Defending America
David Hackworth
11 March 1997

GULF WAR VICTIMS

Six years ago almost 700,000 Americans zapped Saddam Hussein's thugs in the shortest major shoot out in world history .

Our Desert Army came home as conquering heroes. A thankful nation rightfully honored these Gulf War vets who made up the finest military force our country has ever deployed.

Remember the parades, the confetti, the speeches? We were all so proud and relieved that the war was quick, our casualty list short and our country's finest were safely back home.

Now over 80,000 of these men and women and hundreds of their family members say they're ill from the war. It has been reported that as many as 15,000 are dead. A figure the Pentagon will neither "deny nor confirm."

The Pentagon ,via its paid apologists, has executed its standard response to bad news: lies, cover-ups, denials, stonewalling and shredding. These despicable propagandists have even accused yesterday's heroes of either faking the whole thing or that the mysterious illness is all in their heads.

The Pentagon has again proven it's about as capable of telling the truth as it is at managing the people's money or looking after the welfare of its grunts.

I am convinced that to gain high rank in that concrete bunker for the blinkered and deceptive, one first has to be a Certified Public Liar whose principles and character have been surgically removed.

It's time the duck and weave game ended. Our vets, who are ill as a consequence of standing tall in the desert, are entitled to government ­ underwritten medical treatment and disability payments. The vets were healthy when they were sent over to protect George Bush & Family & Friends' oil and our nation is obligated to look after them and their loved ones. But they must be attended to now, even while scientists are still ferreting out what has caused an illness that appears to be contagious.

The government must take responsibility and stop throwing up roadblocks piled high with bureaucratic excuses. If we build one less cold war relic like a $4 billion Seawolf submarine or a $2 billion B-2 bomber, their repair bill can be easily paid.

The American people should be outraged. We should assign at least as high a priority to our Gulf War vets stricken with this illness as we do the victims of the AIDS epidemic.

All Americans from the president on down should wear a Gulf War Casualty emblem -- a purple ribbon -- on their chest. And keep it there until every sick vet and their family members are once again pre Gulf War fit.

The best brains in the land should stop trying to build a better Pentium chip or figuring out some way to clone money and concentrate as they did during WW II with the making of the A-bomb on how to cure this sickness and what caused it.

The Elizabeth Taylors, Hillary Clintons, the TV news anchors, all the Hollywood set and every entertainer and celebrity in the land should also wear the GWC emblem and replicate what they have done to help AIDS victims. They should host similar shows, concerts, movies, speeches, and galas all designed to educate and raise money to find out what has struck our warriors down as wickedly as a bullet or a red hot piece of shrapnel.

Because our vets got their wounds in the line of duty, they should be awarded the Purple Heart they have dearly earned. George Bush, Jim Baker, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf , post Gulf War millionaires all, should leave their palaces and visit our heroes' sick beds to present them their medals on behalf of a grateful nation.

These vets are not trying to rip off the VA for a lousy grand a month or a free bed in a depressing VA hospital. They want nothing more their health back and to once again live normal lives.

Lastly, when there are more deployments to the Middle East to guard someone else's oil -- before another generation of Gulf War casualties is produced ­ we must insist that the Pentagon get the best chemical and biological protection and detection gear in the world for our brave troops. They sure didn't have it the last time around.

The end.