Dr. doug rokke address on depleted uranium, true democracy, 11/10/00
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Dr. Doug Rokke Address on Depleted Uranium
, Spring 2002, Vol. 2, Issue 2
10 November 2000
The following is a copy of the Address given by Dr. Doug Rokke, former head of the Pentagon’s Depleted Uranium Project,at the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition 17th Annual Leadership Breakfast, at the U.S. Senate CaucusRoom on November 10, 2000. Adrian Cronauer was Master of Ceremonies.
Distinguished Members of Congress, Coalition Leaders, Fellow Warriors, and Guests -- It isa distinct honor to address you today. During the Gulf War I was the U.S. Army healthphysicist assigned to 12th Preventive Medicine AM theater command staff and the 3rd U.S.
Army Medical Command headquarters. I was recalled to active duty 20 years after serving inVietnam, from my research job with the University of Illinois Physics Department and sentto the Gulf to ensure that all military and civilian personnel were prepared for the anticipatednuclear, biological, chemical, and environmental exposures. I also was assigned to twoequally vital special operations teams: Bauer’s Raiders and the Depleted UraniumAssessment team.
The preparations for war take many forms. Infantry soldiers learn and practice their combatskills, truck drivers practice maneuvering their rigs to make sure they can deliver supplies,and medical personnel prepare to treat the expected combat casualties. Ideally, preparationsare driven by intelligence reports. However as the recent bombing of the U.S.S. Cole shows,commanders may ignore intelligence information and not protect either their personnel orequipment. Prior to the start of Operation Desert Storm military intelligence reports andthreats issued by President Saddam Hussein suggested that nuclear, biological, and chemicalwarfare and environmental hazards (NBC-E) would be employed to win battles.
As we prepared for the battle in the Deserts of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq, medical andcombat unit commanders realized that medical personnel must be able to provide emergencymedical care to conserve the fighting strength in an NBC-E environment. This required anassessment of medical capabilities. Four deficiencies were identified.
First, an assessment of existing emergency medical response capabilities in the staging
areas located within Saudi Arabia revealed the need to respond to medical emergenciesresulting from combat to disease and non-battle injuries (DNBI).
Second, an assessment of medical personnel arriving in Southwest Asia verified that
most of them did not have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to providemedical care for the expected nuclear, biological, chemical, and environmental(NBC-E) casualties much less the conventional weapons casualties.
Third, we verified that that most operations personnel needed a NBC-E defense
refresher course that was specifically designed for verified threats.
Fourth, we needed to design and construct decontamination facilities, prepare standard
decontamination procedures, and train personnel to provide immediate personnel andequipment decontamination.
Consequently, Bauer’s Raiders, the 3rd U.S. Army Medical Command theater NBC-Especial operations planning and teaching team was formed. Each team member had priorcombat experience and was a qualified medical and NBC-E instructor. This team alsodesigned and supervised the construction of the NBC decontamination facilities andprovided operations assistance throughout the echelons above corps, corps, and coalitionforces.
Since 1991 numerous Department of Defense reports have stated that medical and tacticalcommanders were unaware of the probable NBC-E exposures and never told about themedical and environmental consequences of these exposures. That is a lie! They were told!They were warned! Immediate and long-term medical care was recommended. The threats,health and environmental consequences, and medical care recommendations were providedin written messages and during courses such as the 3rd U.S. Army Medical Command &ARCENT Medical Management of Chemical and Biological Casualties, the NBC-E defenserefresher course, the Combat lifesaver course, and the Decontamination procedures coursewhich we taught to over 1200 military personnel in the theater between December 1990 andFebruary 1991. I gave the classified threat briefing, specifically identifying the anticipatedNBC-E exposures, taught the NBC-E defense refresher course, the combat lifesaver course,and decontamination procedures course. Thus I can confirm that commanders knew what toexpect and how to be prepared!
Another important fact is that although Department of Defense officials have stated over andover that the vital chemical and biological logs were misplaced or lost, U.S. GovernmentAccounting Office representatives and the Pulitzer prize winning author Seymour Herschhave verified that these logs were ordered destroyed in Florida during December 1996 whileCongressional committees were conducting hearings on potential exposures.
