View Full Version : Crimes Raise Questions on Gulf War Illness

11-18-02, 10:48 AM
<< Subj: Crimes Raise Questions on Gulf War Illness
Date: 11/15/02 9:44:20 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: MurphyHunt
To: VetCenter

WASHINGTON (Nov. 15) - The Beltway sniper, the University of Arizona gunman,
the Fort Bragg murders, the Oklahoma City bomber.

The terrible and unfathomable crimes behind the headlines vary widely but
all share a common thread that researchers say may merit a closer look: With
the exception of one of the four Fort Bragg killings, all are alleged to be
have been committed by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

There are too many unanswered questions to draw broad conclusions about
whether the men connected with these crimes were suffering from the illnesses
that research has shown afflict some 25 to 30 percent of the 697,000 U.S.
Gulf veterans.

However, studies have turned up evidence of injury to the brain in some ill
veterans of the conflict, including damage to the deep brain structures where
personality is determined.

What caused this damage, and other symptoms veterans describe, isn't clear,
but researchers have said possibilities could include environmental toxins,
low-level nerve agents, depleted uranium, oil fires, mustard gas, stress as
well as vaccines given to soldiers to guard against biological warfare and
nerve gas.

Dr. William Baumzweiger, a California neurologist and psychiatrist who
specializes in Gulf War ailments, said he was not surprised that so many of
the high-profile crimes were tied to Gulf veterans. ''Gulf War veterans have
a very high frequency of turning to violence to deal with frustration,'' he


Baumzweiger testified for the defense at the trial of Gulf veteran Jeffrey
Hutchinson, convicted last year of the 1998 murders of his girlfriend and her
three children in Florida.

But Hutchinson does not win the prize for infamy in this group. That goes to
Timothy McVeigh, executed in 2001 for the 1995 bombing of a federal building
in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured hundreds of others.

September and October of this year brought two more high-profile cases
involving veterans.

John Allen Muhammad, along with a young accomplice, has been accused of
killing 10 people in and around Washington D.C. He is also charged with
shootings in Louisiana and Alabama and could be linked to others.

Then in late October, failing Arizona nursing student Robert Flores, who
served in the Army during the Gulf War, mowed down three of his professors
before shooting himself.

Earlier in 2002, four servicemen allegedly killed their wives at Fort Bragg
in North Carolina. Three of the four were Gulf War veterans.

Last week, a military team probing the Fort Bragg deaths blamed marital
woes, deployment stress and reluctance to seek counseling.


Privacy Act rules make it impossible to find out if any of the Gulf veterans
in these high-profile crimes ever officially complained of symptoms, and
researchers are unaware of any statistics that indicate that rates of
violence among Gulf veterans are higher than the general populace or than
other combat veterans.

One researcher, who declined to be identified, said of speculation about a
link between Gulf War illnesses and the crimes: ''It's a very reasonable
hypothesis and it's reasonable because these people came back with
personality change, difficulty controlling anger and so forth.''

''The question is over 10 years, what is the expected incidence of violent
shooters, violent criminals, in the population of 695,000 former military
people? I don't know the answer to that. Nobody knows...although these are
such high-profile crimes, you'd expect that the incidence of that would be
extremely rare,'' he added.

Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center,
a veterans' advocacy group, said more study of Gulf War ailments is clearly

''Do Gulf War veterans as a whole demonstrate psychotic, homicidal, suicidal
behavior? I don't think so. Are there individuals that have demonstrated
those? Yes, absolutely,'' he said, adding that while the vast majority of
those who suffer from Gulf War ailments will never turn violent, he receives
despairing letters and telephone calls daily from sufferers.

In an emotion-choked voice, Robinson read from one such letter, written by a
veteran in jail for a vehicular homicide that killed a close friend. It said
in part: ''I'm nervous all the time. I feel like my body is doing 200 miles
an hour. I am always fatigued, my body shakes and sweats. I believe that
because of the physical symptoms, I am a basket case. Anxiety and depression
rule my life.''


