14. The Gulf War Syndrome Cover-Up

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Source: COVERT/ACTION QUARTERLY Date: Summer 1995; “Gulf War Syndrome Covered Up: Chemical and Biological Agents Exposed” Author: Dennis Bernstein

SYNOPSIS: While the Pentagon denies that U.S. soldiers were exposed to chemical and biological warfare agents during the Gulf War, its own records contradict the official line. Now, four years after the war’s end, tens of thousands of Gulf War personnel have come down with one or more of a number of disabling and life-threatening medical conditions collectively known, as Gulf War Syndrome.

The syndrome’s cause is unclear, but veterans and researchers have focused on the elements of a toxic chemical soup in the war zone that included insecticides, pesticides, various preventive medicines given experimentally to GIs, and smoke from the burning oil fields of Iraq and Kuwait. There also is reliable evidence that one of its causes is exposure to low levels of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents during the war.

According to a variety of sources, including recently declassified Marine Corps battlefield Command Chronologies and After Action Reports, widespread exposure to CBW agents occurred when U.S. led forces bombed Iraqi chemical facilities, and during direct attacks by the Iraqis.

Despite Pentagon denials, evidence of CBW exposure during the war is abundant and mounting. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Gulf War Veterans of Georgia, in January the Pentagon released 11 pages of previously classified Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Incident (NBC) logs. The NBC log excerpts, which cover only seven days of the war, document dozens of chemical incidents. They also reveal chemical injuries to U.S. GIs, discoveries of Iraqi chemical munitions dumps, fallout from allied bombing of Iraqi chemical supply dumps, and chemical attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The recently released Marine Corps battlefield reports also confirm scores of CBW incidents during the ground war including the use of anthrax and Lewicite, a chemical nerve agent. Army documents strongly support contentions that CBW agents were present in the Gulf: “Conclusions: Clearly, chemical warfare agents were detected and confirmed” during the war. “It cannot be ruled out that [CBW agents] could have contributed to the illness in susceptible individuals.”

Reports from VA doctors contradict the Pentagon line while numerous reports from the field also cite the presence of CBW agents. In addition, Iraqi documents captured by U.S. and British forces further bolster the information in the NBC logs and the on-the-scene accounts, as do reliable reports by U.S., British, and Czech chemical weapons specialists deployed in Iraq and Kuwait after the war.

Given the abundance of evidence, one must wonder why the U.S. continues to deny CBW exposure. First, to admit that CBW exposures occurred means the military must admit its inability to protect U.S. forces from CBW agents. Next is the embarrassing history of U.S. government and corporate cooperation with Iraq in the 1980s. With the active support of two presidents and many U.S. officials, U.S. and Western European companies sold the technology to Iraq that may now be making tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians ill.

And there always is the military bureaucracy’s natural instinct to cover itself in the face of any problem or scandal. Finally, the cover-up is being compounded by evidence that the military has harassed and mistreated Gulf veterans who have reported ill-effects.

SSU Censored Researcher: Dylan Humphrey

COMMENTS: Investigative journalist Dennis Bernstein said, “While certain aspects of this story, such as the large number of birth defects suffered by the off-spring of Gulf Vets, have received some reasonable amount of coverage in the mainstream media, key elements of the story have been ignored. Most egregious among them is a massive and ongoing cover-up led by the current director of central intelligence, John Deutch, formerly the number two man at the Defense Department, and a self-proclaimed Gulf War information point man. Indeed, thousands of docu-ments and hundreds of interviews with soldiers and various experts in five countries pointing to the widespread presence of chemical and biological warfare agents in the Gulf during the war with Iraq have been set aside and ignored in the face of a few limp denials by Deutch.

“The real story here, besides the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering worldwide because of the stonewalling on crucial information needed for proper diagnosis and treatment, is the undeniable reality that major U.S. and European corporations with the help of key Reaganites including major support from George Bush, made the very technology available that Iraq needed to create its chemical and biological arsenal.

“Hundreds of thousands of Middle-Easterners and U.S. troops and civilians remain in jeopardy of being exposed to the deadly warfare agents that are still being produced by U.S. and European corporations and distributed world wide at great profit. I believe more reliable information about the continuing dangers of exposure to the toxic chemistry and the role key U.S. corporations have played in this deadly situation could make it more difficult for such tragedies to be repeated. It would also make the Pentagon and the DOD more responsive to the needs of so many Gulf Vets, active duty soldiers and their families who continue to be told that their serious medical conditions are psychological in nature!”

Bernstein said he recently learned through further investigation that the very same chemical alarms that were triggered in Iraq during the war by the thousands and which the Pentagon has repeatedly claimed to be a faulty and unreliable measure of the presence of deadly warfare agents on the battlefield—are still being purchased and deployed by the military in the Gulf. “There also are reliable reports coming out of Iraq and Kuwait that thousands of children are suffering and dying from exposure to the deadly toxins during the war,” Bernstein added.

On November 8, 1995, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it is launching another new study of health complaints by veterans of the Gulf War.