10| Burying the Past, Protecting DU Weapons for Future Wars (excerpt)

The Committee concludes that it is unlikely that health effect reports by Gulf War veterans today are the result of exposure to depleted uranium during the Gulf War.

—Final Report: Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (PAC)1

Tod Ensign

With one sentence, a blue-ribbon panel of scientists and public health experts denied that the extensive use of depleted uranium during the Gulf War contributed, in any way, to the chronic health problems that have been reported by over ninety thousand veterans.

The Clinton administration created its PAC in May 1995 in response to growing criticism by Gulf War vets about the way their concerns were being handled by the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration.

President Clinton was undoubtedly happy to be able to showcase the PAC's Final Report on January 7, 1997, since it allowed him to broadcast his concerns about ailing vets while at the same time requiring him to do almost nothing about their problems. The report also boosted the Pentagon's efforts to keep one of its favorite new weapons—depleted uranium, free from any restrictions on future use.

Early in its report, the panel acknowledges that, "many of the health concerns of Gulf War veterans may never be resolved fully because of the lack of data." It dryly ticks off some of the problems; missing medical records, absence of baseline (pre-war) health data, inaccurate and incomplete data on troop locations and incomplete data on health risks that could have been anticipated.2

Although it concedes these deficiencies, the panel nonetheless was not deterred from concluding that eight risk factors in the Gulf War—chemical weapons, biological weapons, vaccines, pyridostigmine bromide (PB-an experimental nerve-gas antidote), infectious diseases, oil-well smoke and fires, petroleum products and depleted uranium, were not "causal[ly] link[ed]" to the health problems reported by Gulf vets.

The Pentagon was quick to claim a victory with the report's conclusions. "This is a very important finding and one on which the committee deliberated long and hard," crowed Assistant Defense Secretary for Health, Stephen Joseph, M.D.3

The process whereby the PAC determined that depleted uranium is not responsible for Gulf War illness is our concern here. A close examination of how this decision was made raises several important questions.


The full text of this chapter is available in the book, Metal of Dishonor. Link here for order information.




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