ANALYSIS OF THE INCIDENT
Presence of Chemical Weapons in Kuwait
To date we have found no evidence Iraq moved chemical weapons or chemical agents into Kuwait. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has made the following statement:
Our current understanding is that Iraq did not deploy CW into Kuwait during the Gulf War. The furthest south Iraqi CW has been found is at Khamisiyah, Iraq.
There are several reasons to believe that the Iraqis never deployed CW into Kuwait. First, there is no confirmed evidence that they did so. Neither Kuwait nor the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) companies assisting the Kuwaitis have reported finding any CW during cleanup operations. Iraqi troops stationed in Kuwait often did not have the best CW defensive equipment. This indicates they were not prepared to fight in a contaminated environment.
The Iraqis also feared U.S. retaliation if they used chemical weapons and may have decided to use them only if the regimes survival were threatened. This would explain why Iraq deployed CW to Khamisiyah and An Nasiriyah, but not to Kuwait. Finally, Iraqs most well trained and trusted forces, the Republican Guard - who were in Iraq, not Kuwait - were the units best equipped to deliver CW. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that any CW were stored behind these forces, not in front of them.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concurs with DIAs assessment. "We also conclude that Iraq did not use chemical or biological agents nor were any agents located in Kuwait."
In line with these intelligence community assessments, it is highly unlikely there were chemical weapons in this ASP. According to the EOD team, as well as message traffic and log entries from March 1st, 1991, no chemical weapons were in the ASP on that day. Once the ground war ended, only Coalition forces - primarily the U.S. and Kuwaiti - had access to this ASP. We have found no records of U.S. forces discovering or destroying chemical weapons in Kuwait between March 1991 and the beginning of cleanup operations in 1992. The ASP was still intact when the leader of the EOD team returned as an unexploded ordnance contractor. The ASP was inspected twice during the reconnaissance and dismantling phases of cleanup operations. No chemical weapons were found at either time. Additionally, we have found no records the Kuwaitis discovering chemical weapons anywhere inside their country after the war. While it is possible they did so and did not report it, it is unlikely. The Kuwaitis would have had no motivation to conceal the presence of Iraqi chemical weapons on their soil and a great deal of incentive to announce their presence, should they have been found.
The MM-1 Mass Spectrometer in the Fox vehicles used by U.S. forces during the Gulf War, was a sophisticated detector. However, according to GySgt Grass, when his vehicle received the alarms in the ASP, its detection equipment was operating in the "Air/Hi" (vapor detection) method. This is the least sensitive method of employment. The Fox vehicle was designed primarily to detect residual persistent liquid agents on the ground. While the MM-1 "will respond to vapor...its sensitivity threshold to most chemical warfare agents is well above the militarily significant concentration." That is to say, although the MM-1 can detect chemical agent vapors, an inordinate amount of liquid must be present to create sufficient vapors to cause the MM-1 to alarm. Such a large amount of liquid agent would have been noticed by the Fox crew and other personnel who inspected the ASP; except for the puddle of rainwater, none of the Marines who entered or inspected the ASP mentioned large puddles of liquid or leaking munitions.
Although GySgt Grass has stated the MM-1 operator did whatever he was trained to do to get and print a full spectrum, we have no information on the procedures the MM1 operator used to print the tapes from the ASP. Without these tapes, it is impossible to determine what the MM-1 alerted for. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the tapes were lost and probably inadvertently destroyed.
It is possible to retrieve a spectrum from the MM-1 computer, if it is among the last 72 spectra saved in memory. In 1994, in response to questions raised by Congress, the Army dispatched a team of subject matter experts to read the memory of all Operation Desert Storm (ODS) era Fox vehicles. By that time, Fox vehicle #5604 was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. A memorandum prepared by the Army team states:
No spectra or extra substances were found in USMC S/N 5604 which was the vehicle which reported Lewisite and benzyl bromide detections during ODS.
This indicates there were no spectra saved in the MM-1s memory - probably because an MM-1 operator, in the course of routine maintenance, erased all previously performed spectra.
Marines from the 1/5 used Chemical Agent Monitors (CAMs) to check for chemical agents at the ASP/Orchard. According to the Armys Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM), the CAM is significantly more effective at detecting Mustard agent than the "Air/Hi" method used by the Fox. (See Table 1) Despite their greater sensitivity, the CAMs detected no chemical agents at the ASP/Orchard.
Mustard, the agent named in the first two Fox alarms, is a persistent liquid agent. Indications of its presence should still have been in the ASP when the EOD team inspected it the day after the alarms and when elements of the 1/5 conducted their inspection while encamped in the area. Additionally, several members of the Fox crew recall being outside their vehicle in MOPP-2that is, carrying, but not wearing, their protective masks and gloveswhen they got these alarms. No one recalls any garlic smells indicating mustard agent and none of the exposed crew reported any physical symptoms consistent with exposure to mustard agent. Members of the 1/5 also went through the ASP unprotected; again, there were no reports of a garlic scent or symptoms of mustard agent exposure. Battlefield contaminantsincluding those from burning oil wellscould have caused the Fox to alarm for the possible presence of mustard.
