Gen. Vesser says many possible causes of Gulf War illnesses being investigated

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, April 26, 1997 (GulfLINK) - Dale Vesser, deputy director of the Pentagon's probe of Gulf War illnesses, says more than 40 possible causes are currently under investigation.

Vesser, a retired Army three-star general, was addressing the 67th annual convention of the Virginia Reserve Officers Association on April 26.

"There are over 40 possible causes of illness as the result of what we did to ourselves, environmental hazards and what Iraq may have done," Vesser said. "These include medications, inoculations and potential exposure to chemical warfare contaminants, pesticides and petrochemicals."

Vesser described the organization of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War illnesses under Bernard Rostker last November saying, "Dr. Rostker concluded that we had to do things differently-not only at the level of resources and focus, but also with the goal of entering into a broader dialogue with our service members and veterans.

"His organization is committed to strengthening mutual trust with our service people. We have undertaken this assignment with a dedication to working hard, to telling the truth and to building to the future so this situation doesn't occur again," Vesser said in his formal remarks.

In the question and answer period, Vesser was asked if he was looking into possible chemical incidents other than that at Khamisiyah, where US troops destroyed a chemical storage site after the fighting had ended.

Vesser said there was a controversy within the US intelligence community over whether the Iraqis deployed chemical munitions to the front. Vesser said, "We have found limited evidence of forward deployed chemicals." He cited the one well-publicized incident in which a soldier searching a bunker emerged with mustard gas residue on his clothing, which caused a skin burn.

ROA has a national membership of almost 100,000. In February, its National Council adopted a resolution thanking the Administration "for the recent, increased attention" given Gulf War illnesses and urging that "health care and support (be) provided to veterans and their families with Gulf War illnesses, without charge, pending medical determination of the causes."