Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gulf War Syndrome, PTSD and Military Suicides: U.S. Government's Message to America’s Vets: "Drop Dead"

by Richard Gale and Gary Null

From 1991 to 2003, hundreds of thousands of our bravest men and women sought help from the Veterans Administration, from the Defense Department, from the White House, all to no avail. The official word was that Gulf War Syndrome did not exist. So they suffered in silence. Tens of thousands died from these conditions. Many lost their homes because of the high costs to pay for medical care themselves. Independent investigations, including those conducted by many of the Gulf War veterans themselves, showed multiple causes behind Gulf War Syndrome, including experimental vaccines, exposure to depleted uranium (DU), and toxicity from biological and chemical weapons, oil fires and other environmental contaminants.

The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are manifesting with an entirely new series of physical and mental illnesses and diseases. Some are being recognized, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many others are not. Hundreds of thousands of our veterans are living in destitution, are incarcerated, have attempted or committed suicide, and can no longer fit into a normal family life. And yet the government once again, as it did to previous Gulf War vets, turns its backs on them. This is an American tragedy, and that is where our story begins.

American troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are sinking ever lower into the abyss of the lost and forgotten. Severe depression, confusion and an existential lack of purpose swarms across our armed forces and our government barely notices. We are witnessing annual illness increases in practically every category of physical, emotional and mental health: physical combat injuries, PTSD, brain trauma and depression, impaired immune systems, common and rare cancers, diabetes, reproductive disorders, a wide variety of inflammatory conditions among many other ailments. Over-extended and multiple deployments are shattering soldiers’ and veterans’ lives. The fabric of their social relationships is rapidly deteriorating. Divorce rates and broken homes are commonplace, and a homeward bound ticket is only an assurance many will return as damaged goods, courtesy of our government’s negligence and disregard for human health.

And upon their return to Kansas, away from America’s killing fields in the Middle East, there awaits an economy in collapse under the weight of astronomical federal debt and corporate greed, recessionary unemployment and rising homelessness, hungry children and rampant poverty, and now a new American culture every bit as disoriented and fearful about its future.

Welcome to America’s brave new world of global PTSD!

The Middle East: Healthy In, Broken Out

Before the Vietnam War, the severe psychological conditions warriors’ and soldiers’ experienced on the battlefield went under a variety of names: war neurosis, combat fatigue, neurasthenia, shell shock and others. Today these psychological states have been tossed under the umbrella term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and although GIs are screened to assure mental vitality and stability before deploying into combat, we are experiencing record numbers of servicemen and women returning emotionally and mentally impaired. During no other war, including Vietnam, are GIs as psychically damaged as those now serving and returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. If a veteran does not already experience symptoms of PTSD or any one of a number of neurological and emotional illnesses, he or she will very likely do so in the future. The DoD medical authorities are ambiguous regarding the reasons for the rising statistics. It has even required the creation of new disorders, like Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder, to reflect mental conditions specific to the current wars, such as those related to duress from two or more extended deployments.

It appears odd that many vets being diagnosed for PTSD, depression and other mental impairments never experienced direct combat. Yet all deployed troops to Afghanistan and Iraq share one thing in common. They have all stood on Middle Eastern soil and breathed and lived in its highly toxic and chemically contaminated environment.

Testimonies from DoD health officials about the rate of serious mental impairment among active-duty GIs and veterans are contradictory. The Army’s top psychiatrist, Brig. General Loree Sutton told Congress that about 17 percent of our troops are on psychiatric medications. However, in later interviews she reduced her estimate substantially to 2-4 percent.[1] Other military officials tout other conflicting numbers giving a clear message that either the military is clueless about the seriousness of mental illness among our troops, or is having one hell of a time keeping their lies in order. As this investigation will outline, there is far greater reason to suspect intentional deception on the DoD’s behalf rather than assume the upper echelons of our military’s health institutions are simply fools unqualified in their roles to oversee the health and well being of our armed forces.

