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Press Reactions
walter goodman/new york times
"FRONTLINE is squarely on the side of the scientists. A Presidential advisory commission and other blue-ribbon panels examined tens of thousands of veterans and heard moving testimony about fatigue, headaches, joint pains, memory loss and other ailments but found no group of symptoms that could be defined as a syndrome. Concluding that it was not surprising that a few thousand of the 700,000 men and women who served in the gulf later became sick from something or other, the panelists attributed their symptoms to psychological stress of a sort found after other wars.

Tonight's program, produced by Jon Palfreman, takes particular aim at Life magazine, which ran a cover picture of a veteran's severely deformed child. It was a heartbreaker, even though the birth defect was never proved to be related to the father's service. Also criticized are television news-magazine programs that stirred the pot: "Dateline" looked into radioactive debris as the cause of the so-called syndrome; "20/20" turned its camera on oil fires; "60 Minutes" suggested drug side effects; "Nightline" focused on pesticides. None of them turned out to be the cause."

"...The 'last battle' is not over; other findings may invite further investigation. But given the evidence laid out here, the veterans have not made their case, even with plenty of help from their friends. Science's battles against emotion, quackery and demagogy are nothing new, and if this turns out to be the latest one, it will, alas, not be the last one."

 

David Armstrong/SF Examiner
"The title "Last Battle..." is perhaps overly optimistic, given Iraq's refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. Beyond that, the one-hour documentary produced by Jon Palfreman, is a thought provoking, if incomplete, study of the aftermath of the war."

"...Using heartbreaking footage of a veteran with Lou Gerhig's disease, diagnosed after his return from the war, and footage of another vet's young son, crippled by birth defects, "Last Battle" provides graphic illustration.

In its strongest passages, "Last Battle" also provides revealing looks at the politicization of American science. Four blue-ribbon scientific panels--including a Presidential Advisory Commission chaired by Dr. Joyce Lashof, of the UC-Berkley School of Public Health--have concluded there is no single cause of illness. The panels have infuriated vets by suggesting that war-induced stress lay at the root of most of their physical problems."

"...The program is weak on another important charge, as well. FRONTLINE contends that the media repeatedly present their reporting of Gulf War syndrome in a good vet/bad guy frame for the sake of a dramatic story, while underplaying or ignoring inconclusive, undramatic scienctific findings. Yet, FRONTLINE puts no journalists, media scholars or media critics on camera to grapple with this contentious point."

"...Were there no other journalists who could have been asked to appear? "Last Battle" is like a tripod with just two legs: angry veterans, frustrated scientists. The third let --the media--is missing, rendering the program unstable."

 

jerry krupnick/newark star ledger
There are some 80,000 of them, all veterans of the Gulf War, who suffer fatigue, headaches, nausea, muscle and joint pain, memory loss, shortness of breath, insomnia, bleeding gums and diarrhea.

Many of them are very sick men and women, suffering an assortment of deadly cancers, and adding to the horror, many of their children now suffer from dreadful birth defects as well. Yet most medical and military authorities have insisted over the past six years that these illnesses can be basically blamed on "stress" and that "Gulf War syndrome" is a fiction created by the media."

"...FRONTLINE in a far-reaching examination of the possible causes and effects, interview the veterans, government and defense officials, scientists and congressmen, trying to determine the root of these illnesses and if, as the veterans angrily claim, there is a cover-up taking place to hide the involvement of the military.

 

 
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