PLAY TO LISTEN
Here To Download
War Against Ourselves
Interview with Major Doug Rokke
Doug Rokke has a PhD in health physics
and was originally trained as a forensic scientist. When the Gulf War
started, he was assigned to prepare soldiers to respond to nuclear,
biological, and chemical warfare, and sent to the Gulf. What he
experienced has made him a passionate voice for peace, traveling the
country to speak out. The following interview was conducted by the
director of the Traprock Peace Center, Sunny Miller, supplemented with
questions from YES! editors.
Any viewer who saw the war on television had the impression this was an
easy war, fought from a distance and soldiers coming back relatively
unharmed. Is this an accurate picture?
At the completion of the Gulf War, when we came back to the United
States in the fall of 1991, we had a total casualty count of 760: 294
dead, a little over 400 wounded or ill. But the casualty rate now for
Gulf War veterans is approximately 30 percent. Of those stationed in the
theater, including after the conflict, 221,000 have been awarded
disability, according to a Veterans Affairs (VA) report issued September
of the US casualties died as a direct result of uranium munitions
friendly fire. US forces killed and wounded US forces.
recommended care for anybody downwind of any uranium dust, anybody
working in and around uranium contamination, and anyone within a
vehicle, structure, or building thatís struck with uranium munitions.
Thatís thousands upon thousands of individuals, but not only US
troops. You should provide medical care not only for the enemy soldiers
but for the Iraqi women and children affected, and clean up all of the
contamination in Iraq.
itís not just children in Iraq. Itís children born to soldiers after
they came back home. The military admitted that they were finding
uranium excreted in the semen of the soldiers. If youíve got uranium
in the semen, the genetics are messed up. So when the children were
conceivedóthe alpha particles cause such tremendous cell damage and
genetics damage that everything goes bad. Studies have found that male
soldiers who served in the Gulf War were almost twice as likely to have
a child with a birth defect and female soldiers almost three times as
You have been a military man for over 35 years. You served in
Vietnam as a bombardier and you are still in the US Army Reserves. Now
youíre going around the country speaking about the dangers of depleted
uranium (DU). What made you decide you had to speak publicly about DU?
Everybody on my team was getting sick. My best friend John Sitton was
dying. The military refused him medical care, and he died. John set up
the medical evacuation communication system for the entire theater. Then
he got contaminated doing the work.
and Rolla Dolph and I were best friends in the civilian world, the
military world, forever. Rolla got sick. I personally got the order that
sent him to war. We were both activated together. I was given the
assignment to teach nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare and make
sure soldiers came back alive and safe. I take it seriously. I was sent
to the Gulf with this instruction: Bring Ďem back alive. Clear as
could be. But when I got all the training together, all the
environmental cleanup procedures together, all the medical directives,
than 100 American soldiers were exposed to DU in friendly fire
accidents, plus untold numbers of soldiers who climbed on and entered
tanks that had been hit with DU, taking photos and gathering souvenirs
to take home. They didnít know about the hazards.
is an extremely effective weapon. Each tank round is 10 pounds of solid
uranium-238 contaminated with plutonium, neptunium, americium. It is
pyrophoric, generating intense heat on impact, penetrating a tank
because of the heavy weight of its metal. When uranium munitions hit,
itís like a firestorm inside any vehicle or structure, and so we saw
tremendous burns, tremendous injuries. It was devastating.
US military decided to blow up Saddamís chemical, biological, and
radiological stockpiles in place, which released the contamination back
on the US troops and on everybody in the whole region. The chemical
agent detectors and radiological monitors were going off all over the
place. We had all of the various nerve agents. We think there were
biological agents, and there were destroyed nuclear reactor facilities.
It was a toxic wasteland. And we had DU added to this whole mess.
we first got assigned to clean up the DU and arrived in northern Saudi
Arabia, we started getting sick within 72 hours. Respiratory problems,
rashes, bleeding, open sores started almost immediately.
you have a mass dose of radioactive particulates and you start breathing
that in, the deposit sits in the back of the pharynx, where the cancer
started initially on the first guy. It doesnít take a lot of time. I
had a father and son working with me. The father is already dead from
lung cancer, and the sick son is still denied medical care.
Did you suspect what was happening?
We didnít know anything about DU when the Gulf War started. As a
warrior, youíre listening to your leaders, and theyíre saying there
are no health effects from the DU. But, as we started to study this, to
go back to what we learned in physics and our engineeringóI was a
professor of environmental science and engineeringóyou learn rapidly
that what theyíre telling you doesnít agree with what you know and
June of 1991, when I got back to the States, I was sick. Respiratory
problems and the rashes and neurological things were starting to show
Why didnít you go to the VA with a medical complaint?
