Britain's Gulf War Legacy


The UK and Kuwaiti Governments celebrated this week, the 20th anniversary of the end of the 1991 Gulf War, by agreeing to double bilateral trade and investment opportunities, worth up to a total of £4 billion by the year 2015.

Kuwait is currently the UK's fourth-largest trading partner in the Gulf, buying over £1 billion worth of exports a year but while Prime Minister David Cameron celebrated this development over in the Gulf, back in London
sick war veterans marked the occasion with a protest march to Downing Street.

The former military personnel were demanding proper testing, treatment and compensation for those suffering from
Gulf War Syndrome, following their service in the campaign, which forced then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Monday was 20 years since US president George Bush senior declared a ceasefire, as Allied forces advanced to within 150 miles of Baghdad, with the six-week Gulf War starting on January 16th 1991, after the expiry of a United Nations Security Council deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, which it invaded in August 1990 in a dispute over oil.

Saddam famously declared that "the mother of all battles has begun" as the US and UK-led coalition of 34 nations, launched a massive air offensive that involved more than 100,000 sorties and the dropping of 88,500 tons of bombs.

A total of 47 UK troops died in the war and thousands more have experienced ill-health in the years since the ceasefire was declared but campaigners say that 9,700, of the 53,000 British veterans of the conflict, have suffered from Gulf War Syndrome, a cocktail of health problems that includes chronic headaches, cognitive difficulties, depression, unexplained fatigue, rashes and breathing problems.

A landmark study for the US Congress concluded in 2009, that the sickness was caused by soldiers being given nerve gas pills and exposed to pesticides during the war, the Ministry of Defence's official position remains that Gulf War Syndrome is a useful "umbrella term" but comprises too many different symptoms to be characterised as a syndrome in medical terms.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "The UK and the US have undertaken a substantial amount of research into Gulf veterans' illnesses. "The research has indicated that there is no illness which is specific to Gulf veterans."
A 2001 study of 15,000 U.S. combat veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, found that Gulf War veterans were more likely to have children with birth defects and after the careful examination of medical records two years later, found that birth defect rates had increased by more than 20%.

Veterans' groups say the response by the MOD, has led to sufferers experiencing medical neglect and facing battles with bureaucracy, to get the war pensions they deserve, with protest organiser Kerry Fuller saying that, "Over a thousand British veterans of the first Gulf war are no longer with us as a result of illnesses like Gulf war syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

In a statement to the
Morning Star, Fuller continued, “We believe successive governments have engaged with the Ministry of Defence in denial and word play to negate proper testing, treatment and compensation for thousands who are blatantly ill."

According to the
National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association, “After returning from the Gulf War in 1991, service personnel developed illnesses and could not understand why. Many told their stories in local and national newspapers, and began to realise how wide-spread and common the problems were amongst Gulf Veterans“.

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