2072US Troops Face Radiation Sickness
- Apr 5, 2004Shocking report reveals local troops
may be victims of america's high-tech weapons
By JUAN GONZALEZ
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
April 3, 2004
Army Sgt. Hector Vega at his Bronx home.
Augustin Matos with his daughter Samantha
Four soldiers from a New York Army National Guard
company serving in Iraq are contaminated with
radiation likely caused by dust from depleted uranium
shells fired by U.S. troops, a Daily News
investigation has found.
They are among several members of the same company,
the 442nd Military Police, who say they have been
battling persistent physical ailments that began last
summer in the Iraqi town of Samawah.
"I got sick instantly in June," said Staff Sgt. Ray
Ramos, a Brooklyn housing cop. "My health kept going
downhill with daily headaches, constant numbness in my
hands and rashes on my stomach."
A nuclear medicine expert who examined and tested nine
soldiers from the company says that four "almost
certainly" inhaled radioactive dust from exploded
American shells manufactured with depleted uranium.
Laboratory tests conducted at the request of The News
revealed traces of two manmade forms of uranium in
urine samples from four of the soldiers.
If so, the men - Sgt. Hector Vega, Sgt. Ray Ramos,
Sgt. Agustin Matos and Cpl. Anthony Yonnone - are the
first confirmed cases of inhaled depleted uranium
exposure from the current Iraq conflict.
The 442nd, made up for the most part of New York cops,
firefighters and correction officers, is based in
Orangeburg, Rockland County. Dispatched to Iraq last
Easter, the unit's members have been providing guard
duty for convoys, running jails and training Iraqi
police. The entire company is due to return home later
"These are amazing results, especially since these
soldiers were military police not exposed to the heat
of battle," said Dr. Asaf Duracovic, who examined the
G.I.s and performed the testing that was funded by The
"Other American soldiers who were in combat must have
more depleted uranium exposure," said Duracovic, a
colonel in the Army Reserves who served in the 1991
Persian Gulf War.
While working at a military hospital in Delaware, he
was one of the first doctors to discover unusual
radiation levels in Gulf War veterans. He has since
become a leading critic of the use of depleted uranium
Depleted uranium, a waste product of the uranium
enrichment process, has been used by the U.S. and
British military for more than 15 years in some
artillery shells and as armor plating for tanks. It is
twice as heavy as lead.
Because of its density, "It is the superior heavy
metal for armor to protect tanks and to penetrate
armor," Pentagon spokesman Michael Kilpatrick said.
The Army and Air Force fired at least 127 tons of
depleted uranium shells in Iraq last year, Kilpatrick
said. No figures have yet been released for how much
the Marines fired.
Kilpatrick said about 1,000 G.I.s back from the war
have been tested by the Pentagon for depleted uranium
and only three have come up positive - all as a result
of shrapnel from DU shells.
But the test results for the New York guardsmen - four
of nine positives for DU - suggest the potential for
more extensive radiation exposure among coalition
troops and Iraqi civilians.
Several Army studies in recent years have concluded
that the low-level radiation emitted when shells
containing DU explode poses no significant dangers.
But some independent scientists and a few of the
Army's own reports indicate otherwise.
As a result, depleted uranium weapons have sparked
increasing controversy around the world. In January
2003, the European Parliament called for a moratorium
on their use after reports of an unusual number of
leukemia deaths among Italian soldiers who served in
Kosovo, where DU weapons were used.
I keep getting weaker. What is happening to me?
The Army says that only soldiers wounded by depleted
uranium shrapnel or who are inside tanks during an
explosion face measurable radiation exposure.
But as far back as 1979, Leonard Dietz, a physicist at
the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory upstate, discovered
that DU-contaminated dust could travel for long
Dietz, who pioneered the technology to isolate uranium
isotopes, accidentally discovered that air filters
with which he was experimenting had collected
radioactive dust from a National Lead Industries Plant
that was producing DU 26 miles away. His discovery led
to a shutdown of the plant.
"The contamination was so heavy that they had to
remove the topsoil from 52 properties around the
plant," Dietz said.
All humans have at least tiny amounts of natural
uranium in their bodies because it is found in water
and in the food supply, Dietz said. But natural
uranium is quickly and harmlessly excreted by the
Uranium oxide dust, which lodges in the lungs once
inhaled and is not very soluble, can emit radiation to
the body for years.
