Pentagon Didn’t Support the Troops in Desert Storm

The Gulf War syndrome reported by soldiers deployed in Desert Storm wasn’t just their imaginations. And they continue to suffer.

If you’re my age or older, you remember Desert Storm. It was George W. Bush’s big push for a “new world order” –as he said repeatedly. It was a larger military operation than anything Reagan had done in his two terms.

And we won an easy and painless victory.

Because, we are now told, the pain was swept under the rug.

During January and February 1991, when the U.S. bombed Iraq’s weapons plants and storage sites, poisonous plumes floated across the desert to thousands of U.S. troops based on the Saudi border. Sirens wailed daily, but officers in charge announced that the chemical-detection alarms were faulty.

They were not.

A Czech chemical-weapons detection unit found “trace concentrations of sarin, a nerve-paralyzing substance” drifting into Saudi Arabia. French, British and U.S. intelligence units found similar evidence.

Tracy Elledge, a former combat engineer and one of the veterans I interviewed, said, “Alarms went off all the time.… Our officers told us they were false and to disconnect them.”

However, Elledge and others were breathing poison.

Newsweek has published a blockbuster report about how our troops were sent into Iraq completely unequipped to safely deal with the weapons that Iraq had developed from U.S. military aid. Iraq had been one of our client states and we had helped Saddam Hussein build up an arsenal of chemical weapons.

[See also, “VA Scandal Continues: Sweetheart Auditor Assigned to Investigate Hospitals.”]

Jim Bunker was a lieutenant with the First Infantry Division who had trained as a demolition expert. He told me that “before the DOD blew up the ammunition, it sent papers to the battalion officers and intelligence people with clear markings to help them identify chemical weapons. Then on March 2 or 3, the DOD sent the ordnance disposal team to verify which chemicals were there. We don’t know what they found, because once the troops started demolishing them and getting sick, the reports disappeared.”

Bunker said that when troops first became ill, his battalion commander, Col. John Gingrich, radioed headquarters to find out what was happening. He was told: “It’s the heat.”

“We knew this wasn’t true,” Bunker said. “It was only 85 degrees, and we’d trained in over 100 degrees—without people getting sick like this.” The next day, division commander Maj. General Thomas Rhame and Col. Michael Dodson came to their base. “They told Gingrich to be quiet about the men’s symptoms,” Bunker said.

And the cover-ups continued. The Pentagon did not want to admit that it had sent soldiers into harm’s way without the required protection and ordered them to unknowingly expose themselves to sarin gas and other dangerous chemicals. The CIA did not want to admit that it had not given accurate intelligence about the kinds of weapons the soldiers were destroying. Since the Pentagon and the CIA continued to lie and say that no soldiers had been exposed to dangerous amounts, the VA refused to grant full disability to most of the suffering veterans.

Do yourself a favor and read the entire article. Veterans are suffering from Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases because of what was done to them.

If this Newsweek article is completely fraudulent, then I hope the reporters are exposed as liars. But if the material in this report is substantially true, we ought to see executions. But you know we won’t. Not one decision-maker is going to lose a week’s worth of pension over this.

They won’t even lose a day.

The people who told us that Desert Storm was a victory didn’t tell us about what they did to the troops, both when they served and when they sought the medical support that was due them when they returned home.