Monday, January 30, 2006

Depleted Uranium in IL-06 Race

I missed the York Township Democrats candidate forum yesterday held in Villa Park. There is only so many times I can hear the candidates say the same answers to the same questions. But again, I picked the wrong one to miss as there seem to have been some good questions on deeper issues.

One of the most eye opening ones, in my opinion, was the questions directed at the candidates regarding depleted uranium used in Iraq. The question showed quite a difference in the candidates, especially given specific responses by Cegelis, Duckworth, and Scott.

The details below are part of a report posted at SoapBlox Chicago by Gary Kleppe, who attended the event:
The most telling difference between these candidates came during a question on depleted uranium. Duckworth saw this only as a security issue, talking about the need to keep such weapons under the control of US forces. Scott said that the Bush administration should not be above the law and the war should not be used to excuse wrongdoing. And then Cegelis hit the ball out of the park:
I was reading about [depleted uranium] before we actually went in this second time -- because we used it in the first Gulf War. And then there is a very high rate of leukemia and cancer with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi children. I know that's something we should be concerned about. And now we have exposed our troops to it as well, and as they come back we are probably going to see, just as we did in Vietnam, a lot of our veterans coming home with diseases that we don't understand how they got. And I don't want to see our Veterans Administration saying, well, it couldn't have been the Agent Orange, or it couldn't have been the depleted uranium, it must be something that happened to you after you got here, so that we don't have to cover it. That is something I am very concerned about, and we need to be looking at that as a campaign issue, we need to be looking at it as Congressional oversight. We need to hold this government's feet to the fire to make sure that anything that happens, that we know that we are taking care of the soldiers as they come home, the veterans as they come home. But also, we also need to know, what exactly are the health risks and how exposing that to the Iraqi people, how has that hurt them as well.

A follow-up, which was essentially the same question again, was asked, and found Duckworth evidently unable to see the other side:
We're not actually firing stable rounds at our own troops... our troops are not exposed to depleted uranium. It's actually part of the weapons system that they're not exposed to at all.

I wasn't there to hear this, but my reaction upon reading it was shock. Of course we're not using it on our own troops. That's not the point. We're not shooting at tanks with this stuff. Our troops and Iraqi civilians are being exposed to it. But my reaction seemed to have not been lost on the room. Gary continues:
A woman behind me said, "What about the Iraqis?" but not loud enough for the candidates to hear. I also thought about the evidence linking depleted uranium to so-called Gulf War Syndrome. Could troops who use this stuff as weaponry and who have to live in the country really avoid exposure to the stuff? And Duckworth's characterization of DU as being used to penetrate tank armor also made me wonder. Isn't the Iraqi resistance fighting a guerilla war? Since when do they have tanks?
But anyway, Duckworth continued:
So that's not the factual thing you need to take a quick look at. There were leftover depleted uranium as a contaminant following the first gulf war from when we actually used those rounds to blow up Iraq tanks. So there's a difference there.

Scott then responded:
Here's where we differ. Although we're not using uranium against our own troops, and they're not being exposed to it, human beings, Iraqi men, women, and children, are being exposed to it. This is a human rights issue. We should have a policy that seeks the well-being of all people. So yes, I would try to stop it.

And Cegelis had the final word on this:

Yes, it concerns me greatly, any child that is born with birth defects.... I've actually walked with a woman whose daughter died of leukemia here in the United States. And I don't believe that an Iraqi mother hurts any less if their child dies of leukemia than an American mother. So yes, I would work to stop the use of depleted uranium.

I'm so very proud that I support a candidate like Cegelis who understands the issues, even issues like depleted uranium, and can relate them to people on such a personal level. You can support Christine too, by getting involved in her campaign.