On June 30, 1993, several veterans testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. There, they related details of unexplained events that took place during the Persian Gulf War which they believed to be chemical warfare agent attacks. After these unexplained events, many of the veterans present reported symptoms consistent with exposure to a mixed agent attack. Then, on July 29, 1993, the Czech Minister of Defense announced that a Czechoslovak chemical decontamination unit had detected the chemical warfare agent Sarin in areas of northern Saudi Arabia during the early phases of the Gulf War. They had attributed the detections to fallout from coalition bombing of Iraqi chemical warfare agent production facilities.
In August 1993, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Donald W. Riegle Jr. began to research the possibility that there may be a connection between the Iraqi chemical, biological, and radiological warfare research and development programs and a mysterious illness which was then being reported by thousands of returning Gulf War veterans. In September 1993, Senator Riegle released a staff report on this issue and introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 1994 National Defense Authorization Act that provided preliminary funding for research of the illnesses and investigation of reported exposures.
When this first staff report was released by Senator Riegle, the estimates of the number of veterans suffering from these unexplained illnesses varied from hundreds, according to the Department of Defense, to thousands, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is now believed that tens of thousands of U.S. veterans are suffering from a myriad of symptoms collectively labelled either Gulf War Syndrome, Persian Gulf Syndrome, or Desert War Syndrome. Hundreds and possibly thousands of servicemen and women still on active duty are reluctant to come forward for fear of losing their jobs and medical care. These Gulf War veterans are reporting muscle and joint pain, memory loss, intestinal and heart problems, fatigue, nasal congestion, urinary urgency, diarrhea, twitching, rashes, sores, and a number of other symptoms.
They began experiencing these multiple symptoms during and after -- often many months after -- their tour of duty in the Gulf. A number of the veterans who initially exhibited these symptoms have died since returning from the Gulf. Perhaps most disturbingly, members of veteran's families are now suffering these symptoms to a debilitating degree. The scope and urgency of this crisis demands an appropriate response.
This investigation into Gulf War Syndrome, which was initiated by the Banking Committee under the direction of Chairman Riegle, has uncovered a large body of evidence linking the symptoms of the syndrome to the exposure of Gulf War participants to chemical and biological warfare agents, chemical and biological warfare pre-treatment drugs, and other hazardous materials and substances. Since the release of the first staff report on September 9, 1993, this inquiry has continued. Thousands of government officials, scientists, and veterans have been interviewed or consulted, and additional evidence has been compiled. This report will detail the findings of this ongoing investigation.
Since the Banking Committee began its inquiry, the position of the Department of Defense regarding the possible causes of Gulf War Syndrome has altered only when challenged with evidence that is difficult to dispute. Yet, despite the vast resources of the Department of Defense, several independent and congressional inquiries with limited resources continue to uncover additional evidence of hazardous exposures and suspicious events.
The Department of Defense, when first approached regarding this issue by Committee staff, contended that there was no evidence that U.S. forces were exposed to chemical warfare agents. However, during a telephone interview on September 7, 1993 with Walter Reed Army Medical Center commander Major General Ronald Blanck, Committee staff was informed that the issue of chemical and biological warfare agent exposure had not been explored because it was the position of "military intelligence" that such exposure never occurred.
Then, during a November 10, 1993 press briefing at the Pentagon, the Department of Defense acknowledged that the Czech government did detect chemical agents in the Southwest Asia theater of operations. After analyzing the results of the Czech report, the Department of Defense concluded that the detections were unrelated to the "mysterious health problems that have victimized some of our veterans." According to former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, in some cases the wind was wrong and the distances too great to suggest a link. For instance, Seabees serving to the south and east of the detection site have complained of persistent health problems; but according to the Pentagon, the wind was blowing in the other direction at the time of the detections and the concentrations were too low to do harm over that kind of a distance.
