SENATOR SHELBY'S CONCLUSIONS ON THE PERSIAN GULF SYNDROME (Senate - March 17, 1994)
Dear Mr. Chairman: I am enclosing a full report of our investigation of the issues related to the possible presence of chemical and biological weapons agents in the theater of operations during Desert Storm and the possible connection between service in the Persian Gulf and the unexplained illness affecting thousands of veterans. This report includes:
Tab A: Interim report of European trip to investigate the Persian Gulf War Syndrome.
Tab B: Report of Middle East trip to continue the investigation into the Persian Gulf War Syndrome.
Tab C: Conclusions and Recommendations.
Tab D: Floor Statement regarding the our investigation of the Persian Gulf Syndrome on behalf of the Committee on Armed Services.
Iraq entered the conflict with a demonstrated chemical weapons capability--having used chemical weapons indiscriminately during the Iran-Iraq War, not only against the Iranians, but also against the Iraqi Kurds. Iraq was also suspected of developing a biological weapons capability, most likely antrax and botulism. As the coalition formed to fight Iraq's aggression, Suddam Hussein made inflamatory statements implying that he was willing to use these weapons to defeat the coalition by inflicting mass casualties.
With this knowledge and Saddam Hussein's threatening statements, the coalition forces strongly believed that Iraq would use chemical and biological weapons should there be a war. An array of defensive measures were adopted including an air campaign against all known chemical and biological weapons sites intended to disrupt Iraq's ability to use its chemical and biological weapons arsenal and signal to Iraqi military leaders that it would be in their interest to disobey any orders from Saddam Hussein to use chemical and biological weapons. Additionally, U.S. officials repeatedly made statements that the use of chemical and biological weapons would be taken very seriously.
While the threat of the use of chemical or biological weapons against the coalition forces was prevalent throughout the conflict, we received no indication from the Department of Defense that during or in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf conflict Iraqi forces used either chemical or biological warfare agents or that Coalition forces discovered any stocks of chemical or biological warfare agents.
Within a year after the highly successful Desert Storm operation, reports surfaced of a mystery illness affecting many veterans of the war. Symptoms included: joint pain, fatigue, headaches, decreased short-term memory, rashes, painful burning muscles, sleep disorders and diarrhea. While individually these manifestations are common to many illnesses, these particular series of ailments did not respond to any known treatments.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1992 required the establishment of a registry of all U.S. armed forces in the theater of operations during Operation Desert Storm who may have been exposed to fumes from burning oil well fires. Despite the establishment of this registry and the registry established by the Veterans Affairs Committee of all participants in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm, little progress has been made on either the causes or the treatment of this mysterious illness. As a result, veterans have been seeking treatment outside of the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs medical community.
As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Force Requirements and Personnel, I conducted a hearing on June 30, 1993, on military medical health care. I included a panel of Gulf War veterans consisting of Congressman Stephen Buyer of Indiana; Army Staff Sergeant Kerry Riegel; Petty Officer Sterling Sims, a member of the 24th Construction Battalion of the Naval Reserves; and Sergeant Willie Hicks, a member of the 644th Ordinance Company of the Alabama Army National Guard.
Just days before, a leading U.S. newspaper published a report that U.S. forces may have been exposed to chemical warfare agents during the Desert Storm. In testimony, both Petty Officer Sterling Sims and Sergeant Willie Hicks spoke in great detail about their possible exposure to chemical attacks.
On July 2, 1993, The Czech News Agency reported that
Czechoslovakian military units detected chemical warfare agents,
both nerve gas and mustard agent, in the Saudi theater of
operations during the opening days of the air war against Iraq.
G-series nerve gas was found by a Czech chemical detection unit attached to Saudi troops in the area of Hafar-Al-Batin on January 19, 1991. Mustard agent was found in a 20200 centimeter patch in the desert north of King Khalid Military City on January 24, 1991. A report of these detections was forwarded to the Department of Defense by the Czech government.
