Sunday, February 28, 2016

WASHINGTON POST: Persian Gulf War veterans fume as a 25th anniversary goes unmarked by Pentagon

SOURCE:  Washington Post, Ian Shapira reporting, Feb. 27, 2016


Persian Gulf War veterans fume as a 25th anniversary goes unmarked by Pentagon

On Saturday, Scott Stump, president and founder of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association , could not commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War in Washington. There was, after all, no official Defense Department event scheduled to mark the conflict’s cease-fire on Feb. 28, 1991.
Instead, Stump, a former Marine who deployed to Saudi Arabia on Dec. 31, 1990, attended a formal event and lunch at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, at the request of Gen. Jonathan Vance, defense chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
That’s right. Canada.
“When we got the invitation to Canada’s official, government-sanctioned 25th anniversary event, the thing hit us with a ton of bricks,” said Stump, 49, who lives in North Carolina. “You have a country that had 4,000 troops on the ground inviting an American like me to attend their commemoration, yet our country — which deployed over 600,000 troops — is not doing anything.”
Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson, a Defense Department spokesman, confirmed that it did not plan any 25th anniversary events to recognize the Persian Gulf War.
“We certainly have not forgotten the efforts and sacrifices of those who served during the Gulf War,” he said in a statement. He added that Stump’s association — which gained preliminary approval to build a memorial near the Mall and boasts former president George H.W. Bush as its honorary board chairman — is the only group that has expressed grievances about the lack of any 25th anniversary events.
The Persian Gulf War, a U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait, was a short war by modern standards. Combat lasted about a month-and-a-half, claiming close to 300 U.S. casualties. But the lack of any Pentagon-sponsored 25th anniversary event reinforces Stump’s concern that Desert Storm veterans rarely merit the tributes heaped on other war veterans.
“Five years ago, I started this organization when I realized my kids didn’t know what Desert Storm was and people lumped it together with Operation Iraqi Freedom, relegating it to a footnote in history,” Stump said. “But if you have a war, shouldn’t it be completed as quickly as possible? I’ve had some people from other countries ask me, ‘What’s the matter with your country that they don’t want to talk about America’s victory?’ ”
Though the Pentagon hasn’t planned anything, some veterans organizations have scheduled their own commemorations. 
On Saturday, the VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association was slated to conduct a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hold a dinner at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington with guest speaker retired Gen. Martin Dempsey. 
Army Capt. Michael Meyer, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Florida, said it was planning to send a color guard to an event Saturday at a veterans park in Tampa, featuring Brenda Schwarzkopf, wife of the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., commander of coalition forces during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
But for Stump, the Defense Department should have planned one major commemoration that would have been open to all veterans, no matter which service or unit they belonged to. 
Two months ago, the memorial association began asking the Defense Department if it had any plans to commemorate the anniversary. The Pentagon wrote back saying nothing was in the works and suggested that individual military services might hold their own ceremonies, according to emails provided by the memorial association. 
But after Stump got invited to Saturday’s event hosted by the Canadian Armed Forces, and a Newseum reception Thursday hosted by the Ambassador of Kuwait, his organization pressed the Pentagon one more time. Fred Wellman, a board member of the memorial association, sent an email to the Pentagon on Feb. 19, flabbergasted.
“Up until recently I dismissed the constant complaining by Gulf War veterans that they have been forgotten by the military but frankly at this point it’s hard to dismiss their complaints,” wrote Wellman, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. “We are ignoring one of the greatest military victories in world history that was led by the U.S. because its ‘just another anniversary’? Nothing at Arlington? Nothing at the Pentagon? This can’t seriously be the plan still is it?”
A Pentagon official wrote him saying he had shared Wellman’s concerns with higher-ranking brass, and sent Wellman links to stories about the 25th anniversary on the websites of the Air ForceNational Guard, and Stars and Stripes.
Stump said he was delighted to attend Canada’s event on Saturday. And Canada was more than happy to honor the Persian Gulf War’s 25th anniversary. In fact, Saturday’s event at the Canadian War Museum wasn’t the only commemoration organized by the Canadian Armed Forces, according to spokeswoman Major Indira Thackorie. 
It was one of seven. 
Ian Shapira is a features writer on the local enterprise team and enjoys writing about people who have served in the military and intelligence communities. He joined the Post in 2000 and has covered education, criminal justice, technology, and art crime.

