Jun 1 2010

Letters to the Editor

Iraq War’s DU Tonnage Overstated

I’m grateful to Extra! and Dahr Jamail for reviewing the health impact of depleted uranium (DU) weapons used in Iraq (“The New ‘Forgotten’ War,” 3/10). But while it may seem many times worse to say that they “used more than 1,700 tons of depleted uranium in Iraq in the 2003 invasion” when compared to about 320 tons used in 1991, there are problems with both the source and huge number cited for 2003.

More accurate—and ironically much more compelling, from the point of view of DU opponents—would be to state that the Pentagon reports only about 175 tons of depleted uranium ammo was used during the 2003 invasion, compared to the admitted use of 320 tons in 1991 (“The Use of Depleted Uranium in the 2003 Iraq War”, Table 1, www.danfahey.com), and that this use reportedly ended by January 2005 because “munitions containing DU are only used when the threat requires it, such as when confronted with enemy armored vehicles” (Gen. Richard Myers to WILPF president Sandy Silver, 1/27/05). By that time in the occupation, there were no more engagements with enemy Iraqi armor.

The irony is that while bigger numbers sound worse and suggest greater problems, it is not so simple when speaking of radiation. If less uranium led to the public health impact already observed in Iraq, the implication is that pound for pound, the refined dense radioactive metal is more toxic.

Jamail’s source for the much larger number, Jane’s Defense News (4/2/04), cited the 1,700 ton “estimate” of the Uranium Medical Research Center (UMRC). “Cited” in the past tense, because the story has apparently been pulled from Jane’s website where I last viewed it two months ago. UMRC has claimed that many or most U.S. conventional missiles and aerial bombs use uranium in much larger quantities than found in the well-known warplane and tank ammo.

The high estimate of DU use presumes that it came from such sources. However, there is simply no documentary evidence typical of other ordnance (such as procurement contracts, inventory, transport and handling instructions), and scant circumstantial or forensic evidence to suggest that missiles and aerial bombs of any sort in regular combat use contain any DU.

The more this now-widespread exaggeration of sources and quantities of DU is repeated, particularly by otherwise respectable, independent journalists, the more the international movement to ban these weapons is hobbled by the hyperbole.

Jack Cohen-Joppa

Nuclear Resister

Tucson, Ariz.

Hitler Comparisons on the Left, Too

I was disappointed to see that Noah Lederman’s article on the use of Hitler comparisons by the right (“Playing the Nazi Card,” 3/10) made no mention of similar comparisons by those in opposition to the right. I remember some homemade Bush-with-Hitler-stache posters at anti-war rallies I attended in San Francisco in 2003.

I think there’s no question that the right uses these images much more frequently, in a deliberate and organized manner, and by so-called professionals who should know better (unlike the random individuals with posters and angry college student types that I’m thinking of), but given that your organization is all about balanced reportage, I think Mr. Lederman should have at least devoted a few sentences and a little research to use of Nazi similes by those attacking the right.

By the way, when I was in college, it was understood that argument ad Hitlerum was no argument at all. In other words, any time you resorted to comparison to Hitler, questioned “What if Hitler did X?” or otherwise brought Hitler into the discussion, everyone knew you had run out of anything useful to say, and the conversation moved on. I wish more people in the U.S. had the benefit of that sort of education.

Erin Milnes

Oakland, Calif.

Zinn Deserved Better From NPR

It’s too bad that National Public Radio chose to lionize William F. Buckley, Jr. and then demonize Howard Zinn (“NPR Puts Right-Wing Hate in Howard Zinn’s Obit,” 3/10), who is further to the left than I am. Zinn deserves better. I own his book, A People’s History of the United States, and consider it the best thing he ever wrote.

Howard S. Yee

Minneapolis, Minn.

What’s Next?

In the early ’90s I would read Extra! regularly. It was always my hope that FAIR would lead a national movement to create media balance. FAIR’s investigation of the NAFTA debates showed that the pro-NAFTA side always got more time on air and the anti-NAFTA pundits were usually centrist.

With unemployment high, and actual unemployment higher, people may now belatedly be able to hear the warnings in Extra!. And after the lies and spin of the pseudo-reform of health insurance, people will soon learn that their media misled them. The Iraq War lies should have been a wake up call, and the media should have been job No. 1 for the Democratic majority.

The time seems ripe for a change of the media. The Democrats will not do a thing unless they are forced to do something. They need to be forced to start negotiating for media balance from a strong position—not from a weak centrist position.

FAIR is an oracle, the default starting point for pushing back against the corporate media. What does FAIR recommend as a program of action to enact legislation to restore the 4th estate?

Tim Dunnigan

Bothell, Wash.

The editors reply: See our articles on the future of journalism (7/09, 11/09) and keep an eye out for future articles in Extra! and on our website, www.fair. org, as we continue to explore this issue.