“My name is John Marshall. I was
exposed to DU (depleted
uranium). I am 100 percent disabled and I am pissed-off. In fact, I was
advised by a couple of my counselors not to do this [interview] because I’m
so angry with the government—at the VA system, at the way I’m treated and
other veterans are treated. It’s very impersonal. They don’t give you any
time. They ask us to go fight their wars, do the dirty work and then they
can’t take care of you.”
Most people don’t believe the U.S. has been poisoning its own troops in Iraq
and Afghanistan, or they’ve heard about uranium “tipped” bombs—like
fingernail polish painted on the outside of a shell casing. On the contrary,
these are solid uranium core projectiles.
“I got a thank you (letter) from some lieutenant colonel. ‘Thank you for
serving our country. We express our deepest gratitude but we believe you
were one of these men who were exposed to depleted uranium either through
shrapnel or inhalation of dust.’
“I’m 35, I take 17 medications, I’ve had cancer—lymphatic cancer, Hodgkin’s
disease—Lennert’s lymphoma was the initial diagnosis—immune system.”
At age 35 John Marshall should be beginning to peak in his career. As a
handsome man, married with three children, Marshall exudes energy. He looks
strong, earthy, limps a bit on the left, has a thick build with a lean neck
and chin. The military was his career. Being exposed to DU has been called a
“Of course they [the VA] downplay everything. There’s latency periods. The
bottom line is, they don’t know the long-term effects. Everybody’s going to
react different. Some are going to get sick. Some might be able to last a
little bit longer. I’ve been sick since I’ve been back.”
On Jan. 6, 1991, Corporal John Marshall flew to the Persian Gulf and waited
for the equipment for his mechanized infantry group to arrive. “A Bradley is
a tin casket” with a 25 mm cannon and “every piece of armament you can think
of” but no outside shielding armor. Marshall didn’t feel safe inside a
Bradley. He preferred being a ground soldier, trusting his legs more than an
aluminum transport on tracks.
“I was a team leader on the ground. I had my own fire team. I didn’t want to
be a [Bradley] gunner because I didn’t want to be responsible for the men’s
lives because if a gunner screws up, you got nine men dead. And I didn’t
want to take that burden. And that’s where a lot of my guilt, my survivor
guilt, comes from.
with the 2nd Armored Division, forward, it was brigade sized, and we were
attached to the 7th Corps, 1st Infantry Division. The initial reports were
that in the first 24 hours of the ground war 3,000 out of 4,000 just in my
brigade were supposed to die. That was scary going into Iraq. That’s what
they projected. Thank God things didn’t work out that way.
“When the ground campaign kicked off [February 24, 1991] we cleared numerous
bunkers. We did lots of things that I don’t really want to talk about too
much. We went north into Iraq, then we did a fish-hook to cut off the supply
lines and communication of the Republican Guard. They were retreating. It
was a Kill and Destroy Mission, kill and destroy everything that was enemy.
That’s what we did.
“We had some resistance. Most of them were not Republican Guard. Most of
them were civilian Iraqis. But on the night of the 26th we hit a dug-in
position and everybody in the vehicle was pretty much banged up except for
two of us.”
Marshall was asked to go up in the Bradley gun turret. “I could have done
it. I should have done it. I had the capability. Partially it was a small
percent of fear but I’d rather fight on the ground. We dismounted; we were
throwing hand grenades down the hatch—a lot of times Iraqi tanks would play
possum with us.
“When we hit that [resistance] the rest of the task force continued on. We
got separated from them for the entire night. We were maneuvering for the
entire night alone. We were getting out [of the Bradleys], we were engaging.
So anyway we managed to get through the night and on the morning of the 27th
we came across a large enemy bunker complex. We figured it’s a company size,
there’s 120-or-so Iraqis. There’s 18 men in two Bradleys and these guys are
surrendering to us.
“So we’re taking them prisoner. The LT [lieutenant] finally gets radio
contact with the commander and says we have prisoners.” They were ordered to
take the prisoners to a support unit to the south and then rendezvous with
the rest of the task force.
“I just checked on one of my soldiers who had a gash on his head and then
the commander comes over the radio and says get the fuck out of
there—there’s supposed to be a counter attack by a large element.
