Veterans of the 1990-91 war in Iraq continue to struggle with the government for proper attention to the mysterious illnesses known as "Gulf War syndrome." Years of research into those illnesses has linked many of them to the use of pesticides and a nerve-gas antidote used by U.S. forces during that war. That research, while not absolutely conclusive, gives the lie to what the government had been telling vets who suffer from brain damage, gastrointestinal diseases, fatigue, memory loss, chronic diarrhea, joint pain and persistent headaches.
Post-traumatic stress, the feds said. A psychiatric condition.
No way, says the lead researcher into Gulf War illness at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
"Now we know it's a real disease caused by chemical exposure," epidemiologist Robert Haley told The Dallas Morning News.
However, the Veterans Administration has canceled the Texas medical center's $75 million contract to study the disease and figure out effective treatment. The department said that Haley's research has violated many research protocols; critics have questioned his methodology.
We can't judge Dr. Haley's contract performance. But his work, and other confirming research, makes clear that this work needs to continue. If not with Dr. Haley's group, then with someone else.
Haley's conclusion, that Gulf War illness is "a real disease" and not a manifestation of stress, received powerful confirmation in 2008. That's when a congressionally sanctioned group of scientists, medical experts and military vets found Gulf War illness was fundamentally different from stress-related syndromes.
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