By: Cary Harrison and Scott Slavin
With grateful acknowledgment to the late Joyce Riley and The American Gulf War Veterans Association
With US TROOPS still fully entrenched in Mid-East soil, threats to safety continue to escalate. At the time of 9-11, over one-quarter (nearly 200,000) of vets who served in Operation Desert Storm had filed for disability related to Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). Yet the Pentagon continues to this day to deny a specific Gulf War Illness. In a senate report published in February of 1994, the government stated that no “SINGLE cause of the [veterans’] health problems” could be found. But can we allow our government to absolve itself of responsibility through the deft use of semantics? On the surface, the government is right, there is not a single cause of GWS; there are MULTIPLE causes. In 1998 another senate report, The Special Investigation Unit Report on Gulf War Illness, lists 12 categories of harmful agents that troops may have been exposed to that could have contributed to prolonged illness, including biological agents, chemical warfare agents, depleted uranium, and vaccines. There is even evidence suggesting that one of the biological agents was enhanced using genes from the AIDS virus. We must question, therefore, our government’s reticence to provide assistance. If they admit the causes, why are they not treating the effects? As of January 2000, more than 9,500 Gulf War vets had died from GWS.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we have been hearing the term used “blowback” over and over again in the news. Blowback describes the unintended backfire on any nation for its actions involving other nations. For example, many cite the U.S.’s continued sanctions on Iraq and desertion of the Afghani people after the Russo-Afghan war in the 1980’s as possible motivating factors for the recent attacks. In these cases, our foreign policy has created horrifying, unintended consequences on the American people.
However, blowback does not have to apply strictly to international relations. Any group that suffers unintended consequences for its actions against another group is experiencing the effects of blowback. This latest attack may not be the first instance of blowback that the U.S. is faced with on its own soil as a result of its dealings with the Middle East. For the last ten years, thousands of Gulf War vets have been dying and spreading their illnesses throughout their communities as a result of the U.S.’s conscious decision not only to continue to sell chemical and biological weapons to Iraq up to and during the Gulf War, but also to expose its troops to harmful agents without their consent.
Yet the government has consistently upheld its diagnosis that GWS is in fact post-traumatic stress disorder. This position is insulting given their acknowledgment of the multiple harmful agents that troops may have been exposed to during the war, not counting the thousands of veterans and families that have died or continue to suffer from the disease. To understand the effects of GWS on our troops, I want to introduce you to two Gulf War veterans whose battles with this disease represent opposite ends of the spectrum of the suffering that those afflicted have had to endure. As you will see, these symptoms go far beyond what can be defined by post-traumatic stress even in its most liberal definition. Their symptoms are not caused solely by psychological trauma, but by harmful, material agents that the U.S. government knew were awaiting its troops in the Persian desert.
“There is a lot of shifty business going on.” 
Scott Siefken was a National Guard and Army soldier who served in the Gulf War and developed rashes after he returned home. Before long, the rashes quickly covered his entire body. The rashes inflamed his skin, which turned red and dry with scales, and itched so badly that he was unable to function in his normal life. When he arrived at the V.A. hospital for treatment, military doctors would not admit him. After repeated attempts÷and the worsening of his condition–they finally brought him in for special treatment. Seven weeks later Scott was dead, having never left the hospital once he was admitted.
But the worst is yet to come. Because of his condition upon entering the hospital and the type of treatment they chose to perform on him, Scott’s case was meticulously documented. A picture of Scott after his special operation leaked out of the V.A. We can see Scott’s blood-red face staring out in agony from the white sheets. There is something wrong with him; his appearance is horrifying. This is because the doctors have peeled off 99% of his skin in order to remove his rashes. Scott’s face is in agony because he has just lost the largest organ of his body.
Back in California, Dr. Garth Nicolson, Chief Scientific Officer of the Institute for Molecular Medicine, has been studying GWS since the first cases began appearing after the war. He believes GWS is caused in part by a fungal bacteria called Mycoplasma incognitas. By reverse engineering one of the biological weapons known to have been at Iraq’s disposal, Dr. Nicolson discovered it had been genetically-engineered and purposefully enhanced with potent genes from the AIDS virus. “We did find this one gene from the HIV-1 AIDS-causing virus [the HIV-1 envelope that the virus uses to bind to and enter cells]. If you were to make a biological weapon this is exactly the type of gene you’d insert into a microorganism. Because you’ve turned it into a stealth microorganism. It will hide in the body.”
