Swans Commentary » swans.com May 9, 2005  



Blips #18
 From The Martian Desk


by Gilles d'Aymery




"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson


(Swans - May 9, 2005)  IS DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) DANGEROUSLY RADIOACTIVE? It's a good question; one that "open intelligence" has answered by the affirmative for over a decade. US "authorities" and Pentagon geeks and gooks, have, however, continually denied the lethality of DU. Nope, they say, DU is safe for Suburbia. Enjoy your DU, Viagra-cum-Prozac-loaded, in your backyards. It will keep you and your family safe and warm, as the almighty, thanks to the diamond US army, whose business it is to defeat the terroooorists and all the enemies out there (definition of enemy? Anyone who's not us and white, and doesn't own an SUV or love NASCAR, and dresses in red, white and blue.), goes on securing our non-negotiable American way of life so that it may continue in perpetuity, as the cemeteries of Empire fill to the hilt.

BUT, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, here is what one of our proud men who's gone to Iraq, and Kuwait, and Afghanistan, and Egypt, and Israel, and Jordan, and beyond, to keep us free and safe, a middle officer in the American Armed Forces, a Captain of the US Army, praise his soul and stamina, had to say in an e-mail on the subject:

Please read through page 6, an article on uranium. Note the date at the top. In the Army, since 2000, we have received yearly training and refreshers on the dangers of depleted uranium and other sources of radioactive contamination. If you saw how much the Army spends and how much it pushes for safety in relation to radioactive dangers, you would be surprised. This article by Sara Flounders and John Catalinotto is a farce [ed. "Depleted Uranium: The Pentagon Betrayal Of GIs And Iraqis," By Sara Flounders and John Catalinotto, in Swans Special issue on Iraq, "RESISTANCE: In The Eye Of The American Hegemon," February 2, 2004.]. The military is very focused on this issue. As a matter of fact, all tank hulks from Desert Storm are in specially marked fields and marked off limits to everyone (signs in English and Arabic). Having been to Kuwait and Iraq, I know this to be true.

EXCUSE ME, "the dangers of depleted uranium and other sources of radioactive contamination . . . . all tank hulks from Desert Storm are in specially marked fields and marked off limits to everyone..."? Oh Captain, my Captain, it cannot be true, it cannot... I, and all my low-life fellows, have been told that, no, certainly not, DU was not radioactive -- with a shelf life (no refrigeration necessary) of a few tens of thousand of years to a few billion years (it varies depending on the expert, of which this land is blessed with many) -- and that all those alarming reports were just hogwash...invented by no-good American haters. So what gives, Sir? Where's the beef?

THE CAPTAIN, a serious man -- not a distiller of unpatriotic, un-American, un-SUV, un-McMall, un-be-all-you-can-be, un-Abu Ghraib, un-shoot-first-and-then-ask, babbling perfidies -- knows what he is talking about, and is ready to show us the beef.

THE BEEF, freely delivered by our U(P)S hero, one of the gazillion brown shirts navigating daily the enchanted "free"ways of our blessed land, came in the form of an Adobe Acrobat PDF file attached to his e-mail: Countermeasure, the US "Army Ground Risk-Management Publication," Vol 21 No 1, January 2000, http://safety.army.mil/.

YES, ON PAGE 6, one can read, in "Radioactive Material... Common, but DEADLY!":

The Army uses many items that contain radioactive material. Examples include the M43 chemical agent detector (americium-241); lensatic compasses, gunner's quadrants, aiming post lights, and collimators (tritium); Abrams armor packages (uranium-238, also called "depleted uranium"), lens coatings in thermaloptics (thorium-232), and radiation, detection, indication, and computation (RADIAC) check sources (krypton-85 among others). It is a long list.

The Army designs these items so that they do not expose soldiers to significant amounts of radiation even under tough conditions. The Army and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have many regulations that keep them under tight control from the time they enter our inventory until they leave it.

The article then moves on to "foreign military equipment [which] also contains radioactive material, and explains what military personnel should do in presence of such material, concluding,

If you want to keep the radioactive material, you will probably have to have a NRC license or an Army radiation authorization to assure that everything is legal and that the radioactive material is under proper control. See AR 11-9 for application instructions.

In summary, you have a problem once you discover that the foreign equipment you possess contains radioactive material. What you must do next is keep it from becoming a major problem for you and for the Army. Your installation and MACOM radiation safety officers are there to help you. Be sure to contact them.

