attack on Iran has provoked an
unprecedented rebellion within the top leadership of
the United States military. At the same time, depleted
uranium (DU) is steadily taking down our troops in Iraq
and Afghanistan. It’s time for the soldiers to follow
the lead of their commanders in order to end the war.
Was Army Sgt. Michael Lee Tosto the first American
victim of the
Bush administration’s March 2003 “Shock and Awe” attack
on Iraq? The 24-year-old North Carolina tank operator
died “mysteriously” in Baghdad on June 17, 2003.
The Iraqi capital was saturated with radioactive dust
from the initial explosions of 1,500 American bombs and
missiles, many of them made from solid depleted uranium.
After the saturation bombing, the city was the scene of
street battles with M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting
Vehicles, A-10 Warthog attack jets and Apache
helicopters firing DU munitions.
The army told Sgt. Tosto’s family that he died from
pulmonary edema and pericardial effusion, or cardiac
failure, after showing flu-like symptoms.
Young Michael Tosto believed George W. Bush, Dick
Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. He believed he had
been deployed to Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein from nuking
the United States. Michael died before we all learned
that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are nuking the world.
Michael Tosto died, young and innocent, when they
After Michael’s funeral, a fellow soldier contacted
Michael’s wife Stephanie and told her that his buddy
started coughing up blood and his lips turned blue and
was dead within 48 hours after the first symptoms.
According to Tom Flocco, upon whose story this
account is based, “. . . the Tostos say their GI was
in excellent health — in his prime of life. And
Stephanie Tosto told United Press International, ‘When
my husband died, the casualty officer asked me, “Is it
possible that Michael had heart problems?” Michael did
not have heart problems. One other time they asked me if
he had asthma. He was never sick.’ ”
Inhaling depleted uranium causes pulmonary edema.
Symptoms include bleeding lungs, bronchial pneumonia and
vomited blood. Pericardial effusion is a common cause of
death among leukemia patients. Michael’s mother, Janet
Tosto, reported that military officials told her that
her son Michael’s military autopsy exhibited elevated
levels of white blood cells. Exposure to depleted
uranium can cause lymphocytic leukemia.
Tom Flocco consulted
Dr. Garth Nicolson of the
Institute for Molecular Medicine in Huntington
Beach, California who said, “Just one microscopic
particle — let alone thousands — trapped in a soldier’s
pulmonary system for one year can result in 272 times
the annual whole body radiation dose permitted U.S.
Gulf War Illness: the Sequel
It is happening again to a new generation of
veterans. Some of today’s soldiers were in day care
centers in 1991 when Dick Cheney first authorized the
wholesale use of radioactive munitions. It is happening
again despite the fact that a large number of Gulf War I
veterans are on medical disability 15 years after the
end of the first war against Saddam Hussein.
We are witnessing the same symptoms of radioactive
poisoning today as 15 years ago. We are hearing the same
denial of reality from Donald Rumsfeld’s Department of
The government spokesman in Michael’s death claimed,
“We don’t think depleted uranium has anything to do with
After the publication of “Depleted Uranium For
Dummies” last month, a reader emailed me with a demand.
“You claim that half million soldiers are sick because
of the tons of depleted uranium used in 1991. I’d like
to hear the government’s side of the story.”
Well, the Department of Defense’s estimate, as you
might expect, is lower.
According to the
Pentagon, depleted uranium hasn’t caused even one
GI’s illness or a single veteran’s death.
If you still believe that
the Bush Administration doesn’t lie to its citizens
or Rumsfeld’s Department of Defense doesn’t lie to the
troops, please click to another Web site. I don’t want
to be the first to break the news to you.
Soon you might begin to doubt Condoleezza Rice’s
warning about Saddam Hussein’s imminent nuclear attack
on America or Dick Cheney’s claim that Hussein was
responsible for taking down the Twin Towers. You might
question why on 9/11 acting Commander-in-Chief Dick
Cheney couldn’t find one available U.S. fighter jet to
send aloft during the hour that, allegedly, nineteen
Saudis and Egyptians with box cutters were crisscrossing
the East Coast in hijacked commercial airliners!
These are the stories Sgt. Tosto took to his grave.
