by Alan R. Cantwell, Jr., M.D.
What is the common thread which weaves through the occurrence of the highly contagious disease known as the Gulf War Syndrome, which has struck as many as 60,000 veterans? Dr. Cantwell has found a biowarfare connection. Since the Nuremberg trials, it has been against international law to use people as guinea pigs in experiments without their informed consent. In an unprecedented legal decision, the FDA allowed the Pentagon to give un-approved drugs and vaccines to soldiers without their consent. The Pentagon also refused to identify the types of drugs and injections the troops were given forcibly, rendering them powerless against genetically altered “supergerms.”
As many as 60,000 of the 700,000 Gulf War vets who served in Desert Storm in 1991 are ill with a variety of symptoms lumped together as Persian Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). Symptoms include chronic fatigue, severe neurological disorders, muscle and joint pain, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, memory loss, insomnia, rashes, depression, headaches, and other complaints. GWS is a sexually transmitted disease, and is contagious via the airborne route. Soldiers are passing the illness on to wives and family members; and their children appear to have an increased incidence of birth defects.
The government and the Pentagon stand accused of ignoring the vets by denying they were exposed to chemical or biological agents in the Gulf. Originally many vets were told by military doctors that their symptoms were caused by stress. The large number of sick vets led to an official inquiry.
In August 1995, a massive government study of GWS indicated no evidence of so-called Gulf War disease. Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, claimed the soldiers were suffering from “multiple” diseases not stemming from any one cause, and that their collective health was no worse than their counterparts in civilian life. The report denied that vets were exposed to chemical agents in the Gulf.
Reynaldo Negrete, in a letter of protest to the Los Angeles Times (8/20/95), wrote:
When my son Ruben, a career Navy Seebee of 14 years, was sent to the Gulf he was a healthy young man weighing 185 pounds. When he came back four months later he had lost 20 pounds and his health. He continued to lose weight for more than a year, but the doctors at Port Hueneme and his command did nothing. Not until I had my congressman, Matthew G. Martinez, intervene on his behalf was our son admitted to the Naval Hospital in San Diego a year after arriving from the Gulf War a very sick young man. He then spent a year in the hospital, until he was medically discharged from the Navy no better off than the day he was admitted. Yet, my son continues to suffer, as does his family. My son has served his country very well, for more than 14 years. He has been deployed all over the world, and in just four short months in the Persian Gulf he comes home an invalid.”
A year later, in 1996, the Department of Defense finally admitted that 400 soldiers (later changed to 5,000; still later to 20,000) may have been exposed to toxic agents when, after the war had officially ended, the military blew up an ammunition storage depot in Kamisiyah in southern Iraq on March 4 and again on March 10, 1991. After the bombings, a U.N. inspection team informed Pentagon officials that the buildings contained chemical weapons. However, the Pentagon immediately classified the U.N. report and the troops were never alerted about possible exposure to toxic chemicals.
Despite the cover-up, exposure to chemicals cannot account for so many sick soldiers. Not all sick vets were stationed in the Kamisiyah area. Many left the Iraqi war zone before the war actually started, or arrived after the fighting stopped. In addition, exposure to chemicals cannot explain why some cases of GWS are contagious.
The first media reports of a Gulf illness surfaced in the spring of 1992, a year after the war ended. As time passed, the transmissibility of the disease was downplayed, as well as the fact that wives complained about miscarriages and “burning semen” after sex with their husbands. Veteran’s groups now claim that a third of Gulf War babies are born with birth abnormalities. LIFE magazine (November 1996) featured a story on these Gulf babies entitled “The tiny victims of Desert Storm: Has our country abandoned them?” Pictured on the cover was U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Hansen holding his three-year-old son, born with hands and feet attached to twisted stumps.
In the search for a cause of GWS, epidemiologists have been looking for a common factor that could have exposed so many Gulf War vets. Some sick vets were in the war zone for months, while others were stationed there for as little as nine days. And the illness has affected troops stationed in widely scattered geographic areas in the region.
