Gulf war veteran says U.S. bombs poisoned troops

Gulf war veteran says U.S. bombs poisoned troops; feds disagree

by Thomas Watkins/Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Dennis Kyne started getting sick in 1992, not long after he returned from the Persian Gulf. Diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and a never ending cold dogged him incessantly.

The 34-year-old veteran now takes scrupulous care of himself and most of his symptoms have improved, but many of the soldiers he served with from the 18th Airborne Division during Operation Desert Storm have not fared so well. Some have died, others are still sick.

Kyne, who will speak tonight in Glenwood Springs, and Saturday night in Carbondale, believes he and his fellow soldiers are victims of the military's use of a cocktail of vaccinations, pesticides and other agents that were used during the first Gulf war. The illnesses he has witnessed are described collectively as Gulf War Syndrome, something the Department of Defense questions exists at all.

"In 1991, we were all displaying signs and symptoms," Kyne said. "All of the front line was sick. It was not the glorious combat (leaders said it was)."

Almost a third of the 700,000 U.S. soldiers who served in the first Gulf war are now collecting disability payments, according to the National Gulf War Resource Center.

Kyne, originally from Santa Fe, Calif., served in the Army for 15 years and was honorably discharged in 2003. During Desert Storm, in his capacity as a sergeant and a medic, Kyne witnessed many of his troops exhibiting strange symptoms.

"Everyone was vomiting, they were pale as a ghost," he said. "Some were walking around with a 1,000 yard stare."

Other soldiers had joint pain, nausea and runny noses, he added.

"We were just barfing and shitting ourselves all the way to Saudi Arabia," he said.

Kyne believes the anti-chemical warfare drugs he and his unit were given played a part in the troops' deteriorating health, as well as large quantities of pesticides that were sprayed around his camp to keep a snake and rodent infestation under control.

But the most likely culprit for the ongoing health problems of the servicemen and women, Kyne says, is a kind of metal shell coating that was first used in combat during the Gulf War - depleted uranium (DU).

The metal is used on the tips of many of the military's conventional weapons, including anti-tank missiles and bunker-busting missiles. It's high density means it is extremely effective at piercing thick armor - a missile with a depleted uranium tip will burn its way through a tank's protective skin, enabling the payload of the weapon to explode inside the vehicle.

Depleted uranium is also radioactive, and will deteriorate into a fine dust when exploded on the end of a missile. Kyne believes that it is this radioactive dust that is making Gulf War veterans, and the people of Iraq, sick.

"We started walking into depleted uranium and everyone just started melting," he said, describing his unit's march into the neutral zone on the border of Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of the Department of Defense's Deployment Health Support Directorate, said that Kyne is mistaken, and adverse effects of depleted uranium have not been proven.

He said that although animals exposed to high levels of depleted uranium can suffer damage to their kidneys, there is no evidence of the same thing happening in humans. Other studies have shown there is no link between depleted uranium and cancer, he said.

About 320 tons of depleted uranium were dropped during the Gulf War, said Kilpatrick, and so far about 100 tons have been dropped in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"It cannot hurt your body, it has to be internalized," said Kilpatrick, explaining the effects of depleted uranium in the environment. He added that most of the 250,000 plus returning Gulf War veterans were subsequently granted disability payments by the Department of Veterans Affairs because of routine impairments, such as hearing loss and joint injuries. They could have sustained these at any time during their service, Kilpatrick noted, and not just during the Gulf War. Kilpatrick added that there technically is no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome, as the variety of symptoms soldiers exhibit varies so wildly. Research is ongoing to establish a cause of certain illnesses in veterans, he added, but it is believed stress is the main cause of unusual symptoms.

Despite the government's assertions that depleted uranium is not the cause of Gulf War Syndrome, Kyne remains convinced that the substance does serious harm. He now tours the country full-time, giving talks about his beliefs and experiences.

Kyne will be talking at 7 p.m. tonight at the Blue Acacia at 901 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs; and Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, 645 Main St.

Kyne's talks are presented by the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition.

Informant: Davey Garland


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August 2004

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