"Anybody, civilian or soldier, who breathes these
particles has a permanent dose, and it's not going to
decrease very much over time," said Dietz, who retired
in 1983 after 33 years as nuclear physicist. "In the
long run ... veterans exposed to ceramic uranium oxide
have a major problem."
Critics of DU have noted that the Army's view of its
dangers has changed over time.
Before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a 1990 Army report
noted that depleted uranium is "linked to cancer when
exposures are internal, [and] chemical toxicity
causing kidney damage."
It was during the Gulf War that U.S. A-10 Warthog
"tank buster" planes and Abrams tanks first used DU
artillery on a mass scale. The Pentagon says it fired
about 320 tons of DU in that war and that smaller
amounts were also used in the Serbian province of
In the Gulf War, Army brass did not warn soldiers
about any risks from exploding DU shells. An unknown
number of G.I.s were exposed by shrapnel, inhalation
or handling battlefield debris.
Some veterans groups blame DU contamination as a
factor in Gulf War syndrome, the term for a host of
ailments that afflicted thousands of vets from that
Under pressure from veterans groups, the Pentagon
commissioned several new studies. One of those,
published in 2000, concluded that DU, as a heavy
metal, "could pose a chemical hazard" but that Gulf
War veterans "did not experience intakes high enough
to affect their health."
Pentagon spokesman Michael Kilpatrick said Army
followup studies of 70 DU-contaminated Gulf War
veterans have not shown serious health effects.
"For any heavy metal, there is no such thing as safe,"
Kilpatrick said. "There is an issue of chemical
toxicity, and for DU it is raised as radiological
toxicity as well."
But he said "the overwhelming conclusion" from studies
of those who work with uranium "show it has not
produced any increase in cancers."
Several European studies, however, have linked DU to
chromosome damage and birth defects in mice. Many
scientists say we still don't know enough about the
long-range effects of low-level radiation on the body
to say any amount is safe.
Britain's national science academy, the Royal Society,
has called for identifying where DU was used and is
urging a cleanup of all contaminated areas.
"A large number of American soldiers [in Iraq] may
have had significant exposure to uranium oxide dust,"
said Dr. Thomas Fasey, a pathologist at Mount Sinai
Medical Center and an expert on depleted uranium. "And
the health impact is worrisome for the future."
As for the soldiers of the 442nd, they're sick,
frustrated and confused. They say when they arrived in
Iraq no one warned them about depleted uranium and no
one gave them dust masks.
Experts behind News probe
As part of the investigation by the Daily News, Dr.
Asaf Duracovic, a nuclear medicine expert who has
conducted extensive research on depleted uranium,
examined the nine soldiers from the 442nd Military
Police in late December and collected urine specimens
Another member of his team, Prof. Axel Gerdes, a
geologist at Goethe University in Frankfurt who
specializes in analyzing uranium isotopes, performed
repeated tests on the samples over a week-long
period. He used a state-of-the art procedure called
multiple collector inductively coupled plasma-mass
Only about 100 laboratories worldwide have the same
capability to identify and measure various uranium
isotopes in minute quantities, Gerdes said.
Gerdes concluded that four of the men had depleted
uranium in their bodies. Depleted uranium, which does
not occur in nature, is created as a waste product of
uranium enrichment when some of the highly radioactive
isotopes in natural uranium, U-235 and U-234, are
Several of the men, according to Duracovic, also had
minute traces of another uranium isotope, U-236, that
is produced only in a nuclear reaction process.
"These men were almost certainly exposed to
radioactive weapons on the battlefield," Duracovic
He and Gerdes plan to issue a scientific paper on
their study of the soldiers at the annual meeting of
the European Association of Nuclear Medicine in
Finland this year.
When DU shells explode, they permanently contaminate
their target and the area immediately around it with
BUSH LOYALISTS PACK IRAQ PRESS OFFICE
Jim Krane, Associated Press, 4/4/04
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Inside the marble-floored palace hall that
serves as the press office of the U.S.-led coalition, Republican
Party operatives lead a team of Americans who promote mostly good
news about Iraq.
Dan Senor, a former press secretary for Spencer Abraham, the Michigan
Republican who's now Energy Secretary, heads the office that includes
a large number of former Bush campaign workers, political appointees
and ex-Capitol Hill staffers.