One factor common to all the troops is that they were given experimental and potentially dangerous drugs and vaccines employed to protect them against Iraqi chemical and biowarfare agents. As early as December 1990, there were warnings about using our servicemen as medical guinea pigs. In an unprecedented legal decision, the FDA allowed the Pentagon to give unapproved drugs and vaccines without requiring consent of the soldiers. Claiming security reasons, the Pentagon also refused to identify the types or the number of drugs and injections they forced the troops to take.
An angry serviceman stationed in Saudi Arabia maintained his civil rights were violated, and sued the government in January 1991. Ever since the post World War II Nuremberg trials, which convicted many top-ranking Nazis for crimes against human nature, it has been unethical and unlawful to use people as guinea pigs in experiments without their informed consent. This legal requirement was waived when the lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Harris, who cited the necessity of the military to protect the health of its troops.
Soldiers who rejected the injections were given them forcibly. Physicians who refused to cooperate with the military’s experimental vaccine program were treated harshly. Army reservist Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn protested it was her duty under the Nuremberg Code of Justice not to vaccinate personnel with experimental vaccines without their consent. At Huet-Vaughn’s court-martial trial, a military judge ignored these considerations of international law and medical ethics, and sentenced the mother of three children to 30 months in prison. Under pressure from activist groups, the doctor was released from military prison after serving eight months.
Allegations that experimental drugs and vaccines are a cause of GWS have been downplayed for obvious reasons. The Pentagon does not want to publicize the idea that PGS could be a man-made disease due to unethical experiments with dangerous and possibly contaminated vaccines. Furthermore, the military has a long history of conducting covert medical experiments on its own personnel, as well as civilians; and the Agent Orange cover-up is still fresh in the minds of Vietnam war vets.
GWS is not limited to American soldiers. More than 1,100 British vets are ill. Many blame the injections they received against anthrax and plague. Englishman Tony Flint, associated with the Gulf War Veterans and Families Association, claims more than 100 vets have died of ailments ascribed to the inoculations. He says he was forced to take 13 inoculations in one week, and states there is no evidence of GWS among French troops who did not receive these vaccines.
The HIV Connection
Garth Nicholson and his wife Nancy, both respected microbiologists, have recently discovered a bacterium, a so-called “mycoplasma” in the blood of half the vets ill with GWS. The microbe associated with GWS has been identified as Mycoplasma fermentans (incognitus strain). Discovered a century ago in plants, mycoplasmas are the smallest known self-replicating microbes. Larger than viruses and much smaller than common bacteria, mycoplasmas have been implicated in a variety of diseases.
The mycoplasma in GWS could not be identified using standard lab tests. Through special genetic testing Garth Nicolson was able to discover the mycoplasma. Incredibly, the microbe had a piece of the envelope gene of the AIDS virus (HIV-1) attached to it! The HIV gene makes the mycoplasma even more aggressive, allowing it to attach to cells, which it then penetrates and poisons. According to Nicolson, a mycoplasma combined with the envelope gene of the AIDS retrovirus could never have originated in nature, but only through gene splicing in a laboratory.
Both Nicolsons contracted GWD from their daughter when she returned home from Desert Storm. Because of the contagious nature of the disease, the microbiologists suspected an infectious agent, rather than a chemical weapon. When the mycoplasma was identified, the research team discovered that treatment with antibiotics, particularly doxicycline, was helpful in some cases.
In an interview on the Dave Emory radio show (10/20/96), Garth Nicolson theorizes that the microbe could have been deployed through contaminated vaccines, through the deliberate release of Iraqi bioweapons, from blowback from destroyed Iraqi bioweapon factories, or possibly from scud missile attacks. He says there has been a Mycoplasma Unit at the University of Baghdad for 22 years, manned by Iraqi scientists who were trained in the U.S. Before the war, the U.S. government exported to Iraq various biological agents, both classified and unclassified, that could be used or developed as biological warfare agents.