As the DU assessment team health physicist and medic I was responsible for planning andimplementing DU (Uranium 238) contaminated equipment and terrain clean up and forproviding medical care recommendations for exposed personnel. As we surveyed thebattlefield it became obvious that we had serious equipment, terrain, and medical problemsrequiring immediate action. Although effects of uranium exposure have been identified, theeffects from combat exposure during ODS were unknown. We had over 100 friendly fireU.S. casualties and several hundred others with verified exposures because of their U.S.
Department of Defense assigned duties. We also observed what is known as "Tours Are Us".
This event was numerous individuals visiting and climbing all over contaminated anddestroyed equipment and terrain without wearing any protection. I immediately contactedunit and the theater medical command staff to recommend medical care for all exposedindividuals. Consequently, the theater occupational health physician wrote and thendistributed immediate medical screening and care guidelines on June 13, 1991. As verifiedby GAO officials, it was ignored then and still is today.
Upon our return to the United States our team continued to recommend immediate medicalcare for DU exposures. I described DU hazards and exposures and once more recommended
immediate medical care during an Occupational Medicine conference held during February1992 at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Based on reports the GovernmentAccounting Office issued recommendations for medical care, environmental remediation,and training during January 1993.
On June 8, 1993, the Deputy Secretary of Defense ordered then Secretary of the Army TogoWest to "complete medical testing of personnel exposed to DU contamination during thePersian Gulf War". During August 1993, then Brigadier General Eric Shinseki signed theorder on behalf of the Army. This order, in most cases, is still disobeyed without anyaccountability. A Headquarters, Department of the Army memorandum dated October 14,1993 specified DU exposures that required medical screening and care. Although thesedirectives and Army regulations require medical screening care for those exposed to uraniumcontamination, representatives of the Department of Defense and Veterans affairs continueto deny or delay medical screening and care.
Today, affected individuals include military personnel from all nations that were involved,civilian non-combatants and even residents of Vieques, Puerto Rico, Okinawa, Tennessee,Kentucky, Kosovo, Serbia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The wartime and now peacetimedecision that you could just shoot solid rods of uranium 238 (DU) anywhere withoutproviding medical care for all exposed persons and without cleaning it up is a crime againstGod and the citizens of the world.
Recently, the U.S. Navy willfully used DU munitions during peacetime exercises on thePuerto Rican Island of Vieques in violation of laws and regulations. Still there is noaccountability for these actions that spread radioactive waste that causes indiscriminate harmto all that are exposed for 4.5 billion years unless contamination is cleaned up. I ask: Wouldany of you want hundreds if not thousands of rods of solid uranium weighing up to 10pounds each lying in your backyard? Of course not. So why should it be anywhere?
Depleted uranium was only one of the verified exposures which also included chemicalwarfare agents, biological warfare agents, pesticides, industrial chemicals, endemic diseases,sand (El Eskan disease), food borne illnesses, water borne illness, organic and inorganicbyproduct compounds from oil well fires, airborne particulates, asbestos, cleaningcompounds, low level radioactive materials, and then the deliberate immunizations and drugsdesigned to protect individuals from verified threats.
Many exposures were caused by our deliberate actions. We knew where Iraqi chemical andbiological chemicals were stored. So as General Schwarzkopf wrote in his autobiography ItDoesn’t Take a Hero
, we decided to blow them up with artillery rounds and aerialbombardment. Consequently chemical, biological, and radiological warfare materials werereleased. We had specifically discussed this anticipated consequence and that medical carewould be required for any exposures. Consequently, with these releases, thousands ofchemical agent alarms were going off all the time all over the battlefield documentingexposures. A couple of weeks ago, DOD officials announced that they were modifying theexposure list again.
