View Full Version : Gulf War, Part II?

09-19-03, 06:29 AM
Gulf War, Part II?

September 17, 2003

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) recently released a report on its investigation into a pneumonia epidemic occurring in troops stationed in Iraq, Kuwait and other nations in Southwest Asia. The report cited 100 new cases between March 1 and August 31, but stated that "we do not have an epidemic" and that the pneumonia rates are no higher than those among service members in other areas of the world. I am very skeptical. I trust our government to do most things right, but I don't trust it when it comes to honestly providing open information about disease control. Why?
The federal government history of leveling with the public about biological and chemical testing on our own people is not good. The military and CIA drug experiments on college students and military members in the 50s and 60s is just one example. But the history of government denial concerning Gulf War Syndrome killed any credibility I had about government handling of serious disease control information.

I will admit that the current administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did a good job of informing the public about the anthrax attacks and providing us with timely information on the worldwide status of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), also associated with pneumonia; but I am still not convinced that we have all the facts about the current pneumonia outbreak.

After Desert Storm, thousands of troops on the ground in that war began to experience a myriad of health problems. Unexplainable increases in chronic fatigue syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), chronic digestive problems, rashes, severe memory loss and dozens of other very serious diseases clearly called for thorough investigation. Initially the Pentagon and later the White House denied the existence of Gulf War syndrome and later purported that all these diseases were brought about by the severe stress of combat. Oh, brother!

The government's story changed in the late 1990s from denial to admission that the U. S. had inadvertently destroyed an Iraqi ammunition storage facility which contained chemical weapons and that this accident caused many of the diseases included in the Gulf War syndrome group to develop. Even Colin Powell supported this theory. Phooey!

There is a theory discussed in military circles that Saddam's SCUD missiles fired at our troops were loaded with "Soviet Doctrine," a mixture of 18 to 20 chemical and biological agents. Others have offered another theory: that the dozen or so disease prevention pills and vaccinations given to our troops combined to attack our soldiers' immune systems during Desert Storm and that today's pneumonia epidemic is caused by this same package which all our forces must take or receive judicial punishment as a consequence of refusal. If either of these theories were valid, why would we continue to deny it? Political embarrassment? Why do we continue to spend millions of dollars on dozens of medical studies on the gulf war syndrome group of diseases if there is no syndrome, no rationale or cause for the medical maladies of thousands of veterans who served in the gulf? Whatever you call the diseases affecting our Gulf War veterans, it is certainly clear that something caused them to occur.

The current government position concerning today's outbreak of pneumonia cases mirrors the flawed public affairs mistakes of the past. Instead of stating that the number of pneumonia cases is suspect, we are again taking the "low" road of denial. What should happen is a "we're-going-to-get-to-the-bottom-of-this-as-fast-as-humanly-possible" approach from our government.

Do presidential administrations of both political parties think they are protecting us by not telling us the truth? Or have we perhaps played a duplicitous role in our past in developing and marketing these weapons of mass destruction to other nations including Iraq? I don't know, but I do know that we have not been provided with a satisfactory explanation for the Gulf War syndrome family of diseases and that 100,000 plus veterans are experiencing pain while we find out more about it. I fear we are making the same mistake in researching the pneumonia outbreak. Mr. President, please do it right this time! Denial is not an acceptable explanation.

Colonel Shaver is a retired U.S. Army officer and co-author of several military publications. He can be reached at dshaver630@aol.com