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[casi] Are American soldiers in Iraq dying due to depleted uranium?


Are American soldiers in Iraq dying due to depleted uranium?

By James Conachy

4 August 2003

The office of the US Army Surgeon General informed the media
July 31 that teams of medical specialists have been
dispatched to both Iraq and the Landstuhl military hospital
in Germany to investigate why a pneumonia-like condition is
striking down American military personnel who took part in
the invasion of Iraq. At least 100 soldiers have been
hospitalized with severe respiratory problems since March 1.
Fifteen have been so ill they have required ventilator
support to stay alive. Two have died, while three reportedly
remain under close supervision at Landstuhl.

Three of the critical cases occurred in March, three in
April, two in May, three in June and four in July. Fourteen
were Army personnel and one was from the Marines. A
localized epidemic has been ruled out. The troops who have
fallen ill belong to diverse units and were operating in
different areas of Iraq and in at least one case in Kuwait.
An Army official told reporters: ¡§It is pneumonia. The
question is, what is the cause?¡¨ According to the Army,
there is no evidence that any of the cases have been caused
by exposure to chemical or biological weapons, severe acute
respiratory syndrome (SARS) or environmental toxins.

It is not the number of cases that is concerning the
military hierarchy. According to the spokesperson of the US
Army Surgeon General, there are normally nine cases of
pneumonia per 10,000 US soldiers per year that are serious
enough to require hospitalization. Based on that statistic,
100 cases of pneumonia in five months among the several
hundred thousand army and marine personnel who were involved
in the war on Iraq are only slightly higher than average.

The dispatch of the experts therefore raises disturbing
questions. There is clearly something about either the
nature, or the severity, of the cases the Army Surgeon
General feels warrants investigation.

On July 16, the News-Leader site operating out of
Springfield, Missouri published a detailed report describing
the symptoms of one of the soldiers who has died from the
alleged pneumonia. Josh Neusche, a 20-year-old, fit and
healthy Missouri National Guardsman, collapsed in Baghdad on
July 2. He was evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany. His family
was informed he was suffering from pneumonia caused by fluid
in his lungs. According to his mother, his liver, kidneys
and muscles then began to break down. He was placed on
dialysis, but fell into a coma and died on July 12.

For anyone familiar with the research into the medical
effects of exposure to depleted uranium, the details of Josh
Neusche¡¦s death would have to ring alarm bells. The 2001
World Health Organization report into the issue notes:
¡§Brief accidental exposure to high concentrations of
uranium hexafluoride has caused acute respiratory illness,
which may be fatal.¡¨ [Full report available at]

Scenarios that could cause a ¡§brief, accidental exposure to
high concentrations of uranium hexafluoride¡¨ definitely
would include being in the vicinity of a vehicle or building
struck by depleted uranium munitions; traveling in or being
in the vicinity of a vehicle that is armored with depleted
uranium and sustains damage; or being involved in the
cleanup of such a vehicle. The organs most affected by
exposure are the lungs and kidneys.

In a July 30 article on US casualties in Iraq, the World
Socialist Web Site reported the unconfirmed allegation in
the July 17 Saudi newspaper Al-Watan that three US
servicemen had been evacuated from Iraq suffering symptoms
of depleted uranium exposure.

The WSWS noted that if this proved true, it would not be
surprising. Thousands of US troops in Iraq are likely to
have been exposed to DU to some degree, absorbing it either
by inhaling contaminated dust or ingesting it from
contaminated water, food and soil. Initial estimates are
that between 100 and 200 tons of DU munitions were used in
Iraq and that at least 17 incidents took place during the
combat phase that would most likely have resulted in US and
British personnel being exposed to high concentrations of DU
particles. [See]

On July 28, as part of the research for the July 30 article,
¡§America¡¦s maimed come home from Iraq,¡¨ this WSWS
correspondent submitted a list of questions to the US
Department of Defense, addressed to
One of the specific questions we asked of the Department of
Defense was: ¡§Have any US military personnel been medically
evacuated from Iraq due to the possible side-affects of
exposure to depleted uranium?¡¨ To date, the WSWS has
received no reply.

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