When George Bush the senior was gathering world forces for a first attack in 1991, Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein's threat that it would become "the mother of all wars" turned into a national joke.
How could such a small and relatively backward country stand up against the combined force of the
United Nations, we asked. And as we launched that assault, then justified in our eyes because Iraqi forces reportedly invaded
neighboring Quait, we watched Hussein's forces crumble within days. The worst that happened was a few of the Iraqi scud missiles
terrified Israel and at least one of them landed in one of the American military camps at the Quaiti border.
It wasn't long before Saddam's warning was turned into a catch phrase and an American joke. If we
wanted to stress the importance of something, it was referred to as "the mother of . . ." And that always drew a smile.
Something happened in 1991 that nobody expected. The Iraqi assault stopped at the door of Baghdad
and the bulk of the troops went home. Saddam Hussein's army was left in shambles, his missiles and other weapon
systems were smashed, but Hussein was left in power. But a quarter million troops came home suffering from a mystery
illness that left them incapacitated. In fact years passed before the government even recognized Gulf War Syndrome as a real
Official reports suggested that an accidental burning of an Iraq chemical weapons storage compound
might have triggered the illness, but somehow that story didn't fly. The so-called "syndrome" left 221,000 veterans on
medical disability and another 51,000 seeking that status from the Veterans Administration as of May 2002. I doubt if they
were all accidentally too close to the toxic fumes from that single fire. Something else was afoot there.
Now that troops are back in Iraq, this time in a crazed plan by George Bush the junior to finish
the job his daddy started, the sickness is happening all over again.
There isn't much news about it, but our forces are in great peril. In addition to being gunned down
by guerilla attacks, our sons and daughters are getting sick. A story by Steve Rosenfield that appears in the web's
Altnews, quotes Dr. Doug Rokke, former director of the Army's depleted uranium (DU) project, as saying the waste from our
own radioactive weaponry is making not only our troops, but innocent civilians sick.
"People are sick over there already," said Dr. Rokke early in the assault. "It's not just uranium.
You've got all the complex organics and inorganics [compounds] that are released in those fires and detonations. And they're
sucking this in.... You've got the whole toxic wasteland."
Rokke said our troops are fighting on land polluted with chemical, biological and radioactive weapon
residue from the first Gulf War. Now that they are back for an even longer haul, the troops are exposed to sandstorms, which
degrade the lungs, plus oil fires and waste created by the use of uranium projectiles in tanks, aircraft, machine guns and
"That's why people started getting sick right away, when they started going in months ago with respiratory,
diarrhea and rashes horrible skin conditions," Rokke said.
Notice how the media has been careful not to say much about this problem. As the war grinds on into
what appears to be an unending guerilla campaign, we are not only starting to bring our sons home in body bags, but military
hospitals in Germany and the U.S. are filling with wounded and sick soldiers.
The latest story is about a mystery illness that killed two soldiers and hospitalized 17 others.
All have been evacuated to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where medical staffers are battling to identify the pneumonia-like
The word quagmire has been used a lot recently when describing Mr. Bush's latest adventures in Iraq.
The word is defined as "a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position; a predicament.
It is a perfect description. No matter what happens from now on out, America's involvement in Iraq
and the Middle East will have a long-lasting effect on everybody for many years. In a strange and unexpected way, it
could be turning out to be "the mother of all wars."