The implications of the government formulating the AIDS virus into a germ-warfare weapon was as shocking to the doctor as the growing number of American servicemen still dying 10 years after the war. This altered Mycoplasma fungus, he says, can survive for years in blood, air, and soil–meaning there’s clinical potential for others to continue to contract Gulf War Syndrome. “It’s an uncontrollable weapon,” he goes on, “You can’t control what’s gonna happen to it once it’s released. It’s like the Genie: you can’t put it back in the bottle. These things are contagious, so they can spread in a population and you just can’t easily get rid of them.” Because it’s rooted in a fungus, it can spread through pet hair–even clothing. Dr. Marwan Nasralla, is president of International Molecular Diagnostics–another specialized medical facility that’s able to deconstruct these AIDS-inserted pathogens: “We have examined many [vets] for Mycoplasma and we have high percentage positive. But we did not really analyze which one is have [sic] the [HIV envelope] insertion or not–because it’s very costly.”
Hypothetically, if the U.S. knew troops would be exposed to previously untested harmful biological and chemical warfare agents during the Gulf War, wouldn’t it be to the advantage of our national security to allow at least some of our troops to contract whatever diseases these agents may cause and then to monitor the effects and range of treatments? And is this not unlike how the U.S. learned about Agent Orange during the Vietnam War? What measurement, in the end, shows the human costs of military testing? How do we rationalize–and should we–the horror that Scott had to live and die with?
“I was at the point of freaking out–[I] didn’t know what was wrong and I didn’t know who to ask.” 
When I began investigating this story back in 1997, I met Brent H., a young Gulf War Marine gunner, who has asked for last name anonymity, ever-cautious of crossing the Defense Department (DoD) on the record. Formerly stationed at Central Command’s MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Brent pulled up his shirt up and showed me his stomach and back covered with red, saucer-sized rashes–inflamed rashes with the texture of fish scales. The condition had been diagnosed by his private physician as Gulf War Syndrome. “These two spots, as you can see,” he pointed out for me, “have turned into a whole area. They are scarlet red spots. Every year they get worse. They don’t get better.”
What’s more disturbing, many of Brent’s symptoms oddly mimicked HIV infection; yet he tested negative. This, it turns out, would lead to a nightmarish discovery. Brent went on to show me a grotesque pattern of infections on his chest. He said the DoD had injected him right through his shirt with experimental Anthrax and botulism toxoid vaccines as well as the pesticide, DEET, without his knowledge or permission. “The unit I was in had about 181 people. And they’ve got the same symptoms. The main thing with us is the rashes. Um, you try to justify it to yourself. You know, if I put some cream on it it’ll go away. It just doesn’t go away.” What is the government telling you? I asked. “When I filed my claim, they told me there was no such thing as this disease. So, just trying to find someone that knows anything about it is incredibly hard. I mean, to find someone who’ll admit it exists first of all; and secondly that knows something about it. I mean, that’s a long hard· that’s a long, hard journey.
In addition to the potential threat from the vaccinations, Brent remembers SCUD and FROG missiles exploding over his head–missiles he thinks contained germ warfare vials that rained down on thousands like him. Freedom of Information requests reveal 36 different strains of deadly pathogens that were manufactured here in the United States–at government contractors like American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) in Rockville, Maryland–then sold for profit to Iraq
In a Gulf War video taken by the Army’s own cameramen, we can see these weapons of mass destruction in the Iraqi munitions center of Khamisiyah–labeled in plain English, with American color-coded identification markings.
Munitions Stored at Kamisiyah
Captain Joyce Riley was part of the Air Forces aeromedical team during the Gulf War, and now represents the American Gulf War Veterans Association. “It has been illegal to export and sell biological agents [since the Geneva Convention of 1972],” she told me, “however, the United States, vis-à-vis the American Type Culture Collection, did provide these to our enemy, Saddam Hussein, just prior to the beginning of Desert Storm.” To cloak these sales as acts of humanitarianism, the government has often funneled the weapons through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. The U.S., however, was not the only weapons contractor that sold chemical and biological weapons to Iraq. Other profiteers like Jordan, England, and Russia also had munitions present at Khamisiyah. Such smoking-gun evidence suggests the Pentagon sold weapons of mass destruction to Iraq in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.