This announcement by the Czech News Agency led to a series of meetings with Department of Defense officials, including Undersecretary of Defense John Deutch. While Department of Defense officials maintained that they had no evidence of any chemical weapons attacks by Iraq during the Gulf War, the Department of Defense could not confirm or deny the presence of chemical warfare agents at low levels in the theater of operations.
It was in response to these events that you authorized my travel to the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and France during the period of November 28 through December 5, 1993 and to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Israel and Morocco from January 3 to January 15, 1994. I was accompanied by Dr. Edwin Dorn, then Assistant Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, on the first leg of this investigation. Major General Ronald Blanck, Commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, traveled with me on both legs of this journey.
In preparation for the trips, I, and members of my personal staff and the Committee on Armed Services staff received a briefing by Department of Defense officials. Upon our return, I tasked my personal staff and the SASC staff to meet again with Department of Defense officials in an attempt to answer questions and inconsistencies which arose as a result of information learned from these trips.
The following report provides details of my contacts with high-level representatives of the Coalition forces, several inescapable conclusions, and a floor statement addressing this issue.
Committee on Armed Services,
Memorandum to Senator Nunn and Senator Thurmond.
From: Senator Shelby.
CC: Senator Coats.
Subject: Report on trip to investigate `Persian Gulf syndrome.'
The following is a report on my trip to investigate issues related to the possible presence of chemical/biological weapons agents in the theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War, and any possible connection between service in the Persian Gulf War and the illness among U.S. veterans referred to as the Persian Gulf Syndrome. The trip included visits to Prague, Czech Republic; London, England; and Paris, France.
Members of the Codel included two members of my personal staff, who serve as S. Res. to the SASC (Terry Lynch and Tom Young) and four members of the SASC staff with responsibilities in the area of manpower, personnel and chemical/biological defense (Charles Abell, Monica Chavez, P.T. Henry, and Frank Norton).
Additionally, the Codel included representatives from DOD (Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) Ed Dorn, Major General Ron Blanck, Commander, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Colonel John Speigel, military assistant to ASD Dorn).
Although the trip was productive, our investigation is incomplete. I believe a trip to the Middle East to meet with our coalition allies stationed in the areas in question is necessary to resolve key questions about the possible presence of chemical agents in the theater of operations and the possible causes of the Persian Gulf Syndrome.
The following is a summary of what the Codel learned during its trip.
Enroute to Prague, the Codel had a layover in Frankfurt, West
Germany during which the Codel met with the Deputy Chief of Staff
for Operations (DCSOPS) and representatives from the Headquarters
of the US Army Europe (USAREUR), and received a briefing on the
military and civilian draw down in Europe. During the briefing,
the USAREUR representatives provided their
assessment of possible chemical weapons use/employment during the Persian Gulf War.
The USAREUR representatives offered the following information:
On January 19, 1991, a Czech chemical unit detected G-series nerve agents in two locations on January 19 in concentrations which were militarily insignificant. U.S. chemical reconnaissance troops were called in to verify the detection and were unable to detect any agent at either of the two locations.
On January 24, 1991, a Czech chemical unit detected mustard agent in a wet sand patch, measuring 2 meters by sixty centimeters, two kilometers north of King Khalid Military City (KKMC). (Note: Other sources would place this detection 10 kilometers north of KKMC.)
On January 17, 1991, the U.S. bombed a chemical weapons munitions storage site at An Nasiryah, located 200 kilometers from the Saudi-Iraq border. The U.S. does not believe this action was the cause of the January 19 detection of nerve agent by the Czech chemical unit.
The USAREUR representatives believe that the Saudis had an underground chemical training facility in the vicinity of the `wet spot,' which could account for the small amounts of chemical agents detected.
The USAREUR representatives also believe that the chemicals detected may have been a part of an attempt on the part of the Saudis to test the capabilities of the Czech chemical units. The briefers did not offer any information on where the Saudis would have gotten the chemical weapons agents.