Crimes Raise Questions on Gulf War Illness
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  1. #1

    Cool Crimes Raise Questions on Gulf War Illness

    << 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. >>



  2. #2

    Cool Mysterious illnesses plague gulf war vets

    Sunday, November 10, 2002 12:00AM EST

    Mysterious illnesses plague gulf war vets

    By MARTHA QUILLIN, Staff Writer

    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.



  3. #3

    Cool Legion Impatient on Gulf War Illness Progress

    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



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