Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the May 1, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper
Metal of Dishonor-How the Pentagon Radiates Soldiers & Civilians with
DU Weapons, published by the International Action Center, $12.95 paperback, 280 pp.
By Otto Dusek
Gen. Colin Powell told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee April 17 that the Pentagon command had never received CIA warnings about nerve gas stored in Iraqi ammunition depots.
Contradicting the CIA, Powell said "none of us" had "any reason to believe that the blowing up of these bunkers was exposing our troops to a hazard for which they were not prepared."
Powell was full of sympathy for the veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome. Anyone reading his testimony might think the Pentagon high command has nothing but the highest concern for the safety of U.S. rank-and-file troops-if not for enemy soldiers and civilians. And that they were scouring every corner to find possible causes of Gulf War Syndrome.
No one who reads "Metal of Dishonor," however, would believe this.
With over 25 articles from physicists, doctors, veteran advocates, Native, community, environmental and anti-nuclear activists and legal and political analysts, "Metal of Dishonor" paints a different picture of Pentagon policies.
Among the contributors to "Metal of Dishonor" are former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, nuclear physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, Native spokesperson Manuel Pino and Gulf War veteran Carole Picou.
Working with a team from the Depleted Uranium Education Project of the International Action Center, Workers World newspaper Managing Editor John Catalinotto helped edit and organize the articles.
"Metal of Dishonor" draws a vivid picture of a new, highly dangerous material the Pentagon relies on as the main raw material for its penetrator shells and bullets: depleted uranium or DU.
Some 1.7 times as dense as lead, DU turns shells into penetrators that cut through steel-plated tanks like a hot knife through butter. With a billion pounds of DU lying around the United States as toxic nuclear waste, it is also a fantastically cheap raw material.
DU also emits low-level radiation and is poisonous. The tiny aerosolized particles spewed forth when DU burns-as it always does on contact with steel-can travel hundreds of miles before coming to rest as a perpetual radioactive "hot spot" in someone's lungs.
Proving its point
A more cohesive presentation with a single author might have been easier for readers to follow. But the collection in "Metal of Dishonor" has the advantage of surrounding the Pentagon's arguments from all directions, not allowing the top brass and their public-relations hacks room to slip out.
The Pentagon claims it cares for the soldiers. Read the chapters on how atomic weapons were tested on troops. Read how these troops could not even complain publicly without risking charges for revealing secrets.
The Pentagon says low-level radiation is not so dangerous. Read of the impact of nuclear testing on Marshall Islanders in the South Pacific, or of the radiation poisoning suffered by Native peoples in the U.S. Southwest, or of high breast-cancer levels near Brookhaven Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y. Or read a scientific explanation of why low- level radiation is still a high-level danger.
Some of the most damning arguments are quoted from Pentagon documents themselves. These reveal that even as DU was being tested in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon knew of its potential dangers to the troops and to the environment. Yet no troops were warned about dangers from boarding burned-out Iraqi vehicles.
"Metal of Dishonor" also contains a section on the harm the Pentagon caused to the environment and population of Iraq, which suffered so greatly from the war and subsequent United States/United Nations sanctions.
Will DU weapons spread around the world? Can they create an environmental disaster? Are they a major cause of Gulf War Syndrome? Can this threat be stopped?
"Metal of Dishonor" takes up these questions and backs up IAC national organizer Sara Flounders' demand for an independent
investigation-carried out by labor and community groups and representing the Pentagon's victims-to find the truth about Gulf War Syndrome and DU. The Pentagon, the Congress can't be trusted with this task.
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