Depleted Uranium: Here, There and Everywhere

Major Doug Rokke interviewed by Dennis Bernstein

May 2003

BERNSTEIN: Now, are you yourself ill? Did you get sick from it?

ROKKE: Absolutely. My exposure was due to inhalation, and that was faulty gas masks which are faulty today and the Department of the Army has acknowledged it, the Department of Defense of has acknowledged it, the US General Accounting Office has verified that the gas masks are defective. The filters are inadequate to take out the primary less than .1 - .3 micron uranium particles that go right in the lung. And so therefore we had problems. When I got tasked by the Army to clean it up in 1991, we were all sick within 24 hours with respiratory problems and rashes, and they continued. The first cancers in our team developed within 8-9 months, the first deaths from cancers were within a couple of years.

...So it's real simple.
You end up with
massive contamination...


BERNSTEIN: Let's talk just a little bit more about the protection side of this. We assume from US reporting, or lack thereof, that the reason soldiers are wearing gas masks and are all suited up is to defend against an attack by chemical or biological weapons. Can we assume in part that they're suited up to protect themselves from the use of depleted uranium?

ROKKE: The United States Army Common Task Training Manual that all soldiers must comply with, and again it's the depleted uranium task, requires all respiratory and skin protection in and around any uranium munitions use, downwind or in a vehicle that's been hit. Absolutely required. The other problems that you have is, yes, Iraq does — did possess chemical and biological weapons, and that area is totally contaminated. We know that it's still contaminated (because of) the measurements have done. In December of 1991, a decision was made at General Schwarzkopf's headquarters — this is verified in his book, It Doesn't Take a Hero, on page 390, that we would deliberately and willfully blow up chemical, biological stockpiles, weapons stockpiles and the nuclear reactors that Iraq has. And the reason we knew that (Hussein) had chemical and biological weapons is because the United States deliberately and willfully gave it to him. Again, that's verified in the United States Senate Regal Commission Report, written by James Toot, which was the subject of a made-for-TV movie that we did on Showtime, called "Thanks of a Grateful Nation."

... during Gulf War I
... we fired close to a
million rounds, if not
over a million rounds
from the A10 ... that's
about 750,000 lbs.


There's no doubt about it. What we're seeing today, and I was reminded by a phone call not even an hour ago, and this is March 31st, that the White House and the Department of Defense are still stating that the health and environmental effects of uranium munitions are a propaganda move by those nations that don't want uranium munitions used against them. Ladies and gentlemen, that's an absolute lie. The health and environmental effects of uranium go back to 1943, were restated explicitly in the Rose Memorandum then, were stated explicitly in the Defense Nuclear Agency memorandums that I received from the US Army as I cleaned up the DU mess in the Gulf War I, and numerous other documents. Not even a question. In 1992 I went to a US military medical conference at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and I presented all of this information before members of the Secretariat and other senior military physicians identifying the health effects, the hazards, and stating that something must be done. It's been there. It's not propaganda. It didn't come from outside the country. The warnings came from the US military's own experts and those experts were basing that on the absolute health effects that have been occurring in all of us.

BERNSTEIN: Now what do we know, I know there hasn't been a lot of testing, the Pentagon has not been forthcoming in terms of trying to answer questions by veterans in terms of the toxic soup that they were exposed to in the first Gulf War, so there's not a lot of testing. But what could we say about the impact on the region, on what's happening to people in Kuwait, in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia?

...What we saw
was all of us getting
sick right away...