It seems peculiar that 10 years after the fact and ten years after alarms went off that theexposure list is modified once more based on DOD analysis. Why can’t the assumption be
made if an individual was near an alarm that went off that they were exposed? Yet, today,DOD officials still claim the alarms were all false alarms. If the alarms are ineffective who isresponsible and why are they still in use? Because the logbooks were lost according to DODofficials, so there is no record of who was exposed based on alarm activation reports. Thusofficial denials continue to conflict with reality. And yet we wonder why confidence in DODleadership has eroded!
During the battle as enemy industrial and agricultural facilities, schools, businesses, andhospitals were destroyed, individuals were exposed to released hazardous materials. Then aswe prepared for battle, conducted battle, and cleaned up after the battle we exposed oursoldiers to more hazardous materials. For example, after the completion of the ground war, asenior logistics officer and I were sent into Iraq by LTG Franks to clean up the 7th Corpshazardous waste dump. It was a total mess with observable releases and spills resulting inadditional adverse health and environmental effects.
We also decided, based on the verified threats, to immunize our troops against a whole hostof diseases and biological warfare toxins such as anthrax and botulism. If immunizations hadbeen maintained rather than giving individuals four or five or even more simultaneousimmunizations we could have reduced adverse effects on the immune system. But we didnot. We gave individuals numerous shots at the same time and then did not keep track ofwhat was given or what adverse reactions occurred. We messed up immune systems beforedeployment.
Basically, after we declared war we had to immunize everyone. As I administered hundredsof anthrax and botulinum shots in Saudi Arabia, I could only wonder why we were orderednot to record any information. Once more, our actions to protect individuals against averified threat ignored common sense. Today we know that the anthrax manufacturingprocess was never inspected and approved by the FDA before 1993 and today the FDA stillhas not approved the facility.
We also know that there are adverse short term and probably long-term effects. The anthraxvaccine that we administered was licensed for prevention of cutaneous and not respiratoryanthrax. Then just within the last month, Department of Defense officials finally admittedafter continued denials that an illegal adjuvant, squalene, was used instead of alum in somevaccine batches. Consequently, we probably reduced the ability of the immune system tofight off the multitude of exposures that occurred.
Pesticides proved to be yet one more problem. Although, pesticides were ordered fromofficial Department of Defense sources, they did not arrive in sufficient quantities so wewere required to buy them on the open market to control a verified threat. Consequently,who knows what we actually used and what adverse effects could be related to their use?
The confirmed nerve agent threat resulted in the use of PB, which is actually a reversiblebond nerve agent, in an attempt to reduce the effects of chemical warfare nerve agents suchas Sarin, VX, Soman, Novachuks, and Multiple 7. PB can be compared to sprayinggumdrops with Raid or Black Flag and then eating them. We expected adverse reactionsfrom consumption of PB because it is a carbamate pesticide compound. Therefore, we madesure that NBC operations and medical personnel knew of potential adverse effects. Again,
we knew there would be health effects and yet commanders decided to ignore our warningsand force individuals to eat PB tablets. As part of our discussions we also identified andwarned about the anticipated interactions between pesticides, nerve agents, and drugs such asPB (pyridiostigmine bromide / mestinon). Official Department of Army medical recordsconfirm that over 50% of the individuals who took the PB got sick with nerve agent effects.
Oh well, another anticipated adverse health effect to ignore.
Food and water problems were all over. We could not ensure that Saudi government suppliedfood preparation and serving personnel met even basic U.S. public health requirements. Wesaw too many food borne health problems which once more caused adverse health problems.
Severe diarrhea was observed in troops eating at the mess hall located in the tent camp justoff of King Abdul Azziz Airfield in Riyadh during December of 1990.
I was one of the casualties. We traced the problems to contaminated food. Similar problemsoccurred all over the theater of operations through at least May 1991. At one time duringApril we had so many at KKMC that were sick and because we did not have the medicalsupplies required to treat them, we just let them ride it out without medical care. That waswrong! We do not even know if some type of biological agent was introduced via sabotageinto our food supply or if troops crossed contaminated areas. We do know that food waspurchased and served that had been grown in night soil which is untreated sewage. Weestablished strict rinsing and cleaning requirements during food preparation. However,without complete control of food preparation personnel, we do not know if these guidelineswere followed.