Did this mycoplasma + HIV bioweapon originate in the U.S. or in the Gulf? It would be extremely helpful to know if there are cases of GWS in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Surprisingly, the government and the media are silent on this question, although Nicolson claims 300,000 Iraqis have died and one million are sick since the war. It is rumored that 15-20% of the population of the countries surrounding Iraq are ill with GWS.
In a 40-page report entitled “Germ Warfare against America: The Desert Storm Plague and Cover-Up, Nicolson reports:
Mycoplasma fermentans (incognitus) has been tested on the Texas Department of Corrections prisoners in the late 1980s prior to the Gulf War. It was tested on death row inmates as well as other inmates in Huntsville, Texas. The guards then contracted it from the inmates, and the guards then gave it to their families and community. This mycoplasma vaccine testing was funded by the U.S. Army, and today there is an outbreak of 350 people in the Huntsville area with a strange disease resembling GWS.
Garth Nicolson’s important research has appeared in the underground press, but until recently his research has been ignored by the mainstream, corporate-controlled media. On the Emory show Nicolson was asked how many soldiers have died of GWS. Although there are no official figures, he estimates that 12-15,000 vets have died of “unusual” diseases, and several thousand have died of cancer. If true, these death rates are very high considering the young age (under 25) of many of our soldiers. Apparently doctors, nurses, and medical personnel are contracting GWS from sick patients, indicating another AIDS-like epidemic in the making.
Further complicating the epidemiology of GWS is that soldiers’ shot records and even medical records have disappeared or are unavailable. In addition, the Los Angeles Times (12/5/96) reports that military logs “crucial to Gulf War veterans who believe their health problems are linked to chemical weapons” are also missing and can’t be found. These important logs cover the period March 4-10, during the bombings at Kamisiyah. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has recently won permission to examine General Norman Schwartzkopf’s personal logs.
At the request of Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington state, a group of military and civilian scientists and Pentagon experts met on December 23, 1996, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, to discuss Nicolson’s research. Walter Reed spokesman Ben Smith said the Army would agree to study his mycoplasma research as part of its investigation into the cause of GWS.
On December 27, 1996, a story about Garth Nicolson’s research appeared on the front-page of the Los Angeles Times. However, the most significant part of Nicholson’s research, namely that the mycoplasma had a piece of HIV attached to it, was not mentioned. The origin of the microbe was left in doubt, the writer simply stating that Nicolson’s research suggests “the primitive bacterium, called mycoplasma, was deliberately altered for Iraqi use as a biological weapon.”
Also not mentioned in the media was previous mycoplasma research conducted by the military a decade earlier. In 1986 Dr. Shyh-Ching Lo, a molecular biologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., reported a “virus-like agent” derived from Kaposi’s sarcoma, the “gay cancer” associated with AIDS. Using highly technical methods of molecular biology, Lo’s “virus” was subsequently identified as the bacterium Mycoplasma fermentans (also known as M. incognitus). In 1989, Lo also reported similar mycoplasma infection as the cause of death in six young, previously healthy military personnel from New Jersey, Virginia, Guam, and Turkey, all of whom died within one to seven weeks from a progressive and mysterious “flu-like disease.” In 1991 Lo found yet another mycoplasma, Mycoplasma penetrans, in the urine of gays with AIDS. Luc Montagnier, the co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, has confirmed Lo’s mycoplasma research. The Pasteur Institute virologist believes mycoplasmas are a necessary “co-factor” that allows HIV infection to progress to full-blown AIDS.
Are mycoplasmas being developed as biological warfare weapons? Certainly all known infectious agents are screened for possible military use by biowarfare scientists around the world. As stated, there was a Mycoplasma lab in Iraq. Before the Gulf War the Iraqis freely used nerve gas against the Kurds in Northern Iraq; and after the war they used mustard gas against Shiite Muslim nomads in southern Iraq. And the U.S. Army conducted mycoplasma research in Huntsville, Texas.
