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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Uncovering the mysteries of Gulf War Syndrome By Kay Bailey Hutchison As our nation's armed forces gear up for the prospect of a conflict in the Persian Gulf, the safety and security of our men and women in uniform is of utmost concern. In any conflict human lives are at risk, yet the Middle East poses a more insidious threat to America's sons and daughters. It has been more than a decade since the United States sent troops to free Kuwait from the iron fist of Saddam Hussein. Yet while the war has become a chapter in American history books, scores of veterans are still fighting battles that should have ended with our withdrawal from the region. We owe it to our soldiers to unravel the mystery of Gulf War illnesses that have plagued veterans of Operation Desert Storm and protect tomorrow's veterans from a similar fate. For too long, the unexplained health problems of Gulf War veterans were sidelined by politics and indifference. Medical professionals from the Department of Defense debated whether Gulf War Syndrome even exists, and previous Pentagon officials tried to block congressional funding for research into the illness. Blaming symptoms on post-traumatic stress, the Department refused to address the obvious medical maladies plaguing our veterans. Imagine the frustration of one Gulf War veteran so severely debilitated that he can hardly walk across his bedroom unaided when, only a couple of years prior to his deployment, he completed the New York City Marathon in under three hours. Imagine his further anxiety when told his condition was "all in your head." Unfortunately, thousands of our Gulf War veterans have similar devastating and inexplicable ailments. Of the 700,000 U.S. military personnel who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, between 100,000 and 300,000 have demonstrated a complex array of symptoms, from irritated skin conditions to debilitating diseases such as Lou Gehrig's disease. Our soldiers were exposed to a veritable witch's brew of known and potential health hazards in the Gulf War: toxic smoke and fumes from oil well fires, petroleum fuels and their combustion products, low-levels of chemical and biologic warfare agents, depleted uranium, nerve agent medications - this disturbing list goes on and on. But now our veterans - and our active duty soldiers serving in the Gulf region - have hope. The Veterans Administration (VA) recently announced a plan of action for exploring the root causes of Gulf War illnesses. This plan is key to providing answers to thousands of soldiers afflicted with these ailments and protecting our soldiers who face the prospect of returning to the Middle East. Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, was the first to study a group of Gulf War veterans and uncover compelling evidence of damage to deep brain structures as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. These findings helped dispel the myth that this syndrome was merely psychological and helped establish the foundation for the VA's new plan. He also found that among those who suffer from Gulf War Syndrome, most have a low level of peroxinase, which is the enzyme in the blood that blocks nerve gas. This helps explain why some service members are exposed and not affected while others suffer from Gulf War Syndrome. This information is critical because it may enable us to keep soldiers with similar genetic makeup out of harm's way, or eventually find a remedy for this enzyme deficiency. With this initiative, the VA has rightly and boldly abandoned the long-held misconception that stress and psychological reaction alone perpetuate these horrific symptoms. It calls for the exploration of the neurologic basis of Gulf War illnesses; expands the number of veterans tested; doubles the VA's research budget to $20 million through 2004; and establishes a VA center for state-of-the-art medical imaging, such as CAT scans and MRIs. Less than one year ago, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi formed a Veterans Administration Gulf War Research Review Advisory Committee, of which Dr. Haley is a member. This dedicated group of physicians and scientists has been making some truly remarkable discoveries that will help address the medical problems facing these Gulf War veterans. Before we send our troops back into harm's way, we must do everything we can to protect them. The Department of Defense and the VA have taken important steps in this regard, and must continue to acknowledge, treat and protect our ailing veterans. We owe it to them, and we owe it to those who are waiting in the wings to return to Baghdad. © Copyright 2003 by North Texas e-News, llc Roger Stroope Austin College Sherman Texas, USA www.austincollege.edu _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk