Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug. 14, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper
By John Catalinotto
It's no surprise that the Pentagon's opponents expose its policies and think them dangerous. But when the opposition arises from within the government's own forces, you know there is a real crisis brewing.
At a July 23 meeting in Philadelphia to discuss the dangers from depleted uranium weapons, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who is also the Veteran Administration's own nuclear-medicine expert spoke out about the threat facing humanity from DU.
Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a fellow of the American College of Physicians and professor of radiology and nuclear medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, made his stand against DU. Durakovic served as U.S. Medical Team leader in the Soviet Union for the Nuclear Treaty Joint Verification Experiment in 1988 and medical consultant for Children of Chernobyl at Had asah University in Jerusalem in 1991.
Durakovic also served with the U.S. military in Operation Desert Shield--the prelude to the January-February 1991 war against Iraq.
He told the meeting organized by the National People's Campaign that he had come "to testify about whether there was risk or no risk to human beings, ecology and the environment from DU." He added that he also came to give "testimony of the truth because the VA asked me to lie about the risks of incorporating DU in the human body."
Durakovic said: "I would not lie. I've come here tonight to see who is lying"--the government or the opponents of DU. In his whole talk, he explained the reasons DU weapons posed a threat to humanity.
The Pentagon, he said, performed an "experiment on 1 million human beings on the side of the U.S.-led alliance" [during the Gulf War] and "on 3 million humans on the Iraqi side."
Durakovic is former chief of Nuclear Medicine at the VA Medical Facility in Wilmington, Del. It was there that he assessed 24 soldiers of the 144th Transportation and Supply Company of New Jersey for evidence of DU in their bodies.
The soldiers had worked on tanks and armored personnel carriers damaged by friendly fire--that is, hit with shells cased with DU.
He sent the soldiers to a clinic in Boston where Dr. Belton Burroughs and Dr. David Slingerland performed a whole-body count of uranium 238 on the veterans. They found that 14 of the 24 had been contaminated. According to Durakovic's June 26 testimony before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, the government "lost" all records of these examinations.
In Philadelphia Durakovic was firm in stating that uranium is not dangerous in the ground but is dangerous if embedded in the body, ingested and especially if inhaled. He challenged those government scientists who claim uranium is not dangerous to argue the question with him.
Durakovic explained how the high-density DU shells burned during the Gulf War, spreading uranium oxide through the air where it could be inhaled by anyone in the vicinity, including many GIs. He also cited experiments by others showing that 84 percent of dogs exposed to inhaled uranium died of cancer of the lungs.
Durakovic concluded that "uranium is dangerous, it does cause cancer, uranium does cause mutation, and uranium does kill. If we continue with the irresponsible contamination of the biosphere, and denial of the fact that human life is endangered by the deadly isotope uranium, then we are doing disservice to ourselves, disservice to the truth, disservice to god and to all generations who follow."
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