- The Ministry of Defence has been accused by a leading
government adviser of deliberately using British troops as "experimental
animals" during the Gulf War.
- According to Professor Malcolm Hooper, a leading government
advisor in chemical warfare, the MoD issued soldiers with a cocktail of
drugs and vaccines to see how they would interact with enemy nerve agents
and what effect they would have on people.
- Professor Hooper last night launched a fierce attack
on the "failure" of both Conservative governments and the current
Labour administration to properly research drugs and vaccines given to
troops and monitor the effects on them.
- "At one stage I was willing to believe that the
MoD had tried to do their best for the troops, but now I feel they were
actually quite prepared to sacrifice the troops as experimental animals
so they could understand better how we might cope with a chemical and
biological weapons war," he said.
- He added that the successive governments should have
done three things: monitor soldiers while they were taking the drugs, carry
out regular follow-up checks in the years after the war, and carry out
medical examinations of sick veterans. None of these measures were taken.
- "I just find the whole thing is utterly shabby and
indefensible," he said. "It is totally inexplicable, except in
the terms which I have put to you, that they are just quite prepared to
write these lads off in order to understand what happens in a chemical
and biological war."
- Professor Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry
at the University of Sunderland, said studies in the UK and US had already
proven that the drug pyridostigmine bromide, taken in tablets by troops
three times a day for between eight and 10 weeks, had caused damage to
the nervous system. Despite this research, the government had not carried
out any clinical examinations on the sick veterans, he said.
- The tablets were taken by 300,000 British and American
troops in 1991 as a protection against nerve gas attack. Symptoms experienced
by 6000 of the 47,000 British servicemen and 100,000 Americans nine years
after the war include chronic pain, digestive problems, nausea, skin rashes,
aching joints, memory loss, depression, hair loss and attention span difficulties.
- The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association estimates
that 400 UK veterans have died since 1991 as a result of being forced to
take the chemical cocktails and exposure to pesticides.
- In October last year the government promised to consider
a Pentagon-funded report which said that the tablets could have been the
cause of the illnesses suffered by the veterans.
- Scots veteran Terry Gooding, a former Royal Navy chief
petty officer who served in the Gulf from December 1990 to May 1991, has
subsequently experienced many of the symptoms of the illness, including
memory loss, chronic fatigue and skin rashes.
- Gooding, who last week handed in a petition to Downing
Street calling for a public inquiry into Gulf War Illness, said it was
shameful that the Labour government had failed to sympathise with veterans'
- "I took the tablets and had the vaccines,"
he said. "We weren't told of any risks. We weren't told they were
experimental and we thought they would help us. I think the feeling is
that people serving in the armed forces can just be used as experiments.
Now we are dying at one a week and still the government is doing nothing.
- "My personal feeling is that the drug cocktail and
the vaccines, together with the sulphur from the oil fields and the depleted
uranium from the granules left after ammunition is fired, weakened our
- Professor Hooper said he was disappointed that the Labour
government had taken no more action than the Tories, despite its pledge
for openness, and he claimed commercial interests were dictating the MoD's
- "The MoD have fed ministers deliberate untruths
- that was the case with Nicholas Soames, who said there were no organophosphate
insecticides used in the Gulf War. That was not true and of course he
had to retract that," he said.
- Asked why he thought the government appeared to be taking
so little action, he said: "I don't think it's money, I think it's
because they are afraid that the military will lose face, and that the
industrial lobby which is responsible for depleted uranium munitions and
the manufacturer of the tablets will lose out."
- An MoD spokesman said there was no conclusive evidence
linking the illnesses to service in the Gulf, but the ministry would keep
an open mind on any new medical research or evidence.
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