The cost of war

It took our government nearly 20 years to admit that its use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War harmed U.S. troops. Now, after 17 frustrating years of struggle with a skeptical bureaucracy, afflicted soldiers from Operation Desert Storm have finally been vindicated in their claim of a âÄúGulf War illness,âÄù characterized by memory loss, lack of concentration, severe headaches, fatigue and pains in different parts of the body, digestive and respiratory problems and skin lesions . A 450-page congressional panel report released earlier this week revealed that one out of four Gulf War veterans âÄî 175,000 people âÄî suffer from serious, long-lasting or permanent brain and nerve damage from their tours of duty. The report found evidence which âÄústrongly and consistently indicates âÄú a combination of pyridostigmine bromide pills, premethrin and DEET as the cause of what it labels Gulf War illness. The latter two chemicals are pesticides that were sprayed around barracks, dining halls and uniforms, while the former are anti-nerve gas pills mandatorily administered by the military. ThatâÄôs right: Our government inadvertently poisoned its own soldiers, and is now to blame for thousands upon thousands of chronically ill veterans, most with worsening symptoms, who have been repeatedly denied the treatment and medical coverage guaranteed to them upon enlistment. For those considering joining the armed services because of low casualty rates and military benefits, consider the veterans of the Gulf War, w ho for 17 years have sought compensation from the Department of VeteransâÄô Affairs only to be turned away as whiners and leeches. This long-overdue report provides a chilling reminder of the true cost of war, which often remains hidden until years after combat is through.