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Study links low-level sarin gas exposure in Gulf War to brain damage
May 17, 2007 7:24 AM   Subscribe

...In March 1991, a few days after the end of the gulf war, American soldiers exploded two large caches of ammunition and missiles in Khamisiyah, Iraq. Some of the missiles contained the dangerous nerve gases sarin and cyclosarin. Based on wind patterns and the size of the plume, the Department of Defense has estimated that more than 100,000 American troops may have been exposed to at least small amounts of the gases. When the roughly 700,000 deployed troops returned home, about one in seven began experiencing a mysterious set of ailments, often called gulf war illnesses, with problems including persistent fatigue, chronic headaches, joint pain and nausea. Those symptoms persist today for more than 150,000 of them, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than the number of troops exposed to the gases.
Gas May Have Harmed Troops, Scientists Say
posted by y2karl (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps one in seven soldiers are not just hypochondriacs, and perhaps the Defense Dept. will start listening.
posted by caddis at 7:30 AM on May 17, 2007


Could there be multiple separate factors here? Could exposure to depleted uranium power from explosions of ordnance cause these symptoms as well?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:30 AM on May 17, 2007


*depleted uranium powder*
posted by Pastabagel at 7:31 AM on May 17, 2007


Am I the only one who read that as "Gays may have harmed troops, scientists say"?

I was all ready to make another Falwell joke!
posted by ORthey at 7:35 AM on May 17, 2007


It's great that this is back in the news, but it won't be the first time that a high-profile newspaper has offered compelling evidence for Gulf War syndrome that is subsequently ignored by the DOD.
posted by CRM114 at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2007


Coming soon to a mold-encrusted, roach-infested, underfunded VA Hospital near you. The sequel to Agent Orange: Die Harder.

"They say lightning never strikes twice... They were wrong"

"Last time, you got cancer. This time, you get persistent fatigue, chronic headaches, joint pain and nausea.. and then cancer."

Yessiree, it's Yippee Ki Yay, All over again!
posted by three blind mice at 7:44 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


How terribly unpatriotic of them to complain. Isn't this treasonous? Our previous veterans bore their mutiliations with stoicism and managed to discreetly drink themselves to death after a few rounds of substandard care at the V.A.

Okay, enough sarcasm. One of the things I find most tragic is that these young men and women (and let's face it, there's a reason the military wants them fresh and pliable) believe that the military is going to take care of them in exchange for honorable service. It takes a long time to figure out that the cause they served may not be honorable, but perhaps not quite as long as it takes them to figure out that, to the military as an enormous, faceless organization, these people are disposable equipment, to be junked like an overworked Jeep when it simply takes too much to repair.

Even worse, the lessons of Agent Orange somehow didn't trickle down to the next generation. Was it just that the voices shouting "Hanoi Jane is a traitor!" were simply louder than the ones asking, "I think the government may have poisoned our troops?" Or is it humanity's fundamental inability to learn anything on a long-term basis?
posted by adipocere at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2007


If it is true then imagine what the people who had to live downwind suffered and will suffer.
posted by srboisvert at 7:48 AM on May 17, 2007


This just in! War harms troops!

meh.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2007


We need to wait until all the facts are in!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:04 AM on May 17, 2007


As much as the echo chamber likes to pronounce their unwavering support for The Troops, I can't help but feel that at the core our service men and women are still seen as meat for the grinder. I understand that this idea is an unfortunate truth in warfare, however much technology, tactics and training attempt to minimize it. But veterans - those who survive - deserve better. Honesty and accountability are a step in the right direction.
posted by NationalKato at 8:06 AM on May 17, 2007


Gassed by your own guys. Sheesh.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:14 AM on May 17, 2007


Those symptoms persist today for more than 150,000 of them, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than the number of troops exposed to the gases.

does this confuse anyone else? if it's more than the people exposed to the gases, how can it be the gas?
posted by shmegegge at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2007


Years ago, I remember seeing a magazine cover (Time or Newsweek), with a Gulf War vet holding his infant son, who had been born with birth defects. The story was that an inordinate number of Gulf War vets had fathered deformed babies, and that somehow it was linked to some type of exposure during the war. The story went away quietly - as so many do. Why is this only coming to light now?
posted by msali at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2007


Not only gassed by your own guys, but gassed by your own guys using British gas...
posted by anthill at 8:41 AM on May 17, 2007


does this confuse anyone else? if it's more than the people exposed to the gases, how can it be the gas?

