(A soldier from the Royal Scots, on duty in Saudia Arabia, receiving an injection against the effects of a possible chemical attack in 1991 during the first Gulf war.)
The first invasion in Kuwait and Iraq was in 1990-91 and has been described as “the most toxic war in western military history”. Almost one-third of the troops deployed are now chronically ill (or have died), largely as a result of the counter-measures used in that war.
Massive research studies (major summaries 2008 and 2012), principally originating from the US, show that there was a triple assault on the cholinergic system from proven neurological toxins: organophosphate pesticides that were extensively used – though originally denied by government – to keep down flies, notably sand flies that carry leishmaniasis; nerve agents, particularly sarin (released by the air war that preceded the ground war in February 1991); and pyridostigme bromide, required to be taken as a supposed prophylactic against sarin (in fact it exacerbates the effects of sarin).
These, coupled with an extensive vaccine programme which defied established protocols and used experimental vaccines (for anthrax and plague) with an untested adjuvant (whooping cough), are probably responsible for damage to the pituitary gland (hypophysitis) that leads to serious dysregulation of the endocrine system: principally loss of libido and of growth hormone.
This war ended almost 25 years ago and is now forgotten, buried under the smoke screen of a somatoform disorder that fails to acknowledge a major complex, chronic, medical disorder. The suffering of veterans and their families remains unaddressed 25 years on. Justice has been denied. An apology and action for this neglect is long overdue.
Professor emeritus Malcolm Hooper
President, National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association