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Payday’s submission to the Public Inquiry into Gulf War Illnesses

We write as an organization which supported Mr Alexander Izett during his 40-day hunger strike to press for an independent public inquiry into Gulf war illnesses.  Our website also reflects campaigns by war veterans and their families for the truth about and compensation for veterans’ illnesses, disabilities and death caused by war and occupation. 

We welcome this Public Inquiry, which is a response to years of this campaigning. This is a unique moment, our chance to make the case for justice.  We want, therefore, to raise our deep concerns about limitations of the Inquiry which have emerged so far, and to make our recommendations for your consideration.

The timetable and logistics of the Inquiry

When it was established, the Inquiry did not:

  • publicise itself widely enough – some veterans told us that they heard about it only by chance;

  • give veterans and their carers enough time to prepare testimonies;

  • provide other venues in the UK many potential witnesses could not travel to London because of disability and poverty;

  • arrange a wheelchair accessible venue, the absence of which is disrespectful of many the Inquiry claims to serve.

 Widening the Inquiry

High-ranking officers giving evidence to the Inquiry said they would favour an ex-gratia payment to “close the matter”, and Major Gen. Craig in his evidence cast doubts on the “claims and allegations” of many veterans.  They imply that there is no need for the Inquiry.  On the contrary, the need is great and we are concerned that the Inquiry should be as far-reaching as possible in order to be most effective.

The Inquiry must:

  • allow more time to hear from veterans.  Of more than 6,000 who suffer from Gulf war illnesses, just 32 were invited to testify;

  • give greater prominence to partners and other carers of veterans, whose contribution in terms of work and campaigning has been largely hidden – only three testified;

  • seek contributions from Iraqi women and men. If they are not heard, not only will the causes of hundreds of thousands of deaths, disabilities and illnesses remain hidden, but also even veterans and their families will not be able to discover by comparison the full extent of what happened to them.

  • connect with the Parliamentary Inquiry now opening in Italy about the death of 28 Kossovo veterans, exchanging information about the effects on civilians and soldiers of depleted uranium weapons and vaccines, used by the Allies both in the Balkans and in Iraq.

  • take evidence from Avigolfe, a French association of civilians and soldiers ( which has recently publicized that depleted uranium (uranium isotope U-238) used in the first Gulf war also contains enriched uranium (uranium isotope U-236), which is used in H-bombs and is extremely radioactive and toxic.  The link between DU and U-236 raises the fundamental issue of military introduction by stealth of what amounts to nuclear bombing of civilian populations.

We urge the Inquiry to acknowledge that:

  • Gulf War illnesses can be related to vaccines, DU/U-236 exposure, fall-out from chemical and bacteriological weapons the Allies destroyed, use of pesticides, fumes from burning oil-wells or a combination of any of the above;

  • in most cases soldiers were simply ordered to take vaccines and NAPS (Nerve Agent Pre-treatment) pills and not warned of any possible consequences;

  • in many cases the vaccines they received were not registered on their vaccination card, risking a double dose;

  • veterans have been treated shamefully by the MoD in having to battle for the disability component of their War Pensions.

We urge the Inquiry to recommend that:

Members of the Armed Forces must not be used as guinea-pigs to determine the effects of the drug “cocktails”;

  • all compulsory vaccinations must be stopped; having them must be only on a voluntary basis;

  • vaccines should only be taken when all possible side-effects of the “cocktail” are fully researched and explained to those taking them;

  • all medical records related to vaccinations and other drugs be released to those concerned so that they can receive proper treatment;

  • all medical treatment (including complementary treatments) be immediately and freely available to all victims of Gulf War illnesses and their families and carers;

  • proper respectful benefits be given immediately to veterans and their carers and to widows of veterans, according to the length and degree of seriousness of their illnesses;

  • all those affected get financial compensation for the years of delay by the Ministry of Defence in admitting and dealing with the truth;

  • the government fund an independent public inquiry which would be accountable to Parliament, where officers and scientists, including those researching the health of soldiers in the present war, would be allowed to testify;

  • a full and thorough investigation be conducted among the Iraqi population to determine the extent of illnesses, disabilities and deaths caused by both the first and second Gulf wars and the current occupation.

We attach a petition which expresses some of the concerns and demands expressed here.  It has been signed by Gulf war veterans from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and Germany, by partners and carers, by Vietnam war veterans, anti-war and peace activists, trade unionists and others around the world.  Many veterans and their partners who testified at the Inquiry are among the signatories.

5 August 2004