An American Crisis: Gulf War SyndromeImagine a soldier that is willing to die for his country in the Persian Gulfregion, so that Americans could pay less for petroleum products in the Gulf, thesoldier serves his country, with honor, loyalty, and dignity. In an attempt towin the war, Saddam Hussein launches a chemical attack on American troops,leaving some soldiers with a lot of incurable symptoms. Such symptoms includeheadaches, diarrhea, bleeding gums, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, andrashes which are being grouped as Gulf War Syndrome (Fischer 148).
Then thesoldier receives a good old American welcome back home from supporters of thetroops. After the parades and ceremonies are finished the veteran experiencesrecurring headaches and chronic fatigue. The veteran seeks treatment at a VAhospital, saying his illness is a result of serving in the Gulf. Instantly, heis denied benefits and services for making a claim that he cannot prove.
Whywould the US government want to deny combat veterans of his claim? What isAmerican government trying to hide? I believe that Gulf War Syndrome is a sideeffect of low-levels of chemical and biological warfare agents the troops wereexposed to during their service in the Persian Gulf. I can justify my belief bythe number of ailing vets and Saddam’s stockpile of chemical and biologicalweapons. The use of chemical warfare in the Gulf is a reality. First there was the IraqiArsenal, they possessed several weapons of the death. They were buildingnuclear weapons and already had chemical and biological weapons.
Iraq owned1500 gallons of anthrax which were in 50 bombs and 10 missiles, and 100 bombsand 15 missiles were loaded with the toxin agent Botulinum that destroys thenerves and eventually chokes the inflicted to a horrible death. Also Iraqpossessed a nerve agent called Ricin that could kill with only a single drop(Hedges and Cary 41). Classified reports from the Pentagon also support the veterans claim that theywere exposed to chemical warfare. The documents reported that chemical agentswere detected and that some chemical weapons were left on the battlefield.
Alsoour allies, the Czech and French forces detected chemical agents with theirdetection devices in Northern Saudi Arabia during the beginning of the Gulf War,but US commanders ordered that any warning coming from the Czechs were to beignored. When the Marines first landed in Kuwait, chemical detection devicessound (Hedges and Cray 43). Also a former CIA analyst, Patrick Eddington,revealed records from the 101st Airborne division that showed the divisiondetected exposure to chemical agent. (AP 5)Besides the alerts and chemical warfare arsenal there were also Saddam’s ordersand threats. Iraqi papers that were intercepted by US intelligence reveals thatSaddam ordered that chemical warfare was to be used on Allied targets, but hisorders were not to be followed through. Saddam did this so he would not beresponsible for the chemical attacks.
Within other documents were instructionson how and when the chemical and biological weapons were to be released. Theinitial attack would come when troops invaded Iraq. Saddam had drawn defenselines across Kuwait and if that the final line were crossed the Iraqi were readywith a chemical or biological attack on the Allied Forces (Timmerman 14). A chemical attack is not the only possibility on how the troops were exposed. The second possibility is that the troops could have been exposed when theAllied forces conducted installation bombings raids on Iraqi targets.
“Considering the above factors concentration of agent, the elevation of theagents plume, and environmental factors such as wind speed and inversionconditions and wind direction many thousands of fatal casualties could berealized in neighboring countries such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon,Turkey, Israel, Iran and the Soviet Union,” (Timmerman 14). A 100 kilogramsof anthrax could drop entire communities of people. After the bombings, chemicaland biological weapons were found. In one site near Baghdad, “75 tons of sarin,60 to 70 gallons of tabun, 250 tons of mustard gas and stocks of throdiglycal, aprecursor used in mustard gas. ” (Fisher 151). “And then on the morning of January 17, 1991, the first day of the Gulf War,the official government newspaper in Baghdad announced that Iraq would unleash asecret weapon threat would astonish our enemies and fascinate our friends andrelease an unusual force'” (Fischer 151).
This “unusual force,” was predictedto be chemical and biological weapons by US experts and officials. What more proof does one need? You have the weapons, the motive, and thechemical detection alarms ringing. If this were a criminal case, a guiltyverdict would have already been passed down. We were at war with Iraq, Saddamhad the weapons, the one question how why didn’t he launch a full chemicalattack? I believe the answer is he did not want the Allies to launch a nuclearattack. If a full chemical assault were to happen on American Troops, less than halfwould survive according to Army chemical experts. This is due to their outdatedand obsolete chemical gear.
American troops have had to use the same model ofgas masks since the 1960’s and even back then the masks were not safe. The mainproblem is leakage (Sherwood 11). In order for the mask to function proper anairtight seal is a must. The problem lies in the mask because the seal does notfit some face shapes and sizes. This problem would cause leakage, when subjectto a chemical attack in up to 50 percent of the masks.
When the GeneralAccounting Office conducted exercises to test the effectiveness of the gear,seven of twenty-three soldiers neglected to get the proper airtight seal,without the air tight seal, the mask would leak and thus be ineffective. Themain reason why the soldier could not put on the mask properly is that thesoldiers never did receive the proper training, which is four hours in fullchemical gear (Sherwood 12). Some flaws were also associated with the chemical protected suits worn by thearmy. The gloves were thick which made pulling the trigger of their gunsdifficult.
The boots could “protect long enough to escape after an attack, butnot long enough to stand and fight” (Sherwood 11). Both boots and gloves wereso chunky, they took 15 minutes just to get them on. Also with the extreme heatin the Gulf region added to that the thick, bulky chemical suit this caused heatstress among the troops (Sherwood 11). Nick Roberts of Alabama is one of the 70,000 veterans that are afflicted withGulf War Syndrome.
