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Chapter 3, Part 1

Reports of Exposure of Coalition Forces Resulting from the Fallout of the Bombings of Iraqi Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Facilities (Group II)

The Czechoslovak Chemical Defense Unit in the Persian Gulf and the Results of the Investigations of the Military Use of Poisonous Gases.

Other Related Information

U.S. Unofficial Reports of Downwind Exposure Due to Coalition Bombings of Iraqi Chemical and Biological Facilities

Weather Reports, Climatic Information, and Imagery Smoke Plume Data

Reports of Exposure of Coalition Forces Resulting from the Fallout of the Bombings of Iraqi Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Facilities (Group II)

There were serious concerns expressed prior to the Persian Gulf War about the fallout that would be caused by the bombing of Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons production facilities, storage depots, and bunkers. Certainly these bombings were a necessary part of the conflict, but the consequences as well as the necessity must be acknowledged.

U.S. military doctrine warns that, according to its calculations, the use of a nerve agent against a target area of no more than a dozen hectares (a hectare is about 2.47 acres) can, under certain weather conditions, create a hazard zone downwind of up to 100 kilometers in length. Within this downwind area, friendly military units would have to take protective measures.100 The amount of agent and materials targeted during the Coalition bombings in Iraq exceeded the amounts cited in the example above certainly by multiples and possibly by orders of magnitude.

The dispersal of the chemical agents and other hazardous substances is controlled by factors such as topography, wind velocity, direction, temperature, precipitation, vertical temperature gradient and atmospheric humidity. These factors will all contribute to the size and type of dispersal pattern which will be observed.101 Unclassified U.S. satellite imagery confirms that debris from the Coalition bombings was upwardly dispersed, rather than downwardly dispersed as would occur in offensive use, causing chemical agents to be carried by upper atmospheric currents and distributing "trace amounts" of chemical fallout over "down weather" positions. Material distributed from the destruction of the ammunition bunkers and storage depots also travelled upward and outward as confirmed in videotaped records of the destruction of these bunkers obtained by Committee staff. These concerns relating to the fallout from the destruction of these materials were expressed by several credi! ble so uces as noted below:

  1. As a result of these concerns prior to the war, several of the U.S. national laboratories were consulted and/or prepared reports for the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the Department of Energy, advising of the hazards which were associated with bombing these facilities.102

  2. Prior to the war, Soviet chemical weapons expert I. Yevstafyev publicly advocated withholding information from the Coalition forces on chemical weapons and military facilities supplied by Moscow to Iraq, on the grounds of national security. "Strikes on chemical and biological weapons facilities on Iraq's territory could rebound on us and cause damage to the population of our country."103

  3. On February 4, 1991, media sources reported that General Raymond Germanos, a spokesperson for the French Ministry of Defense, confirmed that chemical fallout -- "probably neurotoxins" -- had been detected in small quantities, "a little bit everywhere," from allied air attacks of Iraqi chemical weapons facilities and the depots that stored them.104

  4. In late July, 1993, the Czech Minister of Defense confirmed that a Czechoslovak Federative Republic military chemical decontamination unit assigned to an area near the Saudi-Iraqi border had detected the chemical nerve agent Sarin in the air during the early stages of the Gulf War. In this unit, 18 of 169 individuals are believed to be suffering from Gulf War illnesses.105 While the report goes to some length to refute any allegations of the detection being the result of a direct chemical attack, it does defend the ability of the Czech chemical detection equipment to irrefutably confirm traces of chemical warfare agents. Further, the U.S. Government, in the November 10, 1993, briefing only referenced the detection of the nerve agent Sarin (GB) by the Czech forces on January 19, 1991. The Czech document, however, states that both Sarin and Yperite (HD) were detected that day. The fact that multiple agents were detected in measurable airborne concentrations suggests ! that t he agents may have emanated from fallout from Coalition bombings of Iraqi chemical weapons plants or storage bunkers, or from a direct mixed agent attack.

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The Czechoslovak Chemical Defense Unit in the Persian Gulf and the Results of the Investigations of the Military Use of Poisonous Gases.

This section contains the main body of the translated Czech government report, prepared by the Czech Ministry of Defense in response to requests from Members of the Congress of the United States. Following this translation of the report are related accounts from independent sources.

The unit of 169 Czechoslovak military specialists was dispatched into the Gulf on the basis of an agreement between the governments of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic (CSFR) and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) regarding their activities and the conditions of their stay in Saudi Arabia. This Agreement was signed in Prague on November 19, 1990 and amended in Riyadh on November 22, 1990. The Federal Assembly of the CFSR ratified this Agreement. Resolution 97 was modified by an amendment by the Federal Assembly, authorizing the government of the CFSR to accept a provision of the agreement to permit the crossing of the international borders between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Government gave its approval through Resolution 71, dated January 31, 1991.

