Dallas epidemiologist praised for Gulf War Syndrome
By BYRON HARRIS / WFAA-TV
WFAA-TV, NEWS 8 - Dallas,TX,USA -July 1, 2004
Tens of thousands of veterans of the first Gulf War got good news this
month: their illness is real, and they may be on the road to getting
Congressional hearings, along with a report from the General Accounting
Office, finally confirmed there is a disease called Gulf War Syndrome.
It's been a long journey for the veterans, and for a Dallas scientist
whose work is finally being validated.
From the deep leather chairs to the witness tables at the June hearings,
the battle lines were drawn in a guerilla war.
"I'm sorry to interrupt this hearing to just express my feelings about
the outrageous cooperation we've had from the military as it relates to
this issue," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Connecticut. "There has to
be an answer to this."
One side served in Iraq 12 years ago, and stands by its assertion that
Gulf War Syndrome is a disease. They're defended by a growing number of
scientists and some congressmen.
"Something is wrong here," said Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vermont. "We
have evidence that over 26 percent of Gulf War vets were made
The other side wears dress greens and includes the Department of Defense
and the Department of Veterans Affairs. For a decade, they've argued
Gulf War Syndrome does not exist.
"They still cannot identify the cause," said the GAO's Dr. Janet
These days, the veterans are winning, and Dallas epidemiologist Dr.
Robert Haley is getting recognition.
Haley's years of research indicates that vets were injured when
ammunition dumps were destroyed during the first Gulf War. Deadly sarin
nerve gas spewed into the air, and small amounts of the gas produced
brain damage in thousands of vets not naturally immune to it.
"(There were) combinations of damage to brain cells in certain areas of
the brain that damage receptors, so brain cells can't respond the way
they should," said Haley, director of the Division of Epidemiology at UT
Southwestern Medical Center.
Haley's science has been aided by information released in a recent
report from the General Accounting office. The GAO found sarin gas may
have spread more widely than expected when ammunition dumps were blown
up in Iraq. One map shows that plumes of the gas covered hundreds of
square miles in southern Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the first
Now Haley, who was ridiculed for bad science just a few years ago, is
getting credit for advancing the knowledge of Gulf War Syndrome around
"Professor Haley has been very widely read and is very highly regarded
on both sides of the British Parliament," said Lord Morris of Britain's
House of Lords.
"Haley has been the guy out there with the spear advancing on this evil
for many, many years," said Dr. Jim Binns of the Gulf War Veterans
Committee. "He's made continued advances."
Always a scientist first, Haley does not gloat. But he doesn't mince
"We're really pleased that the government now has reached a consensus
that there is a Gulf War Syndrome, that it involves some kind of brain
cell damage, and that sarin nerve gas is probably a major contributor to
it," he said.
Members of one House subcommittee accuse the Department of Defense with
suppressing evidence in Gulf War Syndrome. They said the DOD disguised
the fact that American troops were ever exposed to sarin gas. But, they
said, when a home video of Iraqi ammunition dumps was discovered, the
DOD finally admitted that sarin gas exposures occurred.
"The DOD was trying to keep from the world community, and from this
committee and others, the fact that our troops had been exposed," Shays
Lucky for those troops, Haley won't disappear in a cloud of dust.