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May 24, 2004
And then….

Are returning soldiers suffering from poisoning from depleted uranium used in USofA weapons?

Even some of us who never left the country have trouble accepting that this is still the USofA these days. Source story here but do check out the blog link because the comments section offers the principle's e-mail address for those of you who want to send rational responses to him.

Maybe now I regret this morning's latte indulgence, but not buying a latte won't feed anyone.

This is how we get it wrong.

I really don't think I can take any more stories of Iraqi prisoner torture. Check out TalkLeft. She's covering Iraq.

Aside from that, I can't deal with any more death and destruction at the moment.

Update: The good news is that Rumsfeld has figured out how to deal with pictures of torture in USofA prisons in Iraq. He's banning cameras and picture-phones. No evidence...no crime. Right?

Posted by AnneZook at 09:17 AM


Anne - I'm sure the author of the DU story also checked out the following sources:

Health Effects from the Chemical Toxicity of Depleted Uranium report

Health Effects from the Radiological Toxicity of Depleted Uranium

But since those were done by DOD Agencies, what do others have to say?

RAND, 1999. "(N)o evidence is documented in the literature of cancer or any other negative health effect related to the radiation received from exposure to natural uranium, whether inhaled or ingested, even at very high doses."

Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in 1999 Toxicological Profile for Uranium. "No human cancer of any type has ever been seen as a result of exposure to natural or depleted uranium."

United Kingdom Royal Society in May 2001. "Even if the estimates of risk are one hundred times too low, it is unlikely that any excess of fatal cancer would be detected within a group of 10,000 soldiers followed over 50 years."

European Commission March, 2001 report. "Taking into account the pathways and realistic scenarios of human exposure, radiological exposure to depleted uranium could not cause a detectable effect on human health (e.g. cancer)."

World Health Organization April, 2001 report. "The radiological hazard is likely to be very small. No increase of leukemia or other cancers has been established following exposure to uranium or DU."

European Parliament April, 2001 report. "The fact that there is no evidence of an association between exposures – sometimes high and lasting since the beginning of the uranium industry – and health damages such as bone cancer, lymphatic or other forms of leukemia shows that these diseases as a consequence of an uranium exposure are either not present or very exceptional."

Swedish Military Headquarters Medical Department Study, January 2003. "Questionnaires, analysis of uranium in the urine and matching with the cancer register at the National Board of Health and Welfare failed to reveal any link between service on the Balkans and cancer or any other illness." In fact, average urine uranium levels in two separate groups troops deployed for six months to the Balkans decreased by 75 percent and 90 percent during their deployment. The study attributed this decrease to the high natural uranium levels in Swedish drinking water supplies.

That is not to say that a small percentage of the population won't have a reaction, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest the safety issue is within a reasonable boundary.

As for the teacher in New Mexico, I agree the firing/censorship is troubling; however, the article fails to mention the "military liaison" is not a member of the military or some other employee of DoD (as one might infer from the article), but was one of the high school guidance counselor (maybe this was a self-annointed title, but the article should have made it clearer). Also, while one may argue the rationale was a pretext to disguise the true motivation, the teacher was suspended for allowing students to go on a trip w/o getting the proper authorization (Balance - an editorial claims other teachers allowed some of their students to go as well and were not suspended). I think, although not an excuse, the author should have added the perspective this event occured during the actual major combat operations timeframe.

Finally, cameras should be banned. Taking pictures of prisoners is a violation of treaty protocols. If I put a listening device in your house and caught on tape illegal activity, does that mean the listening device was ok? I think not. Would you be upset if someone then told me that listening devices were not okay except under prescribed legal circumstances? Rumsfeld is merely enforcing an existing rule his commanders should have been monitoring -- but it seems some of the officers and NCOs were not supervising that much of anything.

Posted by: Steve at May 25, 2004 01:40 PM

Insofar as the picture-taking itself was abusive and coercive (and, as Steve notes, illegal), I actually am sympathetic to Rumsfeld's decision. But it does fall into Tom Paxton's self-satire category pretty easily, too.

The Depleted Uranium issue is an open one, not a scientifically clear one. There is strong anecdotal evidence, and some statistical evidence, in favor of the idea that it is dangerous, and some studies (as Steve cites) that find no clear link but which also are very limited in scope. I suspect, though as an historian my guesses in this matter are highly suspect, that DU may be "linked" in the sense that some other battlefield by-product (chemical rather than radioactive, I guess) probably produces most of the effects we're associating with DU.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at May 26, 2004 12:10 AM

My point, which I didn't actually make, is that while enforcing existing rules is a good step, it's not where I would have started publicizing "reforms."

I would have laid out a step-by-step plan, even if it was only repeating the Geneva Conventions, and publicly emphasized my commitment and the commitment of this country to observing the rules. I also would have leaked a memo about it.

Of course, that's tricky for this Administration, what with the leak of the memo discussing how they could bypass human rights concerns that people could use for comparison and mockery. I don't know how I'd have handled that. I never would have requested or accepted that first memo, so it's hard for me to judge if there's anything Rumsfeld & Co can do to really reassure the public.

Posted by: Anne at May 27, 2004 11:28 AM

Of course, that's tricky for this Administration, what with the leak of the memo discussing how they could bypass human rights concerns that people could use for comparison and mockery. I don't know how I'd have handled that. I never would have requested or accepted that first memo, so it's hard for me to judge if there's anything Rumsfeld & Co can do to really reassure the public.

Anne - Are you talking abou the Gonzales Memo (draft) of 25 Jan 2002? I'm not sure if you read the whole memo that labeling it as a way to "bypass" is applicable. I think Gozales outlines a fairly thorough assessment of the postive and negative consequences of a decision it seems the President has made (or was inclined to make based on a DOJ opinion). Although he concludes the negative aspects are not that compelling - which undoubtedly folks could challenge (such as the Sec of State did) - it is interesting to note his last line that the "military remain bound by GPW because that is what you have directed them to do."

Although this was a draft, I agree the serious nature (even if this was 2002 the President has already invoked words of this being a long campaign) of the decision and the fact there was a disagreement between Cabinet principals should have gotten the attention of the NSC and the Chief of Staff to say "this one requires some good staff work and discussion." And as you note, even if the decision was to stick with the initial decision, there should have been a much better coordinated strategic communications effort (as the Gonzales memo notes the need to reassure our allies and point out when we think it does apply)..

I think if people actually READ it (even though it was draft and draft document should, well be considered for what they are, draft..), instead of relying on their 10 second paper headline or news soundbite they might actually conclude the US government was at least weighing all the considerations..but then that might lead to a thoughtful discussion of the points and why the President chose the courses of action he did...and why their wasn't better communication of our intentions..Eh, but all that doesn't make for sexy or partisan (both sides) news coverage ..

Posted by: Col Steve at May 30, 2004 09:16 PM

I did read the text of the entire memo (can't remember where, someone had a link to it). I understand that a draft is a draft, and not a signed proclamation.

At the same time, it's the perception I have, that the Administration decided a lack of "legal" protection was sufficient to allow them to do anything they wanted that draws, for me, a line between a draft opinion in a memo and Administration policy.

I'm not sure if that makes sense. I'm not faulting the person who wrote the memo, they were doing their job. I'm faulting the Bush Administration's policies as implemented.

Posted by: Anne at June 1, 2004 08:25 AM