TORONTO STAR: Looking back on the Gulf War through an artist’s eyes

SOURCE:  Toronto Star, Katie Daubs reporting, Feb. 28, 2016


Looking back on the Gulf War through an artist’s eyes 

Ted Zuber, himself a veteran, was Canada’s official artist during the Gulf War, which ended on Feb. 28, 1991. Twenty-five years later, he reflects on what he saw.

"Long Day at Doha" — one of Ted Zuber's canvases capturing the experience of Canadians fighting in the Gulf War. His paintings are now in the collection of the Canadian War Museum.
"Long Day at Doha" — one of Ted Zuber's canvases capturing the experience of Canadians fighting in the Gulf War. His paintings are now in the collection of the Canadian War Museum.
When he was chosen as Canada’s official artist for the Gulf War, veteran Ted Zuber had second thoughts. He had served in the Korean War with the Royal Canadian Regiment. “I thought ‘Good god, I’m not going to go back to that. I’m not that stupid.’”
He almost called it off before the difference of the operation dawned on him: “I’m not going over there to kill people. I’m going as an artist. Somehow I felt perfectly protected behind a paint brush.”
He was in his late 50s when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait 25 years ago and says he must have been the “oldest bugger” in the Gulf. 
Dressed in a uniform, with the word “artist” on each shoulder, he surveyed the scenes in the bustling Canadian outposts in the Middle East, his paints and easel at the ready.
“People would come up and say, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” 
So he’d explain, and watch as troops “grew an inch” when they realized the Canadian government had sent him there to record their lives for posterity. It was Canada’s first war in nearly four decades. 
“They were really proud that Canada had thought enough of what they were doing to have it portrayed by a war artist,” he says.
Long Day at Doha
During his first days, Zuber was in a public affairs trailer at the base in Doha, Qatar, and asked the staff when he would get his Tilley hat. “You’re not going to get one … you’re not posted here permanently,” they said. Zuber walked across the compound and asked the man in charge of supplies, who denied him until he offered a sketch. “When I made someone’s sketch they were proud as hell, because that meant that their drawing would last forever in the archives of the Canadian War Museum.” He learned his pencil had power, and wielded it expertly, sketching the chief cook at the Doha base. “Every time I showed up, she had a steak for me.”
"TOPP High"
"TOPP High"
The threat of chemical warfare loomed in the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein was rumoured to have the world’s largest stockpile of nerve and mustard gas. Zuber’s first experience with a Scud missile attack was on the base at Doha. Inside the concrete bunker, the yellow light of a battery lamp bounced off the goggles of the chemical suits, looking like a “horror movie ... One guy yelled at me because I hadn’t properly zipped up the top of my suit ... You’ll see this fellow on the left zipping up his suit. That’s me.” After they were cleared to leave, Zuber took off his chemical suit and struggled to breathe. A doctor examined him and told him it was an anxiety attack. “She said, ‘Your body has a memory, and the shellfire you went through in Korea all those years ago, your body remembers all that.’” Zuber went through 11 Scud attacks. “After a while you didn’t even bother putting your suit on, you get so nonchalant about these things.”
Pit Stop to Target
"Pit Stop to Target"
"Pit Stop to Target"
Zuber went up with a Canadian air-to-air refueller that served as a circling gas station for coalition fighters on their way into Iraq. The Boeing flew in a 25-kilometre radius for hours, 7,500 metres above the Kuwait border, waiting for planes to approach for refuelling. “This one particular aircraft on the left side of our aircraft was having difficulty, he couldn’t seem to get hooked in,” he recalls. Zuber asked the Canadians if they could guide the approaching aircraft by radio: “We’re not going to speak to anybody because the enemy could zero in,” one replied, “and that would be the end of us.” The Canadian controller’s hand grasped the window. “He was unconsciously reaching out, if you will, to help that pilot out there. I thought, there’s my painting.”
0500 Al Qaysumah
"0500 Al Qaysumah"
"0500 Al Qaysumah"
After the ground war began, an Iraqi prisoner of war was brought to the Canadian field hospital by British soldiers who had found him in a burned out bunker, semi-conscious and filled with shrapnel. Zuber was moved by the medical team’s insistence on saving the man’s right arm. In Canada, it would have been amputated. “In that part of the world, you have to eat with the right hand and you use left hand for cleansing yourself,” he says. “If for some reason you lose the right hand, you are really an outcast.” After the war, Zuber tried to find the man to give him a copy of the painting. He eventually learned the man died three days after the operation. 
The Canadian navy had three ships in the gulf, and their role evolved as the war progressed. After the air war began, Canada took the lead in organizing logistics and deliveries so coalition war ships could stay “on station” in the gulf. Zuber lived on board HMCS Protecteur for a week, and went with a crew in a Sea King helicopter to make a delivery to another ship. On the return flight, the crew circled for mines: a destroyed mine meant a bottle of champagne on the ship. They moved in closer and made a sad discovery. “It was a bloody black plastic bag of garbage,” Zuber says. “Being an old soldier … I said, ‘Look, you guys, if you want a witness, I’ll swear that was a mine,’ and they looked at me like I was a deceitful old bugger,” he remembers. “I was quite taken with their sincerity and honesty.”
Ted Zuber, a veteran of the Korean War, was Canada's official artist during the Gulf War.
Ted Zuber, a veteran of the Korean War, was Canada's official artist during the Gulf War.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Video and Printed Testimony - 25th Anniversary Gulf War Health Congressional Hearing

