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PENTAGON: NO MORE GI GUINEA PIGS
By Elliot Borin
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
American soldiers may -- or may not -- soon be marching off to war against
Iraq, but if they do they'll be going into battle protected by some of the
same controversial drugs administered to soldiers during the Gulf War.
But this time, the Pentagon vows, adherence to proper medical practices will
take the place of a haphazardly administered mass-vaccination program in
which tens of thousands of shot records disappeared.
The Pentagon has assured Congress and military personnel that only
FDA-approved drugs will be used, FDA dosage and administration requirements
will be met and proper records will be kept.
Critics remain unconvinced. They claim Gulf War GIs were dosed with
unapproved compounds responsible for chronic and sometimes fatal ailments.
And they contend that the Pentagon's standard operating procedures and
attitudes regarding drug administration are the antithesis of good medical
"There are required protocols for meeting the standard of proper medical
practice, and the Pentagon is not meeting them," said Dr. Garth Nicolson,
president of the Institute for Molecular Medicine and an Albert Schweitzer
According to Nicolson, there are several forms of FDA approval. For example,
pyridostigmine bromide, injected into Gulf War soldiers to protect them from
the nerve gas sarin, was FDA approved only as an "investigational new drug."
It was not certified as safe for general administration as a nerve-gas
"You must use only FDA-approved vaccines in an FDA-approved manner (of
administration) ... standard approval, not approval under an experimental
waiver," Nicolson continued. "You must administer the vaccinations under a
normal schedule ... not give 20 or 30 vaccines within two or three days."
Nicolson said the Department of Defense method for monitoring potential drug
side effects also fails the "proper-practice" test.
"The military uses passive-surveillance monitoring," he said. "In civilian
life this works.... If people feel ill they go to a doctor. In the military
there's a lot of pressure not to report anything unusual.
"And if you're not hospitalized within 48 hours after inoculation, the DOD
assumes that whatever happens to you afterward has nothing to do with the
Other critics suggest the Pentagon has lied about toxic substance testing
for decades and has no intention of stopping now.
"They used untested and untried drugs in the Gulf War," said American Gulf
War Veterans Association spokeswoman Joyce Riley, a registered nurse and
former Air Force captain who served in Operation Desert Storm. "Maybe 50
years from now they'll be forced to admit what they did to us."
Riley has a point. Under congressional prodding, the Defense Department in
October reversed four decades of denials regarding nerve gas and other toxic
material testing in the 1960s. Among its admissions:
* At least 14 open-air tests of the lethal nerve gas VX were performed at
Maryland's Edgewood Arsenal.
* Soldiers were exposed to VX to test unproven protective suits.
* Bacillis globigii, a bacteria closely related to anthrax, was sprayed
airborne in Alaska and Hawaii.
* Hallucinogenic chemicals were tested on unsuspecting soldiers.
* E. coli was deliberately released during chemical-dispersion testing on
* Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense serves as an umbrella term for at
least 40 and possibly over 100 open-air tests of biowarfare agents at its
now-closed Desert Test Center in Utah.
* Infectious bacteria was released into the air above San Francisco.
* A two-year test was executed in which artillery shells and bombs filled
with sarin and VX were exploded near Fort Greeley, Alaska.
* Military barracks in Oahu were sprayed with a biological agent shown to
cause infections in individuals with diminished immune-system capacity.
* A benzilic-acid derivative known to cause hallucinations and confusion was
sprayed under the jungle canopy near Hilo, Hawaii, in two separate series of
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