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US Troops Face Radiation Sickness

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    Shocking report reveals local troops may be victims of america s high-tech weapons By JUAN GONZALEZ DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER April 3, 2004
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2004
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      Shocking report reveals local troops
      may be victims of america's high-tech weapons
      By JUAN GONZALEZ
      DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
      April 3, 2004
      http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/180333p-156685c.html



      -
      photos:
      Army Sgt. Hector Vega at his Bronx home.
      http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_content/8-vega0404.JPG


      Augustin Matos with his daughter Samantha
      http://www.nydailynews.com/ips_rich_content/474-
      matoswithdaughter0404.JPG
      -


      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
      this month.

      "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
      News.

      "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
      in warfare.

      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
      distances.

      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
      body.

      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
      Kosovo.

      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
      war.

      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
      from each.

      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
      spectrometry.

      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
      extracted.

      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
      said.

      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
      low-level radioactivity.

      http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/180333p-156685c.html

      =================
      BUSH LOYALISTS PACK IRAQ PRESS OFFICE
      Jim Krane, Associated Press, 4/4/04
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-3940735,00.html

      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
      thrives.

      ``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
      Television.''

      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
      Zone.

      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
      Elections Commission.

      Republican figures also permeate the wider CPA staff, including top
      advisers to U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and the Iraqi
      ministries.

      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
      Americans lack.

      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
      operations.

      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
      coincidence.

      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
      effort.

      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
      television appearances.

      ``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
      Baghdad.

      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,
      all Democratic.

      ``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
      from Washington.

      ------------------------------------------------------------------
      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
      Brussels.

      "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
      officials.

      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

      http://www.dawn.com/cgi-bin/dina.pl?file=top11.htm&date=20040404

      ==============
      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
      The Guardian
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1184960,00.html

      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
      nightmares.

      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
      surgery.

      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
      soldiers.

      Disability claims


      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
      began.

      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
      in theatre."

      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
      military bureaucracy.

      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
      shipped out.

      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.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1184960,00.html

      ================
      Gov't takes quiet steps toward special skills draft
      By Askia Muhammad
      White House Correspondent
      Updated Mar 30, 2004, 09:27 Email article
      Print page



      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
      until 1991.

      "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
      reported.

      "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."

      http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_1356.shtml

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