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 1999 -- the latest year
for which the data are available -- just 16 people aged from 25 to 49
committed murder per 100,000 population.

There is no breakdown according to military service.

''There is no evidence to support the notion that Gulf War veterans are more
violent than any other group,'' said Barbara Goodno, a spokeswoman at the
Defense Department.

''We should be careful not to jump to conclusions. Approximately 697,000
veterans served their country in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
It would be an injustice to them to automatically link the aberrant acts of a
few to their military service,'' she added.

But enough questions linger that with the country teetering on the brink of
another conflict with Iraq, researchers think these violent crimes may merit
further study.

''These high-profile shooters, that looks like it could be something new.
And certainly the Gulf War personality change thing could account for it,''
the researcher said.

The U.S. government does not acknowledge a Gulf War ''syndrome'' -- a group
of signs and symptoms adding up to a unique condition. It admits there are a
number of illnesses that have emerged in veterans of the conflict but until
recently it has put these down to psychology.

Symptoms can include difficulty with concentration, thinking and memory,
severe body pain, chronic diarrhea, sleep disturbances, night sweats, hot
flashes and personality change, said Dr. Robert Haley of the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a member of the research advisory council
on Gulf War illnesses to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

''It's common for these guys to have become (different),'' Haley said.
''Their wives will tell you, 'This isn't the guy who went over. He's had a
personality change.' And they typically come back (with) difficulty
controlling temper, often depressed, withdrawn, not wanting to be around
other people, difficulty dealing with complex environments.''

Haley said it is ''too big a leap'' to go from this to a conclusion that
Gulf War brain injuries could be prompting this small group of men to commit
terrible crimes.


According to a report the advisory committee issued to the Department of
Veterans Affairs in June, the ailments of veterans of the relatively short
conflict ''cannot be adequately explained by deployment stress, wartime
trauma or psychiatric diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder.''

The report said neurological problems are a key category of Gulf War
illnesses and that there is enough evidence ''to conclude that this line of
inquiry represents a potential breakthrough that could be pursued.''

Last month, the department issued a statement citing the research on a
possible neurological link and committing $20 million in fiscal 2004 to
further study. The department will set up a brain-imaging center to probe the

''It's not inconceivable that certain individuals may have severe
neurological impairment,'' said veterans' advocate Robinson. ''I can't sit
here and tell you that that's the reason they commit crimes. But...what we do
need to do is continue the research that the VA has said it is going to

Reut21:21 11-14-02

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. >>



11-18-02, 11:03 AM
Sunday, November 10, 2002 12:00AM EST

Mysterious illnesses plague gulf war vets


FAYETTEVILLE -- If they would give him a fresh Air Force uniform, former
Staff Sgt. Richard Wadzinski Jr. gladly would climb into the cargo hold of
the first C-130 headed toward Southwest Asia to supply a U.S. assault on

"I'd go today. Right now," he said, taking a deep breath that stiffened his
spine, briefly recalling the career military man he once was. Just one thing
holds him back: Wadzinski is so sick from his deployment during Desert Storm
11 years ago that the military wouldn't take him.

Like the rest of the country, Persian Gulf War veterans are divided over the
long-term political effects of a U.S. war with Iraq. But those like
Wadzinski, who suffer from illnesses linked to their duty in the gulf, say
there is one certain outcome of sending troops back to the region to fight:
another generation of service members with medical problems that may haunt
them for life.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it would
spend $20 million on research into gulf war illnesses in 2004, more than
twice what it has spent in any previous year. In announcing the funding, Leo
S. Mackay, deputy secretary for the VA, said, "There is increasing objective
evidence that a major category of gulf war illnesses is neurological in
character" and not related to combat stress, as some scientists have said.

Many sick vets believe their illnesses are caused by a combination of toxins
they were exposed to in the war.

