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News ::
The Delayed Toll of Modern Wars (english)
30 Mar 2003
The misleading nature of casualty reports which concentrate on battlefield casualties, rather than the much higher total after the war is over
After the Vietnam War, US military planners realized that future wars would need to be short, decisive and very low in American casualties. Otherwise, even with effective propaganda, it would be difficult to mobilize the public to support wars of long duration with significant US casualties. The Panama invasion, the first Persian Gulf War and the bombing of Yugoslavia were all successful with few casualties, and so confidence grew that the so-called Vietnam Syndrome had been overcome.

Although the killed and wounded American soldiers of the first war against Iraq were few in number, the number getting sick, becoming disabled or dying months or years later was considerable. Joyce Riley of the American Gulf War Veterans Association has estimated that approximately 400,000 of the 697,000 military personnel serving in the first Persian Gulf war are sick, roughly 200,000 of these young men and women are disabled and receiving a small monthly payment of ninety-eight dollars from the federal government and over ten thousand have already died.

Can one imagine how most Americans would feel if they realized that two-thirds of the soldiers now fighting in the deserts of Iraq would come home sick and this illness would be persistent, leading to disability or death? I don't think there would be nearly the support for the war that there is at the present time.

The corporate media can easily ignore the slow progression of illness and death which occurs after a war. They find it more difficult to ignore US casualties on the battlefield, although often they accept Pentagon figures, which are lies, minimizing the actual number of US casualties.

Let's face the facts. Deaths in combat have entertainment value for television networks. Tank battles, bombs exploding and antiaircraft fire lighting up the night sky undoubtedly increase ratings. They don't want to cover someone getting cancer years later. That unfortunate circumstance can be attributed to other causes and simply ignored. This is an ideal situation for the Pentagon. They can fight wars using deadly weapons like those containing depleted uranium, and the public will only notice the battlefield casualties and not the far higher total at a future time.

There is a lot of depleted uranium being used in the present war. The M1A1 Abrams tank fires a projectile containing 4500 grams of depleted uranium. The A-10 Hornet jet fighter fires a great deal of depleted uranium ammunition when attacking tanks. The Tomahawk cruise missiles and bunker-buster bombs contain depleted uranium. The sands of Iraq already contained an appreciable amount of depleted uranium or uranium-238 from the first Persian Gulf war. Now, even more is being added to it. Dr. Doug Rokke, the US army's nuclear physicist in charge of monitoring and cleanup of some of the depleted uranium used in the 1991 war, has developed cancer himself and is vociferously opposed to the use of depleted uranium weapons.

I have no apprehension whatever in predicting that another large proportion of the American soldiers presently fighting in this war will come home sick and become disabled or die. The Iraqis will suffer even more because they will have to live in this radioactive land. Their children will develop cancers in even greater numbers, and Iraqi mothers will be afraid to give birth because of possible deformities in their babies. This war will be a nightmare for both Iraqis and Americans, not only while the war lasts, but years later as well. The only ones to benefit will be the American and British corporations which profit from war and conquest. What an extremely sad and tragic state of affairs!
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