But no one ever told him that the depleted uranium
munitions packed into his tank could kill him.
That’s right. As far as the Department of Defense is
concerned, depleted uranium is “40 percent less
radioactive than natural uranium,” is “not a serious
external radiation hazard,” and thus is not considered
According to the military’s pamphlet, “Depleted
Uranium Information for Clinicians” revised Sept.
17, 2004, a year and a half after Michael Tosto’s death,
“Findings have shown no kidney damage, leukemia, bone or
lung cancer, or other uranium-related adverse health
The Pentagon commissioned several studies in the ’90s
as hundreds of thousands of Gulf War vets were becoming
“mysteriously” sick. One published in 2000, concluded
that DU “could pose a chemical hazard” but that Gulf War
veterans “did not experience intakes high enough to
affect their health.”
According to Pentagon spokesman
Austin Camacho, the only soldiers meriting the
military’s concern are those wounded by depleted uranium
shrapnel or who were inside tanks during an explosion,
and “studies of about 70 such cases from the first Gulf
War showed no long-term health problems.”
This stupefying — vets call it criminal — DoD
denial helps explain the military’s reaction to Michael
Tosto’s death. They would not allow Stephanie Tosto to
see her husband’s body until after the autopsy in
Germany and after he was packed in a casket for burial.
Dan Tosto, the dead soldier’s father, wondered why
Michael was wearing white gloves, appropriate for dress
blues but not for Michael’s green burial uniform. At the
funeral, Stephanie reached under a glove and found
Michael’s wedding ring missing. The army later explained
that the dead soldier’s belongings were possibly
Wedding Ring Contaminated With What?
Perhaps the mysterious metal “contamination” explains
why the Army sent the family brand-new dog tags, rather
than Michael’s original set, and why they didn’t
immediately call his wife at the emergency phone number
he was carrying.
After the tank driver was buried, Stephanie received
her husband’s medical records. They described his arms
as red and swollen, classic signs of exposure to
depleted uranium dust.
Dr. Rosalie Bertell, secretary general of the
International Commission of Health Professionals, and
president of the International Institute of Concern for
Public Health, commented on Michael Tosto’s symptoms.
She said that the armed services investigation was
incomplete without a thorough “testing for potential
depleted uranium [which] includes chemical analysis of
uranium in urine, feces, blood and hair; tests of damage
to kidneys, including analysis for protein, glucose and
nonprotein nitrogen in urine; radioactivity counting; or
more invasive tests such a surgical biopsy of lung or
As you will read in the next installment, according
to the DoD’s own
Regulation No. 700-48, such tests are mandatory.
Surprised? Wait until you read next time how the
government responds to living contaminated
soldiers who request tests for radiation poisoning.
We cited Dr. Doug Rokke in previous installments. He
was the military’s top expert on all aspects of depleted
uranium, until he was fired for telling the truth. He
was the chief biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons
safety officer in the first Gulf War, and he reports
that many American deaths were from “friendly-fire” DU
The Tosto family will never know if this was
Gay Alcorn of The Age, “Rokke was ordered to
decontaminate shot-up vehicles and tanks and to
investigate health effects on troops. Dressed in
protective gear and masks, he and his team crawled over
tanks and other vehicles, sending some back to the U.S.
Those considered too radioactive to move were buried in
a giant hole in the ground.
“The U.S. Army made me their expert,”
Rokke told reporter Julie Flint. “I went into the
project with the total intent to ensure they could use
uranium munitions in war, because I’m a warrior. What I
saw as director of the project led me to one conclusion:
Uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for
eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone
— those on the firing end and those on the receiving
According to Flint, Rokke “suffers from serious
health problems including brain lesions and lung and
kidney damage. When government doctors finally agreed to
test him in November 1994, three-and-a-half years after
he fell ill, while he was director of the Pentagon’s
Depleted Uranium Project, he was found to have 5,000
times the permissible level of radiation in his body —
enough to light up a small village.”
Rokke’s crew — 100 employees —
was devastated by exposure to the fine dust. “When
we went to the Gulf, we were all really healthy,” Rokke
said. “However, after performing clean-up operations in
the desert. . .30 staff members died, and most others —
including Rokke himself — developed serious health
problems. Rokke now has reactive airway disease,
neurological damage, cataracts and kidney problems.”