If data have been mispresented so far, why assume the VA's numbers are accurate?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2007


This just in! War harms troops!

meh.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:01 AM on May 17


This just in! Individual snarks on the internets.

meh.

I wonder when we'll get a "green" armed forces...
posted by juiceCake at 8:46 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


So, can someone explain why we could field 700K troops in the early 90s and barely 140K now? (I realize that the former is cumulative, but even so that gap seems inordinately large to me.) I feel like I'm missing something.
posted by spiderwire at 8:51 AM on May 17, 2007


Time Magazine | December 1996: The Silent Treatment
"What's the truth about Persian Gulf War syndrome, and is the Pentagon guilty of a cover-up? In recent weeks, two of the war's heroes, generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, have said they know of no evidence that U.S. troops were exposed to chemical weapons during the conflict that could have made them sick. But there are new indications that the generals, and even a Nobel prizewinning scientist hired by the Pentagon to look into the matter, were not told the full story."
posted by ericb at 8:59 AM on May 17, 2007


The Tragedy of Gulf War Syndrome.
posted by ericb at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2007


I feel like I'm missing something.

Maybe it has something to do with the now well-known fact that joining the army means getting blown up in 130 degree weather, serving liars and crooks.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:04 AM on May 17, 2007


Veterans' injury/disability issues are pretty much aligned with regular workers' compensation issues. In both, a fractured, distributed, lower-income population is at the soul-crushing mercy of a larger system that has every incentive to minimize the degree, or deny the existence, of legitimate disability.
posted by troybob at 9:13 AM on May 17, 2007


As much as the echo chamber likes to pronounce their unwavering support for The Troops, I can't help but feel that at the core our service men and women are still seen as meat for the grinder.

Absolutely.

See, the flag-wavers try to portray themselves as patriots and true supporters of the troops by encouraging their deployment and trying to keep them there as long as possible.

Progressives are portrayed as traitors because they want to bring the troops home, out of harm's way.

Who REALLY is supporting the troops? Those little yellow magnets almost make me puke now.

Basically, I think those magnets should be reworded to say "I support keeping our troops in an unwinnable quagmire and in continued needless danger for no real possibility of gain".

Soldiers on the ground are just the grist under which the stone continues to grind out criminal profits for a very few.

Look, if some foreign army were invading Newport Beach, I would grab a rifle and defend my homeland without hesitation. That is my duty as a citizen, and one I take seriously.

But I refuse to go die in the desert halfway around the globe so the directors of Haliburton can buy diamond encrusted underwear.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:21 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, can someone explain why we could field 700K troops in the early 90s and barely 140K now?

several reasons:

1. more capable president, which is funny considering it was gwb's dad.
2. we were saving kuwait, not attacking iraq... at first. people will sign up to save someone more readily than to preemptively attack someone.
3. you could actually perceive the reason we went to kuwait, whereas the reason for invading iraq was never clear to the general public.
4. we weren't as spread out in the rest of the world with the number of ongoing military operations that we have now.
posted by shmegegge at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2007


mind you, i'm talking about how the gulf war could be perceived, not making claims about historical fact. i'm not naive enough to consider the gulf war to be about saving kuwait.
posted by shmegegge at 9:23 AM on May 17, 2007


jimmythefish: did you even pay attention to what was written there?
posted by boo_radley at 9:24 AM on May 17, 2007


jimmythefish: did you even pay attention to what was written there?