BUT NO PROBLEM with our radioactive materials... They are designed "so that they do not expose soldiers to significant amounts of radiation even under tough conditions. . . . from the time they enter our inventory until they leave it."

NOW, I DON'T KNOW about you, but I am slightly confused. Have not the US military and government consistently denied the dangers of DU? Befuddling, no?

BUT I WILL TAKE the Captain at his word. Depleted Uranium is radioactive; the army spends mucho buckados and "pushes for safety in relation to radioactive dangers"; ordnances are designed accordingly; and once they leave the inventory the resultant is kept in "specially marked fields and marked off limits to everyone..." My thanks to the Captain for telling us as it is. Perhaps the New York Times will pick it up from here...and run a story... (want to bet?)

MEANWHILE, dear readers -- and Captain -- and The Times editors -- you may wish to look again at the special report by scientist Leuren Moret, which shows that Gulf War Syndrome is overwhelmingly caused by depleted uranium (see my Blips #14 for more details). As to the off-limits-marked fields, I highly recommend Stephen Marshall's acclaimed documentary, Battleground: 21 days on the Empire's Edge, produced by the Guerrilla News Network, and winner of the 2004 Silver Hugo Award for documentaries at the Chicago International Film Festival. An unorthodox and evenhanded documentary, profoundly humanistic, Battleground depicts the various sides of the conflict through American soldiers and Iraqis of all walks of life. Of particular interest in regards to the fields marked off limits, in which destroyed tanks and military hardware are stored, are images of Iraqis strolling through these fields with cutting saws to salvage steel that can be resold, while a radiation detector records the fast ricocheting of the tic-tic-tic-tic pitching sounds indicating the high level of radioactivity... I really wish the good Captain would get hold of that DVD (I'm sure the US Army can afford a copy). It's not an "anti-American, anti-military" documentary, but it does provide a sincere reflection on the senselessness of the conflict and the dire conditions it has bred.

OTHERWISE, on Swans, besides the "farcical" piece by Sara Flounders and John Catalinotto, please have a look at "Apocalypse Now," by Aleksandra Priestfield (January 22, 2001), "Depleted Uranium: The Balkans Syndrome" (by this author, January 8, 2001 -- lots of news excerpts). You can also visit the International Depleted Uranium Study Team (IDUST) and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), to learn more about the "safety" of DU. Finally, you all, including the Captain, may enjoy finding out how this horror is being covered up and spun out, not only by the US military and government, but also by the US media. For the latter, please see "Depleted Uranium and Depleted Public Opinion" (January 22, 2001).




ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: We are grieving for Mary, the virgin one, who has been defaced (see my Blips #17). According to Yahoo News, "A man was arrested for allegedly scrawling 'Big Lie' over a stain on an expressway underpass that some believed was an image of the Virgin Mary. Authorities then painted over the stain because it had been defaced." Mary, we understand, has moved to greener pastures (Jan tells me she believes she saw her on our dog Priam's tender parts...)


POPE RAT'S CAR joins the grilled cheese Virgin Mary: You surely recall Golden Palace Casino's successful $28,000 bid for Mary in a sandwich... This time, in an item related to the immaculate pucelle and her successors (through sonny boy), Golden Palace paid $244,000 for a 1999 metallic gray hatchback Volkswagen Golf that once belonged to the new pope, BXVI (though he never drove it -- poppystar does not have a driver's license). The e-bay auction attracted 8.4 million visits in 10 days. Golden Palace, of Austin, Texas, USA, had the highest bid...

Golden Palace is now the happy owner of a sandwich and a car -- it also has acquired a roast chicken that looks like old poppystar, PPII. (ref: BBC News). Time to go to church...after a detour to the bank and a quick game of craps.


ENLIGHTENMENT REDUX: 70% of Americans believe in Satan, and 12% in evolution. This must explain, besides Golden Palace Casino, why Kansas is trashing Darwinism and adamantly promoting creationism and intelligent design for its public school curriculum... Some 40 US states are moving in that direction...


QUOTATION FOR THE AGES: "We pray for help in defending the gift of freedom from those who seek to destroy it," "We pray to acknowledge our dependence on the Almighty."
--Mr. Bush during the East Room ceremony marking the 54th annual National Day of Prayer.



May 3, 2005. My submission for the next issue follows. Once again Fran and I are doing well -- with a full calendar of events to keep us busy.