I conducted a telephone interview with Doug Rokke
last month, after sending him “Dummies” to fact-check.
He described the permanent rashes on his arms. “They’re
weeping as we speak,” he said.
I recalled Michael Tosto’s autopsy report. What was
hidden under the white gloves?
The papers Rokke wrote describing his findings are
sobering. He recorded levels of contamination that were
15 times the Army’s permissible levels in tanks hit by
DU, and up to 4.5 times such levels in clothing exposed
Rokke told Alcorn, “After everything I’ve seen,
everything I’ve done, it became very clear to me that
you just can’t take radioactive wastes from one nation
and just throw it into another nation. It’s wrong. It’s
simply wrong. . .
“One way or another, the Pentagon will pay a price.
Using DU is a war crime. It’s that simple. Once you’ve
scattered all this stuff around, and then refuse to
clean it up, you’ve committed a war crime.”
Denise Nichols, a Gulf War vet and retired Air Force
major, there are many reasons why Rumsfeld’s Department
of Defense won’t admit that DU is harmful.
“They don’t want to assume responsibility for the
astronomical health-care costs of so many poisoned
veterans . . . and they don’t want the rest of the world
to know that they have essentially poisoned two entire
If They Admit It’s Killing Our
Troops, They Can’t Use It
Doug Rokke gave journalist
Vince Guarisco another reason. “We warned the
Department of Defense in 1991 after the Gulf War. Their
arrogance is beyond comprehension. Once they acknowledge
that there are actual health effects of depleted uranium
munitions, then they can’t use them any more; the house
of cards falls apart.”
Now, can you understand the DoD’s secrecy about the
details of Michael Tosto’s death? Can you understand the
strange silence last month of
Maj. Richard J. McNorton, the U.S. Central Command’s
special officer in charge of helping bloggers obtain
accurate information? He is still ignoring my requests
to confirm or to allow me to disprove the following
account in “Dummies”:
“An official June 2005 United States Central Command
communiqué reported that soldiers of the 62nd
Quartermaster Company from Fort Hood, Texas were
supplying Camp Forward Danger’s water from the Tigris
River . . . it seems that it is not tested for
“Our men and women of the New York State National
Guard have just spent six months taking radioactive
showers and washing small open wounds in a depleted
uranium broth. They’ve eaten more than 500 meals with
food, plates, and silverware washed with hot water, in
two senses of the word . . . without knowing it.”
Given the serious implications for my neighbors in
the Rainbow Division, they expected a prompt response
from McNorton. Not a word.
Does it still seem strange to you that the Pentagon
maintains that, from 1991 to 2005, only 7,035 Gulf War
vets — were “wounded” in the conflict?
In the opinion of those now responsible for defending
our country, the discrepancy between 7,000 and 518,000
vets on disability (many with Gulf War Illness’
“ill-defined symptoms”) is just a “mystery.”
What is no mystery is that, within the last month,
seven high-ranking retired military officers have
publicly called for the resignation of Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld. Most are
immediate retirees high in the chain of command in
the Middle East deeply involved in Cheney and Rumsfeld’s
On Democracy Now! April 17, 2006, retired
Col. Sam Gardiner, respected lecturer at several United
States military war colleges, called these denunciations
“unprecedented in United States history.”
Unprecedented Officers’ Revolt
The military revolt against the Bush Administration’s
catastrophic Middle East policies surfaced last November
when previously hawkish Pennsylvania congressman
John Murtha channeled the top brass’s opposition to the
Col. Gardiner suggested that the seven recently
retired officers were being encouraged to speak out by
those still in service. The brass is horrified by the
military consequences of bringing Iran into a war we’ve
already lost. Nothing like this happened even during the
military’s darkest days when Nixon secretly invaded
neighboring Cambodia during the
In another first, a group of
West Point graduates, has denounced the war. The
graduates pledged to refuse to serve in Iraq. Additional
reports suggest that the
Joint Chiefs have made clear that they oppose an
attack on Iran. Another group of officers has
threatened to resign if the United States continues
its plans to expand the war in the Middle East to
a second major oil producer.
