17 Nov 04. The Times reported that an independent inquiry today called on the Ministry of Defence to accept that thousands of veterans had suffered ill health as a result of their service in the 1991 Gulf War .
The inquiry, headed by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a former law lord, was also highly critical of the treatment veterans had received from the Ministry of Defence, and said that the illnesses they suffer from could rightly be labelled Gulf War Syndrome.
Lord Lloyd said that the MoD should now set up a special fund to make compensation payments to those veterans who had suffered as a result of their service in the war to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.
About 6,000 British veterans of the conflict, in which 50,000 British soldiers served, are believed to be suffering from Gulf War Syndrome – a term that includes a range of illnesses and symptoms including cancers, motor neurone disease, chronic fatigue, skin rashes and mood swings.
But successive governments have refused to accept the term, preferring to see them merely as unexplained illnesses which may or may not be connected to the Gulf War.
Lord Lloyd’s “independent public inquiry” was commissioned by the Royal British Legion and funded by private donations after the refusal of the Government to set up its own public inquiry into the illnesses.
The report said all the scientific studies agreed that veterans of the Gulf War were twice as likely to suffer from ill health than if they had been deployed elsewhere.
It also accepted the illnesses suffered by the veterans were likely to be due to a combination of causes – including multiple injections of vaccines, the use of organophosphate pesticides to spray tents, low-level exposure to nerve gas, and the inhalation of depleted uranium dust.
“The most likely explanation may be a combination of more than one cause against a background of stress, since at least some of the causes are thought to have a potentiating effect on each other,” Lord Lloyd said.
“But all these causes are directly related to the veterans’ service in the Gulf, in what was on any view a very toxic environment. No other possible causes have been proposed.”
While Lord Lloyd acknowledged that further research was needed, the report said that this was not a valid reason for the MoD to continue to refuse to accept that the illnesses were a result of service in the Gulf.
“Since the Gulf veterans were twice as likely to become ill as if they had stayed in the UK, the Government ought now, in fairness, and not before time, to accept that the illnesses of those who were deployed to the Gulf were caused by their deployment,” the report said.
“May their illnesses be described as a syndrome? Yes. The symptoms are not unique. They are not even very unusual. What is unusual is the extent and intensity of the symptoms.
“They were twice as likely to occur among those who went to the Gulf when compared with those that remained behind. There is therefore every reason to call the illnesses by the label ‘Gulf War syndrome’.”
Of the 50,000 British soldiers deployed in the Iraq war in 1991 about 6,000 have contracted mystery illnesses – but the Ministry of Defence has turned down repeated calls for a full public inquiry.
A recent report published by Ivor Caplin, the Defence Minister, on what the MoD calls “Gulf War illnesses” reaffirmed the Government’s line that it does not recognise Gulf War syndrome as a specific medical condition.
The campaign to have the syndrome recognised has also received a boost from a report published last week by the Veterans Affairs department in Washington, which concludes that psychiatric illness or post-traumatic stress “do not explain Gulf War veterans illnesses in the large majority of ill veterans”.
The US report said: “A growing body of research indicates that an important component of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses is neurological in character. Evidence supports a probable link between exposure to neur