Brief summary of what is known as "gulf war syndrome", an illness contracted by an estimated 175,000 veterans of the First Gulf War.
On November 17th, 2008, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs presented a study to a Congressional Panel confirming that "Gulf War Syndrome" is a legitimate illness that has been contracted by soldiers who took pyridostigmine bromide pills in order to counter the effects of nerve gas during the First Gulf War in Iraq. Several other factors likely contribute to Gulf War Syndrome, including excessive exposure to pesticides, mainly Permethrin and DEET, and chemical weapons residue caused by the American demolition of the Iraqi munitions depot in Khamisiyah.
The report estimates that about 1 out of every 4 veterans of the Gulf War are affected by this illness; this means anywhere between 175,000 and 210,000 soldiers are affected by the syndrome. The report also concludes that veterans exposed to the toxins spread by the destruction of the munitions depot have died of brain cancer at double the rate of other Gulf War veterans. Other problems associated with the condition are: fatigue, headaches, joint pain, rashes, breathing difficulty, forgetfulness, circulation problems, and cardiac troubles.
Gulf War Syndrome has been a focal point of veterans rights groups since the illness first became noticed in the early 1990s. The United States and British governments have claimed that the illness was merely psychological trauma from war misinterpreted as an illness, and veterans could not receive medical coverage for the illness.
"I feel vindicated, but I'm angry. This is so long overdue," said Denise Nichols, an advocate for veterans' rights and a nurse who participated in Operation Desert Storm. The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association (NGVFA) said that many veterans committed suicide after learning that the government did not recognize their illness as real.