Monday, November 17, 2008

Panel finds widespread Gulf War illness

Rome (GA) News-Tribune

At least one in four U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffers from a multi-symptom illness caused by exposure to toxic chemicals during the conflict, a congressionally mandated report being released Monday found.

One in four is a lot of Veterans. You'd think the VA would have noticed.

For much of the past 17 years, government officials have maintained that these veterans -- more than 175,000 out of about 697,000 deployed -- are merely suffering the effects of wartime stress, even as more have come forward recently with severe ailments.

Oh, they have noticed. They're trying to squirm out of taking responsibility, aka paying for treatment. As usual.

“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that ’Gulf War illness’ is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time,” said the report, being released Monday by a panel of scientists and veterans. A copy was obtained by Cox Newspapers.

Gulf War illness is typically characterized by a combination of memory and concentration problems, persistent headaches, unexplained fatigue and widespread pain. It may also include chronic digestive problems, respiratory symptoms and skin rashes.

Two things the military provided to troops in large quantities to protect them -- pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide (PB), aimed at thwarting the effects of nerve gas -- are the most likely culprits, the panel found.

Well, the thinking was that there were going to be chemical agents used against the troops. The brass was right again. We provided them when Saddam didn't.

While it called some new VA and DOD programs promising, it noted that overall federal funding for Gulf War research has dropped sharply in recent years. Those studies that have been funded, it said, “have little or no relevance to the health of Gulf War veterans, and for research on stress and psychiatric illness.”

The report also faults the Pentagon, saying it clearly recognized scientific evidence substantiating Gulf War illness in 2001 but did not acknowledge it publicly.

It said that Acting Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Gulf War illnesses Lt. Gen. Dale Vesser remarked that year that although Saddam Hussein didn’t use nuclear, biological, or chemical agents against coalition forces during the war -- an assertion still debated -- “It never dawned on us ././. that we may have done it to ourselves.”

They should say "Ooops!" and do whatever it takes to fix these guys. Fat chance.

He was not among the 100,000 U.S. troops who were potentially exposed to low-levels of Sarin gas, a nerve agent, as a result of large-scale U.S. demolitions of Iraqi munitions near Khamisiyah, Iraq, in 1991.

Troops who were downwind from the demolitions have died from brain cancer at twice the rate of other Gulf War veterans, the report stated.

The extent of the deficits - less brain “white matter” and reduced cognitive function -- corresponded to the extent of the exposure.

In addition, the panel said, Gulf War veterans have significantly higher rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) than other veterans.

I watched a friend die from ALS. It's not pretty. His mind stayed sharp 'til the end while his bodily systems and functions shut down one by one over a considerable period of time. Awful. I can only imagine what it looked like from inside.

White said that while there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of Gulf War vets contracting multiple sclerosis (MS), studies haven’t confirmed a combat link to that degenerative disease. Questions also remain about rates of cancers, disease-specific mortality rates in Gulf War veterans and the health of veterans’ children.

We've certainly come a long way in warfighting. It used to be that only the troops were affected. Now, the troops are genetically altered and they pass it on down. The effects of war are now going to be with us for generations. Swell.

It took many years after Vietnam for the government to admit to the effects of Agent Orange, which the higher-ups did to the troops without (I hope) understanding what its effects would be. Whether they knew or not, they're doing the same thing to the Gulf War Vets of seventeen years ago.

The government is pretty good at taking care of soldiers who get holes shot in them or get something blown off. No immediately apparent physical damage, not good at all. Things like PTSD and TBI will be showing up for the rest of the lives of Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan Vets, along with latent effects of exposure to all sorts of things.

It shouldn't take seventeen years for them to admit to it. Which, despite this study, they haven't yet. Too much money to treat Vets, less profit to the MIC. That's the way it is when the Repugs are in charge: use up the troops 'til they can't be used any more, then kick 'em to the curb.

I hope in the upcoming administration that someone with the troops' best interests at heart is made Director of Veterans Affairs.

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