheon got a $19 billion return on $10 million while TRW got a $6 billion return on a $3.5 million outlay. And of course there’s George Bush Senior’s bin Laden family connected employer, Carlyle, who netted almost $4 billion in contracts on a $6 million investment. Overall, according to a recent study conducted by United for a Fair Economy, CEOs of major defense contractors saw their salaries increase by 79% in 2002 as the nation readied for war.
These folks have all gotten rich off the backs of the dead and crippled US troops who they claim to be supporting. And their riches come at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died due to sanctions and DU poisoning of their environment.
So if you really want to be a patriot – and you really want to
wave your flag – do it at a peace rally. Support
our troops by bringing them home. Support
our country by stripping the defense contractors of their blood money and
instead spending it on education and economic development, so that young
Americans won’t have to march off to war to get a job or an education.
This is true patriotism.
Dr, Michael I Niman’s
previous columns are archived at http://mediastudy.com.
For more information about DU weapons, see www.miltoxproj.org/issues.html.
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