More than one-third of the U.S. civilian workers in the press office
have GOP ties, running an enterprise that critics see as an outpost
of Bush's re-election effort with Iraq a top concern. Senor and
others inside the coalition say they follow strict guidelines that
steer clear of politics.
One of the main goals of the Office of Strategic Communications -
known as stratcom - is to ensure Americans see the positive side of
the Bush administration's invasion, occupation and reconstruction of
Iraq, where 600 U.S. soldiers have died and a deadly insurgency
``Beautification Plan for Baghdad Ready to Begin,'' one press release
in late March said in its headline. Another statement last month
cautioned, ``The Reality is Nothing Like What You See on
Senor, spokesman for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority,
said his office is guided by ethical ``red lines'' that prevent it
from crossing into the Bush campaign.
``We have an obligation to communicate with the U.S. Congress and the
American people, given that they're spending almost $20 billion in
Iraq and have committed over 100,000 U.S. troops here,'' Senor said
in an interview with The Associated Press.
Earlier in his career, after Hebrew University and Harvard Business
School, Senor was with the Carlyle Group, an investment firm with
Bush family ties and big defense industry holdings. Senor jogged in a
Thanksgiving Day race here wearing a ``Bush-Cheney 2004'' T-shirt.
Known as the Green Room, the press office is inside coalition
headquarters in the Republican Palace that used to belong to Saddam
Hussein. The palace is in central Baghdad's heavily fortified Green
The office counts 21 Republicans - 11 of whom have worked inside the
Bush administration before their Iraq posting - among its 58 U.S.
civilian staffers, according to figures Senor provided. The political
affiliation of the 37 others could not be determined.
More than half a dozen CPA officials in the press office worked on
Bush's 2000 presidential campaign or are related to Bush campaign
workers, according to payroll records filed with the Federal
Republican figures also permeate the wider CPA staff, including top
advisers to U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and the Iraqi
The U.S. team stands in deep contrast to the British team that works
alongside it, almost all of whom are civil or foreign service
employees, not political appointees. Many of the British in Iraq
display regional knowledge or language skills that most of the
The drive to re-elect Bush is a sensitive topic. Several coalition
officials angered by what they see as CPA politicking - with U.S.
accomplishments in Iraq being trumpeted to help Bush - grumbled
privately, but would not go on record with complaints.
But Gordon Robison, a former CPA contractor who helped build the
Pentagon-funded Al-Iraqiya television station in Baghdad, said
Republicans in the press room intensely followed the Democratic
presidential primaries as John Kerry emerged as the presumed nominee.
``Iraq is in danger of costing George W. Bush his presidency and the
CPA's media staff are determined to see that does not happen,''
Robison said. ``I had the impression in dealing with the civilians in
the Green Room that they viewed their job as essentially political,
promoting what the Coalition Provisional Authority is doing in Iraq
as a political arm of the Bush administration,'' he added.
Robison, a journalist who said his political affiliation is a private
matter, left Baghdad in March after finishing his contract with U.S.
defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. A new
U.S. contractor, Harris Corp., has taken over the Al-Iraqiya
One CPA staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the press
office had sent targeted ``good news'' releases to American
television, radio and newspaper outlets that were timed to deflect
criticism of Bush during the Democratic primaries.
Stratcom's schedule of news releases shows that stories were sent to
media outlets in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia and
other states in the days before their Democratic primaries. But the
schedule also shows releases sent to Virginia, Ohio and Florida after
the primaries were over. Senor said any correlation to the vote was a
Rich Galen, 57, a well-known Republican strategist, oversees the
daily news releases sent directly to media outlets in the United
States. Before joining the CPA press operation late last year, Galen
wrote a GOP insider column and appeared on Fox News to harpoon
liberal critics of Bush.
Now, he's still writing an Internet column, but he's turned it into
what he calls a travelogue about Iraq. And he still appears on Fox -
but long-distance via satellite and as a CPA spokesman.
Galen has been press secretary for both former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich and former Vice President Dan Quayle during their careers.
Galen's 27-year-old son, Reed, is involved in the Bush re-election
Since arriving in Iraq, Galen said he has made sure not to veer into
politics in his work in the Green Room, in his column or during his
``I understand when the game clock is on and when the game clock is
off,'' Galen said. ``The clock is off.''