By executive order of the Commander of the Northern Region of the Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the unit was assigned on the 22nd of December, in accordance with Article IV of the Agreement, to the military configuration of that region. As of January 1, 1991, the two chemical defense platoons were assigned to the 4th and 20th Brigades of the Army of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The remainder of the unit was assigned to the base camp and to the headquarters.

Dislocation and strategic command of the unit was completely within the power of the Army of Saudi Arabia. Colonel Jan Valo, commander of the unit, provided specific assignment orders. His duty was to assure that in the course of fulfilling their duties, no Czechoslovak law or basic standard of international law was violated.

Beginning on January 27, 1991, the two chemical defense platoons were assigned to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia brigades, crossing the border into Kuwait. They participated actively in assuring the anti-chemical defenses of the allied units during their execution of the operational plan. On February 5, 1991, the unit was supplemented, bringing its total numbers to 198 people.

The Czechoslovak anti-chemical defense unit primarily performed the following tasks:

  1. Anti-chemical defense of the headquarters of the northern region troops located in the area of King Khalid Military City;

  2. Anti-chemical defense of the 4th and 20th Brigades of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia;

  3. In the case of chemical attack of personnel, provide on their behalf facilities for chemical treatment and decontamination.

A part of the anti-chemical defense provisions was continuous chemical intelligence and surveillance, with the objective to identify the use of poisonous substances, provide data for alerting forces, and assist commanders in their decision making.

During the period after the commencement of the war on January 17, 1991, borderline concentration of poisonous substances were identified in the air by our chemical surveillance. In the Commander's Report, covering the anti-chemical defense battalions' activities during the period from January 1, 1991 until February 28, 1991, it specifically stated.

"During this period borderline life threatening concentrations of the chemical agents yperite [HD] and sarin [GB] were identified several times in both areas of the brigades and in King Khalid Military City (i.e., in the military encampment where the unit was stationed) probably the result of the Allies' air attacks on the storage facilities of chemical ammunition in the territory of Iraq." This information had been published at the time in the Czechoslovak media."

This aforementioned fact was confirmed by members of the battalion, chemical defense specialists who evaluated and ordered measures for personal protection. (see Attachments - pages from the book of the Operations Unit of the General Command of the Czechoslovak Army in prague, record #56), and all means of anti-chemical defenses were employed. After about two hours the alert was called off when repeated confirmation tests provided negative results.

The concentrations found, "0.002 grams of yperite per cubic meter and 0.003 mg per liter of an unspecified poisonous substance," [later identified by DoD as Sarin] are at the border of the maximum permitted threshold concentration affecting human organisms. These, however, were only one-time positive results from chemical surveillance which were not confirmed by anyone from the other participating countries. This was supported by the report on January 31, 1991:

"Since January 19th, the Czechoslovak unit has not found any other chemical substances."

The Czechoslovak anti-chemical defense unit had at its disposal all modern chemical surveillance and control technology. These are able to identify borderline levels (levels that do not affect the functions of human organisms) of suspected toxic substances and they can differentiate the nerve agents, such as sarin, from "V" agents.

The assertion that the chemicals were of very low concentrations that do not even cause temporary or minute changes in human organisms can be supported by the following facts:

All of the chemical specialists were professional soldiers (there were 56 of them assigned over the length of the conflict). They are all graduates of military colleges and middle schools with a chemical defense major, and according to the curriculum, worked with highly toxic substances both in the laboratories and in field training. The training of anti-chemical specialists with selected types of poisonous materials had been conducted practically since the beginning of the anti-chemical defense program in 1956 until February 1990, when such training was halted because of complaints of destruction of the environment from environmental protection movements and the mayors of communities.

The anti-chemical defense specialists who had undergone this training are professionals, and they are able to identify the presence of toxic materials in the terrain, on military equipment, and in the air within the sensitivity ranges of the instruments used. Therefore, there is a high probability that the identified presence of poisonous materials is an objective analysis. At the same time, concentrations that are used at chemical field exercises and in laboratories are several times higher than the concentrations that were measured in the Persian Gulf.

It has been proven that military use of chemical weapons by Iraq did not occur and any such fact would have already have been subjecfted to extensive investigation by agencies of world peace organizations. One can consider that the data measured could have had origins from industrial facilities or even storage facilities of chemical ammunition that were hit by allied bombardment. This is supported by a report of the unit's copmmander, by my statements, and by other direct participants. All members of the unit were equipped with the most modern means of protection against toxic substances. They were fully comparable with the current world standard. Any kind of exposure by these types of toxic substances would manifest itself immediately or in a very short time, and nothing of this kind has been reported. Latent damage, if it can even be considered in this group, would surely have been uncovered during exit examinations.