( - Below are links to the *video clips and more extensive written testimony from the February 23, 2016 Congressional hearing on Gulf War veterans' health on the 25th Anniversary of the 1991 Gulf War.





"Persian Gulf War: An Assessment of Health Outcomes on the 25th Anniversary" 

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (O&I) | 334 Cannon House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Feb 23, 2016 4:30pm

Opening Statement, Rep. Mike Coffman, Chairman, and Rep. Ann Kuster, Ranking Member


Questioning of Witnesses:

Questioning of Witnesses,  Rep. Mike Coffman, Chairman   

Video 6 of Questioning Mr. Hardie:

Questioning of Witnesses,  Rep. Ann Kuster, Ranking Member:

Video 7 of Questioning Mr. Hardie and Dr. White:

Questioning of Witnesses,  Rep. Phil Roe, M.D.

Video 8 of Questioning Dr. White:

Questioning of Witnesses,  Rep. Tim Walz

Video 9 of Questioning Dr. Clancy:

Questioning of Witnesses,  Rep. Tim Huelskamp

Video 10 of Questioning Dr. Hunt and Dr. Cory-Slechta:

Questioning of Witnesses,  Rep. Mike Coffman, Chairman  

Video 11 of Questioning Mr. Winnett and Mr. Binns:

Questioning of Witnesses, Rep. Ann Kuster, Ranking Member:

Video 12 of Questioning Dr. Clancy and Dr. Hunt:

Closing Statement, Rep. Mike Coffman, Chairman  


*CREDITS:  Special thanks to Gulf War veteran Glenn Stewart of Tusla, Oklahoma for his video editing and uploading of the many video clips of the hearing.

Statement for the Record - Dr. Kimberly Sullivan

25 Years after the Gulf War: Gulf War Illness, Brain Cancer and Future Research

Kimberly Sullivan, PhD
Research Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health
Boston University School of Public Health
Former Associate Scientific Director
VA Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses

On this week marking the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War, I would like to express my concern and disappointment with the conclusions from the recent volume 10 Institute of Medicine Gulf War Report and highlight some of the important research that is ongoing in this field.

