Persian Gulf Syndrome

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PERSIAN GULF SYNDROME refers to the controversial "disease" or cluster of symptoms reported by numerous American and British Gulf War veterans. About 700,000 U.S. citizens, including military and nonmilitary personnel, took part in the Gulf War to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait, an operation that lasted from 16 January to 28 February of 1991. Although the war was short-lived, by 1993 some veterans began to speak out about mysterious symptoms such as headaches, chronic fatigue, cardiovascular and respiratory illness, skin rashes, and muscle pain. Studies of about 4,000 reported cases of the disease were undertaken throughout the 1990s; some estimate that the United States government funded over 150 different projects at a cost of nearly $150 million. No clear diagnosis has been made; researchers have hypothesized

that the syndrome may have multiple origins stemming from the variety of chemicals soldiers could potentially have been exposed to, such as fumes from oil fires, destroyed Iraqi biological and chemical weapons (including Sarin and mustard gas), depleted uranium sources, and medical vaccines. A study by the NIH in 2000 concluded that no clear link has been shown between chemicals, medicines and other materials, and the syndrome. Nonetheless, in the early 2000s Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and former presidential candidate Ross Perot continued to press for more funding for research, while many Gulf War veterans decried the official "cover-up" and the tendency of military leaders to downplay the physical and mental consequences of war.


"Desperately Seeking a Syndrome." Nature 407 (19 October 2000): 819.

Hersh, Seymour. Against All Enemies: Gulf War Syndrome: The War between American Ailing Veterans and Their Government. New York: Ballantine, 1998.

J. G.Whitesides

See alsoPersian Gulf War ; Veterans Affairs, Department of ; Veterans' Organizations .