Were he to get directly involved in the Bush campaign, Galen said
he'd be far more effective working at an office in Virginia outside
of Washington D.C. than from the Iraqi capital. ``It's as inefficient
a way to run a campaign as I can imagine,'' he said of being in
Outside political analysts, however, said Galen's vast expertise lies
in political campaigning, not shipping radio and TV spots to local
audiences. Putting a sharp strategist like him in the press room is a
campaign masterstroke, said Bob Boorstin of the Center for American
Progress, a nonpartisan political think-tank in Washington.
``You know they're in trouble if they shipped Rich Galen over
there,'' said Boorstin, who worked on four presidential campaigns,
``They're desperate to control the story over there. It's a very
smart thing on their part. He knows what he's doing.''
Still, Boorstin said the shaping of the American message out of Iraq
should come as no surprise. The rigors of election year politics
demand the best possible portrayal of key policies, and Bush has
staked his presidency on the notion that he's a war president.
``There's some deep questions about whether (the U.S. invasion) was a
good idea. Wherever and whenever they can, Bush's political people
are manipulating whatever they can,'' he said.
``Is that a surprise? No. Would Democrats do it? Yes. But it's
particularly noxious because people's lives are on the line.''
Associated Press Writer Aparna H. Kumar contributed to this report
Powell misled UN on Iraq
Data given to UN was not solid, admits Powell
WASHINGTON, April 3: US Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged
on Friday that information he gave the United Nations on Iraq's
mobile biological weapons laboratories to justify last year's
invasion did not appear "solid" any longer.
Before the invasion, Mr Powell presented the United Nations with data
proclaiming to prove that Iraq was engaged in the development of
weapons of mass destruction.
"Now it appears not to be the case, that it was that solid," Mr
Powell told reporters on the plane taking him back to Washington from
"But at the time I was preparing that presentation it was presented
to me as being solid," he said.
Mr Powell said that before his Feb 5 speech at the United Nations he
had asked the Central Intelligence Agency for data that would show
the danger of the weapons of mass destruction Iraq was supposedly
developing, and which have never been found in Iraq.
The US failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq following
the country's occupation has embarrassed the US administration,
damaged its reputation around the world and drawn sharp criticism of
the US intelligence community.
"Now, if the sources fell apart, then we need to find out how we've
gotten ourselves in that position," he said. "I've had discussions
about it with the CIA."
He said the information about the suspected labs and other Iraqi
weapons facilities had been presented to him in preparation for his
speech before the UN Security Council "as the best information and
intelligence that we had."
"And I looked at the four elements that they gave me for that one and
they stood behind them," Mr Powell said.
The secretary of state expressed the hope an independent commission
that is going to be starting its work soon will look into these
matters to see whether or not the intelligence agency had a basis for
the confidence that they placed in the intelligence at that time.
He said he said been assured by the intelligence agencies, prior to
his UN presentation, had given him all the assurances that the
information he was working on was solid.
But Mr Powell also said he had made an effort to check it himself.
"I'm not the intelligence community, but I probed and made sure, as I
said in my presentation, these are multi-sourced," he said. "And that
was the most dramatic of them and I made sure it was multi-sourced."
The Washington Post reported last month that information about the
mobile laboratories was second-hand and came from an Iraqi exile, a
chemist, who had never been interrogated by US intelligence
The exile was also linked to the Iraqi National Congress, a group
that had been pressing for a US invasion of Iraq to overthrow the
government of Saddam Hussein, according to the report.
Mr Powell indicated on Tuesday that he might have refrained from
recommending a US invasion of Iraq, if he had had proof that Iraq had
no weapons of mass destruction.
But he said that President Bush had taken the right decision to
launch military action against the country.-AFP
A stretched Pentagon is sending unfit soldiers back to
Iraq long before they are ready to serve again
Broken US troops face bigger enemy at home
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Saturday April 3, 2004
All Jason Gunn ever wanted was to be a soldier. He put
on the uniform three days after high school
graduation, and served six years with distinction. But
in the last real conversation he had with his mother
he swore he would never go back to Iraq.
The army specialist came within inches of death last
November 15, when the Humvee he was driving hit a
roadside bomb, killing his sergeant. The entire left
side of Gunn's body was splattered with shrapnel, his
elbow was shattered and, as he lay in the US military
hospital bed in Germany, he was tortured by
Late on March 23, Gunn told his mother, Pat, that his
commanders were putting pressure on him to return to
Iraq, but there was no way he was getting on that
plane. A few hours later, he was airborne. This week,
Gunn's distraught mother, who is herself a navy
veteran, received a first official response to her
demands to know why a soldier, who was being treated
by military doctors for combat stress, was sent back
to the war.