Independent research places the military’s mental health figures much higher. The June 2010 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry published a study of 18,300 Army soldiers screened at 3 and 12 month intervals following deployment in Iraq. The study found that using “the least stringent definition” for PTSD, rates now range between 20 and 30 percent, and depression rates are at 11.5 and 16 percent.[2] Together this accounts for almost a third of our troops now suffering serious functional mental impairment.

Surprising, the Rand Corporation’s own analysis—surprisingly, because Rand has for many years been little more than an obedient lapdog for the Pentagon’s bidding in churning out confounded research and statistics for disreputable motives—conforms closely with the independent study’s results. According to Rand’s 2008 analysis, 300,000 soldiers returning from the Middle East campaigns will experience PTSD and an additional 320,000 will suffer traumatic brain injuries.”[3]

All attempts to conduct accurate analysis is compounded because “the Veterans Health Administration systematically delays and denies sick veterans medical care and masks it with bogus documentation,” according to an investigation conducted by Nora Eisenberg at City University of New York. In a leaked internal memo from the Deputy Undersecretary for Health Operations and Management, William Schoenhard, the VA is gaming the system thus “diminishing patient [veteran] access to treatment.”[4] There are many thousands of veterans waiting as much as a year to receive diagnosis and treatment for a large variety of physical and mental illnesses. As a consequence, any health statistics for veterans released by the government and military are skewed and grossly underestimate the gravity of veterans’ plight.

As of the final quarter of 2009, over 537,000 among the 2.04 million veterans who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have sought healthcare from VA facilities. These veterans account for approximately 9 percent of the total 5.7 million Veteran Affairs patient population for all wars and years. According to the Armed Force Health Surveillance Center, veterans with VA healthcare access represent only 28% of all OEF/OIF veterans.[5] Many veterans, such as those serving in the National Guard and many Reservists, which number almost half of all deployed military personnel, do not have VA benefits. Their health conditions remain outside of the VA’s monitoring capabilities.

According to Veterans for Common Sense, veteran medical facilities receive 9,000 new patients per month, 1 new active duty or veteran patient every 5 minutes.[6] A recent article in the Los Angeles Times reports that these figures reflect a far more realistic picture of the casualty figures resulting from America’s combat escapades in the Middle East.[7] The three most common diagnoses are musculoskeletal ailments (joint and spine disorders), mental illness, and a category of 160 ill-defined abnormalities that allude specific diagnosis known as “Symptoms, Signs and Ill-Defined Conditions.” These conditions comprise 52 percent, 48 percent and 46 percent respectively for the over half million OEF and OIF vets in the latest VA health care utilization report.[8] Although no less than 244,000 veterans have been diagnosed with a mental illness and an additional 144,000 with PTSD,[9] the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration are making every effort to limit cases of PTSD to behavioral diagnosis and to keep it distant from the far greater health threat of environmental toxins permeating the Afghanistan and Iraqi landscapes.

The fumes of cover-ups and scandals arise when we repeatedly hear the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs agencies refusing to acknowledge potential organic causes, for example, the long-term exposure to neurological toxic chemicals and heavy metal particles, such as depleted uranium (DU), strewn by the winds over the sands of Afghanistan and Iraq, for PTSD and other common mental illnesses. Active and non-active duty persons visiting VA clinics and hospitals for mental and emotional complaints are not tested for any chemical toxicity that might be interfering with normal brain function. Because the DoD and VA refuse to associate DU poisoning as a possible cause behind the onset of PTSD, and continues to propagandize the safety of depleted uranium, such testing is discerned to be unwarranted.

In the meantime, the military and VA clinics have succeeded in building a medical assembly, a flowing treadmill pushing through soldiers and veterans from short standardized examination to an arrow pointing the way to the pharmacy.

Read More at Global Research


  1. Gulf War Syndrome is without doubt one of the biggest cover ups of all time.

  2. Accept the Governments version of explanation on Gulf War Syndrome and our children's generation will be next !!!