Water borne problems occurred during bathing, drinking, food preparation, anddecontamination. Rashes were observed in troops taking baths at Eskan Village and so wehad to order no baths or use of chlorine to sanitize the bath water. This created a problem forfemale hygiene efforts. Even with use of chlorine to sanitize the water before use, rashesabound! The Star Lighter showers which used water from a box which was open to the airalso caused problems, especially when water mixed with oil well combustion byproducts orother contaminants was used for bathing and washing clothes. We reported skin irritationupon taking a shower at King Kahlid Military City (KKMC) and other areas. Uniforms andclothes must be kept clean, yet my own DU team had to use the Star Lighters to clean ourclothes while we took showers. So more contamination was spread on the ground. We didnot have alternative choices to wash our contaminated clothes. The Service and Supply(S&S) Bath unit would not let us near their equipment and rightfully so for safety. I wonderhow we will keep uniforms and equipment clean in the future?
The burning of the oil wells as Iraqi forces retreated was an excellent tactical operation.
Health and environmental problems started immediately. Members of our unit weredispatched to conduct an initial assessment of potential risks. It was obvious that incompletecombustion of inorganic and organic compounds was occurring and that these were beingreleased into the air and onto terrain causing immediate respiratory and skin problems. Thereleased mixture was so thick that we used sticks to scrap the junk out of our nose, ears, andmouth. We reported immediate splitting headaches, breathing problems and burning skin.
Official on-site medical command reports said that exposures were causing immediateadverse health problems. Consequently, we, by unanimous agreement, prepared, issued, anddistributed the medical command directive that no one should be exposed to any oil well fire
byproducts without respiratory and skin protection.
We tried, yet, history proves that this directive was disregarded and now we suspect that theobserved illnesses are caused in part by oil well fire byproduct exposures. Today, the full listof byproducts has been published and any first year environmental chemistry or otherstudent studying hazardous materials would agree that you should never
expose anyone toeven one of these pollutants much less the entire combination. Once again, hazards wererecognized, warnings were issued, and recommendations ignored.
As we provided emergency medical care we wrote reports identifying respiratory problems,rashes, diarrhea, neurological, bone muscle injury, immediate problems from PB use, andimmediate problems from oil well byproduct exposures. These medical problems wereannotated into individual medical records as they occurred. Although medical records didexist before individuals and units were redeployed the records disappeared. Oh well, if thereis not any diagnosed evidence of adverse health effects . . . there is not any problem.
Medical personnel who performed the redeployment physicals deliberately ignored reportedproblems and denied that any exposures occurred. I tried to get my verified exposures listedbut they said none occurred and refused to list the exposures or treat my respiratory and rashproblems.
Once we returned to the U.S. the observed health concerns forced the U.S. Department ofDefense to initiate the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program (CSEPP). I went throughthe program during which serious medical problems were found that my VA physicians nowknow were caused by wartime exposures. Yet, despite my best efforts the CSEPP programphysicians refused to provide the medical tests required to verify known exposures.
However, even the diagnosed problems that they did verify were never placed in my officialmilitary medical file.
My medical reports, along with hundreds of others, were separated, locked up in a specialroom at Noble Army Hospital, Fort McClellan, Alabama, until I was told they were there andI was finally able with intervention to obtain these secret files during the fall of 1997. Theywere sent to me in the mail. I then had my Army Reserve Command Chief Nurse review themedical evidence and insert them into my official military medical file.
Yet, it is worse. As we completed the Depleted Uranium Burn Test at the Department ofEnergy Nevada Test Site in November 1994, DOE medics performed a radio-bioassay on methat found 5,000 times the permissible level of uranium in my body. Then they never told mefor 2.5 years. Again a deliberate action to deny medical care by preventing correlation ofexposures to adverse health effects!
