April 14, 2003


No more Gulf War Syndromes (MICHAEL FUMENTO, April 10, 2003)
The war is winding down, with remarkably few coalition casualties. Yet soon somebody will try to start another casualty list, that of a second Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). The only way to stop it is to finally acknowledge that, in any meaningful sense, no such thing as GWS exists.

Over a decade of published scientific studies have shown that while naturally some of the 700,000 Gulf vets have died in the 12 years since the war and others have acquired various illnesses, on the whole they are at least as healthy as people their age who didn't deploy.

Consider the mother of all GWS epidemiological studies, which appeared in the January 2000 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. It matched the medical records of 650,000 Gulf vets to those of 650,000 non-deployed vets of similar age and demographic backgrounds.

Researchers looked at illness ranging from cancer to heart disease to mental disorders to skin diseases for a total of 14 diseases. They further divided these by the three hospital systems involved, for a total of 42 data "slices." Statistically significant increased problems were found in four of the 42 slices. But the researchers also found significantly decreased levels of illness in 11 slices.

Smaller epidemiological studies have repeatedly come to the same conclusion, that Gulf vets as a group are a remarkably healthy bunch. Researchers have also repeatedly found that they are no more likely to have miscarried children or children with birth defects.

Yet the scare stories abound, only to be proved groundless time and again. [...]

The true definition of GWS is nothing more than any disease that any Gulf vet has or thinks he has. The symptom lists stands at over 120, including: hair loss, graying hair, weight gain, weight loss, irritability, heartburn, rashes, sore throat, kidney stones, sore gums, constipation, sneezing, leg cramps and athlete's foot.

If you haven't suffered a dozen "GWS symptoms" over the last year, it's bad news because it means you're an android. One major new newsmagazine even reported the claim of a vet who said that GWS gave him genital herpes. How convenient!

"If you go out on the street in any city in this country, you'll find people who have exactly the same things and they've never been to the Gulf," declared Dr. Edward Young, head of the VA Medical Center in Houston until the VA sacked him for that "insensitive" observation.

Yet true insensitivity is putting our vets in permanent fear of contracting a disease that doesn't exist. It may be too late to remove the ingrained myth of GWS, but we can and must prevent the crime that would be the fabrication of GWS II.

NPR is maddening enough, but virtually any call-in show on the war features a vet from Gulf War I who is home on disability payments for his Gulf War Syndrome and NPR on his speed-dial. Hosts like Diane Rehm naturally lap it up, because it serves their political purposes. But, like Agent Orange, it is pure bogosity. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2003 7:39 PM

Without some proof, I wouldn't accept any of

those guys as Gulf vets or even vets. See

Burkitt's splendid "Stolen Valor."

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 14, 2003 9:20 PM

The Wife works at a VA.

Posted by: oj at April 14, 2003 9:24 PM

Mr. Judd--

In all fairness to NPR (and I choke a little bit on those words) I've seen Fox News field a doctor who asserts the syndrome is real and O'Reilly frequently agrees with it, so, unfortunately, its not just the leftwing outlets keeping this baby going.

Posted by: Buttercup at April 14, 2003 10:09 PM

Well, O'Reilly's just a nut.

Posted by: oj at April 14, 2003 11:17 PM

I just saw a feature on this recently. A guy had a whole list of problems (literally a list, he had memory problems and didn't want to forget) and he also pulled out all his medications. I didn't watch the whole thing but I can remember thinking "I thought this was debunked, why are they doing a segment on it?"

Posted by: RC at April 15, 2003 5:44 AM