North Carolina bases might supply as many as 50,000 of the 300,000 or so
troops analysts say would be needed to fight a new war with Iraq, whose army
President Bush says could be expected to respond with chemical or biological
weapons. Many sick gulf war vets believe that they were exposed to chemical
and biological agents in Iraq and that those agents contributed to their
mysterious health problems.

Long-term effects

North Carolina bases sent about 100,000 men and women to serve in the last
gulf war, of a total force of 697,000.

Although casualties of that conflict were relatively low -- 150 Americans
died as a result of injuries -- many came home sick or fell ill later with a
litany of symptoms doctors still can't explain. The Research Advisory
Committee on gulf war Illnesses has estimated that 25 percent to 30 percent
of gulf war vets have unexplained illnesses. Veterans advocates say it may be
closer to 40 percent. Without definitive causes for their complaints, many of
these now-disabled vets say they fear that whatever happened to them might
also await a wave of new recruits.

"Some of my neighbors are already over there," Wadzinski said. "And before
they left, this is what I told them: 'Have a good gas mask that's in good
working order, and know how to use it. And every time something happens, put
it on. There is no such thing as a false alarm.' "

About 224 federally funded studies costing more than $213 million have not
been able to tell veterans whether chemical or biological weapons, smoke from
oil-well fires, depleted uranium, pesticides, vaccines, antidotes, combat
stress or something else, alone or in concert, caused their ailments, which
range from mild to crippling.

Veterans groups and government officials disagree over the extent to which
Iraqi president Saddam Hussein might have used chemical and biological
weapons during the gulf war. The Department of Defense has said that 15,000
chemical alarms that sounded during the war went off by mistake. But many
soldiers are thought to have been exposed to the toxins through contact with
tainted soil in areas where they had been tested and through the air when
stockpiles of the materials were found and destroyed.

Recurring threat

Since the end of the war, Saddam is thought to have been rebuilding his
chemical and biological arsenal, and this time, he is considered by some more
likely to use it.

"A lot of gulf war vets are furious about this," said Joyce A. Riley, a
registered nurse and spokeswoman for the American Gulf War Veterans
Association in Versailles, Mo., who has mostly recovered from a muscular
illness she attributes to her service during the war. "They know the problems
these guys are walking into."

When he was sent into the desert before the start of the war, Wadzinski said,
his job -- as a loadmaster on the bulky C-130s -- was to fly around the
region gathering supplies the U.S. military had buried and deliver them to
where they were needed. Later, he certified misfired U.S. Patriot missiles
before they were shipped back to the Department of Defense.

Before his deployment, his military records show, Wadzinski was vaccinated
against a host of diseases and infectious agents, including anthrax and
botulism. Some service members have reported receiving 13 shots at a time.
While in the theater of operations, Wadzinski said, he swallowed as many as
70 more pills the military provided as protection against nerve gas, taking
another each time an alarm went off indicating the presence of gas.

By the time he got home, he had recurring rashes on his arms, chest and legs.
Later, the headaches began, followed by chronic fatigue and joint and muscle
aches. First, he said, the military said it had no proof he had ever served
in the gulf. When he produced records of his own, he said, the doctors told
him his problems were in his head.

He took early retirement in 1994, after 18 years of service. He took a job as
an emergency services worker, which made good use of his frenetic nature.
Then, in December 1997, he showed up for work one day with eyes as gold as

His liver was failing.

A transplant Christmas Eve saved his life, but he says he lives in constant
pain. In his flyboy prime, he ran 12 miles a week and lifted weights
regularly. Now, at 42, he's barely able to raise the black leather satchel
filled with paperwork detailing his fight to get the military to take
responsibility for his illness.

Quest for truth

Jim E. Brown of Gastonia gave up that battle long ago. He doesn't seek
treatment at Veterans Affairs medical centers, and he doesn't get VA
disability payments, which top out at $2,200 a month for veterans found 100
percent disabled.

