On the night of February 24-25 Marines initiated and responded to five chemical warfare agent alerts near Al Jaber air base. According to the Marines we interviewed, misidentifying artillery smoke as chemical warfare agents caused these alerts. No other evidence corroborates agent presence during these alerts. Marines with the 1st MARDIV headquarters element conducted M256 tests for each alert outside the air base and recorded no positive results for chemical warfare agents. Neither Marines nor unprotected Iraqi prisoners at Al Jaber reported any injuries characteristic of chemical warfare agent exposure. The lack of casualties and negative test results strongly indicate the presence of chemical warfare agents is unlikely.

We examined the circumstances surrounding the 6:00 PM event on February 25. The identity of this alert’s original reporting source eluded investigators. The 3d Tank Battalion, Task Force Ripper, and 1st MARDIV NBC officers knew of no positive M256 tests in this alert and would have been notified had one occurred. No chemical warfare casualties resulted from this alert. No evidence supports the chemical warfare agent’s presence except for a log entry. Based on the lack of evidence corroborating chemical warfare presence and NBC officers’ statements contradicting the log entry, we assess this incident as unlikely.

In the alert the Fox NBC vehicle commander reported, it is unclear if the crew obtained a spectrum. The Fox tape that might have provided additional information for analysis (even without the spectrum) no longer exists. Nevertheless, the Fox vehicle commander and several crew members state the Fox performed a spectrum analysis indicating mustard agent presence, while another crew member recalled only recording an initial alert. An initial alert signals only the possibility of chemical warfare agent presence, while a spectrum analysis indicating mustard is strong evidence chemical warfare agent is present. The crew’s sometimes-contradictory recollections of the mustard spectrum are the only evidence we have pointing to a possible chemical warfare agent exposure.

Other evidence conflicts with the Fox alert. Had mustard been present, we would expect casualties. We found no reports of chemical warfare agent exposure symptoms to Task Force Ripper Marines. The M256 tests around the Fox vehicle did not identify mustard presence. The alert report contradicts expert expectations about a mustard exposure in two critical aspects: although mustard persists for weeks, especially in temperatures encountered in Kuwait in February, this alert lasted only minutes; and, although mustard is primarily a liquid hazard with minimal vapor volatility, a liquid source of this mustard vapor could not be identified.

Additional information supports the evidence contradicting the Fox alert. Our efforts to find evidence of Iraq’s chemical weapons in and around Al Jaber air base verified only Iraq possessed chemical weapons, specifically mustard munitions. We uncovered no indications Iraq moved chemical munitions to Kuwait and disposal experts did not identify any during clean up. Therefore, based on all available information, we assess the presence of chemical warfare agents in the Fox alert near Al Jaber air base is unlikely.

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