“I started walking and all of a sudden we started taking heavy fire. Two
sabot rounds hit our Bradley within 6 feet of me. It’s a dart of depleted
uranium. I’m breathing radioactive dust and the toxins from the Bradley. I
got sparks flying all over me.
what I’m talking about. If I’d gotten in that turret that night maybe I
could have changed the situation. Maybe we wouldn’t have been—and maybe
people wouldn’t have been—but, then I got behind this bunker. There’s about
15 Iraqis inside there. And I tried to shoot them but my weapon jammed. So I
cleared my weapon. M-16. It was a terrible weapon. It jammed all the time.
“And those Iraqis, they were crying, they were defecating themselves,
urinating themselves. They were so shell shocked, absolutely so traumatized
by the situation. So I felt a bit of empathy. Anyways, that didn’t work out.
One of my soldiers is shooting at a truck, I’m pumping 203-rounds, it’s a
grenade launcher, I managed to get my rifle operational. I didn’t worry
about these [Iraqi] guys. They were out of the fight. They just wanted to
“Things happened. There was an Iraqi running towards me and—I capped him. I
used to see—if I kept my eyes open I could see him all the time.”
Three days into the war John Marshall had shrapnel in his shoulder that
might have been DU-contaminated, and dust in his lungs. Embedded reporters
on American TV showed soldiers firing into the distance—rounds and rounds of
blasts chasing the horizon. In February 1991 the dust storms were so fierce
soldiers two feet away looked like shadows.
In February 2006 a spike in DU over Britain was made public in the Oct. 12,
1999, Aldermaston Report. And CNN reported the U.S. lung cancer rate jumped
six-fold for the first two months of the year. DU dust doesn’t stay put just
as radiation hits from Chernobyl bounced around the world on air currents.
It is estimated that lung cancer incubates 2 to 5 years after DU inhalation.
Four and a-half years ago the Afghan bombing campaign began. Three years ago
Iraq War 2 exploded. And if it’s in the air, it’s in the water.
March 2006, there is not a single veteran with confirmed DU health problems,
according to VA testimony in the Minnesota Senate Agriculture, Veterans and
Gaming Committee. Sen. Steve Murphy’s (D-Red Wing) Veterans Health Screening
Bill died when Rep. Kathy Tingelstad (R-Andover) refused to hear the bill in
the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee. Veterans
are given the Ames test which is actually not specific enough to ascertain
DU contamination. All of us have uranium in our urine because uranium is
ubiquitous in the environment. The real DU test costs $1,000. The wars cost
more than $1 billion a week.
Power & Weapons
Depleted uranium comes from enriching uranium for nuclear weapons or for
nuclear reactor-grade fuel. Uranium for nuclear power or weapons is so
refined that more than 99 percent of it is a “by-product”—depleted uranium.
To some, exporting DU waste as weapons in the Third World represents a
Machiavellian policy solution to the toxic waste management problem. If more
nuclear power facilities are built, more, much more uranium will be refined
with mountains of DU waste. Already there are tons and tons of depleted
uranium, shipped around the United States and processed into solid bars.
Depleted uranium (DU) is a heavy metal, more dense than lead. Processed DU
bars come in various sizes and are cut to length. These solid bars become
the bones, the core, the “penetrator,” the innards, of 15 kinds of
munitions, sized 20 to 120 millimeters, manufactured by Alliant TechSystems.
Alliant TechSystems, ATK on the stock exchange, is headquartered in Edina,
just off Highway 169. ATK made more than $3 billion last year. “We are the
largest provider of small-caliber ammunition to the Department of Defense,
supplying more than 95 percent of all the rounds used for combat and
training,” ATK’s website boasts.
The corporate headquarters is a posh suburban executive building with smoked
windows. The pond between the freeway and Lincoln Drive is a settlement trap
for contaminants from stormwater runoff, and a dewatering drain for
development on low lands. Normally wetland vegetation can filter stormwater
enough to attract waterbirds.
the property managers at the ATK building mow, fertilize and water their
lawn into turf perfection. They have ringed the pond with rocks to
discourage geese—a lifeless yard but crows frequently perch on their roof.
ATK management treats their lawn the same way they treat people—it’s their
world view. (In ancient northern Europe crow was the corpse eater, crow
carried away dead warriors. But in southern Europe the Romans heard crow as
a symbol of the future, crying “Tomorrow, tomorrow,” “Cras, cras.”)
War always starts out with hope and delivers death. If war worked it would
have worked by now. To turn the crow warning into a future hope consider the
crow’s foot as a peace sign without the circle. The peace sign was created
by Lord Bertrand Russell during Easter of 1958 for a nuclear disarmament
march in England. The design relates to the international semaphore
alphabet: N for nuclear, D for disarmament, in a circle indicating complete,
worldwide total. Nuclear disarmament requires alternatives to nuclear power;
nuclear power was sold to the American people as the “peaceful atom.” We’ve
always know “the peaceful atom is a bomb.”