Our weekly Saturday afternoon anti-war protests bring out a core group of twenty-five to thirty each week rain or shine. Our pro-war opposition across the street numbers two or three. The increasing number of passing cars that honk their horns in support of us is very encouraging.

Tuesday night at Manhattanville College we attended a lecture by Howard Zinn.

Wednesday night we had dinner at a restaurant where our jazz musicians play.

On Friday it was a fund-raising event for friends -- the West Point Eight -- who are suing the government. They attended the Army-Navy basketball game and at an appropriate moment they stood up, opened their jackets to display T-shirts whose letters spelled "U.S. Out of Iraq." The background noise in the stadium immediately stopped as eyes turned towards the eight. They were promptly arrested and charged with "Trespassing" and "Disorderly Conduct." The charges were later dropped, and they are now suing the government.

Saturday night, we saw Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land, a film about the biased media towards Israel. I had shown the film at a local library several weeks ago. It generated such heated comments that I attended again waiting for the discussion afterwards. Since all the viewers were generally in agreement with the film, the afterward discussion was tame.

Sunday was a local Tikkun meeting, and Sunday night was another meeting where Mexico was the topic.

This is typical of a usual week... Tonight we will attend a meeting where three Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the speakers.

Kindest regards to you and Jan from Fran and

And people tell me that there's no activist on Swans!


ON THE "OWNERSHIP SOCIETY" and the best health care in the world, Richard Macintosh had this to say:

My wife and I go to Canada frequently and watch the value of goods we bring back -- if any. I save about 50% on my heart medications that way. As it is, I spend about $500 (US) per month. If I had to buy them in the U.S., we would have to get a new mortgage, sell our home, or perhaps just go broke. That's what the elderly face in America these days.

Mr. Bush also said during the East Room Ceremony (cf. supra), "Every day, millions of us turn to the Almighty in reverence and humility." "And almost every day, I am given a special reminder of this great generosity of spirit when someone comes up and says: 'Mr. President, I'm praying for you.'" I suppose that soon enough Mr. Bush will assert that praying to the almighty will advantageously replace heart medications...

...because a lot is being replaced... To wit, thanks to Joe Bageant:

- Vocational education
- Head Start; Even Start
- Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse
- Perkins student loan program
- Upward Bound
- Student Talent Search
- Medicaid
- Doctor training programs for children's hospitals
- Spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation programs
- Low income community housing
- Low income energy assistance
- Single mothers housing; Section eight voucher program
- Housing assistance for AIDS
- Housing assistance for Native Americans
- Housing assistance for disabled Americans
- Job training for farm workers
- Nitration programs for children of migrant farm workers
- Nutrition programs for single mothers
- The Community Food and Nutrition program
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Land restoration funds
- The Superfund
- Mining Waste Cleanup
- Department of the Interior natural lands management
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Department of Energy nuclear waste cleanup
- Amtrak rails service (in the states that did not vote for George Bush)
- Veterans health maintenance programs
- Disabled veterans programs
- Veterans nursing home program
- Women, Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC)
- Temporary Aid to Needy Families, (TANF)

(From, "The Onion Eater," by Joe Bageant, here and there on the Web, circa April 28, 2005

(Note: not much is said in this litany about the "other"; those in the netherworld, the world that does not belong to us -- us meaning white, middle (you are middle, aren't you, Joe?) -- the world where kids don't have a life, but resources are pilfered out of their dead bodies courtesy of "liberals, [and] men and women of good will" as well as the usual faith-based crowds.)

I'm sure the Captain will enjoy the veterans' benefits and keep praying to the almighty in the name of "truth"... Richard will know better and keep visiting his Northern neighbors...


CONTROVERSY GALORE: The British Association of University Teachers has voted to boycott the Israeli universities of Haifa and Bar-Ilan. Only academics who declare their clear opposition to the policies of the state of Israel in the Occupied Territories will be excluded from the boycott. A similar resolution was defeated about two years ago. The pro-Israel camp is up in arms. As usual, the sponsors and organizers of the boycott are accused of anti-Semitism (Judeophobia). Professor Sue Blackwell of Birmingham University, one of the main sponsors, is under persistent attacks for her actions and writings on Palestine and Israel on her Web site. Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has called for a counterboycott of British Universities. A Special Council has been formed to reverse the decision. It will meet in London on May 26. Expect all hell to break loose between now and then, with analogies to Nazi Germany and headlines like "Jews are Targetted Again" and the more subtle "Defend Academic Freedom" in the Op-Ed sections of your favorite newspapers. Funny, I don't recall boycotters of anything French, two years ago, being accused of anti-Catholicism...