Benzyl Bromide, the third agent alarmed for in the ASP, is not typically put in weapons and there is no evidence Iraq had developed a delivery method for this agent. As with the mustard alarms, both the Fox vehicle driver and the wheel operator recall the presence of unprotected soldiers (in addition to the Fox vehicle crew) when the MM-1 alerted for this agent. No one, with the exception of the driver, recalls any physical symptoms consistent with exposure to Benzyl Bromide, a tearing agent. The driver recalls feeling a temporary burning sensation on his hand after the Benzyl Bromide alarm. However, this is not consistent with exposure to tearing agents. He believes the short-lived burning sensation to have been a psychosomatic response to the alarm, rather than a symptom of chemical agent exposure. According to experts at the Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM), there are several possible explanations for the Benzyl Bromide alarm. "The ions used to identify benzyl bromide could have come from toluene, a common solvent and cyclopentadiene (C5H6), which is used as an insecticide and a fungicide." Toluene, used as a solvent and found in aviation gasoline, could have come from the industrial area located nearby. Cyclopentadiene, a common insecticide, may have been used sometime previously in the orchard area.
This investigation is not complete, but based on the information available so far, the presence of chemical weapons or agents in the ASP inspected by GySgt Grasss Fox vehicle on February 28, 1991 is judged to be "Unlikely." Based on testimony and interviews with participants it seems certain the Fox MM-1 alerted to the possible presence of S-Mustard and HT-Mustard (both persistent blister agents) as well as Benzyl Bromide (a tearing agent) in the ASP on the 28th. The MM-1 operator printed tapes of these alerts. Investigation has failed to turn-up these tapes or determine the procedures used to print them.
According to interviews with members of the Fox crew, as well as Marines from the 1/5 (the unit co-located with the ASP), there were unprotected personnel in the ASP when the Fox vehicle received these alerts. None of these personnel received any chemical injuries or experienced symptoms consistent with the presence of the alerted for chemical agents.
The Fox vehicle commander reported the alerts and passed the MM-1 tapes to his chain-of-command. These tapes have been lost and are believed to have been inadvertently destroyed after the war. Without these MM-1 tapes it is impossible to determine what caused the MM-1 to alarm. However, these alerts to possible contamination in the ASP were well-documented and were reported up the Task Force Ripper and 1st MarDiv chain-of-command to CENTCOM.
Based on the reporting of the alerts up the chain-of-command, an EOD team was ordered to re-inspect the ASP the following day, 1 March 1991. The EOD team visually inspected the ASP with the assistance of M8/M9 chemical detector paper and the M18A2 chemical detector kit. The M18A2 is a more sensitive detector than the Fox MM-1 in the "Air/Hi" mode. Despite this, the EOD team inspections failed to turn up evidence of the persistent chemical agent Mustard, the tearing agent Benzyl Bromide or any chemical weapons. The negative results of the EOD team inspections were also passed up the chain-of-command to CENTCOM.
In addition to the Fox vehicle and EOD team inspections, Marines from the 1/5 inspected the ASP using Chemical Agent Monitors. As with the M18A2, the CAM is more sensitive than the Fox MM-1 in the "Air/Hi" mode. The 1/5 inspections also failed to turn-up evidence of chemical agents or chemical weapons in the ASP.
The leader of the EOD team that inspected the ASP on March 1, 1991 returned to Kuwait after the Gulf War and was involved in clean-up operations throughout the country, including this ASP. There were no chemical weapons discovered or chemical agents detected at any time during these multi-phased clean-up operations. The U.S. Intelligence Community continues to assess that Iraq never moved chemical weapons into Kuwait.
Given the preceding evidence and analysis, we assess it is unlikely there were chemical weapons or chemical agents in the ASP. Without the MM1 tapes, we cannot definitively say the alarms in the ASP on February 28, 1991 were false positives. However, the evidence suggests the alarms were indeed false positives and were most probably caused by battlefield contaminants, contaminants from the orchard and/or contaminants from a nearby industrial facility. The negative results of the more sensitive EOD tests on March 1, 1991, as well as the CAM inspections conducted by Marines from 1/5, outweigh the Fox alarms on February 28th. The Intelligence Communitys assessment that Iraq never moved chemical agents or weapons into Kuwait before the war, the absence of physical symptoms among exposed personnel and the absence of chemical weapons discoveries in Kuwait after the war also lend weight to an "unlikely" assessment.
This assessment is tentative, based on the information available to us to date. This case will be reassessed over time in accordance with any new information and feedback from the publication of this narrative.
This case is still being investigated. As additional information becomes available, it will be incorporated. If you have records, photographs, recollections, or find errors in the details reported, please contact the DOD Persian Gulf Task Force Hot Line at 1-800-472-6719.
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