But exposure to these biological weapons and experimental vaccines is only the tip of the iceberg when examining the larger scope of GWS. Not included in the 9,500 deaths now suspected from GWS are the infected and deceased family members that the veterans passed the illness onto. The Nation magazine writes that 67% of babies born to Gulf War vets are born deformed, often with fused fingers and toes, some born without a brain. A Reuters news service report of October 21, 1994 cited Senator Donald Riegle’s Senate Committee findings that “found disease spread from afflicted veterans to 78% of their wives, 25% of offspring born before the war, and 65% born since.” But let’s step back from effects for a moment, and look at the likely causes.
The likely causes of GWS do not end with biological weapons and experimental vaccines. For years now, the Pentagon has been encasing its missiles and bombs in depleted uranium (DU)÷the waste from nuclear weapons and reactors÷in order to make their shells stronger. When exploded, the depleted uranium aerosolizes upon impact and scatters this highly radioactive element throughout the atmosphere. According to the Gulf War Resource Center, during the two months of bombings, more than one million shells laced with radioactive Uranium 238÷the scientific nomenclature for depleted uranium÷were used on Iraq.
In Operation Desert Storm alone, some 940,000 small-caliber DU rounds were fired into Iraq and Kuwait from such aircraft as the A10 Warthog and the Apache helicopter. In addition, anywhere from 6,000 to 14,000 large-caliber DU rounds were fired from U.S. tanks. All told, anywhere from 40 to 300 tons of radioactive uranium were left littering the battlefields of the Gulf war, several times the 25 tons that a report by Britain’s Atomic Energy Authority concluded could cause “500,000 potential deaths.”
However, what might be most striking is not so much that the U.S. unleashed all these deadly weapons on Iraq during the war, but that with foreknowledge of their deadliness, the government did not act to protect our troops÷instead, they served as guinea pigs, denied of the most basic human rights. To begin with, General Norman Schwartzkopf testified at the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee on Gulf War Illness that the botulism toxoid vaccine “was one that was experimental; was not approved by the FDA. It was for that reason,” Schwartzkopf continued, ” that I insisted any troop that was gonna be given this botulism, first of all, be explained what it is÷then sign a statement to the fact that he understood what this is and agreed to take it. And if he didn’t sign the statement, he didn’t have to take the botulism anti-toxin. I left it was up to him [sic] because I knew it wasn’t an FDA-approved anti-toxin.” However, a Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee Report 103-97, dated January 8, 1994, on page 21, says that of the 120 vets interviewed, 88% of troops were forced to take the vaccine, and many of the truths General Schwartzkopf advanced were substantively countered by his own sick troops. In fact, General Schwartzkopf had not been sworn to oath during the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Gulf War Illness. That is, he was not compelled legally, by the Senate, to tell the truth.
Furthermore, reports conflict on how often the soldiers wore their protective over-garments during the war. At that same Committee meeting, on January 29, 1997, General Schwartzkopf assured the committee that “They wore their over-garments. They wore their masks. And then they tested the area with devices before they took their masks off and their over-garments off–just to make sure that there wasnât anything there.” But Sergeant Dan Tapolski, a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense NCO of the 37th Engineer Battalion experienced a different war. “Way back in the air campaign, [we were] ordered by our battalion commander not to wear our protective over-garments unless specifically told to do so·[I told my company commander] that that was dead wrong, and he’s gonna wind up with a dead company if he listens to it.” Back at the Veteransâ Affairs Committee hearings, General Colin Powell backs up General Schwartzkopf, “We used protective over-garments, boots, masks. I don’t think you have seen a SINGLE battle scene from the Desert Storm War where our troops were not in gear.” Who is telling the truth? If we return to the video taken by Army servicemen at Khamisiyah÷an Iraqi biological weapons munitions fort consisting of 100 bunkers and 49 warehouses, each as big as football fields÷we see none of the troops who are opening the munitions boxes and sussing out the bunkers wearing protective gear.
