British Soldiers Were
Chemical 'Guinea Pigs'
During Gulf War
By Kathleen Nutt - Sunday Herald Scotland
From Gerry <>
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' demands.
"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 immune systems."
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 political agenda.
"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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