Think about that next time you pump gas.
It’s time for the troops to seize this brief
opportunity to transform American history. Why? Let’s
examine the price our brave citizen-soldiers are paying
for the arrogance of the Bush Administration and Donald
Rumsfeld’s DoD. In future installments we’ll show in
detail what the troops in Iraq can do legally when we
review the recent
documentary, “Sir! No Sir!” It shows the critical
role of Vietnam GIs in ending that earlier war of
aggression against a people who posed no threat to the
Last February, Juan Gonzales of the
New York Daily News reported that “nearly
120,000 veterans — more than one of every four who
served in Iraq and Afghanistan — have already sought
treatment at Veterans Health Administration hospitals
for a wide range of illnesses, according to an internal
study the VHA completed late last year.
“An additional 35,000 — more than 29% of the total —
were diagnosed with ‘ill-defined conditions, ’ according
to the study, which was prepared in October by VHA
epidemiologist Dr. Han Kang but has yet to be publicly
“‘Those numbers are way higher than during the
Persian Gulf War for ‘ill-defined’ symptoms, ’” said one
Department of Veterans Affairs official who asked not to
As we detailed in “Dummies,” depleted uranium
contamination causes virtually every known illness from
acute skin rashes, severe headaches, muscle and joint
pain, and general fatigue, to major birth defects, liver
infection, kidney failure, depression, cardiovascular
disease, brain tumors, and almost every type of cancer.
In fact, the figure of 35,000 sick vets coming home
from Iraq and Afghanistan with “ill-defined conditions”
may be too low.
Gonzalez reported that, “more than 30% of those sick
veterans are afflicted with some type of mental
disorder, mostly post-traumatic stress and depression .
. . a far higher rate of mental problems among our
troops than during the Persian Gulf War, and levels
comparable to what was found among U.S. troops during
the Vietnam War.”
Two previous military studies of combat troops in
Iraq found that 17% to 25% of U.S. soldiers suffer from
major depression or combat stress.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as a
debilitating change in the brain’s chemistry that
includes flashbacks, sleep disorders, panic attacks,
acute anxiety, emotional numbness and violent outbursts.
Dozens of soldiers have committed suicide or murdered
Can PTSD, in some cases, be another phrase for Gulf
Sara Flounders reported in August 2003, shortly
after Michael Tosto’s death, “For years the government
described Gulf War Syndrome as a post-traumatic stress
disorder. It was labeled a psychological problem or
simply dismissed as mysterious unrelated ailments. In
this same way the Pentagon and the Veterans
Administration treated the health problems of Vietnam
vets suffering from Agent Orange poisoning.”
Dr. Leuren Moret reports that a medical doctor in
Northern California told her that he and other doctors,
trained by the Pentagon before the 2003 war, were
advised to diagnose and treat soldiers returning from
Afghanistan and Iraq for mental problems only.
What’s Going To Happen To All These
How can so many get the specialized care they need?
The half million Gulf War vets who are already on
medical disability have never received adequate care
from the VA.
Paul Rieckhoff is a former lieutenant with the 1st
Infantry Division in Iraq and founder and executive
director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Juan Gonzalez quoted him as saying, “With numbers this
high, the problem is going to grow fast. We’re seeing
systemwide there are major problems. Most local VAs
[Veterans Administration centers] just aren’t prepared
for the influx of sick veterans.”
In February, the U.S.
General Accountability Office reported that the
Department of Veterans Affairs “does not have sufficient
capacity to meet the needs of new combat veterans while
still providing for veterans of past wars.”
What’s worse is that, since 1998, veterans are
eligible for free health care only for the first two
years after being demobilized. After that, an ailing
veteran has to prove his or her illness is
service-connected. In the next installment we’ll
describe what that burden has meant to ailing Iraq vets.
Medical professionals in hospitals and facilities
treating returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan
threatened with $10,000 fines and jail if they talk
about the soldiers or their medical problems.
Reporters have been prevented access to more than
14,000 medically evacuated soldiers flown nightly from
Germany to Walter Reed Hospital near Washington, D.C.