“There is no more serious crime than an official military cover up of facts.”
Back at the Institute for Molecular Medicine, Dr. Nicolson slowly began treating AIDS-like chronic fatigue, night sweats, heart murmurs, and rashes, which, like Brentâs, spread down the arms, across the stomach and back. Using a combination of antibiotics lead by Doxycycline÷a broad-spectrum tetracycline antibiotic, he began treating top brass on the quiet. “Two Star generals·are now recovering because of·our information and the efforts that weâve put out to help those military personnel and veterans who are sick.” But Brent says the V.A. wouldnât let him or thousands of other vets have access to these medications because then the DoD would be treating something it says doesnât exist. Yet the symptoms list is gruesome: muscle and joint pain, bloating, memory loss, intermittent internal bleeding, lymph swelling, organ dysfunction, miscarriages, depression, diarrhea, respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, birth defects and still born births, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, even widespread Alzheimer’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and other neurological illness, as well as a frightening climb in the number of HIV-diagnosed patients. Are these the faces of post-traumatic stress?
On the other hand, Dr. Nicolson has successfully treated too many top brass today to keep the truth a secret. A number of Lieutenant Generals have officially compelled the Armed Forces to allow clinical trials using the Nicolson protocol. And Brent, the former Marine Corps aerial observer and combat gunner, now lives in a different city, and told me by phone: “The fatigue is gone and I get a good nightâs sleep. I get a good nightâs sleep. And I feel pretty much back to normal.” How long have you been on the Doxycycline? Doxycycline and Lamicil both, for three months.” Are those big rashes you had·how are they doing? “They faded quite a bit. Itâs almost completely gone.”
After 10 years, the Department of Veteranâs Affairs is no longer able to hide the fact that 26% of all Gulf War vets are now officially listed as “disabled,” and U.S. veterans and the American public want answers. The 1997 Senate hearings regarding Gulf War Illness were supposed to uncover some of those answers, but instead perpetuated the ruse. One indication of this occurred when General Schwartzkopf denied ever having heard of the bunker-load of American-made chemical and biological weapons at Khamisiyah. “As I stated, the first time I ever heard of Khamisiyah was in 1996 when it was first announced by the Department of Defense and nobody was more surprised than I was.” Yet, in a covert trip some six months preceding the Gulf War, Brent had accompanied General Schwartzkopf to the Middle East specifically to develop strategic computer models for a premeditated invasion of Iraq. Curiously, Saddam Hussein was still months away from invading Kuwait, with no threat known or evident. But the Pentagon was secretly setting up a war. Footage in the documentary, Hidden Wars of Desert Storm, shows General Schwartzkopf before the Senate responding to direct questioning regarding his premeditating war: “and·it just so happened that· that we were in the middle of conducting the internal look·uh·command post exercise at the same time·that·the crisis developed in the Gulf.” Again, he was not under oath.
Brent concludes that the Pentagon was eager to test new weapons on Iraq÷and us÷by goading Saddam into illegal action with Kuwait. Indeed, as Dr. Garth Nicolson states, “We transferred a very dangerous material, like Bacillus Anthraxus, to Iraq and other countries as well, uh, right up until a few weeks before the Gulf War·So, itâs absolutely incomprehensible for most sane people to think that, as a country, weâre transferring these very dangerous agents to rogue nations, who can just turn around and use them on us.” As the theory goes, if the war was planned six months in advance, why would we continue to sell biological weapons to our future enemy, if not to have them tested on a population that we will be able to monitor after the war?
The deceit worsens. While examining the archives at The Center for the Preservation of Modern History, we found that just eight days before the August 2, 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met with Saddam Hussein at his Baghdad palace. In conversation, she assured him, “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America. (Saddam smiles).” Two days later the State Department reiterated itself publicly: “There are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.” But on August 6th, four days after Saddam’s massed troops invaded and occupied Kuwait, the U.S. already had their first troops in the air.
As our troops amassed at their already-staked-out battle posts, the U.S. Government directed oil-rich Kuwait to employ the huge PR firm Hill & Knowlton to help sell U.S. citizens on the necessity of a “Gulf War.” To do this, they created a campaign that involved the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador giving false information to Congress about particular instances of Iraqi human rights abuses.
