Friendly Fire

Gulf War Syndrome and How It All Began

Contemplating all these warnings (plus one other suggesting that to be effective against soman, PB would have to be used in enormously dangerous amounts) the Army made haste to extract from the FDA the relevant waivers to use the vaccine. The FDA initially resisted, citing concerns about liability. By January 1991, with war imminent, the pressure grew. The Defense Department threatened to invoke emergency powers that would exempt them from any review by the FDA. The FDA then would be without access to Army research findings.

In the case of both PB and the botulism vaccine, the FDA finally gave the Defense Department an interim partial waiver from normal restriction on the use of "investigational drugs." This category, known as IND, normally requires written and informed consent from the patient, close scrutiny of the patient's condition, and the compilation of detailed medical case histories.

Even under the FDA's waiver, the Defense Department was still supposed to keep individual records on all recipients and records of all reports of adverse reactions. None of these conditions were met.

At the start of January 1991, the Army began administering the three vaccines--PB, anthrax and botulism--on a mandatory basis to as many as 400,000 troops, contractors, and journalists. The recipients were given the vaccines without any information on potential side effects. In fact most of the medical personnel administering the vaccines were unaware of the hazards. The vaccines were given to women, some of them pregnant, even though the relevant drugs had never been tested--and still have not been tested--on healthy women. Nor was there any research on how the vaccines might react with other medications such as birth control pills. In all, 28,000 women were given the vaccine drugs. Unlike the extensive screening given to the research subjects, none of the Gulf War personnel were screened for any diseases or conditions. This becomes important, because if side conditions are not surveyed, then ensuing ailments cannot be analyzed with adequate case histories.

The botulism vaccine was given too late for it to have had any use in the war. The Defense Department didn't begin administering it until January 23, 1991, after the beginning of the air war. None of the recipients of the botulism vaccine received the full course--three shots--necessary for full immunization.

Since the end of the Gulf War, the Defense Department has aggressively pressured the FDA to issue a permanent waiver of informed consent, saying "not to finalize it provides an arguable defect under the Administrative Procedures Act and leaves the Department of Defense and the FDA open to greater liability." In another bid to eliminate liability, the Army has told Gulf War vets that they have no legal standing because the so-called Feref Doctrine prohibits military personnel from suing the federal government for injuries suffered as part of military service.

The Defense Department cited a decision written by Antonin Scalia in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Feref Doctrine, saying--in Scalia's words--that to do otherwise would "call into question military discipline and decision-making."

While the army continues to stonewall here in the U.S. and while Hillary Clinton consults her stress-meter, what of other nations in the Allied force in 1991? On November 12 of this year more than 1,000 British vets sued their government, claiming that they had been poisoned by a toxic combination of pesticides liberally sprayed on their uniforms and tents and by anti-nerve gas tablets they were compelled to take. To back up their claims, the British vets have used a report by Dr. Norman Jones, who was a contractor for the British Defense Ministry. Jones's research shows some vets were particularly vulnerable to this nerve gas tablet.

The Czech government has officially recognized Gulf War syndrome and announced a couple of weeks ago that it will compensate ailing vets and, most importantly, will allow them to be evaluated by non-military doctors. The French soldiers were not given antidotes and vaccines and have reported no cases of Gulf War syndrome.

As the cover-up slowly unravels, it becomes clear that the U.S. Army, along with the British Defense Ministry, was involved in a gigantic experiment, with very little idea--despite many dire warnings--of the consequences of its vaccines and antidotes. This may not be contrary to U.S. and British laws, but it certainly violates the Nuremberg Codes promulgated after World War II in response to experiments performed by Nazi scientists using chemicals and biological materials on their victims. (Many of those scientists later found employment in U.S. research labs, military, and civil.)

One final way to study gulf war syndrome is to look at the health histories of farm workers here in the US. They're in the front lines all the time, bombed by the pesticides which are the descendants of soman, sarin, and tobun.

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