Yes, I did.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2007


troybob: "Veterans' injury/disability issues are pretty much aligned with regular workers' compensation issues. In both, a fractured, distributed, lower-income population is at the soul-crushing mercy of a larger system that has every incentive to minimize the degree, or deny the existence, of legitimate disability."

This right now is very pertinent to me. My girlfriend is disabled, and was fortunate enough to have gotten disability on the first appeal.

My sister had her first appeal recently, and based on the questions the judge asked (my mom attended the hearing with my sister and her lawyer), it sounded like he was digging for an excuse to not grant it. She had letters from 4 different doctors, all attesting to her disability. I can't recall the questions, but I knew by what they were that he was going to have her denied, because they were leading bullshit questions with an agenda.

The latest round has her suicidal. She had to call my mother up to take her to the hospital for her safety. It has taken over a year to get her review, and that was only because the lawyer contacted their local representative to get the date pushed up for hardship (my mother is supporting my sister, my mom, pushing 64, doing in home elderly care, recently had the lady she worked for die)... So, even after this, the fucking judge shot her down.

So now, I have a mom who's in debt 18000 taking care of my sister... That's not taking into account her own expenses with my father. And now my sister is ready to kill herself because of all the stress. I'm not even going to get into the insane war on drugs that makes her be forced to be taken off the opiates she needs.

Sorry. It's just really touching a nerve, since this all happened in the past 24 hours. I so want to go on a murderous rampage (against a certain political faction that shall remain nameless, but I think you all know what I'm thinking). But fortunately I'm sane enough to not do so. Jail doesn't appeal to me, thank you very much.

Living in the corporate states of america is prison enough for me...
posted by symbioid at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2007


To add to shmegegge's list:

privatization - mercenaries are better than regular troops

military industrial complex corruption - that money is too good to spend on troops, it is needed for SDI and JSF and hundreds of other things like $900 hammers. Remember kids, government employees are evil, large corporate contractors are good.

rumsfeld doctrine - we can easily whip anyone's ass with just a few of our Rambos dude!
posted by nofundy at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2007


The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

posted by KokuRyu at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


People that advocate for wars always seem to forget that the soldiers they asking to risk their lives, are going to need a lifetime of support. The fact that our soldiers post tour care is so poor is deplorable.

I'm actually shocked that our 'support our troops' crazy culture hasn't flipped out over stories like this one and the conditions at Walter Reed. I believe that if we, as a nation, are going to put someone in harms way, we owe that person the very best care that can be had. For ever.
posted by quin at 10:14 AM on May 17, 2007




I'm actually shocked that our 'support our troops' crazy culture hasn't flipped out over stories like this one and the conditions at Walter Reed. I believe that if we, as a nation, are going to put someone in harms way, we owe that person the very best care that can be had. For ever.

Support our troops = put a yellow ribbon on your SUV and never question the commander in chief.
posted by caddis at 10:45 AM on May 17, 2007


doh. you read my mind.

I was about to make a joke about teh librulz
posted by subaruwrx at 10:51 AM on May 17, 2007


Gas isn't the only three-letter word starting with g-a to have been blamed for harming the troops.
posted by pmbuko at 11:47 AM on May 17, 2007


It always needs to be pointed out that Walter Reed is not a VA hospital, but an Army hospital. VA care, for those lucky enough to get it, has actually been rated pretty high by vets.

key quote:

A RAND Corporation study published in the The Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that the VA outperforms all other sectors of American health care in 294 measures of quality. In awarding the VA a top prize in 2006 for innovation in government, Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government gushed that "While the costs of healthcare continue to soar for most Americans, the VA is reducing costs, reducing errors, and becoming the model for what modern health care management and delivery should look like."
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on May 17, 2007


Man, the shit just keeps getting deeper. Why do people always succumb to war fever without ever thinking about this stuff?

Am I the only one who read that as "Gays may have harmed troops, scientists say"?