I am painting a picture that shows we knew about the threats, warned commanders about thethreats, recommended medical care that was and is still ignored, and that our leadership hasabandoned the troops for political purposes. Yet it gets worse. While preparing to conductour command level briefings and courses two senior Army medical officers came fromAberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland to make sure we limited our information tocommanders and medical personnel. In other words, do not tell them -- they will not know --and we will not be responsible.
These two senior officers went to my unit commander and told him to force me to stopmaking sure the commanders and troops knew about the hazards and were ready to respondto the anticipated exposures and consequence health and environmental problems. After thatfailed they went to the 3rd U.S. Army Medical Command Staff to force us to stop and thatfailed! There were and still are dedicated professionals who care! Yet despite our best effortsthe exposures occurred and today individuals are sick and medical care was and still isdenied! Exposures will continue because despite our efforts environmental remediation hasbeen delayed or not completed.
To paraphrase 1950’s television program title; "I Was There!" We knew. We warned. Wewere ignored. Today we are still ignored. Today, too many individuals around the world aresuffering and dying because of our deliberate actions. In simple words, the battlefield was atoxic soup to which all civilians and military were exposed. Reported, observed, and verifiedmedical problems include: respiratory problems, rashes, cancer, dental problems, eyeproblems, muscle weakness, neurological problems, birth defects, sexual dysfunction, kidneyproblems, memory problems, pain, cardiac problems, blood problems, thyroid problems,liver problems, and immune system failures.
denials continue, when you see the same health problems over and overagain in individuals from around the world then we must acknowledge a cause and effectrelationship and accept responsibility to provide medical care.
Today, many of us, including scientists, physicians, pastors, and others who decided to speakup about what occurred, why it occurred, what should have been done years ago, and whatshould be done now, have lost jobs, experienced retaliation, and been threatened byDepartment of Defense, Department of the Army, and Department of Veterans Affairsofficials. The direct and indirect threats, warnings, and attacks also have been directed to ourfamily members to bring pressure on us to stop demanding accountability.
This is all about liability! Therefore the truth must be suppressed! If what happened isacknowledged, then specific individuals within our government and other governments willbe required to accept responsibility for the consequences of deliberate actions. The healthand environmental problems are not limited to Iraq or surrounding areas. Similar adversehealth and environmental effects have been identified within and around U.S. militaryinstallations or Department of Energy facilities in Alabama, Washington, California, Alaska,Tennessee, Korea, Panama, Germany, Philippines, Maryland, Nevada, Florida, andespecially surrounding the U.S. Navy range on the Vieques, Puerto Rico. I recently had thefather of a warrior stationed in California come up to me while I was eating supper in arestaurant outside Chicago to ask for help in obtaining medical care for his family who wassick from exposures.
Another dangerous location is Calhoun County (Fort McClellan) Alabama. Extensive PCBcontamination mixed with contamination from DOD activities and the potential release ofnerve and mustard agents during weapons incineration without any effective emergencyresponse threatens the residents and the environment. DOD and Army representatives havetold the residents of Calhoun County to just close their doors and windows and hold theirbreath in the event of releases. Oh my god!
Recently, Denver Colorado residents were faced with the discovery of a bomb containing thenerve agent Sarin in a garbage dump. Somehow, Army officials had lost it! Then in a newpress report dated November 1, 2000 the Army admitted that there may be more lost Sarinbombs lying around the Rocky Mountain facility. No wonder very few individuals trustDOD Leaders.
No matter where I go, I encounter individuals or families members seeking help. I receivetelephones call day and night. Individuals approach members of my family asking for help.
Physicians and scientists attending an international conference this past weekend atManchester, England described, discussed, and carefully verified the serious adverse healthproblems from chemical, biological, and radiological materials releases.
The cancer rates, birth defects, neurological problems, respiratory problems, rashes, kidneyproblems, and many other medical problems seem to be increasing throughout Iraq, Kuwait,Serbia, Korea, England, France, Australia, Canada, Japan, the U.S. and the Vieques, PuertoRico.