What hard evidence exists that could support the argument that the U.S. would incite war in large part to create a theater in which to test weapons? One does not need to look very far or deep. Most importantly, until 1997, when Clinton amended the U.S. Code, the United States had the authority to test biological agents on its military and civilian populations without their knowledge or consent. Title 50, Chapter 32, Section 1520 of the U.S. Code required the government only to inform civilian officials of what tests were going to occur. As a result, for half a century the government used its citizens as unwitting guinea pigs for science. Indeed, some experiments have become infamous, such as the CIAâs testing of LSD and Gamma Hyroxybuterate÷the Îdate rapeâ drug÷on civilians; but many are not. Far more nefarious tests have been carried out and kept muted, such as testing the effects of radioactivity on military personnel in Ft. Greely, Alaska; testing Agent Orange on U.S. troops in Vietnam; and funding, researching, and creating an AIDS-like virus in the early 1970s. As Senate Report 103-97, Senator Jay Rockefeller’s committee, states: “During the last 50 years, hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been involved in human experimentation and other intentional exposures conducted by the Department of Defense, often without a Service Member’s consent.”
Today, no one knows how many of the 183,000 Gulf War vets currently on disability are aware of or have access to such treatment options as the death count expands. As a result of long-term official denial, some Gulf War vets have gone to animal feed stores to purchase tetracycline meant for cattle and swine to use on themselves. Even a 550 page Senate report, known as the “Reigle Report” concludes that American troops are not just sick, but they are dying, and that this Gulf War Syndrome is communicable. But perhaps the least palatable is that U.S. companies seem to have spun parts of the deadly AIDS virus into a profitable biological weapon.
So we are left asking, “What was the Gulf War really about?” As more and more documents are found, lies uncovered, and studies published, evidence points to a nightmarish scenario of planned, wide-scale chemical and biological experiments conducted under the pretext of a humanitarian war. As Captain Joyce Riley, of the American Gulf War Veterans Association, summed the situation up: “By God, I wish it wasn’t true, believe me.”
*Following the publication of this article, Capt. Riley passed away. We will remember her for her tireless work in fighting for our vets and preventing truth decay.
*The Archive, at George Washington University, obtained more than 60 documents through the Freedom of Information Act to understand the events surrounding Mr. Rumsfeld’s visit. Mr. Rumsfeld, who was then the head of pharmaceutical firm G.D. Searle & Co., met with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to discuss ways to counter Iran and Syria, the documents show. A November 1, 1983 State Department memo shows that the U.S. had confirmed the Iraqis were using chemical weapons, which are banned under the Geneva Conventions.
 A total of 696,000U.S. troops served between 1990-1991, during which Operation Desert Storm was prepared for and executed. Of those, 183,629 have filed for disability related to GWS. Moreover, this number does not represent three major, GWS-afflicted population segments: · Cases arising in 27 of the 28 coalition countries that joined the U.S. in the Persian Gulf · Cases arising in 20% of the population in the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf War area · Cases arising in U.S. troops’ spouses and children.  Senate Report; Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Second Staff Report on U.S. Chemical and Biological Warfare-Related Dual-Use Exports to Iraq and The Possible Impact on the Health Consequences of the War; February 9, 1994.  Senate Report; Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Report of the Special Investigation Unit on Gulf War Illnesses; 1998. Page 110.  The actual number of deaths is 9,592.  Excerpted from a phone conversation with Brent H. , a Gulf War Marine Gunner.  Quote from Brent, a young Gulf War Marine gunner and primary source for this story whose last name is being withheld. He began displaying symptoms of GWS following his return to the U.S.  McGowan, David; Derailing Democracy. Common Courage Press.  Quote taken from Gulf War Illness: Fact or Fiction? hosted by Captain Joyce Riley vonKleist, R.N., BSN (USAF Inactive Reserve), and produced by the American Gulf War Veterans Association. http://www.gulfwarvets.com/  Capitals mine.  Quote taken from a statement by Senator Riegle found in a letter written by Captain Joyce Riley, R.N. , BSN (USAF Inactive Reserve).  Macarthur, John.