BOONVILLE NEWS: I had a telling conversation with a local utility person who came to perform some maintenance work where we live; you know the small social and customary chitchat of the kind "how are things?" "Things are not so good," he answered. "And why is that?" I inquired. "Well," he said, "prices don't stop going up...everything goes up but our wages." "Did you see the price of gas at the pumps, lately?" he asked, adding, "why did we go to Iraq if we can't even have the oil?" "Hmm," I suggested carefully, "didn't we go to Iraq to spread democracy and take care of a threat to our security?" His eyes lightened up; he looked at me with a bemused smile, and said, "you want to be kidding, no one gives a shit about Iraq and all the bullshit why we went there. We need oil. They have oil. We went there to get what we need." "You know thaaat..." he added with a trailing sound in his voice, as though he meant, "come on, man, get serious..." "So you believe that's why Bush got us in there," I asked. "Hell, yes," he answered, "that's why...but he fucked up...we're there but we don't have the oil...look at the gas prices...what a mess!" "But, but," I ventured, "you believe it was right to invade Iraq to get their oil? It's not ours, after all..." He interrupted me, this time with a look of impatience on his face. "What do you mean, 'it's not ours?' And do you think the land where you are was ours? Look, where you are used to belong to the Indians. We wanted the land. We took it. That's how it works. That's how it's always worked..." "Bush better gets his act straight...we need the oil," he added. There's nothing more refreshing than a little candid expression of reality... "Yeah," I said, "he'd better."

Incidentally, Caltrans, the California transportation department in charge of state and county highways, is performing some road repairs a few miles east of Boonville. Since one lane of the two-lane road is closed, Caltrans uses a pilot vehicle to drive back and forth along that portion of the road with its contingent of motorists in tail. Once it has reached the end of the repair section -- about half a mile -- it turns around and journeys to the other end with another set of motorists. Back and forth, all working day long, Monday through Friday... And what vehicle is being used for this simple endeavor? You'd think they'd operate a small 4-cylinder truck, a hybrid or even an EV... Nope, they use what looks like a Navistar International truck model 4200, which everybody knows epitomizes environmental concerns and fuel economy! No wonder we need Iraq oil...

Coincidentally, being the last vehicle in the caravan lead by the Caltrans' truck, once passed the repair zone, we followed the cars in front of us which were driving at a snail's pace of about 35 mph, when suddenly the sound of a shooting firearm drew out attention. Right there, on the left side of the road going west toward Boonville, at just about 100 feet from the road was a man shooting his pistol on whatever target placed on the hillside. Pah, pah, pah, pah, pah, pah... Always a pleasant feeling...

Remember, Boonville is located in Northern California, a bastion of American Liberal vanguardism... One of these days, I should tell old Joe Bageant about the huge "god bless America," jesus saves," "support our troops," and "get-rich casinos" signs that line our blue state's roadways...and inform him on our own "chosen ones" advocating "Triple Bottom Line" and "sustainable development"...

Right down the road, a fine representative of the sustainability crowd is applying for a Alcoholic Beverage Control permit. Another vineyard in our bucolic valley is on its way. Right across the road, an old apple orchard has been completely uprooted.


Ç'est la vie...

And so it goes...

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Internal Resources

Patterns which Connect

America the 'beautiful'

Blips and Tidbits


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

Running On Fumes: A Journey To The End Of Empire - Phil Rockstroh & Angela Tyler-Rockstroh

"Un-American" Questions - Richard Macintosh

Will The Withering Shrub Recover? - Philip Greenspan

American Diktat, Russian Polls: The Presidential Press Conference - Jan Baughman

Mommy, Is Aunt Sally In The Rice Puffs? - Don Fitz

Remembering James Connolly - Joe Davison

Workers, Socialists, And Democrats: Reflections On Strategy - Julio Huato

Wearing Two Hats: The Director Takes On The Critic - Charles Marowitz

John Lukacs's Democracy and Populism, Fear and Hatred - Book Review by Milo Clark

La Muerte de Nadie - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Vietnam, A Retrospective - (May 2000)

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art11/desk018.html
Published May 9, 2005