Letter to the editor re: depleted uranium (DU)

Father Denny O'Mara penned the below letter to the editor of the El Paso Times, and provided a copy to Grassroots Press.

El Paso Times

Nov. 10, 2009

Dear Editor

I appreciated interview with Vietnam Vet Gilberto Telles yesterday. He said, I was diagnosed with bone cancer…caused by Agent Orange.”.

Regrettably, soldiers and civilians in First Gulf War and Iraq War have been exposed to disease-producing weapons more powerful than Agent Orange, namely, weapons treated with depleted uranium (DU). DU- treated shells, bombs, shell casings, tomahawk cruise missiles and Abram tanks have seriously damaged many of our soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

When these weapons explode or tanks are hit, radioactive particles are shot into the surrounding air, ground and dust. These particles, easily inhaled into the body, “can injure lungs, liver, kidneys”, according to Pentagon statement. A veteran told me: “In Iraq I never heard about depleted uranium.” Another said, “In 2007 we were given Geiger counters and protective equipment to use.” The Pentagon and Obama Administration need to discontinue use of these dangerous, radioactive weapons and provide adequate testing, diagnosis and treatment for those affected.

Our soldiers and Iraqi/Afghan people deserve our collective action to end the evil of DU weapons. God bless our efforts. Locally, have soldiers been damaged by using DU weapons on practice ranges

Denny O’Mara



ADDED COMMENTS- Revised on November 12, 2009

Three years ago I heard an interview with military nurse Captain Joyce Riley. She described the terrible medical effects of depleted uranium exposure on those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008 I heard and talked personally with Dr.Helen Caldicott, founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility about this topic.

Today after writing this letter I looked on internet.  

(1) Chandler Bollyn, on Aug. 15, 2004, wrote article “Depleted uranium blamed for cancer clusters among Iraq War Vets”-from Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

(2) October, this year, David Lindorff wrote “Depleted Uranium Weapons: Dead Babies In Iraq and Afghanistan Are No Joke”. –www.globalresearch.ca

This second article explains briefly and well how the weapons damage cells and organs.

The articles were noted when I put in “depleted uranium in Iraq war” in aol search.

Article one shows 2004:  info already there. Article 2 shows comment from a few weeks ago. Google search for “depleted uranium” has several references, including CADU, Campaign against Depleted Uranium

Early this year I went to a joint meeting of area business people and Ft. Bliss representatives. Lt. General Vane spoke about the world scene from military perspective and their continuing to welcome collaboration between the military and local business community. I asked him, “General, my question concerns the use of depleted uranium in joint projects between military and business personnel. 

My concern is for their safety in view of the harm done to those in Iraq exposed to depleted uranium which retains its radioactivity. Are there plans to use DU in your projects?”  General Vane answered, “I’m new here and don’t know.” He asked another general who replied,” We stopped using it one and a half years ago.”

It seems to me and a growing number of people that weapons makers and military decision makers have wrongly put our soldiers in harms way by approving and using DU weapons.  The Iraq War vet who told me about getting protective gear to escape harmful effects of DU also mentioned watching Iraqi children playing in the streets in the dirt and dust. His comment:  “I hate to think about what depleted uranium is doing to the Iraqi people.”

In the documentary “Poison Dust” an American Iraq war vet told that in the place where they were camped, there was brown dust on beds and pillows. Some Dutch marines were supposed to camp alongside of them but would not do so after testing the air and ground for radioactivity. The Dutch told the Americans that they should also move for their safety. The American troops stayed in their place. The local importance of this, apart from individuals affected, has to do with the practice of firing weapons and bombing that has gone on in McGregor Range and other parts of areas (White Sands, Holloman, Ft. Bliss). Given that DU was used and that its use was stopped two years ago, what are the consequences for those involved up to the point of stopping it about two years ago?  For some twenty years DU treated weapons have been used, especially in First Gulf War and Iraq.  There has been much practice bombing, firing weapons, in those areas not far from us.  What are the radiation levels in those places? What are the radiation levels in military and civilians who were there? This can be determined by complex tests (By the way, I lived in Alamogordo 1985-1992. We often heard explosions and sometimes felt the ground shaking when there were tests.)

Some might see these remarks as “just one more negative American complaining about our great country”. I’m an American concerned that our soldiers and veterans exposed to DU get helped and that DU weapons be eliminated for our benefit and that of Iraqi and Afghan peoples. It seems to me that Pentagon and weapons makers decided that DU weapons “destroyed and killed enemies better than other weapons and therefore we are justified to accept the “collateral damage” done to hundreds of thousands of US military and Iraqi/Afghan people.” Dear readers, how would you judge that decision? Was it realistic, responsible, human, morally responsible, and militarily necessary? Or would you judge it to be a decision and practice that is mistaken, irresponsible, inhuman, cruel, immoral, unnecessary and representative of the narrowest military mindset, able to disregard the consequences of Depleted Uranium for its unfortunate victims, including their own troops? I also understand that many military have been given inadequate or incorrect information about the consequences of use of DU weapons. Several years ago a Pentagon official said, “DU is a minor hazard compared to flying bullets.”(In documentary “Poison Dust”)  Is everything fair in love and war? DU weapons are the unfairest of them all, in my opinion. I welcome comments.  I’m no expert.---Denny O’Mara      omara.dennis@yahoo.com