Basically the official denial of exposures and consequent adverse health and environmentaleffects has been ongoing for years. The dilemma is that we made decisions based on verifiedthreats and the tactical situation which were correct at that time, but then since 1991 DODand VA officials have ignored the consequences of these decisions and refuse to acceptresponsibility for current adverse health and environmental effects. The evidence exists andis increasing so we must acknowledge the adverse health and environmental effects of ouractions.
So what are our national obligations? Two hundred and twenty-four years ago, theMinutemen of Massachusetts responded to a call to arms and our Nation was born. Now, tenyears after the Gulf War and the abandonment of our nation’s military personnel and theirfamilies, recruiting and retention to fill our military forces with dedicated men and women isfailing because Warriors have been denied earned medical care and too many are living onfood stamps! Our nation is at risk!
I and others have sent numerous messages to the Honorable Dr. Bernard Rostker, DeputySecretary of Defense, who was not there, whose staff was not there, and whose staff stillignores the warnings and recommendations of those of us who were there, for political andeconomic reasons. It is painfully obvious that DOD and VA officials have no intention ofaccepting responsibility for what has happened! The reason is very simple. If theyacknowledge what happened to our nation’s heroes and accept responsibility for medicalcare and environmental remediation then these same officials must acknowledge theconsequences of our actions on non-combatants and enemy forces around the world. Wesuggested that Dr. Rostker, Secretary of Defense Cohen, or President Clinton state that:
During the Gulf War essential decisions to protect our warriors and win the war were made basedon the tactical situation and verified threats. Today, we know that those decisions and ourdeliberate actions have resulted in serious adverse health and environmental consequences. Wecan no longer ignore the consequences of our deliberate actions. We apologize to our warriors,our warrior’s families, and the citizens of the world. We resolve to provide medical care ormedical care recommendations and complete environmental remediation.
Although, we have offered this solution many times it is ignored! We owe the combatveterans of our nation the medical care they earned! We must provide all warriors witheducation and training to ensure combat readiness and prevent a repeat of what has occurred.
We must provide military personnel with all of the operational equipment they need tocomplete their assigned missions.
We must hold those officials who have willfully harmed our nation’s heroes accountable fortheir deliberate actions. We must force a stop to the retaliation against those warriors who tryto tell the truth and who epitomize our nation’s ideals expressed so eloquently by GeneralDouglas MacArthur’s three immortal words: Duty, Honor, Country.
We have the ultimate obligation as leaders of the world to provide medical care or medicalcare recommendations to all that are sick. Finally we have an obligation to completeenvironmental remediation of contamination caused by our deliberate actions throughout theUnited States and the rest or the world!
I want to recite a poem that I wrote in memory of SFC John Sitton, a Vietnam and Gulf WarVeteran, who answered his nation’s call during two wars. He was my friend. He is a trueAmerican hero because he set up and ran the 3rd U.S. Army’s medical evacuation radiocommunications system during the Gulf War. It is ironic that the warrior who saved so manylives died abandoned on the battlefield of political denials.
One moment an individual was walking through a meadow of flowers. In the next moment sons, daughters, husbands, and wives became soldiers. They defended our nation and paid with their life or health. The Citizen Soldier -- The Minuteman. Our nation is built on their willingness to respond to our nation’s call. Some fought in the jungles of Vietnam, yet many responded to fight in a distant desert war. They fought with skill and determination and freed a land. Then our nation’s warriors returned home to parades and parties and joy spread from shore to shore. But when the glow subsided the warriors remained alone and forgotten. We asked them to fight and then forgot to provide them medical care. We research and study and search for a cause delaying response through ignorance and fear. Yet the forgotten warriors suffer in silence with honor and hope. For all the forgotten warriors want is medical care.
Ladies and gentlemen: we have an obligation to do what is right for God, our warriors, andthe citizens of the world! I will never quit until all individuals are cared for andenvironmental remediation is completed. I was ordered to complete that mission as a soldierand I will succeed even in the face of adversity! Today, I ask you to help. Unlike anotherwarrior, I am one soldier who will not just fade away.
Copyright 2000 Doug Rokke Copyright 2002 True Democracy
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.
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