Letters for November 14, 2002

Great pot vote, eh?
My eternal gratitude to all of you wonderful people in this part of the state who had the good, common sense to defeat the marijuana issue. By killing that measure, you showed the outsiders that you were not deceived by their scheme.

Betty Kruk Carson City
Confused no more
Re “Election 2002: Confused? Curious?” [RN&R Cover, Oct. 31]:

Your issue on the ballot questions was very helpful to me. I did not vote yea or nay with you on all … but it was so helpful to have them explained and “translated.” Thank you so very much.

Gerardo Rodriguez Reno
Quit yer damned lib’rel cryin’
Re “No Loosey Gooseys Here” [RN&R Editorial, Nov. 7]:

My head hurts from listening to RN&R and the rest of the leftists crying over the election. Nevadans and Americans voted Republican because we were fed up with the Democrats BS! You guys need to realize that and quit crying about it!

Robert Ramos Sparks
Skeptical about depleted uranium
Re “Clean Lies, Dirty War” [RN&R News, Oct. 10]:

There are those who assert that there is some sort of leftist anti-American conspiracy in the media, and articles like this one give those clowns credibility. You describe the author as a “military scientist:” The only collegiate military science departments that I know of administer ROTC programs. I doubt that Saddam Hussein would welcome an ROTC instructor with open arms—despite her “assuring officials that [she] was not an American spy.” This also relates to her claim to have spent years as a weapon systems analyst. I question the qualifications of this writer.

My skepticism is further enhanced by her references to “corpses melted by depleted uranium.” This statement shows a complete ignorance of the properties and uses of depleted uranium. I guarantee there were no corpses “melted” by uranium—depleted or otherwise.

For the uninformed, depleted uranium” (uranium that has used up its usable radioactivity and is no longer useful as reactor fuel) is used exclusively in high-speed rounds that are intended to pierce hardened steel armor. The advantage of this material is that it is both much harder than steel and has a higher melting point. Whenever such ammunition has been fired at a “soft” target—such as an ordinary car—the round simply passes through the sheet metal causing very little damage. Fired from above, such rounds are likely to be found in the earth, several feet below the vehicle that they passed through.

Of course, we have many other kinds of munitions, and most motor vehicles have gas tanks, so those “crispy critters” are the result of good, old-fashioned gasoline and diesel fuel flames.

John Steinke

War means weapons, duh

Re “Clean Lies, Dirty War” [RN&R News, Oct. 10]:

So, Patricia Axelrod is a weapons analyst, is she? I would love to see her credentials, considering her unfounded and absurd accusations regarding the Gulf War.

First, let’s dispel a burgeoning myth popular with the anti-war and anti-US crowd about what precisely is a depleted uranium (DU) munition. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Uranium? My God, we’re firing uranium at tanks and civilians?

To understand why it is used, a little history of armor-piercing munitions is needed.

In 1991, the only weapon in the U.S. arsenal that would have been using DU on a large scale would have been Air Force units flying the A-10 Thunderbolt, the DU rounds being fired from the “tank killer” GAU-8 30mm chain gun fitted to the nose of the plane. These milk-bottle sized rounds are particularly destructive because of their extremely high velocity and the fact that they are fired from the air, which allows them to strike the comparatively thin armor on the turrets of tanks.

Since the development of armor-piercing weapons, the penetrator rod of the shell has usually been made of hardened steel, and then later tungsten—the latter is a very dense metal which means that it will not warp when striking armor plate, and can do its job of penetrating and killing the tank. But uranium is even denser.

By “depleting” it of all radioactivity, the shell is a quantum leap forward in lethality—sorry to all you doves, but on the battlefield, the idea is to kill the enemy, not engage him in debate about the irrationality of his acts.

A shell these days is a rather complicated device. As the weapon fires the round, the covering of the penetrator rod is discarded and fins are deployed to correct guidance. The rod itself is made entirely of DU and is not explosive. I know this is a shock to those who “know” things about the military from watching movies, but the penetrator’s sole mission is to crack the skin of the target, and then wreak havoc inside by pure kinetic energy of impact. In a tank, this is not hard to do. Loaded with shells, fuel, small arms munitions, etc., a tank is a rolling arsenal. When it is cracked by a DU shell going about 2,500 feet per second, the results are catastrophic.

So, Axelrod putting the propaganda photograph of the “crispy critter” in her article and implying that this was a “victim” of DU is ludicrous; what the hell does this woman think these shells do? “Fry” people by radiation or intense heat cause by the shell exploding? I repeat: GAU-8 shells do not explode. Period. The unfortunate gentleman cooked in the front seat of that car died because something punctured his gas tank—a regular 5.56mm M-16 shell would have done the same thing. The only other option is that he was hit with a high explosive like an artillery shell, because no self-respecting pilot would have wasted a Maverick missile on a target like an automobile.

You need to have Axelrod answer these charges. I await a response. Lies will not be tolerated on my watch.

