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Court Hearing on Suit Filed by Iraq Veterans Contaminated with Depleted Uranium Against U.S. Military

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A U.S. District court in Manhattan held a hearing Wednesday on a lawsuit brought by soldiers from the New York National Guard who have been sick since being exposed to depleted uranium while serving in Iraq. Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez first broke the story in the New York Daily News. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we move to this top story around President Bush and Guantanamo, Juan, yesterday you spent the day at a hearing that is related to Iraq.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. It was a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on a topic that Democracy Now! listeners know about: the soldiers from the New York National Guard who served in Iraq and who ended up being exposed to depleted uranium and who have been sick since coming back, they were finally — had a beginning of a day in court. It was a hearing over their lawsuit, they and their relatives, their families, against the United States military, over their exposure to depleted uranium. And there was a hearing over the government’s motion to dismiss the case completely. And it lasted for several hours.

And amazingly, much of the discussion was around the Ferris Doctrine, which is a 1950s Supreme Court decision that basically does not allow soldiers while on active service, who have injuries as a result of active service in the military, from being able to sue the government. And it was quite a hearing, because you had the U.S. Attorney and the lawyers for the plaintiffs, for the soldiers, raising all of the atrocities of the military in the past: radiation exposure to soldiers during World War II, agent orange exposure, LSD tests that the military conducted on soldiers. These were all the legal precedents that were being debated as to whether these soldiers had the right to sue the government, because the government, according to their lawsuit, was negligent in exposing them, violating its own protocols for protecting our troops from depleted uranium exposure.

And Federal Judge Koeltl asked some very tough questions on both sides. And he seemed to be sympathetic, but you know, it’s always hard to judge how a judge is leaning when he’s asking questions. But he also reserved judgment, so we’ll have to wait actually several weeks to hear whether the case can move forward.

AMY GOODMAN: And this unit of men were stationed at a depot in Iraq?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, there was actually — there were two groups. One was the 442nd military police. They were stationed all over southern Iraq, but mostly they believe their exposure came in the town of Samawah, when they were there for several months, when they all started getting sick.

And then there’s another separate soldier who we have interviewed here, Gerard Matthew, who after he came back from Iraq, he has been sick with illnesses that could not be diagnosed by the military. And then his wife becomes pregnant, and they have a child born with missing several fingers on one hand. And so, he was from a separate transportation company that was transporting destroyed or damaged tanks back from Iraq into Kuwait. And so, all the soldiers, eight of them in total, are involved in the lawsuit.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will link the interviews that we did on Democracy Now! with these soldiers at democracynow.org.

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