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Friday, June 20, 2008

Talk by a Gulf War veteran, Dennis Kyne in Tokyo

Peace Journalist Yumiko Kikuno

On May 9th 2008, I attended a talk event,”Truth of Depleted Uranium Weapon” by a Gulf War veteran, Dennis Kyne in Tokyo. He had served as a medic for the US Army since 1987 and joined Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield during the Gulf War in 1991. After the Operations, he saw a horrible sight on the way from Kuwait to Baghdad, which was called “Highway of Death.” The highway was destroyed and radioactively contaminated by 340 tons of depleted uranium weapons (DU) by American air strikes. Dennis started to wonder what happened to many returned soldiers from the Gulf War who suffered from illness or died. And then, he could no longer believe a policy of US forces and discharged from it in 2003. Dennis, who claims that depleted uranium weapons has to be regarded as nuclear armaments, has currently worked on movements for abolition of DU and nuclear arms or anti-war campaigns.


   Depleted uranium weapons are made of nuclear wastes emitted from nuclear power plants. Its characteristics, such as heavy and solid, make it possible to penetrate a heavy tank. When DU weapons go through a target, they burn at a high temperature and become more like gas. As a result, air, water and soil would be contaminated by those radioactive particles, and soldiers and people in the battlefields would suffer from internal radioactive exposure caused by inhaling DU dust. The rate of cancer, leukemia or deformed baby in Iraq and Kosovo, where DU weapons have been used, has drastically increased.

   Dennis showed the participants many photographs that he took in the battlefields. These pictures could support Dennis’s comment that this weapon destroyed living things, but it did not effect on substances. For example, one soldier’s body was carbonized, but the jeep’s tire beside the body was not destroyed. Although the other body melted, its boots kept their original forms. There was not any bombshell trails around a corpse that was severely damaged. Although I already knew internal radioactive exposure due to DU weapons would give severe damages to people, I was really shocked again by new information about devastated battlefields.

The Gulf War veteran said, “The US government has reported that DU will not be harmful to the environment and people because radiation from DU is much lower than that of the natural backgrounds levels of uranium in the environment. However, it is not true. We have to inform across the world that it is dangerous for people to be exposed to even low does once they are internally contaminated by radiation.” He continued his speech, “When I was a child, I believed mission of an army was to keep peace. However, now I think American policy has destroyed peace. It is impossible to export democracy with war and the forces are not capable to create peace. In addition, capitalism ruins democracy. Moreover, chronic fear is necessary to keep war culture. Sadly, American citizens tend to believe wrong information that the US government gives to justify war.” In addition, Dennis explained some schools in the US set Junior Officer Training Cadet to recruit students aged between 14 to 17. The course is supposed to provide students with an opportunity to learn manner or discipline, but what they will actually learn is marching or fighting strategy.  The government gives subsidy to schools that adopt the program. Students, who complete the course, will be able to get promoted fast when they join the army.

    We sometimes find out the truth that is the last thing that we would want to know. However, I think we should consider that the shocking truth is not the thing to bring fear or hopelessness to our society, but a chance to raise issues. It might be a message to make us realize what has happened in our world and I want to believe the reason why horrifying truth surfaces is that it could be possible to solve the problems. Dennis Kyne, who has witnessed lots of scenes from hell, wrapped up his talk, saying,” Peace is possible!”

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