The War Against Ourselves
An Interview with Major Doug
FutureNet / Yes!
Doug Rokke has a PhD in health physics
and was originally trained as a forensic scientist. When the Gulf
War started, he was assigned to prepare soldiers to respond to
nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, and sent to the Gulf.
What he experienced has made him a passionate voice for peace,
traveling the country to speak out.
The following interview was conducted
by the director of the Traprock Peace Center, Sunny Miller, supplemented
with questions from YES! editors.
QUESTION : Any viewer who saw the war
on television had the impression this was an easy war, fought
from a distance and soldiers coming back relatively unharmed.
Is this an accurate picture?
ROKKE : At the completion of the Gulf
War, when we came back to the United States in the fall of 1991,
we had a total casualty count of 760: 294 dead, a little over
400 wounded or ill. But the casualty rate now for Gulf War veterans
is approximately 30 percent. Of those stationed in the theater,
including after the conflict, 221,000 have been awarded disability,
according to a Veterans Affairs (VA) report issued September 10,
Many of the US casualties died as a direct
result of uranium munitions friendly fire. US forces killed and
wounded US forces.
We recommended care for anybody downwind
of any uranium dust, anybody working in and around uranium contamination,
and anyone within a vehicle,structure, or building that's struck
with uranium munitions. That's thousands upon thousands of individuals,
but not only US troops. You should provide medical care not only
for the enemy soldiers but for the Iraqi women and children affected,
and clean up all of the contamination in Iraq.
And it's not just children in Iraq. It's
children born to soldiers after they came back home. The military
admitted that they were finding uranium excreted in the semen
of the soldiers. If you've got uranium in the semen, the genetics
are messed up. So when the children were conceived -- the alpha
particles cause such tremendous cell damage and genetics damage
that everything goes bad. Studies have found that male soldiers
who served in the Gulf War were almost twice as likely to have
a child with a birth defect and female soldiers almost three times
Q: You have been a military man for over
35 years. You served in Vietnam as a bombardier and you are still
in the US Army Reserves. Now you're going around the country speaking
about the dangers of depleted uranium (DU). What made you decide
you had to speak publicly about DU?
ROKKE: Everybody on my team was getting
sick. My best friend John Sitton was
dying. The military refused him medical care, and he died. John
set up the medical evacuation communication system for the entire
theater. Then he got contaminated doing the work.
John and Rolla Dolph and I were best friends
in the civilian world, the military world, forever. Rolla got
sick. I personally got the order that sent him to war. We were
both activated together.
I was given the assignment to teach nuclear,
biological, and chemical warfare and make sure soldiers came back
alive and safe. I take it seriously. I was sent to the Gulf with
this instruction: Bring 'em back alive. Clear as could be. But
when I got all the training together, all the environmental cleanup
procedures together, all the medical directives, nothing happened.
More than 100 American soldiers were exposed
to DU in friendly fire accidents, plus
untold numbers of soldiers who climbed on and entered tanks that
had been hit with DU, taking photos and gathering souvenirs to
take home. They didn't know about the hazards.
DU is an extremely effective weapon. Each
tank round is 10 pounds of solid uranium-238 contaminated with
plutonium, neptunium, americium. It is pyrophoric, generating
intense heat on impact, penetrating a tank because of the heavy
weight of its metal. When uranium munitions hit, it's like a firestorm
inside any vehicle or structure, and so we saw tremendous burns,
tremendous injuries. It was devastating.
The US military decided to blow up Saddam's
chemical, biological, and radiological
stockpiles in place, which released the contamination back on
the US troops and on everybody in the whole region. The chemical
agent detectors and radiological monitors were going off all over
the place. We had all of the various nerve agents. We think there
were biological agents, and there were destroyed nuclear reactor
facilities. It was a toxic wasteland. And we had DU added to this
When we first got assigned to clean up
the DU and arrived in northern Saudi Arabia, we started getting
sick within 72 hours. Respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding,
open sores started almost immediately.
When you have a mass dose of radioactive
particulates and you start breathing
that in, the deposit sits in the back of the pharynx, where the
cancer started initially on the first guy. It doesn't take a lot
of time. I had a father and son working with me. The father is
already dead from lung cancer, and the sick son is still denied
Q: Did you suspect what was happening?
ROKKE: We didn't know anything about DU
when the Gulf
War started. As a warrior, you're listening
to your leaders, and they're saying there are no health effects
from the DU. But, as we started to study this, to go back to what
we learned in physics and our engineering -- I was a professor
of environmental science and engineering -- you learn rapidly
that what they're telling you doesn't agree with what you know
In June of 1991, when I got back to the
States, I was sick. Respiratory problems
and the rashes and neurological things were starting to show up.