Gulf War Illness

GWI is a constellation of chronic health symptoms including fatigue, pain, headaches, gastrointestinal and cognitive problems. It is a multi-system disorder meaning that it affects not only the central nervous system but also the immune and gastrointestinal systems. It affects about a third of the nearly 700,000 veterans deployed to the war.

Gulf War Illness as a Functional Disorder

The IOM report goes to great length to describe GWI as a self-reported symptom based disorder for which there are no current objective biomarkers and therefore it must be a ‘functional disorder’ meaning it has no physical cause. The report describes it to be similar to other well accepted symptom based disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, this report places PTSD as the only disorder that has ‘sufficient evidence of causal association’ to deployment to the Gulf War while it places GWI in the second category of ‘sufficient evidence of an association’ to deployment to the Gulf War.

However, less than 10% of GW veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD and more than 30% have been diagnosed with GWI. In addition, it is completely unclear why GWI is not also causally-related to deployment to the war when both disorders are diagnosed the same way – by self-report of chronic health symptoms.

The report also stresses that the health conditions associated with Gulf War deployment are primarily mental health disorders and functional medical disorders and that these associations emphasize the interconnectedness of the brain and body.

However, the brain and body are interconnected in GWI not because this is a stress-related disorder without a unifying pathobiological cause as the IOM report suggests, but rather because they are all part of the brain and immune pathways that are activated as part of the neuroinflammatory response to pesticide and nerve agent exposures. These chemicals directly target the nervous system and cause inflammation. These pathways start by activating the immune cells in the brain called microglia that release chemical messengers called cytokines in the brain and the many body systems that are affected in GWI. Activating these inflammatory systems in the brain and throughout the body can result in chronic symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, memory problems, fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal distress—all symptoms found in GWI. Researchers call this type of chronic condition a post-inflammatory brain syndrome.

In fact, a paper by Gulf War researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently showed that Gulf War-relevant pesticides and nerve agents produced a neuroinflammatory response resulting in hundreds-fold higher cytokine chemical signaling in a GWI animal model. Preliminary studies in veterans with GWI suggest increased cytokine levels that correlate with GWI symptoms as well.

Treatment focus for Veterans with GWI

The IOM report has concluded that research efforts should be realigned to focus on the treatment and ‘management’ of Gulf War illness rather than its causes.  However, biological targets focused on neuroinflammatory markers described above provide tangible and targeted treatment strategies for GWI. Researchers at Boston University, Nova Southeastern University and VA medical centers in Boston, Bronx and Miami are currently assessing the effectiveness of targeted treatment trials using intranasal insulin, D-cycloserine and Co-enzyme Q10 to treat the constellation of symptoms in GWI including cognitive, fatigue and pain symptoms. Clinical researchers can do better for our veterans than ‘manage’ their symptoms as the IOM suggests and the research community is hopeful that these currently funded treatments will provide much needed symptom relief for ill Gulf War veterans.

Brain Cancer Association with Gulf War Service

The IOM report also states that the results of two published VA studies reporting significantly increased brain cancer mortality rates found in GW veterans who were in close proximity to the Khamisiyah weapons depot detonations where large stores of sarin/cyclosarin were destroyed cannot be trusted because the exposure plume modelling done to determine who was exposed may be inaccurate. However,  inaccuracies in exposure modeling often make the analysis less sensitive rather than more sensitive to finding differences between groups. Therefore, finding a 2 and 3 fold increase in brain cancer deaths in sarin exposed GW veterans suggests that these rates are likely an underestimate of effect rather than an overestimate of the effect of sarin exposure on brain cancer mortality in GW veterans.


The IOM report has downplayed the importance of continuing to research the remaining questions in GWI including identifying biomarkers of current illness, prior neutoxicant exposures and targeted treatment strategies. This work is critically important to Gulf War veterans who suffer from chronic health effects from these toxicant exposures but also for many others including those who are occupationally exposed to pesticides, including farmers and pesticide applicators around the world. Gulf War veterans are counting on researchers to identify the cause and pathobiology of their debilitating illness, and to identify treatments that will work to improve all of their symptoms, not just manage them.

