Book Review, Against All Enemies

Against All Enemies
Gulf War Syndrome:
The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Theif Government
By Seymour M. Hersh
Ballantine Publishing Group, 1998
ISBN 0-345-42748-3

This is a succinct (104 pages) but very very timely and pertinent book that describes the medical and military travesty that has been inflicted on the veterans who served in the Gulf War in 1991.

The author traces the initial euphoria after we "won" the war to the unraveling of ongoing military and intelligence blunders to the shabby treatment of the veterans who began coming down with mysterious health problems that continually got worse and worse from strange and debilitating symptoms. To add insult, they were often diagnosed as having problems that had nothing to do with their military service. A common copout was "psychological stress."

The numbers of veterans who were registering symptoms went from some four thousand complaints in 1993 to many thousands in 1996.

Still the veterans were being ignored by the medical people, by the military, until a few members of Congress got interested. Hilary Clinton finally intervened, and a presidential advisory committee came into existence in 1996 look into things.

By spring 1998, more than ninety thousand veterans had reported some type of physical problems that they believed were caused by their service.

What began to slowly unravel was the Pentagon admitted in 1996 that it had overlooked intelligence reports from the war that an Iraqi munitions depot, Khamisiyah, that was destroyed early in the war, contained artillery shells filled with the nerve gas Sarin.

The admission came out that military intelligence before the war had predicted Iraq had biological weapons such as Anthrax, and nerve gases in its arsenal, probably the gas Somin.

On that possibility, the soldiers were issued the cholinesterase inhibitor medication, pyridostigmine bromide (PB), which supposedly had some protection against Somin.

But PB is supposed to be followed up by one of two other drugs - which are effectively an antidote to the PG; apparently neither of those drugs were ever given to the veterans!

A further complication is that many of the veterans were exposed for as much as several days to the smoke from the burning petroleum wells that the Iraqi soldiers set on fire before they retreated.

Eventually the story came out that perhaps as many as 100 thousand American troops were in the path of the resultant smoke and fumes.

Reviewed by E. Stiltner

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