What goes around, comes around.....

Mike Ballard swillsqueal at yahoo.com.au
Fri Jan 3 17:15:17 MST 2003


He laughs when he talks about battlefields
contaminated with radioactive waste. He can't stop
laughing when he talks about what he claims is a
massive government cover-up. And he keeps laughing
when he talks about his health problems, which he
attributes to deliberate Army negligence, and which
will likely kill him.

Talking to Rokke on the telephone is disturbing enough
without him laughing about such horrors. A strange
echo accompanies every utterance. When this bizarre
sound is pointed out to him, Rokke says he isn't
surprised: he claims his phone has been tapped for

It may be tempting to dismiss Rokke as a crank or a
conspiracy theorist, but Rokke is 35-year-veteran of
the U.S. Army, and he isn't just a disgruntled grunt.
Rokke ran the U.S. Army's depleted uranium project in
the mid-90s, and he was in charge of the Army's effort
to clean up depleted uranium after the Persian Gulf
War. And he directed the Edwin R. Bradley Radiological
Laboratories at Fort McClellan, Ala.

Yet if you type Rokke's name into a search engine on
any military website, you will draw a blank, as if he
doesn't exist.

If you read through hundreds of pages of government
documents and transcriptions of countless government
hearings regarding the military use of depleted
uranium, not once will you come across his name.

That is more than a little unusual, since Rokke and
his team were at the forefront of trying to understand
the potential health and environmental hazards posed
by the use of depleted uranium, or DU, on the

"We were the best they ever had," Rokke claims. He's
not bragging. He's laughing again.

The use of DU in combat is a fairly new innovation. It
was used for the first time in the Persian Gulf War as
the crucial component of armor-piercing, tank-busting

These munitions are tipped with DU darts that ignite
after being fired. The shells are so heavy and hot
that they easily rip through steel.

"It's like taking a pencil and pushing it through
paper," Rokke said.

This uranium "pencil" then explodes inside its target,
creating a deadly "firestorm."

As an anti-tank weapon, "these things are great,"
Rokke said. They enable U.S. troops to quickly take
out enemy tanks at long-range.

According to the Web site of the Deployment Health
Support Directorate, DU is "a by-product of the
process by which uranium is enriched to produce
reactor fuel and nuclear weapons components."

In other words, DU is low-level nuclear waste.
According to the same Web site, DU can also contain
trace amounts of "neptunium, plutonium, americium,
technitium-99 and uranium-236."

A total of 320 tons of DU munitions were fired during
the Gulf War. Rokke's job was to figure out how to
clean up U.S. tanks, the unfortunate victims of
"friendly fire," which had been blown apart by DU

After years of this kind of this work—in Kuwait and
Saudi Arabia, and on practice ranges in the U.S.—Rokke
reached a conclusion in 1996.

He told the Army brass that DU was so dangerous that
it had to be banned from combat immediately.

That conclusion, Rokke said, cost him his career.

'Contamination was all over'

Burning tanks, burning oil fields, charred bodies.

This was Kuwait after the Gulf War. Rokke had a
mission—clean up U.S. tanks contaminated with DU.

What Rokke found terrified him.

"Oh my God is the only way to describe it," Rokke
said. "Contamination was all over."

Rokke and his crew were measuring significant levels
of radiation up to 50 meters away from affected tanks:
up to 300 millirems an hour in beta and gamma
radiation, and alpha radiation from the thousands to
the millions in counts per minute (CPM) on a Geiger

"That whole area is still trashed," he said. "It's
hotter than heck over there still. This stuff doesn't
go away."

His team took three months to clean up 24 tanks for
transport back to the U.S.

The Army, Rokke said, took another three years to
fully decontaminate the same 24 tanks.

But the contaminated tanks weren't the only problem.

Within 72 hours of their inspections, Rokke and his
crew started getting sick.

But they continued with their work. They went back to
the U.S. to perform tests on Army bases. They
deliberately blew up tanks with DU rounds, then ran
over and jumped on the tanks while they were still
burning. They videotaped the uranium-oxide clouds
pouring out, and they measured the radiation being
thrown off.

In the past decade, Rokke said 30 men out of 100 who
were closely involved in these operations dropped

Rokke's lungs and kidneys are damaged. He believes
that uranium oxide dust is permanently trapped inside
his lungs. He has lesions on his brain, pustules on
his skin. He suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. He
has reactive airway disease, which means he can't stop
wheezing and coughing, and experiences a loss of
breath when he exercises. He also has fibromyalgia, a
condition that causes chronic pain in his muscles,
ligaments and tendons.