When he feels like working, he uses his energy searching out government
documents and disseminating what he and others find through Gulf Watch, which
he founded in 1991 to advocate for gulf war veterans. For instance, he said,
the group has acquired copies of mission logs detailing the destruction of a
chemical-weapons storage facility near Khamisiyah, Iraq, which the U.S.
government only recently acknowledged. The Pentagon has said the explosions
might have exposed 101,000 troops to sarin and mustard agents.

Brown, who said his work with the 514th Maintenance Company, part of the 10th
Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, N.Y., brought him in contact with
intelligence sources throughout the government, said Gulf Watch has learned
that although U.S. officials know what kinds of toxins are in Saddam's
arsenal -- the United States supplied some of them during friendlier times --
the U.S. military has never updated its equipment to adequately protect
against them. Dustborne and airborne agents can permeate most of the suits
and masks soldiers are given to pull on in case of a chemical or biological
attack, Brown said, and by the time current sensors warn of the presence of
toxins, some soldiers already will have been exposed.

Military gets ready

Lt. Col. Cynthia Colin, a defense press officer, said in a statement that the
military has stepped up its protective measures.

"Since the gulf war, the Defense Department has advanced its chemical and
biological defense capabilities particularly in the areas of chemical and
biological agent detection, biological vaccines, nuclear/biological/chemical
reconnaissance and protective masks and suits. We have modern chemical and
biological detectors that did not exist ten years ago that provide
significant improvements over their predecessors.

"The Army has a fleet of reconnaissance vehicles and trained operators that
can cover an entire theater. We have a strong ongoing vaccination effort and
have replaced all former protective masks with better-fitting and less
constrictive masks in addition to procuring a new protective ensemble for all

"These measures have significantly improved the joint force's ability to
survive and sustain operations in a chemical and biological warfare

Brown doesn't think it will be enough.

"We weren't prepared in 1990, and we're even less prepared now," he said. "We
know we are not up to the task of defending against this stuff, yet the
people in charge are sending us anyway."

Randy Hebert of Emerald Isle, who has been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's
Disease that government doctors have attributed to his service during the
gulf war, is more supportive of the Bush administration's stance. So is his
wife, Kim, who looks after Randy now that he cannot care for himself.

But she, too, worries about what awaits the next desert deployment.

"I think we're probably more ready than we were the first time, because we
know now what [Saddam] is capable of, and what's out there. But as a wife, I
fear for other men," she said. "I cringe to think anybody would come home
like my husband did."


Copyright 2002, The News & Observer Publishing Company.



11-18-02, 11:09 AM
Legion Impatient on Gulf War Illness Progress

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The leader of the nation's largest
veterans organization praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for
announcing Wednesday it will spend up to $20 million on research into Gulf
War veterans' illnesses in FY 2004.

"VA still has a long way to go to solve the problems of sick Gulf War
veterans," American Legion National Commander Ronald F. Conley said. "This
is a step in the right direction. I understand $20 million is more than
double the amount VA has spent on Gulf War illness research in any previous
year. The thousands of veterans who developed unexplained illnesses, after
fighting for their country in the Persian Gulf, are worth every penny.

"It's crucial to get to the bottom of what is making these veterans sick,
which seems to be taking longer than it should. It's also very important
that VA provide Gulf War veterans with timely and efficient medical treatment
and just compensation for their service-connected disabilities.

"I am very proud that The American Legion is represented on VA's Research
Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses. It's prudent for VA to
take the panel's recommendations seriously, and to focus on areas of research
that have been previously unexplored such as neurological factors. The
American Legion recommends VA focus its research on finding medical
treatments that will alleviate veterans' suffering as well as on figuring out
the causes of that suffering.

"It's been 11 years since the end of the Gulf War. It's time for a change in
the direction and in the intensity of the research. Ideally, this approach
will lead to a breakthrough. The government needs to show those troops
sacrificing for freedom today that our government is ready, willing and able
to treat whatever conditions they might develop."

Founded in 1919 in Paris, The American Legion has 2.8 million members.

SOURCE American Legion

11/04/2002 11:44 EST