After realizing that the War caused his ailments, became anadvocate for the vets ailing from Gulf War Syndrome. Roberts had always wantedto serve his country. He enlisted in the Navy at the end of the Vietnam war, hedid not have a chance to go over. The threat of war in the Gulf was growing andnow was his chance to serve his country, but he was almost 40, almost too old toserve in combat. Roberts’ Lieutenant told him he could be excused because ofsome training he had missed but Roberts had to “set himlieutenant straight: I’m goingto serve in the Persian Gulf and that’s that.
‘”(Fischer 148)Roberts was stationed 200 miles outside of Kuwait where he saw the effects ofwar. His unit’s well had been poisoned with arsenic and cyanide. “On otheroccasions, his comrades related to him that they saw hundreds of dead animals–sheep, goats, and dogs– lying along the highways. Curiously, some animals hadblue bags over their heads” (Fischer 140) Blue bags are the NATO signal forbiological and chemical warfare. On January 20, 1991, Roberts was awakened by the sound of explosions.
Themessage of “Confirmed gas attack. Go to full Mopp-4. ‘ Panic set in as troopswere ordered in full chemical gear,” (Fischer 148). Roberts skin burned andlips were numb and his nose ran followed by the taste of a copper penny in hismouth. Later that night Roberts went to Harold Edwards, a decontaminationofficer, who told Roberts that he detected mustard gas and lewisite in the area. (Fischer 148).
Roberts just received his first dose of chemical warfare. Thenext day Roberts commander told his troops the explosions were sonic booms andthe claims were false. And Robert was now experiencing flu-like symptomsaccompanied with a rash. “He reported to sick bay every few days. Each time,the medic made a second of his complaints gave him Motrin and told him what themilitary doctors would tell him over the next two years– he was just stressedout. “(Fischer 150).
“When it came to compensation, the department adopted the same stance towardthese vets as it had taken with Vietnam Veterans in the late Seventies: no proof,no compensation. ” (Fischer 151). The VA had denied because there was nonumerical code in VA diagnostic book. Without a code for the symptoms, the VAwould not help the vets. Tired of not receiving treatment, Roberts decided to see a private doctor,paying the medical bills out of his pocket. His doctor treated him anddiscovered that Roberts had developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or cancer.
“Inanother six to eight weeks, the doctor told him, the tumor would have shut downhis kidneys and thrown him into a coma–or killed him. The close call made itclear to Roberts that had I relied on the VA, I’d be dead now’ “(Fischer 152). Besides chemical warfare, there are two more remote possibilities that explainGulf War Syndrome. The first is the depleted uranium coating that is onartillery tips. The coating made the tips harder, which then could penetratestronger targets.
When the shell explodes it releases radioactive dust, thiswhich in turn would cause the troops to become ill. (Fischer 150). The second explanation comes from possibility of multiple chemical sensitivitysyndrome. The oil fires, pollutants, petrochemicals were too much for thesoldiers immune systems.
The chemicals broke down their immune systems. Insteadof not being unaffected by common chemicals, they are extremely sensitive tothem. The symptoms of gulf war syndrome are present. (Fischer 150). In my opinion Gulf War Syndrome is comparable to the Agent Orange Scandal inVietnam.
Both instances troops were afflicted with pain and suffering fromchemicals, and the government was unwilling to pay the veterans the benefitsthey deserve. After a decade of the Vietnam veterans pleading their claims tothe government, the government finally caved in and paid the benefits to thevets. The vets in Vietnam were sprayed by a chemical defoliant called AgentOrange which caused a wide variety of illnesses like the Gulf War vets areexperiencing Gulf War Syndrome (Fischer 151). Why does the government cover-up these kinds of topics? Is it so they will nothave to pay millions of dollars in benefits? I think the answer is no. In myopinion the government wants to keep the topic of chemical warfare a secret. The American government wants to be seen as an invincible super power.
Imagineif the threat of chemical warfare was a part of everyday life. We would beliving in a nightmarish world. Chemical warfare is a threat to America’s statusas an invincible superpower. One drop of chemical agent could kill or injurethousands. I believe the reason why America covers up this type of situation sothat the citizens can believe that they are safe at all times.
Also I believethat the politicians who sent the troops into war do not want to takeresponsibility for their actions. We helped Iraq injure some of our troops. Inthe Iraqgate scandal we aided Saddam in beating the Iranians by selling themstrains of chemical agents. In turn with these strains the Iraqis could growtheir own chemical agents (Fischer 203). With the ability of to make chemicalagents, they could load the agent in weapons and use them against Americantroops, thus the problem of Gulf War Syndrome in the troops arise.
Works Cited”Ex-CIA analyst accuses Pentagon of hiding data on Gulf War illness. ” KansasState Collegian 31 Oct. 1996: 5. Fischer, Mary.
“Dying for Their Country. ” Gentleman’s Quarterly May 1994:147-153, 203- 206. Hedges, Stephen and Peter Cary. “Baghdad’s Dirty Secrets. ” U.
S. News and WorldReports 11 Sept. 1995: 41-43. Sherwood, Ben. “Toxic Shock. ” The New Republic.
6 May 1991: 10-12. Timmerman, Kenneth. “The Iraq Papers. ” The New Republic. 29 Jan. 1996: 12-15.History