May 12, 2003
After the first war against Iraq in l991, U.S. veterans complained of a mysterious illness that came to be called "Gulf War Syndrome." For years, the government denied that these veterans had war-related problems. Eventually, in a series of compromises, the government granted disability status to the worst cases, which included more than one-fourth of all the vets.
The government argued for years, and still does argue, that they "can't be sure" about these disabilities being war-related, because they haven't enough information about the soldiers' state of health before the war.
In 1997, Congress passed a law requiring the Pentagon to collect health data on troops both before and after deployment to a war zone.
But the Pentagon did not collect this data before invading Iraq. The official alibi is that there "wasn't time" – as though they hadn't been preparing this war for years!
The issue was not time. The issue was liability. The amount of depleted-uranium ammunition used this time was many times greater than the amount which poisoned and disabled the veterans from the first Gulf war. If troops had been examined – as the law requires – the scope of the problem would have become much clearer in the years to come.
So the Pentagon simply broke the law, did not collect the data, and provided itself with something they call "deniability." They can now deny future claims on the basis that the vets "have no proof."
The vets from this second Gulf War will not be the first generation to learn that their biggest enemy is right here at home.