Actually, when I first glanced at it I read it as "God may have harmed troops, scientists say." Which is wrong in all sorts of ways.

posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on May 17, 2007


"Support the troops" = Fuck the troops.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:28 PM on May 17, 2007


Support the troops?

Like we have a choice.
posted by telstar at 1:32 PM on May 17, 2007


I wonder when we'll get a "green" armed forces...

Indeed. People just don't understand that if we are to win we must be willing to do the things that the enemy are unwilling to do! That's why we must have an army that poisons itself at every opportunity! And as part of basic training, being shot in the head lessons! We will be unstopable!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:26 PM on May 17, 2007


@adipocere:

If only your wisdom could be transmitted to every child, war would be impossible.

Ah well, at least the info's getting around. Unlike the "atomic veterans" who went back to their home towns to die invisibly, one at a time, after mopping the decks of radioactive ships with bare hands and bare feet.

What wastes human life better than humans?
posted by Twang at 4:03 PM on May 17, 2007


You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

posted by Twang at 4:07 PM on May 17, 2007


Actually, when I first glanced at it I read it as "God may have harmed troops, scientists say."

Why does God hate America? Maybe we should go ask Jerry Falwe-- doh! Or maybe we could send him an IM... hmm, no.



...on a different note, I'm not sure that the "no one wants to sign up" answer to my earlier question about deployment levels quite washes. Generally, people don't sign up for wars ahead of time -- the recruiting problems started to crop up only after things began to drag on. And one would think that after 9/11 there would have been an increase in reserve levels that shouldn't have petered out within just 2 or 3 years.

I remember seeing the deployment numbers in Jarhead at something like half a million and thinking "that can't be right," because AFAIK we've never approached that level in the last 5 years, and the first time around (a) we had help and (b) we were just invading, not occupying. I'm still not able to reconcile these differences.

Also, I know that the "independent contractors" numbers should bolster the bottom line by ~100K, but my impression is that the've been picking up the slack as time's gone on, not decreasing in number.
posted by spiderwire at 11:12 PM on May 17, 2007


One big reason for the deployment numbers in '90-91 was because the Gulf War happened at the 'right' time. The huge divisions designed to stop the Soviets were still intact. Had the war happened a year or two later, these forces wouldn't have been available, due to the post-Cold War drawdown. And not only was the huge manpower available, but much of the force and/or their equipment was stationed in Europe, making re-deployment much faster than if all 500k + supplies had to come directly from the US.

A secondary reason was the very sensible Powell doctrine which, in part, called for overwhelming force.
posted by pandaharma at 11:59 PM on May 17, 2007


Shmegegge, everything the military (and the governement) tells you is suspect. The 100K troop exposure to the cloud was an estimate that was continuously revised (at some point they said 120K or 120,000 - I think they started out with 5K or 5000 - all this info is readily available on the net). But there were more indications that sarin was present on the battle field at different time and places. I served with the 1st Infantry Division and our CNBC NCO (chemical, nuclear & biological non conmissioned officer) detected and confirmed the presence of sarin before the gound offensive began. Add to this experimental vacinines and meds, depleated uranium breathing contaminated air from the burning oil wheel fires, pestidicides, (what have I forgotten) and you have the most toxic battle field in the history of warfare. Upon reflection I wonder how anyone didn't get sick. There are a lot of sick Gulf War vets here in Central Kentucky. They are getting together in June to document what is happening with them. Any vets interested? I have deteriorating health that I can't explain. I have too many things happening that I don't even want to get into here but I know that it isn't psychosomatic. The first impluse is to treat it as such ( I don't want to beat up on the VA docs - they do the best they can with what they got in my opinion). You can take one or two of these sysmptoms and plug them into a lot of areas. The psychological burden is a result of not knowing what is happening and trying to come to terms with it (at least for me). We've got one very important fight left and thats to help the truth see the light of day. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and the future generations of soldiers.
posted by rnick321 at 9:12 AM on May 26, 2007


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