The note, which acknowledged Gunn suffered
post-traumatic stress, said: "After discussion of his
case it was determined ... this may be in his best
interest mentally to overcome his fear by facing it.
Therefore, he has been cleared for redeployment."
Gunn is not the only broken soldier being sent to
battle. The Guardian has uncovered more than a dozen
instances in which ill or injured soldiers were sent
to war by a US military whose resources have been
stretched near to breaking point by the simultaneous
fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In its investigation,
the Guardian learned of soldiers who were deployed
with almost wilful disregard to their medical
histories, and with the most cursory physical
examinations. Soldiers went to war with chronic
illnesses such as coronary disease, mental illness,
arthritis, diabetes and the nervous condition,
Tourette's syndrome, or after undergoing recent
One sergeant major was shipped out two months after
neck surgery, despite orders from his military doctor
for six months' rest. "The nurse told me to put my
hands above my head and said you are good to go," he
told the Guardian. A female supply sergeant said she
was sent to Kuwait under medical advice not to walk
more than half a mile at a time, or carry more than
50lb. Both had to be medically evacuated within weeks;
the sergeant major required surgery on his return.
In some cases, the wounded were recycled with alarming
speed. A mechanic, who suffered brain damage last June
when his vehicle was hit by a suicide bus, was sent
back to Iraq in October despite reported blurred
vision and memory loss. He returned with his unit last
month, and medical evaluations showed he had continued
bleeding from the original head injury.
In Gunn's case, the determination to return him to
battle is puzzling. His unit, the 1-37 Armoured
Division, is due to return from Iraq in May. "They are
sending an injured soldier back there for seven weeks.
I can't for the life of me imagine why," says Ms Gunn.
"They say they want him to go back and face his fears,
but I just keep thinking what this whole thing will do
to a person. What are they going to send home to us?
Someone who is going to be on disability for the rest
of their lives?"
All of the injured or ill soldiers knew of other unfit
troops who were sent to Iraq last year, or have
recently been redeployed. Some, who like Gunn suffered
combat stress after sustaining serious injury, came
under enormous pressure from their commanders to
return to Iraq. Equally disturbing, a number of
returning soldiers declared unfit for service told the
Guardian the military had tried to force through their
discharge to take them off the benefit rolls.
Such soldiers are almost never seen or heard from in a
war now entering its second year, but their numbers
are growing. The Pentagon's senior health official
told Congress this week that the military had carried
out 18,000 evacuations from Iraq of wounded or ill
Meanwhile, 15,000 soldiers who fought in Iraq and
Afghanistan have filed for disability claims. Some
12,000 have sought medical treatment from facilities
run by the department of veterans affairs. About 4,600
have sought psychological counselling. That demand
threatens to overwhelm a veterans' healthcare system
that has received no new funding since the Iraq war
The drain on combat-ready soldiers - and the costs of
carrying those damaged by this war - are becoming
logistical nightmares for military planners. The
Pentagon has already been forced to extraordinary
measures. Last year, it locked up the service
contracts of National Guard members and army
reservists, preventing them from leaving the military
when their time is up.
Gunn's commanders seem adamant on keeping him. On
Wednesday, Ms Gunn was forwarded a statement from her
son. "It is my wish to be redeployed with my unit to
finish my tour of duty with my unit here in Iraq," the
statement said. "I feel that I am able to complete my
mission here as well as any other duties assigned to
me while on current deployment." It also said he had
discontinued his prescription. Ms Gunn is convinced
the statement was coerced.
Veterans' advocates say Gunn's saga reflects a pattern
in the Pentagon's dealings with casualties of the war:
send them back to battle fast or get them off the
military's books before their ailments drive costs up.
"This is a particularly stressful time for the
military because they have been committed far far
beyond their capability, and that is the reason there
is such pressure," says Stan Goff, a veterans'
activist and writer. "The numbers are becoming more
and more important. They have got to keep more bodies
Battle readiness barely registers. Veronica Torres, a
supply sergeant with 27 years service, was sent to
Kuwait four months after toe surgery, and with
previous injuries that restricted her movement. "Could
I run? No. Could I jump in and out of trucks? No.
Could I march a mile or two? No," she says.
She was there less than a week before reporting to
sick bay. After being medically evacuated last July,
she was diagnosed with diabetes and fibromyalgia.
