MAP Member Opinion "Peace"  


Paper left out voice of protesters
Published Star Tribune 11-8-03

Despite the poor treatment in the press, Minnesotans will want to know the important implications of the "not guilty" verdict given to 19 citizens who peacefully entered Alliant Techsystems Corp. property on April 2 (StarTribune, "Protestors cleared of tresspassing charges," Oct. 21).

Unfortunately for all except Alliant Techsytems, the Star Tribune dismissed us as faceless, voiceless, "protesters." It quoted only one person -- corporation spokesperson Bryce Hallowell -- saying, "The protesters knowingly and willfully took actions with the express purpose of being arrested."

It will be important for Minnesotans to know, whatever Hallowell may say from Alliant Techsystems headquarters, that our actual intention, testimony and evidence, and the jury's actual verdict established the exact opposite of this.

Permit me to set the record straight.

We entered Alliant Techsystems because it leads the world in the manufacturing and marketing of ammunition made from radioactive nuclear waste -- ammunition given the PC name "depleted uranium." The United States used more than 300 tons of this ammunition in the first Gulf War.

We believe that the pollution from used uranium munitions manufactured and sold by Alliant Techsystems is partially, if not largely, responsible for the deaths of more than 9,000 Gulf War vets between 1991 and 2000, and for the more than 250,000 permanent disabilities that the Veterans Administration reported were filed during the same period.

We believe this same radioactive material manufactured by Alliant Techsystems is responsible for the death and suffering of people we know.

One defendant's brother, a Marine, went to Kuwait after the 1991 war and came back with open sores on his skin. His family's efforts to get answers were dismissed. He died in 1995 of "rapid-fire" leukemia.

Another defendant's brother-in-law returned from Iraq with a piece of "friendly-fire" shrapnel in his back. He is fighting off the third cancer to attack his body since his return.

Others of us have walked through children's leukemia wards in Iraq packed with terminal children, or paged through the photo records compiled by Iraqi obstetricians of grotesquely mutated newborns delivered since the end of the Gulf War.

We went to Alliant Techsystems Corp. to deliver to Paul David Miller, its CEO, letters that listed the international laws which we believe the manufacture of depleted uranium violates, and which called for the immediate release of all their records pertaining to the health risks of post-use uranium exposure. We signed the letters "Minnesota Citizens' Weapons Inspection Team."

We went to Alliant Techsystems because we believed international law -- including the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremburg principles -- compels all citizens to act when they believe that crimes against humanity are taking place.

A jury of ordinary Minnesotans found our beliefs to be "reasonable" and in "good faith." This is why it found us not guilty of trespass.

It is crucial for the whole, American public to examine the long-term, permanent health and environmental impacts of radioactive munitions known as "depleted uranium," and to compel corporations that do not wish to cooperate with this essential investigation to do so anyway.

Minnesotans, especially, need to seriously examine the indiscriminate impacts of uranium weapons on U.S. troops and innocent people. This is because the world's leading producer of uranium munitions is in Edina. The place where they were manufactured was in Arden Hills. And one of the places where they were tested was in Elk River.

Families of Gulf War vets who have died from leukemia, who have given birth to deformed children, or who are fighting off new, aggressive cancers, as well as the families of men and women now stationed in Iraq will want to pay particular attention to Alliant Techsystems Corp. and to our case. The press has a responsibility to make it possible for them to do so.

Phil Steger is executive director of a St. Paul nonprofit organization.

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