On the basis of the abovementioned facts, one can conclude that the event cannot in any way be connected with the use of chemical weapons or their use in battlefield activities, and harm to the Czechoslovak anti-chemical defense unit due to the military use of toxic substances could not have occurred.

These conclusions also are supported by health care specialists. Neither at the time of identification of the toxic substances, nor later, was any member of the unit put under medical care as a result of exposure at this event. All members of the unit were subjected to a complex examination in military hospitals after their return from the Persian Gulf -- primarily in the Central Military Hospital in Prague. Even there, no serious changes caused by demanding climatic conditions or by exposure to toxic substances were identified.

Many veterans of the Persian Gulf conflict later participated in, and still participate in, activities of the unit in the Czech Republic Army in Yugoslavia. Even at the time of their departure, no one mentioned any problems.

Despite this, as of 31 August 1993, military doctors had examined 18 Persian Gulf veterans who suffered certain health problems, and three of them remain under a doctor's supervision. So far, in their cases, nothing has been identified beyond 'routine' problems related to similar long-term stays abroad.

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Other Related Information:

On October 8, 1993, U.S. Senate staff interviewed Joseph Boccardi, who initially came forward with information about the detection of chemical agents by the Czechoslovak chemical detection unit prior to the release of the Czech report quoted above. According to this witness, a former member of the U.S. Army assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division as an M1A1 tank crewmember (driver/loader/gunner), he was injured when he fell off a tank during his service in the Gulf War. He was sent to a medical holding area in northern Saudi Arabia. While there, he was befriended by a lieutenant assigned to the holding unit (Lt. Babika). The lieutenant came to him one day and told him to come along with him.

According to Mr. Boccardi, he and the lieutenant drove about 15-20 minutes to a facility that he was told had been used as a Saudi basic training camp. Mr. Boccardi described the facility as beautiful and palace-like (near King Khalid Military City). Once inside, the lieutenant began speaking a foreign language which Mr. Boccardi believed to be Russian to two soldiers armed with AK-47s standing at the top of a staircase. The soldiers answered. The lieutenant explained that he was speaking Czech and that these soldiers were also Czech.

Mr. Boccardi said that he and lieutenant went into a room where there were about nine soldiers, smoking, drinking vodka, and playing cards. He learned that they were a NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) team. He asked someone there "if we were kicking their butts so bad, why didn't they hit us with chemicals?" At that, everyone in the room got quiet and the Czech colonel spoke in "broken English" for the first time. He said, according to Mr. Boccardi, "they did hit us with chemicals." According to the Czech colonel, a SCUD hit where they were staying. As soon as they learned that the Patriot had missed the SCUD, they put on their chemical gear and went out onto a balcony near the railing. The Czech colonel said they detected traces of Sarin and another gas which Mr. Boccardi believed began with the letter T.

According to Mr. Boccardi, the Czech colonel said that he called U.S. command officials about the result of their tests. He, the Czech colonel, said that he was told not to say anything about it. The colonel also said that he later heard that a number of the soldiers in the area developed skin rashes shortly after this incident.

After this part of the conversation, the individuals discussed in general terms why they were not supposed to discuss the incident. This Czech colonel was identified as the commanding officer of this unit.

On December 5, 1993, according to published press reports, Jean Paul Ferrand, a logistics officer with the French contingent, told Senator Richard Shelby that nerve agents and mustard agents were detected on January 24 or 25, 1991, in an area south of King Khalid Military City. According to an Agency France Press report on that date, Ferrand said that two chemical weapons alarms went off when a storm blew wind from Iraq. Ferrand was also attributed as having said that special badges worn on the troops protective suits also registered the presence of chemical weapons.106

On Monday, March 28, 1994, Committee staff were contacted by a member of the 371st Chemical Company, located in Greenwood, South Carolina. This individual said that during the Gulf War, he served with the 1st platoon of this unit in the vicinity of King Khalid Military City (KKMC). According to this individual and several other members of his platoon interviewed by Committee staff, two days after an Iraqi Scud missile warhead had exploded in the desert, his platoon was sent to a site in the desert a few miles south of KKMC to train with the Czech chemical detection team that had conducted tests. They also were trained on the Czech equipment. According to two additional members of the platoon who trained with the Czech team, and were interviewed by Committee staff on April 4, 1994 in the Army Reserve Center in Greenwood, South Carolina, the Czech colonel who commanded the unit had told them that his unit had detected measurable quantities of chemical nerve agent immediat! ely af ter the Scud attack. Unit members were not able to determine the exact date of the incident, but believe it was sometime in mid to late January 1991.

The members of the unit described the facility where the Czechoslovak team lived as the "glass palace." They believed that it had previously been used as a Saudi military engineering training facility. The members of the U.S. unit who trained with the Czechs, all NBC specialists, said that the Czech equipment appeared to be more reliable than their own.

