Gulf War Syndrome Strikes Home

By Turbak, Gary | VFW Magazine, January 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Gulf War Syndrome Strikes Home


Turbak, Gary, VFW Magazine


Most people think the Persian Gulf War ended (almost as soon as it had begun) in 1991. For many Gulf veterans, however, this conflict rages on. The enemy today is not Saddam Hussein, but rather a mysterious, phantom-like physical and/or mental affliction potentially as dangerous as anything in Kuwait, Iraq or Saudi Arabia. Some Gulf vets believe they're battling the Pentagon, too.

In 1992, only a few months after their triumphant return from the Gulf, many veterans began experiencing aching joints, insomnia, fatigue, memory loss, nerve damage, skin rashes, headaches, and literally dozens of other symptoms.

Occasionally, spouses who had never been to the Gulf also became ill, and some vets produced children with birth defects. Sick GIs inundated some VA hospitals, and soon headlines labeled the puzzling phenomenon the "Gulf War Syndrome."

That was five years ago, and today Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) remains as baffling as ever. "Everyone agrees that [Persian Gulf] veterans are sick, but we have repeatedly had difficulty finding a cause," says the VAs Dr. Robert Roswell.

COMPLEX OF CAUSES

Try as they might, legions of scientists have been able only to suggest some possible origins of GWS misery:

* Iraqi chemical weapons.

* Pyridostigmine bromide pills taken by troops to protect them from nerve gas.

* Vaccines against anthrax, a biological agent known to be in Saddam Hussein's arsenal.

Depleted uranium used in some U.S. anti-tank shells. These munitions give off some radiation when exploded.

* Fumes from the many oil wells set ablaze by the Iraqis (fires that may have been used to incinerate chemical weapons).

* Deet and Permethrin, insect repellents used in the Gulf.

* A genetic predisposition that might make certain people extremely sensitive to minute amounts of nerve gas and other chemicals.

* Multiple chemical sensitivity. According to this theory, an overload of chemical agents (such as those mentioned above) can in some individuals cause an allergic reaction to common thingsfrom perfume to gasoline to new carpet.

It's even possible that two or more factors may be working synergistically to cause some GWS symptoms. For example, researchers gave test animals pyridostigmine bromide, Deet and Permethrin. Alone, each substance had no harmful effect, but when combined, they triggered in the animals a variety of chronic health problems not unlike those experienced by Gulf veterans.

QUEST FOR VALIDATION

Many vets have been frustrated with the Pentagon's reluctance to validate GWS. Initially, the government held that nothing in the Gulf could have caused the maladies cited by veterans. The official position was (and is) that the Iraqis did not employ chemical weapons against allied troops (despite reports to the contrary from French and Czech chemical weapons teams and from U.S. soldiers telling of burning skin, greenish-yellow mists and strange smells).

Related to this view is the traditional scientific belief that chemical weapons cause immediate injuries or death but not lingering, chronic symptoms. Experts in and out of government remain unable to link veterans' symptoms to specific aspects of Gulf War service, or even to the Gulf at all.

Statistical studies suggest that Gulf War veterans are not getting sick with any greater frequency than soldiers who did not see Gulf service. Several independent "blue ribbon" scientific groups, including a prestigious committee of 18 scientists and physicians assembled by the Institute of Medicine, raise significant doubt that a bona fide GWS even exists. "There's nothing in the syndrome that makes sense," says Dr. Joshua Lederberg, a Nobel laureate who has studied this issue.

Initially, the government was not concerned with gathering health information from Desert Storm participants-a failure that rankles many Gulf vets.

Last October, a report by the National Academy of Sciences scolded both the Department of Defense and the VA for laxity in their Gulf War health studies.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Gulf War Syndrome Strikes Home
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.