What is the DoD hiding?
As you know from reading “Depleted Uranium For
Dummies,” all of us may eventually become victims of
Bush’s “Shock and Awe” campaign against the Iraqi
people, because the radioactive fallout has already
permeated the world’s atmosphere. We reported the
findings of Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of
the European Committee on Radiation Risk, who was able
to obtain official U.K. readings of the astounding spike
in European radiation levels after the massive bombings
Depleted uranium particles traveled 2,400 miles in
nine days from Iraq to Aldermaston England. The
invisible cloud quadrupled Europe’s atmospheric
radiation. According to Dr. Busby, “This research shows
that rather than remaining near the target, as claimed
by the military, depleted uranium weapons contaminate
both locals and whole populations hundreds to thousands
of miles away.”
Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld’s “time-release poison”
from the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan took only a year to mix completely into
the world’s atmosphere. Take a deep breath, and recall
your initial reaction to the stunning TV images of a
city of five million people engulfed in a firestorm,
with mushroom-shaped clouds of radioactive debris
illuminating the skyline.
Take a minute to check on your kids playing outside
the window in
fresh spring air.
Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki, a Japanese physicist at
Okinawa’s Ryukyus University, has estimated that
depleted uranium munitions since Cheney’s 1991 Gulf War
has contaminated the global atmosphere with radiation
equivalent to 400,000 Nagasaki bombs.
Greenpeace has just estimated that 93,000 deaths
occurred because of the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl
nuclear plant in the Ukraine.
U.K. environmental scientist Busby was quoted as
saying, “To my mind, it’s a human rights issue.
Originally, it was an issue relating to whether or not
it should be used in Iraq and if the population of Iraq
is being contaminated and possibly the Gulf War veterans
being contaminated, but now we are seeing that everybody
is being contaminated. We are all Gulf War veterans.”
Soldier Says Bush Worse Than Bin
Veterans and soldiers have been contacting “Over the
Rainbow” after we guaranteed anonymity. A soldier
serving in Iraq, already showing the symptoms of Gulf
War Illness, expressed his bitterness.
“I came over here thinking I was fighting to protect
our freedoms. It was all bullshit. I’m sick and probably
dying. I want to come home. But, that’s really scary
because I’m contagious. If I come home I’ll give this
shit to my wife and kids.
“This was a suicide mission for all of us. Bush,
Cheney, Rumsfeld and the bunch of them are no better
than Osama bin Laden and those sleezebags. The
government took patriots and turned us into terrorists.
“It’s just like Osama bin Laden and 9/11. They sent
us over here on a suicide mission to murder innocent
“Actually our government is worse than bin Laden. At
least when a car bomber volunteers, they tell the guy
the truth. He knows he will die quickly and painlessly.
When he’s blown to bits, he knows his people will take
care of his wife and kids.
“Nobody told me I was volunteering to be nuked by DU.
The recruiter never said I was going die slowly and
painfully. And when I’m dead they’ll dump on my family
just like they’re dumping on the people over here.”
The soldier asked if I had heard from public
relations officer, Maj. Richard J. McNorton, about the
radioactive showers at Camp Forward Danger.
I wonder if the major thinks he lives a charmed life.
He’s sucking up depleted uranium particles from Iraq
whether he’s stationed downwind in CENTCOM headquarters
in Qatar or across the Atlantic in Florida. Right now
GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan are hunkered down as
Cheney’s bloody adventure collapses around them. Our men
and women are primarily concerned about looking out for
each other. Who is McNorton looking out for?
Obviously Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wants
to keep depleted uranium and the radioactive showers a
secret from the officers and troops. If the Jews of
Europe had known the Nazi shower rooms were poison gas
chambers, it would have been much harder to get them to
board the trains.
DU must be the stuff of nightmares for Bush, Cheney,
Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld. Can you imagine the four
of them trying to corral United States Army, Reserves
and National Guard troops into transport planes bound
for Iraq after they find out about depleted uranium?
This is the fourth in a comprehensive series on
depleted uranium dedicated to the New York National
Guard to appear on the website We're Not in Kansas
Anymore, where you will find sources, a bibliography,
and suggestions for citizen action to eliminate DU