Hack's Crusade


Having said our farewells to Colonel David Hackworth, it's worth noting another cause the soldiers' advocate was always steamed about. He was a ceaseless activist on the issue of Agent Orange effects, and on the less-publicized effects of the herbicide Agent Blue. (This obit mentions Agent Blue exposure as a possible cause of Hack's own fatal illness.) He was also a firm believer in Gulf War Syndrome and a supporter of pro-GWS researchers—witness this exchange on the topic with Bill O'Reilly, wherein Hack tries and mostly fails to get a word in edgewise over the Scranton teddyboy's incessant chatter.

Reason's view of GWS has been decidedly different. In 1997, Michael Fumento defined the phenomenon as a variation on post-traumatic stress disorder. Here is an old page of GWS-related stuff. As I'm not a doctor and don't even play one on TV, I'm agnostic on this matter. If Hack was wrong on this point, the error came from his laudable instinct always to line up with the enlisted against the powerful.

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  1. The next round of BS will see Bush and the VA telling soldiers to go fuck themselves for claiming problems related to depleted uranium munition exposure.

  2. Depleted uranium is only dangerous when it hits you at high velocity.

  3. So, we’re whining because he died of cancer in his 70s?

    That’s nothing. Dihydrogen monoxide was a major component of his cancer cells and childhood exposure regularly causes death in people merely in their early 90s. The number of them who make it to 100 is vanishingly small, and there was a massive campaign by the government to introduce it into the water supplies of every community.

    Clearly, it’s a coverup.

    Or maybe people who divert medical funds for real problems into pipe dreams caused by their poor understanding of statistics are not praiseworthy but jackasses negating any good they might have done elsewhere. Just a thought.

  4. The next round of BS will see Bush and the VA telling soldiers to go fuck themselves for claiming problems related to depleted uranium munition exposure.

    If the science behind those claims is as weak as the science behind “Gulf War Syndrome”, scoffing will be in order.

  5. “So, we’re whining because he died of cancer in his 70s?”

    Who’s whining? I pointed out that he was a believer. Stop whining.

  6. The reason “depleted” uranium is called that is because it is composed of almost 100% U-238 (4.5 billion-year half-life) – anyone claiming hazardous radiation exposure from this material is trying to milk a credulous public that panics every time the “U-word” is mentioned.

    Uranium is a highly toxic heavy metal that can cause serious health problems if inhaled as dust or handed directly without protective gloves or clothing. Since depleted-uranium sabots are fully encased in FSAPDS rounds, however I don’t see much risk to the operator unless he or she enters an impacted target immediately after the round has stuck it.

  7. Mark B,

    How about the people who live in the dusty town where a platoon of Iraqi vehicles took 10,000 rounds of DU from a couple of A-10s?

  8. I haven’t examined the data myself, so on the issue of Gulf War Syndrome I’m inclined to trust the findings of whichever statistician does the greatest number of different tests on the largest data set and has the fewest conflicts of interest.

    Sadly, I don’t know which statistician that is.

    But as I understand it, there’s nothing new about a war producing some people who are permanently scarred. Call it shell shock, call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, call it Gulf War Syndrome (GWS), call it whatever you want. It may very well be that something unique happened in Gulf War I that produced new problems (I’ll leave that one to the statisticians), but it could just as easily be that GWS is the latest manifestation of the same old problem.

    What I do know is that the guys who come home messed up by war deserve our respect, sympathy, gratitude, and appropriate support.

    I also know that there’s nothing heartless or uncaring about concluding that this is simply (and sadly) the latest manifestation of the same old problem. The true test of compassion is not whether we ignore statistics. It’s whether we ignore the needs of those who suffered on our behalf.

  9. There’s never a cause for telling soldiers and vets to f—- themselves, but nobody should receive compensation for DU exposure. I’ve written on the subject here:


  10. thoreau

    Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) is a physical condition or collection of physical conditions claimed to have come from various environmental or medical factors in Kuwait or Iraq. It has variously been attributed to burning oil wells and innoculations against germ warfare agents among other things.

    While the existence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is well-established and it is fairly clear that vets of all wars suffer from it at higher rates than people in the rest of the population, GWS might have a dodgier pedigree.

    I have no way of validating the statistics that have been offered, but I do believe that combat vets deserve a hearing when they complain of war related disabilities. I might have misgivings about the war but I respect the warriors.

  11. Witness this exchange on the topic with Bill O’Reilly…

    The GWS argument aside, O’Reilly ain’t worthy to sniff the jockstrap of Hackworthy. Now the Hack is gone, and O’Lie-lly babbles on. Guess I picked the wrong planet for justice…

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