The unit Executive officer and first sergeant, while not present during the training mission, confirmed that they too were aware of the training, the missile attack, and the reported detection of the chemicals. The unit first sergeant said that this information had been recorded in the units logs, but that he received a message to send the logs to Washington, D.C. for historical purposes shortly after they returned from the Persian Gulf.

When asked if their unit did biological agent testing after incoming missiles had detonated, members of the unit said that they had no biological agent testing capability. While there were several other NBC units in the area, they were unaware of any unit that was conducting biological agent tests.

Finally, the unit said that they had been deployed on several occasions to decontaminate the buses and other vehicles that were used to transport Iraqi enemy prisoners of war to detention facilities.

One member of the unit estimated that as many as 85% of the members of this unit are currently suffering from many of the symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome.

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U.S. Unofficial Reports of Downwind Exposure Due to Coalition Bombings of Iraqi Chemical and Biological Facilities

  1. During the early phases of the air war, there was extensive media coverage of the coalition bombing of Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear facilities. ABC News reported that on January 27, 1991, near the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division went through a chemical alert drill that was more than an exercise. According to ABC News coverage, their sensors actually registered traces of chemicals in the air, the result, it appeared, of allied bombing of chemical plants in Iraq. A U.S. medical corpsman told reporters, "When the Air Force bombers hit all the gas places there in Iraq, there's a lot of contamination in the air. Some may have filtered down and set these things off. They're very, very sensitive."107

  2. Brian Martin, of Niles, Michigan, a Gulf War veteran of the 37th Airborne Combat Engineer Battalion, 20th Airborne Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps, arrived in Saudi Arabia on October 8, 1990. According to Martin, in late January 1991, while assigned to an area between Rafha and Naryian about six miles south of the Iraqi border, he recorded in his journal and on videotape that chemical "false alarms" were going off almost every day. At first, according to Martin, the alarms were explained as being caused by vapors coming off the sand. Later, since the alarms kept going off and the troops no longer believed that they were being caused by the vapors, Martin said he was informed by both his battalion commander and the battalion NBC NCO that the alarms were sounding because of "minute" quantities of nerve agent in the air, released by the coalition bombing of Iraqi chemical weapons facilities. The troops were assured that there was no danger.

    Mr. Martin believes that he witnessed a Patriot intercept of an incoming SCUD missile between Khafji and Wadi Al Batin during the air war period. He was also given the anti-chemical warfare medication pyridostigmine bromide, and suffered some adverse side effects. He says the drug made him jittery and made his vision "jiggle." Since returning from Saudi Arabia, Mr. Martin has experienced memory loss, swollen and burning feet, joint disorders, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, rashes, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, bleeding from the rectum, chronic coughing, running nose, burning eyes, and uncontrollable shaking on his right-side extremeties.108

  3. Mr. Troy Albuck, former anti-tank platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division, reported to Committee staff that his unit was told that the chemical alarms were going off because of what was drifting down from the Coalition bombings. He explained that his understanding of the situation was that "it was a lot like the effect of gasoline funes," in that non-lethal exposure was not harmful and would be counteracted by fresh air.109

  4. Another source who requested confidentiality reported that he was located approximately 40 miles due east of King Khalid Military City (KKMC), when at one position, every M-8 alarm went off -- over 30 at once. The date was between January 20th and February 1, 1991. The NBC NCO radioed in that a nerve agent plant had been bombed about 150 miles away. The source recalled that they were told to take no action and they did not.110

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    Weather Reports, Climatic Information, and Imagery Smoke Plume Data

    Operation Desert Storm

    Weather reports during this period were censored by the U.S. and Saudi governments. But environmental groups monitoring an oil spill in the Persian Gulf confirm that the winds were at times blowing from the northwest to the southeast. The chemical and biological warfare agent production plants heavily bombed by the coalition forces during this period are located in Iraq to the north and northwest of coalition troop deployments along the Saudi-Iraqi and Saudi-Kuwaiti border.111

    As cited above, the dispersal of chemical agents and other hazardous substances is controlled by other factors in addition to 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.

    In March 1992, the U.S. Air Force Environmental Technical Application Center published a compendium of the weather during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The following is a summary of relevant data for January 17, 1991 through March 2, 1991, excerpted from Gulf War Weather. The report documents the changing weather conditions, detailing the wind and rain patterns that could easily have delivered chemical and biological agents to Coalition troop emplacements. On many dates, this report notes the smoke and dust from the bombings and from the burning oil wells. The notation of visible smoke plumes is not intended to depict the actual fallout from the bombed chemical, biological, and nuclear facilities, but rather to generally reflect the direction of movement of debris from the bombings.

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