Most importantly, the end result of this report is that GW veterans suffering from brain cancer or family members of those who have already succumbed to brain cancer will not receive VA benefits now or likely ever for their service-related mortality. These veterans have been forced to fight for benefits while they are fighting for their lives. These veterans should be given the benefit of the doubt in providing them with VA service connection for this service-related mortality.  

BUSPH NEWS: Researcher Urges Congress: Don’t Give Up on Gulf War Vets

SOURCE: Boston University School of Public Health N Lisa Chedekel reporting, February 25, 2016


Researcher Urges Congress: Don’t Give Up on Gulf War Vets

POSTED ON: February 25, 2016 TOPICS: gulf war
gulf-warThe Department of Veterans Affairs and the Institute of Medicine have done a grave disservice to tens of thousands of veterans of the first Gulf War by minimizing their health problems and suggesting that promising research that could help their conditions be halted, a School of Public Health researcher told a Congressional committee Tuesday.
In testimony to the US House Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, longtime Gulf War illness researcher Roberta White, chair of environmental health, made an impassioned appeal for the federal government to continue supporting research into the debilitating illness that affects as many as 250,000 veterans of the first Gulf War.
“To recommend stopping research into the mechanisms underlying the disease, just as research into these mechanisms has begun to make real progress, is shockingly shortsighted,” White said in testimony to the committee, which convened a hearing on health outcomes associated with the war on the 25th anniversary of the conflict.
The hearing comes two weeks after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report saying that, based on available research data, it did not appear that a single mechanism could explain the multitude of symptoms reported by Gulf War veterans, and that it was “unlikely (that) a definitive causal agent or agents can ever be identified.”
The IOM concluded that the health conditions associated with Gulf War deployment are primarily mental health disorders and functional medical disorders that are based on “subjective symptom reporting.”
The IOM report effectively dismisses reams of studies by researchers from BU and other institutions which have shown that the occurrence of Gulf War illness is associated with troops’ exposures to chemicals, especially pesticides and anti-nerve-gas pyridostigmine bromide pills given to soldiers.
Noting that US troops won the first Gulf War in less than a week, White said it was disheartening that “the troops who produced this victory are and will remain ill, without legitimate acknowledgement of their health problems and the associated disabilities.”
Despite decades of scientific evidence to the contrary, she said, the VA and the IOM “have recently produced documents that minimize the poor health of these veterans by terming their illnesses as ‘functional’ disorders, a medical term for psychiatric illness. This injustice is then compounded by a treatment guideline that suggests ineffective, unproven, purely palliative, and potentially harmful treatments for Gulf War illness that focus on psychiatric symptomatology.”
White, a professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, served for eight years as scientific director of the Congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC), which recommended aggressive research into the causes of the debilitating disorder affecting about 30 percent of deployed troops.
She said research “has repeatedly shown that post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric disorders do not predict whether a veteran will have Gulf War illness.” Instead, studies have found that the chemicals to which troops were exposed affect the central nervous and immune systems, producing chronic symptoms that affect multiple body systems.
White noted that a previous IOM report had concluded that the unexplained medical symptoms reported by deployed veterans could not be “reliably ascribed to any known psychiatric disorder.”
She said recent research has identified potential treatments of Gulf War illness that target specific nervous system and immunological mechanisms.
“The scientific findings from this research hold great scientific promise. In addition, they are the only source of hope for veterans with Gulf War illness who are suffering from the disorder and wish to lead healthier, more productive lives,” she said.
White noted that the committee that wrote the recent IOM report had no members with clinical experience treating Gulf War veterans. She compared the situation faced by Gulf War vets to that of World War I veterans, who were exposed to mustard gas in the trenches of Europe, but who received little support for their health problems after returning home.
“We are experiencing the same phenomenon with the 1991 Gulf War,” she said.
Others testifying at the hearing included VA officials; James H. Binns, former chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses; and Anthony Hardie, director of Veterans for Common Sense.