Others who were evacuated for injury or illness say
their real war started on their return - with the
Gerry Mosley, 49, a first sergeant in a transportation
unit, was injured jumping off a truck that came under
fire. By the time he was medically retired on March
17, he was taking 56 pills a day for shoulder, back
and spinal conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder,
and Parkinson's which was not diagnosed when he was
Mosley also developed an abiding anger against an
institution he served for 31 years, accusing the army
of trying to shirk responsibility for his condition
now he was surplus to requirements.
"I went to Iraq and fought the enemy, not knowing I
was going to come back to the United States and fight
a bigger enemy," he says.
Gov't takes quiet steps toward special skills draft
By Askia Muhammad
White House Correspondent
Updated Mar 30, 2004, 09:27 Email article
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - There is a "cloak of secrecy"
surrounding U.S. war casualties that denies those who have fallen in
the war in Iraq "the recognition they deserve," according to the
Congressional Black Caucus member who has argued that the military
draft must be brought back as the only way of guaranteeing that the
burden of fighting the war will be carried by all.
"The cloak of secrecy that currently surrounds America's fallen
heroes prevents the nation from recognizing the sacrifices made in
the war," said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) March 14 at a solemn anti-
war vigil organized by families of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
Mr. Rangel promised to fight for a Congressional resolution he
introduced, calling for access to Dover Air Force Base, where U.S.
war dead first arrive back on U.S. soil, and where the media was
allowed to show flag-draped coffins and military honor ceremonies up
"We have lost more than 560 American military men and women in Iraq,"
Mr. Rangel continued. "Yet, even the President said in his State of
the Union address, `I know that some people question if America is
really in a war at all.'"
Mr. Rangel also introduced legislation, along with 13 co-sponsors, to
re-introduce the draft "to embarrass the President," because he is
against the war, and because he "thought that people would be
deterred from talking about going to war if, indeed they thought that
their loved ones, their family, their community would be placed in
harm's way," he told guests at New York's famous Riverside Church on
the eve of the eruption of hostilities March 9, 2003.
One year later, the government is quietly taking the first steps
toward a targeted military draft of Americans with special skills in
computers and foreign languages, according to a published report.
The Selective Service System has begun the process of creating the
procedures and policies to conduct a targeted draft in case military
officials ask Congress to authorize it and the lawmakers agree to
such a request, according to the March 13 San Francisco Chronicle.
Richard Flahavan, a spokesman for the Selective Service System, said
that planning for a possible draft of linguists and computer experts
had begun last fall after Pentagon personnel officials said the
military needed more people with skills in those areas, the newspaper
"Talking to the manpower folks at the Department of Defense and
others, what came up was that nobody foresees a need for a large
conventional draft such as we had in Vietnam," Mr. Flahavan
said. "But they thought that, if we have any kind of a draft, it will
probably be a special skills draft."
The agency already has in place a special system to register and
draft healthcare personnel ages 20 to 44 in more than 60 specialties,
if necessary in a crisis.
The issue of a renewed draft has gained attention because of concerns
that U.S. military forces, as they are presently constituted, are
already over-extended. Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. forces have fought
two wars, established a major military presence in Afghanistan and
Iraq, and are now taking on peacekeeping duties in Haiti.
The military draft ended in 1973 as the U.S. commitment in Vietnam
was reduced, ushering in the era of the all-volunteer military.
Mandatory registration for the draft was suspended in 1975, but
resumed in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter after the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan. About 13.5 million men, ages 18 to 25, are registered
with the Selective Service.
Mr. Rangel's newest measure (H. Con. Res. 384) calls for the removal
of all restrictions on the public, the press and mourning military
families that currently prohibit them from witnessing this country's
war dead return from overseas.
The current restriction on news coverage of the arrival of military
remains was established, ostensibly to protect the privacy of
families and friends of the dead, Mr. Rangel pointed out. But, in
practice, family members are themselves excluded.
One mother complained to Mr. Rangel's office that she was
advised "unequivocally, that only military personnel are allowed to
be present when soldiers are brought home."
"What is most reprehensible is that the military families themselves
are not allowed access to the bases where the remains of their loved
ones come back home," he said. "This resolution would allow the
families to pay their respects without such restrictions. It would
also allow the families of these fallen heroes to know the depth of
the nation's appreciation for the sacrifices they have made."
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