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Did US Nerve Gas Poison Our Own Troops In First Gulf War?

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By Jonah Bennett

More than 200,000 of the 700,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Kuwait during the Gulf War were hit by nerve gas, a fact the Department of Defense continues to deny and cover up.

But the effects of the nerve gas are undeniable, Newsweek reports. Troops who were nearest the nerve gas are suffering at non-trivial rates which seemingly can’t be chalked up to randomness. A clear pattern is emerging.

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Medical experts are recording cancer rates at two or three times above average for the exposed troop population. In 2013, Jim Tuite and Dr. Robert Haley published an article in the journal Neuroepidemiology, finding that “large numbers of U.S. and Coalition military personnel were exposed to levels of sarin … high enough to cause irreversible or other serious, long-lasting adverse health effects.”

Neurologist Dr. Linda Chao, based at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco, delved into just some of the specifics.

“Because part of their brains, the hippocampus, has shrunk, they’re at greater risk for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases,” Chao told Newsweek.

At the time of exposure in the early 1990s, concerns were brushed under the table. Some lawmakers, like Democratic Sen. Donald Riegle, were suspicious, holding hearings in 1993 and 1994 to get to the bottom of the matter. Riegle interviewed over 600 veterans on their exposure to chemical weapons in a report he prepared. But Secretary of Defense William Perry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs John Shalikashvili quickly wrote a memo in 1994 to squash the rumors circulating, saying to 20,000 veterans of Desert Storm that “No information…indicates that chemical or biological weapons were used in the Persian Gulf.”

But while the memo is technically correct, in that no chemical weapons were directly employed, it ignores the fact that exposure resulted from the release of the nerve agent sarin after U.S. bombs struck weapons facilities in Iraq. The strikes occurred sometime between January and February of 1991.

Veterans recalled that sirens capable of detecting noxious chemicals would regularly ring, but the only reply from the officers in charge was that the sirens were faulty and so should be shut off completely.

On March 23, 1991, the Army Central Command Nuclear, Biological and Chemical wrote an under-the-radar memo to the XVIII Airborne Corps with some revealing information: “ARCENT has positive confirmation (by urinalysis) of cml (chemical) agent blister casualty in VII corps. We are not to bring this up to the press. If press asks, XVIII abn (airborne) Corps has had no cml (chemical) casualties.”

Based on the findings of the United Nations Special Commission, namely that nerve gas was detected in some of the rockets that U.S. bombs hit, the Joint Chiefs in November of 1991 briefed the Central Intelligence Agency and the White House. Nothing was done, and both the DOD and CIA have been actively involved in covering up the evidence. For example, the UNSCOM memo was declassified for a short period of time before the CIA stepped in and took it down.

Saddam obtained both biological and chemical weapons with the help of the Reagan and Bush administrations but the Department of Veterans Affairs has denied 80 percent of affected veterans seeking full disability status.

“If you’re DOD, you’re admitting your policies contributed to the veterans’ illnesses,” former CIA analyst Patrick Eddington wrote in his book, “Gassed in the Gulf.” “If you’re the VA, you’re admitting you don’t know how to treat the vets. If you’re the CIA, you blew another estimate and that’s not something you want on your resume.” Eddington resigned after his superiors clamped down on his desire to expose what had happened.

For the U.S. to admit troop exposure would be tantamount to admitting it had sold Iraq chemical weapons in the 1980s. It would have to admit almost a quarter of century of constant denial. Affected veterans of the Gulf War are still being ignored, though new VA Secretary Robert McDonald has stated that he’s open to classifying some conditions as “presumptive.” Without the presumptive classification, veterans are out of luck because the medical records establishing that illnesses occurred in the early 90s have completely vanished.

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