The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

A Painful Lesson from the first Persian Gulf War

Mar 3, 2003

As the U.S. gears up to go to war against Iraq, the U.S. news media and public officials push their idea that the U.S. casualty rate will be relatively low – just like the supposed low rate during the Persian Gulf War 12 years ago.

The reality is quite different. U.S. casualties during the Persian Gulf War were not low, as advertised. Over the years, the number of veterans coming down with Gulf War Syndrome has skyrocketed. According to the Veterans Administration (VA), almost one-third of the 690,000 soldiers are suffering from one or more of the many symptoms associated with the Gulf War syndrome, including crippling symptoms, severe mental problems, sterility and for some, even death.

For years, neither the Department of Defense, nor the VA even recognized Gulf War syndrome as something real – just like they denied that Agent Orange was a real and serious malady caused by U.S. weapons used in the Viet Nam War. If they finally have acknowledged that there are problems, it's only after repeated attempts by vets to demand treatment.

Going into the Persian Gulf War, the politicians made all kinds of promises to the soldiers. President George Bush Senior personally promised them that they would not be forgotten. But, when they came home and demanded treatment or disability benefits, the government treated these same veterans as pariahs.

Going into any war, the brass bands play and the flags wave. And there are even a few ticker tape parades for the soldiers when they return. But that is just a show to cover up reality: the government sends soldiers to war as just so much cannon fodder in the service of the politicians, officials and big corporations. When they come home, they're tossed out just like garbage.