At the root of the controversy over Gulf War Syndrome are a few scientific, medical and factual questions.
FRONTLINE sponsored a debate between two leading experts with different perspectives on the issues: Jim Tuite III, former lead investigator of a U.S. Senate committee's inquiry into Gulf War Syndrome, who points to Iraqi nerve agents as the explanation for many veterans' sickness; and Jim Ware, environmental statistician at the Harvard University School of Public Health, who tilts toward battlefield stress as a more likely cause.
An edited transcript of their in-depth discussion on Dec. 18, 1996, is printed below, covering five principal areas.
Also available are excerpts of Real-Audio exchanges from the debate between Ware and Tuite.
Our report spoke to the fact that we felt that it would have been helpful to get more complete information in a more timely way from the Defense Department.
Information about ongoing research activities and about the planning process at the Defense Department and so on.
The Pentagon has not been forthcoming
at all. In fact, every acknowledgment they've made of each and
every exposure, they've made kicking and screaming, each and every
step of the way. In March of '94 we sent a request to the Pentagon,
requesting a whole series of information, including all information
on any chemical and biological warfare agent detections, exposures
and so on, including a request for the CENTCOM log. We got a letter
back saying that CENTCOM couldn't identify anything called a log.
And then we got a letter on May 4th of 1994 from three secretaries
of the Administration, Secretary Perry, Secretary Brown and Secretary
Shalala, that says there is no classified information that would
indicate any exposures to, or detections of, chemical or biological
weapons agents. That statement is blatantly false. It's false
based on information that has existed during the war, information
that has now been released in part through FOIA (Freedom of Information
Act) requests, other information that's on the Gulf Link,
over 10,000 reports, I believe. And some of the documents which
will provide, or which provide the historical record of the chemical
and biological and radiological exposures of the veterans during
the war, are now being written off by the Pentagon as lost or
missing due to careless handling. These were classified documents
and that kind of an admission is an admission that a criminal
offense may have occurred - i.e. in the careless handling
- and that right now the reaction to it is: so what?
I would only add that I don't
believe that during the war the commanders intentionally withheld
information about exposures that troops were sustaining, believing
that they were causing harm. I think that that's a doctrinal
flaw that needs to be corrected. But after the war when the Pentagon
was asked to admit or to provide evidence that would indicate
that it may be responsible for tens of thousands of casualties
as a result of a mistake that they may have made, there was a
tremendous institutional reluctance to provide the kind of information,
because it would have been catastrophic to the reputation of the
institution itself and of individuals who were credited with winning
the war. That is why I believe very, very seriously that the
Pentagon cannot, or the Department of Defense cannot, be an objective
investigator of this issue.
I, myself, most of my experience with working with my colleagues, both in academia and in government, is that individuals are trying to do well. So I believe that conspiracy is an over-used explanation, in my opinion, that more often it's lack of information, mistakes, scrambling to catch up and so on.
Syndrome? || Chemical Weapons? || Vaccines? || Stress? || Cover-up?