If DU particles are inhaled, alpha radiation causes cell damage, lymph
cancers and lung cancer. Beta radiation attacks the eyes and skin.
Chemically, DU acting as a heavy metal affects bone and kidneys. DU has a
half life of 4 ½ billion years. America has a national debt of $8.4
trillion. No matter how you count it, cancer and debt is on the rise in our
When a DU munition is fired it burns through a target (or a missed target)
and self-sharpens as it moves, leaving a trail of contaminated dust, like
smoke, in its wake. It is a superbly efficient weapon. As a health risk it
is guaranteed: disaster, heartbreak, physical agony, financial ruin, and
emotional yo-yo on a time scale without end, except in retrospect.
About 340 tons of DU munitions were fired during Iraq War 1. In the Balkans,
notably Kosovo, approximately 11 tons of DU were delivered. The Christian
Science Monitor reports estimates of 75 tons (official U.S. military figure)
to 1,000 tons of DU munitions used in Iraq War 2 so far. Most of the bullets
and shells lodge in the soil.
Department of Defense recommends the removal of heavily-contaminated soil
and long-term monitoring because the soil leaches DU poisons into the water.
Crops grown in the soil and water from local supplies spread DU toxins into
the food chain. And humans, at the top of the food chain, ingest the poisons
and pass along strengths and weaknesses to the next generation if they
There is an “observed higher prevalence of birth defects among infants
conceived postwar to Gulf War veterans of both sexes,” reported Araneta,
Schlangen, Edmonds, et al, in their study “Prevalence of birth defects among
infants of Gulf War veterans in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia,
Hawaii, and Iowa,” 1989-1993. More study was needed, they concluded.
“The total number of all types of birth defects was not greater than
expected, but whether the number of specific birth defects was greater than
expected could not be determined,” Penman, Tarver and Currier reported in
“No evidence of increase in birth defects and health problems among children
born to Persian Gulf War Veterans in Mississippi.” The Center for Disease
Control (CDC) states that “because of the small number of cases found by the
study, the statistical power of the study was low.” According to the CDC,
the “normal” birth defect statistic is one out of every 33 births in the
While the experts duel with statistics, DU munitions continue to be fired.
The old Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP), where DU bullets were
made, contaminated the New Brighton water supply. They say it’s cleaned up
now and won’t be our Love Canal. For years, peace activists have called for
a study tracking the health of Honeywell/Alliant workers who made the DU
Of the 580,000 Iraq War 1 veterans, 56 percent have applied for disability
treatment and benefits. Depleted uranium is the sin of the father visited
upon the next generation, whether it’s parental illness, death, or birth
defects and genetic damage inherited by untold generations. Brothers, if
you’re going over, bank your sperm. Sisters, if you’re going over—have your
Iraq is a nuclear war. DU munitions are weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Yes, there are WMDs in Iraq.
How do you ask for forgiveness?
Marshall went through EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
for the tape loop of the Iraqi running toward him. “I could just look at you
and see him. Now I have to think about it to see him.
“Anyway, I continued firing and I got hit. I got hit in the back. I didn’t
feel it. All I felt was the hot blood running down my back. There was an
Iraqi priest right next to me. He’s crying, he’s got the book of Koran and
he offers me some water and I wasn’t going to drink the water because I
didn’t know if it was contaminated. And I smoked at the time, and he offered
me a cigarette, and I sure as hell smoked that. I’m surprised they didn’t
try to kill me ’cause I tried to kill them.
“So anyhow, things started to settle down and our own friendlies got to the
other friendlies and told them you’re shooting up friendlies.”
They eventually got evacuated. Marshall was sent to five different field
hospitals and began his traverse through the VA system. Cpl. John Marshall
got cancer, a 15-year cough, and a Purple Heart. “I lost my career and I
lost my health.
“I was very successful in my career,” Marshall states. “I’m really having a
“I’m just tired. I just feel tired of fighting these bastards in the
hospital. They don’t believe in prevention. My tumor wasn’t sent to
pathology. The government waits. They wait for the veterans to die.
“I try to stay active.” He likes to garden. “Each day is just a matter of
survival.” His goal is to live another two years so his family can collect
benefits. “The way I feel, two years seems like forever to me.” His hope is
that the two little ones, the boys aged 12 and 8, don’t get cancer. ||