Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Saturday | September 21, 2002

The true cost of Gulf War I

Alert reader KS pointed me to this sobering piece about veterans of the first Gulf War.

To wit, the first Gulf War was a cakewalk, right? The cost to coalition forces was the following:

  • 213 coalition combat deaths, including 148 Americans;

  • 145 American deaths in non-combat circumstances. Note that waging war is dangerous business, and deaths will occur even without enemy action.

  • 467 Americans were wounded.

  • 159,000 Gulf War vets are receiving disability payments from the government -- suffering from the still mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome".
Regarding that last bullet point, I should quote directly from the article:
[11 years after the Gulf War,] the human toll has soared. More than 159,000 American Gulf War veterans are receiving disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thousands suffer from memory loss, dizziness, blurred vision, speech difficulties, nerve disorders, muscle weakness. Many have chronic skin disorders, including rashes. They have reported incidences of cancers in themselves and birth defects in their children, though U.S. government studies deny they are related to the war.

Research has failed to pinpoint the cause of the soldiers' disabilities, but the potential sources were many. Thousands of troops may have been exposed to chemical weapons launched by Saddam on SCUD missiles or dispersed into the atmosphere when the U.S. bombed Iraqi munitions plants and destroyed stockpiles. Others were exposed to radiation on the battlefield with the use of armor-piercing depleted uranium ammunition by U.S. forces.

Thousands of troops also had received batteries of shots that included anthrax vaccinations now the subject of controversy and an experimental anti-nerve gas pill, pyridostigmine bromide.

"We're now 11-plus years after the last Gulf War," Robinson said, "and I get calls every day from veterans who can't work anymore because they're so ill, their families are falling apart, they're losing their homes and they can't get access to the VA. Is that what we want with this next generation?"

So, the "easy" victory in the Gulf War "only" cost us 300 Americans dead. That was so lucky!

Except to the 300 who died and their families, or to the 159,000 who continue to suffer from Gulf War Syndrome...

And don't think Gulf War II will be easier -- everything points to a much tougher, much more costly campaign. You'll have troops fighting invaders in their own country, not Kuwait, while using tactics that give them better survival chances against American forces. You'll have a Somalia scenario, with Iraqi soldiers and irregulars holed up in urban centers, forcing US troops to engage in hand-to-hand combat, negating American technological advantages. You'll have a desperate Hussein, knowing his game is up, willing to use his arsenal of WMD, both against Israel and against invading US forces.

And we'll have a new generation of shattered families -- casualties will be much higher, as will the long-term effects on soldiers and their families.

Setting aside the war's cost to treasure, are we truly prepared to pay this human cost?

Posted September 21, 2002 09:45 AM | Comments (3)


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