ROKKE: Well, uranium munitions have been fired extensively, not only in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but they were fired extensively throughout the Balkans, first in '94, '95 and '96, and then again in 1999. They were fired extensively in Vieques, Puerto Rico, which is American territory which is American citizens, and also in Okinawa in Japan and Terashima Island, and many other places. What we can state and what we do know is that the deliberate and willful denial of medical care has been ongoing. In a report issued by the Department of Defense by individuals that I know and I've reported directly to just several weeks ago, they stated they've given medical care to 90 individuals that were exposed to uranium contamination during the Gulf War I. I'm one of those. I'm sick. And they haven't done anything for me nor many of the others. I want to repeat, I had over 120 known friendly-fire casualties that survived DU impact. I had another several, 250-350 individuals with known exposures to uranium munitions. In a directive, in a report that was given to the Presidential Oversight Board in 1998, the Department of Defense formally acknowledged that there were 424 individuals absolute known uranium exposures and that at that at time they had only notified 120. As of several weeks ago, they're acknowledging medical care for only 90 individuals, and they're not even accomplishing that.

... What happened is even
though we were getting
sick and everything,
medical care was denied,
deliberately denied...
The first cancers in our
team developed within
8-9 months, the first
deaths from cancers were
within a couple of years.


What we also know is all the medical directives that have been issued have been issued numerous times. In October of 1993, again based on the research and the input that we had and I worked on this, the Department of Defense issued a very specific medical directive. This we call a Somalia message, and that's what it's head title, and it's Medical Management of the Unusual Depleted Uranium Exposures. This Department of Defense, Department of the Army medical directive requires medical care within 24 hours for all individuals who are — direct quote, ladies and gentlemen, "a) being in the midst of smoke exposures, being in the midst of smoke from DU fires resulting in the burning of vehicles uploaded with DU munitions, or depots in which DU munitions are being stored. Working with environments containing DU dust or residues from DU fires, and being within a structure or vehicle while it is struck by DU munitions. This requires a radio bioassay within 24 hours and then consequent medical care based on exposures." This was issued in October of 1993, and the purpose of this was we were going to use uranium munitions when we attack Somalia. Astonishing. Now, if medical care has been required, going back to what I directed right after Gulf War I, a completion of the ground phase and what was directed by theater medical commanders, directed by the General Accounting Office, was directed by the Assistant Secretary of Defense, was directed by General Eric Sensecki, the general of the Army right now who is in charge of all military army personnel, then the medical care must be provided to all casualties. But they're only providing medical care to 90 individuals? And this is how many years after the fact?

BERNSTEIN: Well, Doug Rokke, it's actually during the fact, again, because I think if I understand you correctly and somebody who is still in the military and an expert in depleted uranium, the soldiers now on the front line and the people living in the region are going to be heard because they were misled, lied to, and they're still not prepared.

...It's not propaganda.
It didn't come from
outside the country.
The warnings came
from the US military's
own experts and those
experts were basing that
on the absolute health
effects that have been
occurring in all of us....


ROKKE: Absolutely correct. The training that's required had been directed that I prepared has not been totally provided to everybody. We do know that on Friday of this last week, a United States Air Force A10 pilot killed and wounded British soldiers in a friendly-fire incident involving uranium munitions. No two ways about it. We have sent the Central Command briefing to General Brooks, he has acknowledged uranium munitions use in combat. However, the medical protocols are not in place, and more important, the specific requirements for total decontamination and cleanup of uranium contamination that I wrote for the Army, which is now Army regulation 700-48, has not been complied with. It's not been complied with any place that it's been used and it's not been, the safety precautions for use right now are not being complied with.

BERNSTEIN: Now, let me get this straight. So that would also mean that those reporters that are, if you will, embedded — some say in bed with — the military at this point, are also in grave jeopardy.

ROKKE: Anybody that comes in contact with uranium contamination and inhales it, ingests it or get into a wound, is at serious risk of adverse health effects, as all has happened to me, and other members of the cleanup team, friendly-fire casualties, and thousands upon thousands of others who were exposed. In a recent directive from the United Nations, Pec___ (?) Visto, and he sent me a personal e-mail just a couple of days ago, has told the US military they must clean up the uranium contamination in the Balkans that was caused by deliberate acts. The other thing when we go back, we know that on September 10 of 2001 the United Nations ruled that uranium munitions were illegal in a weapon of mass destruction, and they should not be used.

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