Gulf War Syndrome: Aftermath of a Toxic Battlefield

Produced and Directed by Alison Johnson
A Johnson/Startzman Film
Post-Production CineVision Productions
2000       60 minutes

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"More than 100,000 of the American forces who fought in the Gulf War returned home suffering from a variety of illnesses and to a nation indifferent to their problems. It was a war fought in a cesspool of toxic agents. These veterans are the delayed and forgotten casualties of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Producer Alison Johnson has successfully captured on film the plight and pain of these heroes."
  Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT) Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations.


Large numbers of soldiers who risked their lives in the Persian Gulf have developed Gulf War syndrome. Some must use canes or wheelchairs; others are struggling with devastating illnesses like lupus or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Veterans’ symptoms include severe and frequent headaches, debilitating fatigue, muscle and joint pains, memory problems, asthma, chronic diarrhea, and loss of bladder and rectal control. Their chronic health problems and the extreme sensitivity they have developed to common, everyday chemicals make it difficult or impossible for them to work.

This documentary explores the principal toxic exposures soldiers faced:

  • Low levels of sarin and other nerve gases released from the bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons factories and the destruction of bunkers like Khamisiyah where these weapons were stored
  • PB pills, themselves quite toxic, given to soldiers in an effort to protect them from nerve gas attacks
  • Smoke and soot from hundreds of oil well fires
  • Excessive use of pesticides
  • Radioactive dust from depleted uranium munitions
  • Anthrax and other vaccines given in a compressed time frame
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