The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] WSWS Analysis: Why are they dying?

Why are they dying?

More questions over US military fatalities in Iraq
By James Conachy
20 August 2003

On July 31, the US Army Surgeon General¡¦s office announced
that it had dispatched teams of medical experts to
investigate the causes of a severe pneumonia-like condition
afflicting American soldiers taking part in operations in
Iraq. The military informed the press that two healthy young
soldiers had died from alleged pneumonia and approximately
100 personnel had fallen seriously ill. Since then, there
have been at least four more unusual deaths of US servicemen
in Iraq for which no adequate explanation has been made

On August 6, the Defense Department announced that
Specialist Zeferino Colunga, 20 years old and a member of
the 2nd Armored Regiment, died at the Homburg University
Hospital in Germany. He was evacuated from Iraq on August 4.
The Department of Defense press release stated: ¡§His death
was unrelated to the recent cases of pneumonia in Southwest

Specialist Levi Kinchen, a 21-year-old member of the 2nd
Armored Cavalry Regiment, died on August 9 in Baghdad. The
Department of Defense listed the cause of death as a
¡§fellow soldier tried to wake Kinchen and noticed he was
not breathing.¡¨ Private Matthew D. Bush, 20 years old and a
member of the 10th Armored Regiment, was also found in his
bed by a fellow soldier on August 9, who ¡§noticed he was
not breathing.¡¨

Army Staff Sergeant Richard Eaton, 37, a veteran of US
military intelligence, died on August 12. Military officials
initially told Reuters that Eaton is ¡§thought to have died
from fluid in his lungs,¡¨ a condition known as a pulmonary
edema. Pulmonary edema can be caused by lung injury
inflicted by extreme heat, toxins or poisonous gas, a severe
respiratory infection or an excess of body fluid such as
occurs during kidney failure.

A subsequent article appearing in the August 14 Washington
Post cited military officials implying that heat
stress¡Xcaused by the searing Iraqi summer¡Xwas responsible
for the deaths of Eaton and the two other soldiers found
dead in their beds. All three cases were said to be under

The initial reports of a pulmonary edema, however, raise
further questions about whether American troops are dying
due to exposure to depleted uranium.

The medical details of one of the deaths from the alleged
pneumonia have been widely publicized. Private Josh Neusche,
20, collapsed in Iraq with respiratory problems on July 2
and died on July 12 as a result of a subsequent breakdown of
his kidneys and other organs.

In an August 4 article, ¡§Are American soldiers in Iraq
dying due to depleted uranium?¡¨ the World Socialist Web
Site pointed to the parallel between the symptoms of Neusche
and the known effects of exposure to high concentrations of
depleted uranium. Inhalation or absorption of large
concentrations of depleted uranium-contaminated particles
would produce acute respiratory problems and severely damage
the kidneys¡Xpotentially triggering the medical symptoms of
a pulmonary edema, for example.

Neusche¡¦s family in Missouri has released what details it
has uncovered about the circumstances surrounding the young
soldier¡¦s death. Based on letters and information provided
by fellow soldiers, his parents, Mark and Cynthia Neusche,
believe the last operation their son was involved in was
clearing rubble from one of Saddam Hussein¡¦s bombed-out
palaces in Baghdad. Missouri Senator Ike Skelton told the
press: ¡§The Army has confirmed that three or four of the
soldiers in Josh¡¦s unit are among those who got sick.¡¨

This revelation clearly raises the likelihood that some
contaminate in the environment in which the soldiers were
working¡Xa bombed palace of the former Iraqi regime¡Xwas the
cause of their respiratory problems.

The possibility has been raised, including by Neusche¡¦s
father, that the soldiers stumbled upon a hidden cache of
Iraqi biological or chemical weapons. The fact the Bush
administration has issued no triumphant declaration that it
has finally located ¡§weapons of mass destruction¡¨ tends to
discount this scenario.

The palaces of Saddam Hussein were subjected to heavy
bombardment by US aircraft during the invasion, partly in an
effort to assassinate leaders of the Iraqi regime. Among the
ordinance that is likely to have been used on such targets
are the so-called ¡§bunker-buster¡¨ bombs. Analysts believe
the ¡§dense metal¡¨ used in such bombs to enable them to
penetrate deep into suspected underground bunkers is
depleted uranium (DU).

Dai Williams, an independent DU researcher from Britain,
wrote in the introduction to a January 2002 report: ¡§A
2-ton DU warhead, suspected in the GBU-28 & 37 Bunker Buster
bombs, would deliver 50-100 times more DU oxide
contamination per target than the 30-mm DU antitank shells
fired by A10 aircraft in the Balkans War. This risk could
totally alter previous evaluations of the health and
environmental hazards of DU to civilians and troops, past
present and future, in combat zones from Iraq and the
Balkans to Afghanistan¡¨ (emphasis in the original). [See for full report]

To date, the Pentagon has released no details about the last
assignment of Eaton and the other two young men who died in
their beds. Nor has the US Army Surgeon General¡¦s office
released any information about the investigation that it is
conducting. None of the media organizations with the
resources to do so have yet surveyed Iraqi hospitals to
ascertain whether pneumonia-like conditions or pulmonary
edemas are being reported in increased numbers among former
Iraqi soldiers or the broader Iraqi civilian population, who
were also exposed to the lethal byproducts of US depleted
uranium munitions.

Such a survey appears to be warranted.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]