Mahalo to Joan Conrow and the Hawaii Independent for this article about Hilo residents’ opposition to Strykers and possible Depleted Uranium contamination being in the Veteran’s Day Parade.
Hilo Veterans’ Day parade hit with depleted uranium concerns
Nov 05, 2009 – 12:35 PM | By Joan Conrow | The Hawaii Independent
HILO—Plans to include vehicles from Hawaii Island’s Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) in Saturday’s Veteran’s Day parade in Hilo have met opposition from those concerned about glorifying war and possible contamination by depleted uranium (DU).
Jim Albertini, director of the Malu Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action, said that after event organizers told him Stryker vehicles would be participating in the parade, he wrote to Lt. Col. Warline S. Richardson, the PTA’s commanding officer, to express his concerns.
“Including Stryker vehicles in the parade is a provocative action that glorifies war disguised as honoring veterans,” Albertini wrote in his October 30 letter. “I urge that Strykers and other combat weapons be kept out of the parade. To parade these killing machines through our peaceful streets desensitizes young and old to the horrors of war.
“As you know, basing Strykers in Hawaii has been a major controversy,” the letter continued. “Their use of Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons in Iraq contaminating that country forever is equally controversial, and likely related to the Gulf War Syndrome that has effected [sic] the health of hundreds of thousands of disabled U.S. veterans and millions of Iraqi citizens. The fact that these Strykers are currently doing live-fire training at Pohakuloa, known to be contaminated with DU, risks spreading that contamination, endangering the health and safety of troops and the citizens of this island. Bringing these Strykers, that may be contaminated with DU, down the streets of Hilo adds insult to injury.”
Albertini said that Richardson contacted him early the next morning and said she was willing to keep mobile weapons out of the parade in order to avoid a protest, and instead would send “command Strykers” that were outfitted with communications equipment rather than weaponry.
But he said Richardson was not receptive when he raised the concern that any vehicles from PTA could be contaminated with DU oxide: “I don’t think she takes that issue very seriously.”
Albertini said that fear about possible DU contamination from the training area was widespread on the Big Island, and had prompted the Hawaii County Council to pass a 2008 resolution “ordering a complete halt to B-2 bombing missions and all live firing exercises and other actions at PTA that create dust until there’s an assessment and clean up of the depleted uranium already present.”
When contacted by The Hawaii Independent, Richardson said: “Those vehicles aren’t contaminated. What would they be contaminated with?” Richardson also denied that she had agreed to let command Strykers participate in the parade. “I don’t control those vehicles,” she said.
“She’s telling two different stories,” Albertini countered.
Loran Doane, media relations chief for the U.S. Army Garrison, said that event organizers had asked the Army to participate in the parade, but “no final determination has been made as to exact form that participation will take.” He said a decision likely would be made by noon Friday.
He also said that the Army has a “process and standards for cleaning military vehicles before entry into the U.S.”
The fact sheet for cleaning vehicles states: “Those identified as contaminated with DU are wrapped in plastic and tarps (encased) to prevent the spread of any removable contamination or residues. They are then shipped through the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, to the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland. Here, the vehicles are assessed for decontamination and repair, or for recovery of parts.”
Richardson also said she could not understand the objection to Styrkers. “It’s just a wheeled type of a piece of equipment. I just don’t understand a little bit of the concern,” she said, likening them to Toyota releasing a new version of the Maxima. ”Part of it is education. That’s why you want to let them participate in parades.”
Meanwhile, Major Doug Rokke (Ret.), the former director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium project, issued a statement in response to the parade plans that read:
“Any and all combat vehicles and equipment (everything) returned from Iraq should be prohibited from any civilian area. A standard wash rack is useless for decontamination. Keep all contaminated equipment isolated to the army post. Army regulation 700-48, section 2-4 requires isolation from all human contact.
“Even after extensive depot level cleaning, I found DU and other radiological, chemical, and biological contamination in vehicles years later.
“The gross contamination of equipment, vehicles, terrain, air, water, soil, and food is reflected in, and verified by, the hundreds of thousands of U.S. casualties with serious medical problems that are unrelated to bullets or bombs, but are directly related to all of these toxic exposures.
“Hawaii’s isolated and pristine environment should not be exposed to, and consequently placed in danger through, any exposure to any of the contaminants brought back by the U.S. military from war zones.”
Dr. Lorrin Pang, a consultant to the Big Island County Council on the issue of DU, also advised caution, noting that Dr. Rosalie Bertell has said the weaponry causes nano-particles to be released, as well as DU oxide.
“There is a newly recognized associated threat called nanotoxicity, especially from small metallic particles,” Pang said in a written statement. “Yet another unknown. With so many unknowns I suggest we adhere to the precautionary principle and honor our veterans by not further exposing them (and the public) to further unknown agents. Remember both Rokke and I are former Army and we are still watching out for the soldiers.”