Q: Why didn't you go to the VA with a
ROKKE: Because I was still in the Army,
and I was told I couldn't file. You have to have the information
that connects your exposure to your service before you go to the
VA. The VA obviously wasn't going to take care of me, so I went
to my private physician. We had no idea what it was, but so many
good people were coming back sick.
They didn't do tests on me or my team
members. According to the Department of Defense's own guidelines
put out in 1992, any excretion level in the urine above 15 micrograms
of uranium per day should result in immediate medical testing,
and when you get up to 250 micrograms of total uranium excreted
per day, you're supposed to be under continuous medical care.
Finally the US Department of Energy performed
a radiobioassay on me in November 1994, while I was director of
the Depleted Uranium Project for the Department of Defense. My
excretion rate was approximately 1500 micrograms per day. My level
was 5 to 6 times beyond the level that requires continuous medical
But they didn't tell me for two and a
Q: What are the symptoms of exposure to
ROKKE: Fibromyalgia. Eye cataracts from
the radiation. When uranium impacts any type of vehicle or structure,
uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium explode all over the
place. This can be breathed in or go into a wound. Once it gets
in the body, a portion of this stuff is soluble, which means it
goes into the blood stream and all of your organs. The insoluble
fraction stays -- in the lungs, for example. The radiation damage
and the particulates destroy the lungs.
Q: What kind of training have the troops
had, who are getting called up right now -- the ones being shipped
to the vicinity of what may be the next Gulf War?
ROKKE: As the director of the Depleted
Uranium Project, I developed a 40-hour block of training. All
that curriculum has been shelved. They turned what I wrote into
a 20-minute program that's full of distortions. It doesn't deal
with the reality of uranium munitions.
The equipment is defective. The General
Accounting Office verified that the gas masks leak, the chemical
protective suits leak. Unbelievably, Defense Department officials
recently said the defects can be fixed with duct tape.
Q: If my neighbors are being sent off
to combat with equipment and training that is inadequate, and
into battle with a toxic weapon, DU, who can speak up?
ROKKE : Every husband and wife, son and
daughter, grandparent, aunt and uncle, needs to call their congressmen
and cite these official government reports and force the military
to ensure that our troops have adequate equipment and adequate
training. If we don't take care of our American veterans after
a war, as happened with the Gulf War, and now we're about ready
to send them into a war again -- we can't do it.
We can't do it. It's a crime against God.
It's a crime against humanity to use uranium munitions in a war,
and it's devastating to ignore the consequences of war.
These consequences last for eternity.
The half life of uranium 238 is 4.5 billion years. And we left
over 320 tons all over the place in Iraq.
We also bombarded Vieques, Puerto Rico,
with DU in preparation for the war in Kosovo. That's affecting
American citizens on American territory. When I tried to activate
our team from the Department of Defense responsible for radiological
safety and DU cleanup in Vieques, I was told no. When I tried
to activate medical care, I was told no.
The US Army made me their expert. I went
into the project with the total intent to ensure they could use
uranium munitions in war, because I'm a warrior.
What I saw as director of the project,
doing the research and working with my own medical conditions
and everybody else's, led me to one conclusion: uranium munitions
must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care
must be provided for everyone, not just the US or the Canadians
or the British or the Germans or the French but for the American
citizens of Vieques, for the residents of Iraq, of Okinawa, of
Scotland, of Indiana, of Maryland, and now Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Q: If your information got out widely,
do you think there's a possibility that the families of those
soldiers would beg them to refuse?
ROKKE: If you're going to be sent into
a toxic wasteland, and you know you're going to wear gas masks
and chemical protective suits that leak, and you're not going
to get any medical care after you're exposed to all of these things,
would you go? Suppose they gave a war and nobody came. You've
got to start peace sometime.
Q: It does sound remarkable for someone
who has been in the military for 35 years to be talking about
when peace should begin.
ROKKE: When I do these talks, especially
in churches, I'm reminded that these religions say, "And
a child will lead us to peace." But if we contaminate the
environment, where will the child come from? The children won't
be there. War has become obsolete, because we can't deal with
the consequences on our warriors or the environment, but more
important, on the noncombatants. When you reach a point in war
when the contamination and the health effects of war can't be
cleaned up because of the weapons you use, and medical care can't
be given to the soldiers who participated in the war on either
side or to the civilians affected, then it's time for peace.
For more information on DU, see:
THE WISE URANIUM PROJECT: http://www.antenna.nl/wise/uranium/
THE NATIONAL GULF WAR RESOURCE CENTER:
VETERANS FOR COMMON SENSE: http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org
Sunny Miller's interview was originally
broadcast on WMFO (Boston) in November 2002 and is available for
re-broadcast at: http://www.traprockpeace.org
War and Peace page