Because I was still in the Army, and I was told I couldnít file. You
have to have the information that connects your exposure to your service
before you go to the VA. The VA obviously wasnít going to take care of
me, so I went to my private physician. We had no idea what it was, but
so many good people were coming back sick.
didnít do tests on me or my team members. According to the Department
of Defenseís own guidelines put out in 1992, any excretion level in
the urine above 15 micrograms of uranium per day should result in
immediate medical testing, and when you get up to 250 micrograms of
total uranium excreted per day, youíre supposed to be under continuous
the US Department of Energy performed a radiobioassay on me in November
1994, while I was director of the Depleted Uranium Project for the
Department of Defense. My excretion rate was approximately 1500
micrograms per day. My level was 5 to 6 times beyond the level that
requires continuous medical care.
they didnít tell me for two and a half years.
What are the symptoms of exposure to DU?
Fibromyalgia. Eye cataracts from the radiation. When uranium impacts any
type of vehicle or structure, uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium
explode all over the place. This can be breathed in or go into a wound.
Once it gets in the body, a portion of this stuff is soluble, which
means it goes into the blood stream and all of your organs. The
insoluble fraction staysóin the lungs, for example. The radiation
damage and the particulates destroy the lungs.
What kind of training have the troops had, who are getting called up
right nowóthe ones being shipped to the vicinity of what may be the
next Gulf War?
As the director of the Depleted Uranium Project, I developed a 40-hour
block of training. All that curriculum has been shelved. They turned
what I wrote into a 20-minute program thatís full of distortions. It
doesnít deal with the reality of uranium munitions.
equipment is defective. The General Accounting Office verified that the
gas masks leak, the chemical protective suits leak. Unbelievably,
Defense Department officials recently said the defects can be fixed with
If my neighbors are being sent off to combat with equipment and training
that is inadequate, and into battle with a toxic weapon, DU, who can
Every husband and wife, son and daughter, grandparent, aunt and uncle,
needs to call their congressmen and cite these official government
reports and force the military to ensure that our troops have adequate
equipment and adequate training. If we donít take care of our American
veterans after a war, as happened with the Gulf War, and now weíre
about ready to send them into a war againówe canít do it. We canít
do it. Itís a crime against God. Itís a crime against humanity to
use uranium munitions in a war, and itís devastating to ignore the
consequences of war.
consequences last for eternity. The half life of uranium 238 is 4.5
billion years. And we left over 320 tons all over the place in Iraq.
also bombarded Vieques, Puerto Rico, with DU in preparation for the war
in Kosovo. Thatís affecting American citizens on American territory.
When I tried to activate our team from the Department of Defense
responsible for radiological safety and DU cleanup in Vieques, I was
told no. When I tried to activate medical care, I was told no.
US Army made me their expert. I went into the project with the total
intent to ensure they could use uranium munitions in war, because Iím
a warrior. What I saw as director of the project, doing the research and
working with my own medical conditions and everybody elseís, led me to
one conclusion: uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for
eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone, not just the
US or the Canadians or the British or the Germans or the French but for
the American citizens of Vieques, for the residents of Iraq, of Okinawa,
of Scotland, of Indiana, of Maryland, and now Afghanistan and Kosovo.
If your information got out widely, do you think thereís a possibility
that the families of those soldiers would beg them to refuse?
If youíre going to be sent into a toxic wasteland, and you know
youíre going to wear gas masks and chemical protective suits that
leak, and youíre not going to get any medical care after youíre
exposed to all of these things, would you go? Suppose they gave a war
and nobody came. Youíve got to start peace sometime.
It does sound remarkable for someone who has been in the military
for 35 years to be talking about when peace should begin.
When I do these talks, especially in churches, Iím reminded that
these religions say, ďAnd a child will lead us to peace.Ē But if we
contaminate the environment, where will the child come from? The
children wonít be there. War has become obsolete, because we canít
deal with the consequences on our warriors or the environment, but more
important, on the noncombatants. When you reach a point in war when the
contamination and the health effects of war canít be cleaned up
because of the weapons you use, and medical care canít be given to the
soldiers who participated in the war on either side or to the civilians
affected, then itís time for peace.
more information on DU, see the WISE Uranium Project, www.antenna.nl/wise/uranium/;
the National Gulf War Resource Center,
www.ngwrc.org; or Veterans for Common Sense, www.veteransforcommonsense.org.
Sunny Millerís interview was originally broadcast on WMFO (Boston) in
November 2002 and is available for re-broadcast at www.traprockpeace.org.
Positive Futures Network