Timothy K. Ready
via e-mail

Patricia Axelrod responds:

Mr. Ready is certainly Johnny on the spot with his brand of the truth but he’s short on facts about depleted uranium use, effect, and after-effect. Chemically toxic, pyrophoric to the degree of spontaneous ignition, uranium 238 makes a particularly vicious weapon. Reaching its target, U238 makes a small entry hole, fragmenting into thousands of bouncing flaming BBs that blow up ammunition and burn anyone within to the point of cremation—thus “crispy critters.”

And that’s just a short-term look at DU. The long-term picture is even more dismal.

After a lifetime of research, Dr. Hari Sharma, once head of India’s Radiochemistry and Isotope Division, said this about uranium weaponry: “I appeal to the militaries of the world to ban uranium weaponry. … The public health threat of a uranium 238 dust cloud gives rise to a danger equal to that of a long-term weapon of mass destruction. The inhalation of even the smallest dust particle may cause irreparable cell damage in unprotected people resulting in a cancer epidemic that over time could kill thousands of the exposed.”

With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, Dr. Sharma foresees eternal environmental contamination wherever this substance is fired. A trip to Iraq in the late 1990s provided Sharma with first-hand knowledge of thousands of unexplained cancers among the Iraqi people that he believes are directly traceable to DU use.

Desert Storm veteran, U.S. Reserve major and health physicist Dr. Doug Rokke shares Sharmas’ sentiments. After the Desert Storm War, Rokee took up a Geiger counter and led the way through the Persian Gulf desert recovery of some 31 American armored vehicles destroyed by the U.S. military’s accidental “friendly” fire of U238 from A-10 Gatling guns and/or tank munitions. Today, he’s sure he suffers from what he calls a “lung crud” he picked up in the course of his mission. He recognizes himself in the thousands of sickly Desert Storm veterans who now complain of post-war disease, and he pins the blame squarely on the fire of American and British U238 weaponry. “The Pentagon named it depleted uranium,” Rokee has told reporters. “I just label it poison.”

If you want to learn more, I’ll be speaking at a Clean Lies, Dirty Wars forum at 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Pine Lounge in Jot Travis Student Union, University of Nevada, Reno. Call 826-0358 for more info.

War provokes poetry
Re “Clean Lies, Dirty War” [RN&R News, Oct. 10]:

I appreciate the fact you published this article (Clean Lies, Dirty Wars).

So often, the casualties of war are often overlooked and it is the so-called victory that receives the most attention. Unfortunately, the citizens in the countries we attack suffer dearly, and on occasion, our own soldiers do as well.

My brother fought in Desert Storm and, although he returned physically in one piece, he truly was never the same. I wrote a poem several years ago that came to me in a dream during Desert Storm. I’ve kept this to myself, believing there would never be a need to share my thoughts about war and the tragic results. Now, as we are preparing to invade foreign lands, again, I feel compelled to share this poem with others:

Desert Dreams

Come hither to me man-child/ Dare I say/ Are you still the same person/ Did in vain I pray?/Though the body’s intact/ With the mind you can’t tell/ I look into your eyes/ I see that war was hell./ The damage is vast/ The spirit is worn/ The soul is frayed/ The dreams are torn/ If flesh is to currency/ As destiny is to lead/ My child’s only salvation/ Were to as his spirit is … be dead/ Your gaze of emptiness/ Meets my gaze of rage/ How can it be you found a place/ As this on history’s page/ I would give my breath/ God grant me your place/ To see the boyish smile/ Once again, on the forlorn face/ I denounce your wars, battles and rules/ How dare you damage young men/ Discarding them as expired tools/ I cast a thousand curses/ Wish you a life without joy/ For the wrong that has been done/ To my life, my boy.

Elizabeth Ortiz

raba on Rob
Re “Destination Reno: Best of 2002” [RN&R Cover, Oct. 10]:

Two things strike me concerning the choice of Pastor Rob as “Best Spiritual Leader.” One, the readership of this paper are human beings—as opposed to, say, drones in an oversized beehive. Two, if I ever decide to set foot in a church again, I believe I shall choose the University Family Fellowship.

In His hand and Her hearts,

brian raba

Women and theater
Re “Women’s Issue 2002” [RN&R cover, Nov. 7]:Thank you for your excellent 2002 Women’s Issue. I appreciate the broad range of perspectives these stories offer our troubled city. The Women’s Issue has evolved into a mature and worthwhile publication. However, while you devoted many column inches to some women artists and leaders, your review of the musical “Oklahoma!” seemed out of place.

Why not write a feature about women in theater? The majority of theater people here are outstanding women; women of all ages and backgrounds who work to create and sustain theater in our region. These are women with degrees and day jobs, so that they can pay back their student loans, make the rent and still do what they love.

Bravo to the RN&R for employing so many fine women journalists, and may you continue to honor women artists–of all disciplines–in the future.

Cameron Crain
Managing Director, Nevada Shakespeare Company