Before the Gulf War the mixing of the AIDS virus (HIV) with mycoplasmas in the laboratory by Lo and Montagnier was recorded in the scientific literature. When mycoplasma was added to HIV-infected blood cells in test tubes, it made the AIDS virus more pathogenic. Silver-leaf monkeys experimentally infected with Lo’s mycoplasma all developed infections, immunosuppression, and died within 7 to 9 months with an AIDS-like “wasting syndrome.”
A “Mycoplasma Workshop,” sponsored by The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was held in San Antonio, Texas, in December 1989. Lo’s research was featured. When asked if his fatal mycoplasma “flu cases” were contagious, Lo replied, “We don’t know.” Interestingly, some of Lo’s patients improved with the antibiotic doxycycline, the same drug Nicolson has found effective in some cases of GWS.
Most physicians know little about mycoplasma infection, and even less about testing for these microbes. For many years this writer has reported mycoplasma-like organisms discovered in the damaged tissue of cancer, AIDS, and in auto-immune disease. This research has been published in medical journals and summarized in two books by this author: AIDS: The Mystery and the Solution (1984) and The Cancer Microbe (1990). Unfortunately, this research has been largely ignored by the AIDS and cancer establishments, as well as by so-called mycoplasma experts. These bacteria can be easily seen microscopically in the diseased tissue of AIDS (including Kaposi’s sarcoma), cancer, and certain other diseases of unknown cause.
As some people in medical science are aware, important and valid scientific discoveries are ignored because they are “politically incorrect.” Lo’s mycoplasma research has been largely ignored by the leading virologists who direct AIDS research. Similarly, Lo has ignored the published research of hundreds of other researchers who have shown mycoplasma-like microbes in cancer, AIDS, and immune diseases. The inability of scientists to consider “politically incorrect” scientific findings may explain why physicians currently have such difficulty understanding and treating new epidemics like AIDS and GWS, in which these microbes are operative.
Why does the military ignore GWS and deny its existence? Undoubtedly, chemical and biological weapons were employed in the Gulf War. Was the military fully capable of detecting these bioweapons? Or was the detection of chemical agents and bioweapons ignored or covered up? Is the military capable of protecting its troops from modern day biowarfare? Are soldiers now powerless against genetically engineered “supergerms” deployed by biowarfare scientists?
In the future, will soldiers willingly go into battle knowing that exposure to bioweapons will be ignored by their government, and knowing that no one is immune from the effects of these man-made microbes of death?•
“Government study of veterans finds no evidence of a Gulf War disease,” by Art Pine, Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1995.
“Gulf War toxins: Pentagon’s credibility sinks even lower,” Editorial, Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1996.
“U.N. aide fears Iraq could turn imported medicine into weapons,” by Paul Lewis, The New York Times, November 11, 1990.
“Troops may get unlicensed drug,” by Gina Kolata, The New York Times, January 4, 1991.
“Guinea pigs and disposable GIs,” by Tod Ensign, Covert Action Bulletin, Winter 1992-1993.
“Gulf War veterans seek restitution for ailments,” by William D Montalbano, Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1996.
“Were biological weapons used against our forces in the Gulf War?,” by Garth and Nancy Nicolson, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, May 1996.
“Papers on Gulf War missing,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1996.
“Army to review link between germ, Gulf War syndrome,” by Renee Tawa, Los Angeles Times, December 27, 1996.
“Isolation and identification of a novel virus from patients with AIDS,” by Shyh-Ching Lo, American Journal of Tropical Hygiene, Vol 35(4), 1986, pp. 675-676.
“Mycoplasma and AIDS: what connection?,” Lancet, January 5, 1991.
Dave Emory’s “One Step Beyond” interview with Nicolson, available from Spitfire, Box 1179, Ben Lomond, CA 95005.
Cantwell Jr, Alan, The Cancer Microbe, Los Angeles, Aries Rising Press, 1990.
Cantwell Jr, Alan, AIDS: The Mystery & The Solution, Los Angeles, Aries Rising Press, 1986.