The fact is, no one has ever suggested that there was a link between the Czech detections and what occurred during the early morning hours of January 19, 1991 near the Port of Jubayl. (These two events will be described in detail in Chapter 2.) Former Defense Secretary Aspin said at the briefing that this incident could not have been from the Coalition bombings of the Iraqi chemical weapons facilities because the winds were blowing to the northwest. Yet according to available Soviet documents, the dispersal of chemical agents and other hazardous substances is controlled by other factors in addition to surface wind direction and velocity, such as topography, temperature, precipitation, vertical temperature gradient, and atmospheric humidity. These factors all contribute to the size and type of dispersal that will be observed. Unclassified visual and thermal satellite imagery confirms that the fallout from the bombings of Iraqi targets during the air and ground war moved to the southeast, with the weather patterns and upper atmospheric wind currents, towards Coalition force positions. (See Chapter 3.)
According to a knowledgeable source who has requested confidentiality, the Czechs believed that the detections were caused by the weather inversion which occurred that day (January 19, 1991) as the weather front moved southward. The Czechoslovak chemical detection unit reported this information to U.S. command officials immediately, but the responding units were unable to confirm their findings when they arrived, according to the Pentagon. Nonetheless, at the November 10, 1993 briefing, the Department of Defense admitted that the Czech detections were believed to be valid. The Department of Defense failed to disclose that the Czechoslovak chemical detection team also detected yperite (HD) that morning. The presence of both of these agents in such close proximity could only reasonably be the result of one of two possibilities: (1) direct Iraqi mixed agent attack, or (2) fallout from the Coalition bombings of Iraqi weapons facilities and storage bunkers.
Defense Department officials, having had possession of the Czech report for over a month, were at a loss to explain the chemical mustard agent detected by the Czechoslovak chemical detection team in the Saudi desert near King Khalid Military City on January 24, 1991. This despite the fact that both the Czechs and French claim that this detection was reported to U.S. command authorities during the Persian Gulf War. Additionally, during the Gulf War, the Czechs claimed that they detected Chemical nerve agent after a Scud missile attack. These statements, heretofore only reported in the press, have been confirmed by a member of the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division and by an entire platoon of a U.S. Army chemical detection unit who trained with the Czechoslovak Chemical detection unit near King Khalid Military City. These reports have not been addressed publicly by the Department of Defense and will be addressed in this report in Chapter 3.
The contents of this report supports the conclusion that U.S. forces were exposed to some level of chemical and possibly biological warfare agents during their service in the Gulf War. Any review conducted by the Pentagon must extend far beyond the information being reported by the Czech Ministry of Defense. The Czech information, while important, represents just a small fraction of the evidence currently available, only some of which will be detailed in this report.
It is now the position of the Department of Defense that it has no other evidence that U.S. forces were exposed to chemical agents. Yet this report contains descriptions and direct eyewitness accounts that provide evidence which suggest that gas was detected, along with many other events which may have been actual attacks on U.S. forces.
This report supports the conclusion that U.S. forces were exposed to chemical agents. The assertion that the levels of nerve agents detected by the Czechs and others were not harmful is flawed. In subsequent requirements for chemical detection equipment, the Department of the Army acknowledges that the principal chemical agent detection alarm deployed during the war, the M8A1 was not sufficiently sensitive to detect sustained low levels of chemical agent and to monitor personnel for contamination. Further, U.S. Army Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) indicate that chronic exposures to levels of over .0001 mg/m3 for Sarin (GB) is hazardous and requires the use of protective equipment. (See appendix A.) The minimum level of chemical agent required to activate chemical agent detection alarm M8A1, commonly in use during the war, exceeds this threshold by a factor of 1,000. (See appendix A.) As the chemical agent alarms began to sound during the "air war," French, Czech, and many U.S. commanders confirmed that they were sounding from the fallout from the bombings. Over time, even at these levels, after repeatedly being told that there was no danger, many U.S. forces failed to take precautionary measures. Other report that the alarms were sounding so frequently that they were turned off. M8A1 alarms do not detect blister agents.
The findings of this report prepared at the request of Chairman Riegle detail many other events reported by U.S. servicemen and women that in some cases confirm the detection of chemical agents by U.S. forces. In other cases these reports indicate the need for further detailed investigation. But still the question remains: Is exposure to these and other chemical agents the cause of Gulf War Syndrome? We have received hundreds of reports that many of these symptoms are being experienced by family members. Numerous developments have taken place over the last several months which suggest that, while chemical agents and other environmental hazards may have contributed to the Gulf War illnesses, bacteriological, fungal, and possibly other biological illnesses may be the fundamental cause. This position is supported by the following.
