NEW DATA EMERGES ON GWI
By Mark Anderson
At an Aug. 6 conference on Gulf War Illness held near Dallas, AFP had a chance to talk with Ross Perot, a former U.S. Navy man who ran for president in the early 1990s and is among the last of the original self-made Texas billionaires.
He is perhaps best known for declaring that the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement would create “a giant sucking sound” by drawing industrial jobs from the United States into Mexico. He was right.
This Texarkana-born former IBM salesman who achieved great wealth was the keynote speaker at the National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC) Health and Education Fair at the Wyndham Hotel in Irving, a Dallas community. There, adopting the truthful, candid approach he used as a presidential candidate, he reminded the attending veterans that the U.S. government’s policies have a great deal to do with the Gulf War Illness that curses their health to this day.
The weapons that were stockpiled in large numbers in Iraq, which U.S. troops were ordered to blow up during Gulf War I (which was formally launched in January of 1991)—in what some call the first phase of the ongoing war in Iraq—were made in the U.S., Perot said.
When the deadly chemical weapons consisting of nerve agents were detonated, the unforgiving desert winds carried the toxins long distances, affecting friend and foe.
Thus, Gulf War Illness, which spawns multiple symptoms and maladies, is a direct consequence of U.S. military involvement in this region.
“We gave them to [the Iraqis],” Perot told AFP. He was referring to the weapons of mass destruction that the U.S. gave to Iraq when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was considered an “ally” during the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.
“We violated the first rule of warfare—don’t shoot yourself,” Perot said, concerning the U.S. government’s shady weapons transfers to a nation that soon was transformed from ally to enemy when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990.
This conference was sponsored to recognize the 20th anniversary of the beginning of that congressionally undeclared conflict. Many of the troops who hit the desert sands during that war in the prime of their health are now at wit’s end on what to do with their multiple health problems. Some 20 years later, they are still dealing with a Veterans Administration bureaucracy that has dragged its feet while veterans from the early gulf war give up or die at a startling rate. Meanwhile, fresh casualties are mounting to disturbing levels from the current conflicts, which include a return to Iraq and America’s longest war, now at the 10-year mark, in Afghanistan.
Perot sees the efforts of the NGWRC and other organizations to support more research into Gulf War Illness and produce ground-breaking treatments as “more important than the space program was.”
Perot applauded the work of Dr. Robert Haley at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Haley was on hand at the NGWRC event to explain his latest research and the struggle to maintain funding. Other noted researchers also were there. (See other story for more details.)
Perot, who personally lends financial support to struggling military families, financed an entire wing for the institution where Haley works.
When AFP asked Perot if he would ever run for president again, he chuckled and quipped “I don’t think so.”
Having received the Desert Storm Patriot Award from the NGWRC on Aug. 6, he seems too focused on helping veterans to return to the political pressure cooker.
Mark Anderson is a longtime newsman now working as the editor for AFP. He and his wife Angie provide photographs and video of the events they cover for AFP. Listen to Mark’s radio show at republicbroadcasting.org, Sundays at 7pm central. Email him at at [email protected].
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(Issue # 34, August 23, 2010)