RANGER AGAINST WAR: Depleted Uranium is the New Orange <

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Depleted Uranium is the New Orange

While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind,"
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.

* * *

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;

--Rudyard Kipling, Tommy


Soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are displaying a cluster of similar medical problems, problems which many attribute to their exposure to depleted uranium (DU) on the battlefield. But they are not finding advocates among the doctors who are treating them, nor among the government officials that sent them into battle (New York Daily News, "Justice for GI'S?", 9/09/06).

The government's position is that soldiers cannot sue for injuries sustained in the line of duty. As always, the government contends "any trial of this would be second-guessing sensitive military matters that civilian courts should not be discussing." Sound familiar? The same old chant--truth must be sacrificed an the altar of "national security".

To circumvent this little matter of cloaked evidence, why doesn't the U.S. simply do away with the cumbersome civilian court system entirely and institute military and secret tribunals to satisfy its lust for secrecy?

The article compares this new mystery illness to the "massive illnesses that afflicted Vietnam war soldiers from Agent Orange." Of course, the use of the past tense verb here implies that problem has been laid to rest--that there were illnesses, and that soldiers were affected. However, speaking as one of the "afflicted" and on the behalf of many others, I can attest to the fact that the sickness does not always resolve itself.

If the cause of the illness and appropriate treatment is left undetermined, these soldiers will not simply suffer the immediate and obvious results of, say, deformed offspring, but a slow unfolding of debilitation over the length of their own lives.

If my case is representative, there will be suggestions in the medical record that the etiology of the illness lie in the soldier's own makeup, and simply lay dormant until, quite coincidentally, illness manifested following service duties.

The implication is fantastic, really: that the fine VA doctors discovered that you were actually a blighted individual all along, but thank goodness you came on board with Uncle Sam, and His medical team can then dismiss you to the dispensary to pick up your satchel of drugs to quiet you down now.

Soldiers now get debilitated from their service not only via direct bodily assault, but by exposure to unknown toxins, and suffer painful maladies that are ignored by the people with the "We Support the Troops" bumper stickers. Sick + soldier is not an equation that feels good to the cheering masses. Soldiers are supposed to recover and get back up on their feet, to be recycled for the next tour.

I cannot adequately express my reaction to the dismissive treatment received by U.S. combat veterans from all agencies which they must ultimately deal with upon their return from duties--revulsion, anger and disgust are but a few. The full extent of disease caused by Agent Orange is still ignored by the government, and DU-related sickness will get the same lip service. Unfortunately, the VA offers no second opinions, and the economic status of most combat soldiers precludes their access to alternate civilian medical care.

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