First, Dr. Edward S. Hyman, a New Orleans bacteriologist, has treated a small number of the sick veterans and several of their wives for bacteriological infections, and has developed a protocol of treatment that has resulted in symptom abatement in many of his patients.
Second, during the November 10, 1993 unclassified briefing for Members of the U.S. Senate, in response to direct questioning, then Undersecretary of Defense John Deutch said that the Department of Defense was withholding classified information on the exposure of U.S. forces to biological materials. In a Department of Defense- sponsored conference on counter-proliferation, held at Los Alamos National Laboratory on 6-7 May, 1994, Dr. Deutch admitted that biological agent detection is a priority development area for the Department of Defense, since there currently is no biological agent detection system fielded with any U.S. forces anywhere in the world.
Third, the Department of Defense has named Dr. Joshua Lederberg to head its research team into the causes of Gulf War illnesses. Dr. Lederberg, among his other credits, is a Nobel Laureate and an expert in the fields of bacteriology, genetics, and biological warfare defenses.
Fourth, in detailed informational interviews conducted of 400 Gulf War veterans, it has been learned that over 3/4 of their spouses complain that they have begun to suffer from many of the same debilitating symptoms. (See Chapter 4.)
This report, like the one which preceded it, will discuss the relationship between the high rate of Gulf War illnesses among Group I individuals (those possibly exposed to a direct mixed agent event), and the lower rates among those in Group II (individuals exposed to the indirect fallout from coalition bombings of Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear targets) and Group III (individuals who suffered severe adverse reactions to the nerve agent pre-treatment pills). Despite the varying rates of illness between the groups, however, the symptoms are similar. While other possible causes of the Gulf War Syndrome such as petrochemical poisoning, depleted uranium exposures, and regionally prevalent diseases, have been discussed elsewhere and must be pursued, there is a great deal of compelling evidence which indicates that all of these possibilities must now be seriously considered. We believe, however, that no other explanations prove as compelling as the ones which will be presented in this report.
This report includes a great number of first-hand accounts and other documentary evidence in addition to the anecdotal information that appeared in the print and electronic media during the Gulf War. It establishes convincingly that the Department of Defense assertions are inaccurate. We believe there is reliable evidence that U.S. forces were exposed to chemical and possibly biological agents. But regardless of whether U.S. forces were exposed or not, the entire official body of information, including all classified or heretofore unpublished information, available research data sets, case histories, and diagnostic breakdown information must be made available to independent civilian medical researchers in order to further the research into the causes of and treatments for these illnesses. Absent a release of information by the Department of Defense of the science which forms the bases for their theories, the Department of Defense position must be viewed by qualified scientists as anecdotal and unsubstantiated.
Given that there is also a growing body of evidence indicating that spouses and children of Gulf War veterans are vulnerable to similar illnesses, the Department of Defense must now share all of its information with civilian, non-governmental researchers. These family members are civilians who may be at risk. This illness was first reported over three years ago.
On February 9, 1994, Chairman Riegle sent a letter to Secretary of Defense William Perry asking that he release all U.S. military personnel from any oath of secrecy they may have taken regarding classified information specifically pertaining to chemical or biological warfare agent exposure in the Persian Gulf theater. This request was based on a recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences, National Institute of Medicine in their 1993 publication Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite. On May 4, 1994, the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs responded to the Chairman's letter stating that there was no classified information on chemical or biological detections or exposures. This directly contradicts the statement of Deputy Secretary Deutch in his November 10, 1993 unclassified briefing to Members and staff.
Why isn't the Department of Defense aggressively pursuing the answers to the questions surrounding of the events which may have caused illnesses being suffered by many Gulf War veterans? One possible explanation lies in a 1982 article. Then Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Tower wrote, "Chemical training in the United States armed forces is, at best, perfunctory. It is rarely conducted in a simulated contaminated environment and stocks of individual protective equipment are too limited, and therefore too valuable, to risk them in the numbers necessary to allow troops to operate in them for realistic training. As a result, most U.S. personnel are relegated to a minimal and highly artificial exposure to the problems and hardships entailed in performing their respective combat missions should they have to 'button up'." As numerous U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) reports have noted, the U.S. was not much better prepared prior to the Gulf War than it was when Senator Tower wrote in his article.