The VA tested Rokke for uranium levels in his body in
1994. He got the results back two and a half years
later. His urine had 5000 times the amount of
permissible uranium.

After years of fighting with the VA, Rokke said he
managed to get a 40 percent disability, but there is
no official acknowledgement that his illnesses were
caused by his work with DU.

The Army and the Pentagon continue to insist that DU
is safe. Rokke says they know better, because he gave
them the proof. He said they can't find evidence of
DU's dangers because "they're looking for the wrong
stuff, and they're using the wrong procedures."

The problem with DU, he said, is the stuff that's
given off when a round is fired. The projectile begins
burning immediately, and up to 70 percent of it
oxidizes. This aerosolized power—uranium oxide—is the
really dangerous stuff, Rokke said, particularly when
it is inhaled.

Rokke insists that he and his men were wearing
protective equipment—or equipment they thought would
protect them. But their face masks were capable of
straining out particles of 10 microns or larger.
That's as big as the DU particles get, according to
the Army and the Pentagon.

Rokke, however, insists that he has measured particles
as small as .3 microns, and that scientists at the
Livermore laboratories have measured them as small as
.1 micron.

Thus these safety precautions, which are still in
place now, are utterly useless, he said.

'I'm a warrior and a patriot'

About one quarter of the 700,000 troops sent to the
Persian Gulf War have reported some sort of Gulf
War-related illness, and Rokke is convinced that DU
has something to do with it, along with the host of
other chemicals to which troops were exposed,
including low levels of sarin gas, smoke from oil
fires, countless pesticides as well as anti-nerve gas
tablets which troops were required to ingest.

If Rokke is right about the dangers of DU, why does
the Department of Defense continue to use it and
insist that it is safe?

"When you go to war, your purpose is to kill," Rokke
said, "and DU is the best killing thing we got."

Rokke believes that the U.S. military is putting more
emphasis on firepower than on the health and safety of
its own troops.

He received a memo in the early 90s he says proves his

Dated March 1, 1991, the memo was written by Lt. Col.
M.V. Ziehmn at the Los Alamos Laboratories in New

"There has been and continues to be a concern
regarding the impact of dU [sic] on the environment.
Therefore, if no one makes a case for the
effectiveness of dU on the battlefield, dU rounds may
become politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted
from the arsenal," the memo reads. "If dU penetrators
proved their worth during our recent combat
activities, then we should assure their future
existence (until something better is developed)
through Service/DoD proponency. If proponency is not
garnered, it is possible that we stand to lose a
valuable combat capability. I believe we should keep
this sensitive issue at mind when after action reports
[sic] are written."

The meaning of this memo is quite clear, Rokke said.
Since DU munitions are so effective, they must
continue to be used in combat, regardless of the
environmental or health consequences.

The other issue is financial, he said. If the true
effects of DU were known, cleanup costs would be
absolutely staggering.

DU contaminated areas extend much farther than the
Persian Gulf battlefields. Rokke said DU is regularly
used in practice maneuvers in the U.S., namely in
Indiana, Florida, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Maryland
and Puerto Rico. Then there's Kosovo, where DU rounds
were used to take out Serbian tanks.

As the U.S. stands on the brink of another war with
Iraq, Rokke said he wants to make sure the American
public fully understands that this war will be far
worse that the last one, and that numbers of troops
sickened by DU is likely to be much higher.

Rokke insists he is no pacifist.

"I'm a warrior and a patriot," he said. Given a
verifiable threat against the U.S., “I would go to war
in a heartbeat."

But he said that he is speaking out for the good of
American troops, and for anyone, including Iraqi
troops and civilians, who could be exposed to DU.

"Am I pushing for peace today? Yes, I am," he said.

Before a war with Iraq can even be contemplated, Rokke
said, DU has to be removed from every arsenal in the

In order for that to happen, however, the Pentagon
would have to admit that Doug Rokke is right, and that
would come at a price that no one has even imagined.
But money can’t restore the lives of those that Rokke
says have died from DU, and money isn’t going to get
the uranium oxide out of his lungs. There are people
at the Pentagon who understand all this, Rokke claims,
and that he deems unconscionable.

"I hope God slam-dunks their butts, because this is
absolutely criminal," he said.

Posted December 30, 2002

"We are going to inherit the earth, there is not the slightest doubt about
that.  The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves
the stage of history.  We carry a new world, here, in our hearts.  That
world is growing this minute." -
    - Buenventura Durruti
"..under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education).  It is thus extremely difficult and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions."
  -Albert Einstein

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