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Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Dec. 26, 1996
issue of Workers World newspaper

Why won't the Pentagon tell the truth about Gulf War Syndrome

By Judi Cheng and G. Dunkel

The first week of December, Pentagon officials claimed they had "lost" the logs that would have documented whether U.S. troops were exposed to deadly chemicals during the Gulf War.

The second week of December, leading scientists hired by the Pentagon to investigate the Gulf War Syndrome charged that the Pentagon had not turned over even the evidence it admits not losing.

The scientists have impeccable bourgeois credentials. One of them, Joshua Ledeberg, is former president of Rockefeller University and a Nobel Prize laureate. He tried to soften his criticism by saying of the Pentagon, "Un-led is probably a better word than misled."

Nevertheless, Ledeberg was particularly upset about incidents in which Czech chemical-warfare specialists put on protective garments while U.S. soldiers went unprotected.

Czech, French and British soldiers are also suffering from various unexplained illnesses. Since the Gulf War was a joint war of all the imperialists and their clients against Iraq, soldiers from a number of countries are suffering from similar illnesses.

The gaps in the logs include the period in March 1991 when U.S. combat engineers blew up the Kamisiyah ammunition depot. That may have exposed tens of thousands of Iraqis and allied soldiers to a cloud of chemicals.

The U.S. press has focused on this incident. But if the chemicals were in fact released into the air, it was a U.S. military attack during a U.S. invasion of a sovereign country that did that.

The United States has the greatest conglomeration of all sorts of weaponry in the world. It has vast stores of chemical, nuclear, "conventional" and other devices scattered in secret facilities throughout the country. If another country were to ever bomb one of these facilities, it's inconceivable that the U.S. press would blame the Pentagon instead of the country that attacked.

Yet in this case, the U.S. media unequivocally blame Iraq, the country under attack, instead of the Pentagon, the attacker-even though Iraq's arsenal is nowhere near comparable to the Pentagon's, and even though Iraq never used the Kamisiyah weapons.

Proof of Pentagon cover-up

Meanwhile, other factors that should be considered go unmentioned.

U.S. and allied weapons unleashed a vast amount of depleted uranium during the war. The possible toxic effects of this substance are grave. Yet there has been no media outcry and certainly no official inquiry into the effects of DU on the troops.

U.S. troops in the tens of thousands also received an experimental drug designed to protect them against chemical weapons. Many Gulf War veterans now believe their illness may be linked to these injections.

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf of the U.S. high command during the Gulf War, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Colin Powell and former Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, former President George Bush and President Bill Clinton-none of them has shown much interest in the plight of Gulf War veterans suffering from an array of debilitating illnesses.

But the 40,000 or more former soldiers and their families are hard to hide. The government has to manage this crisis before it really blows up-especially if it wants to send more soldiers to die in future imperialist wars.

The Gulf War commanders boasted of the war's minor casualties-only 147 GIs dead, most done in by friendly fire. But Gulf War Syndrome appears to affect the soldiers' children, so the body count is rising.

Of course, the war's toll is far, far higher. But Washington doesn't count Iraqi lives.

Earlier this year, reporter Leslie Stahl asked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright on the CBS-TV show "60 Minutes": "It is said that as a result of the sanctions [on Iraq], more than half a million Iraqi children have died. That's more than were killed in Hiroshima. Is it worth the price?''

Albright answered, "It's a hard choice for us-but yes, it's worth it.'' She is now slated to become secretary of state-chief of foreign affairs-in the second Clinton administration.

The ruling class's attitude to its soldiers is phrased differently. But the health and well-being of soldiers is not the Pentagon's primary concern. Their availability as cannon fodder is.

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Copyright 1996

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