SENATOR SHELBY'S CONCLUSIONS ON THE PERSIAN GULF SYNDROME (Senate - March 17, 1994)
While in Prague, the Codel met with members of the Czech chemical unit that served in the Persian Gulf: Colonel Kozak, Chief of the Chemical Troops; Lieutenant Colonel Smehlik, Senior Chemical officer in the Persian Gulf; Major Zilinsky and Captain Ferus, leaders of the Czech chemical units in the Persian Gulf during the operations.
The following is a summary of what was learned in the discussions with the members of the Czech chemical unit:
The Czechs initially had 169 members in their chemical detection unit that deployed to the Persian Gulf. That number subsequently increased to approximately 190. These forces included chemical, medical, and other support personnel. The Czech chemical unit was under contract to the Saudi government to provide chemical weapons/agent detection to the Saudi government during the Persian Gulf War.
On January 19, 1991, Czech chemical units, that were working with 4th and 20th Saudi brigades and were separated by approximately 20 kilometers, made three nearly simultaneous detections of a low concentration of G-series nerve agent in the air. The Czechs consider the three nearly simultaneous detections to be `one' event. The Czechs indicated that the detections took place in the late afternoon and that the event lasted approximately 40 minutes. The Czechs determined that, at ground level at the time of the event, the wind was blowing from the northwest. The Department of Defense had previously advised the Committee that the prevailing winds were blowing northeastward.
The Czechs took air samples from two of the three locations, and verified the contents of the air samples in their mobile laboratory to contain G-series nerve agent. The Czechs were not able to distinguish between sarin or soman. LTC Smehlik indicated, however, that they had excluded V-series agents. These air samples were sent back to then Czechoslovakia, and are no longer available, as they have been used up. An air sample from the third location was not taken for the purpose of verification because the Czech chemical unit was moving at the time of the alarm.
Note: In the U.S., G-series nerve agents Sarin and Tabun are considered to be nonpersistent, evaporating at the same rate as water. VX, a persistent nerve agent, evaporates much more slowly, and spills of liquid VX can persist for a long time under average weather conditions.
Captain Ferus, a leader of one of the Czech chemical units, informed us that on January 24, 1991, he was summoned by Saudi officials to an area 10 kilometers north of KKMC. His unit was accompanied to the area by Saudi soldiers, where he was asked to check the area for chemical agents. His unit detected mustard agent in the sand. No sample was taken because the presence of mustard agent was confirmed on the spot using a portable laboratory kit.
LTC Smehlik informed the Codel that he had recently learned that there had been another detection of mustard agent in the air near the Engineer School in KKMC 2-3 days prior to the detection on January 24, LTC Smehlik indicated that an air sample was taken, verified by the mobile laboratory, and forwarded to Czechoslovakia. This sequence of events was confirmed for the Codel by the Czech warrant officer who reported the actual detection.
The Czechs believe both detections of mustard agent to have been at levels that presented no danger to the health and safety of the troops in the area, and were, therefore, militarily insignificant.
Colonel Kozak informed the group that Czech units did not have any chemical agents in the Persian Gulf and they did not use live agents during their training with the Saudis.
The chemical detection equipment used by the Czechs consisted of Czech and Russian equipment of 1970's and 1980's vintage, yet, according to the Czechs, has a much lower threshold level for detection of chemical agents than does U.S. chemical detection equipment. The equipment used by the Czechs includes the GSP-11, a chemical agent detector/alarm which provides continuous monitoring capability; the portable CHP-71, a chemical analyzer used as a backup for the GSP-11; a portable laboratory which uses a litmus paper detection method, as well as other wet chemical analysis; and a mobile laboratory. We were told by the Czechs that the U.S. had arranged to examine the above mentioned equipment and that the equipment would be shipped to Edgewood Arsenal for testing.
During the conduct of discussions with representatives of the Czech military, several events were mentioned which were anecdotal in nature and based on hearsay. There is no documentary evidence of these matters. Nonetheless, I believe they merit further consideration.
LTC Smehlik claimed that an air sample of the mustard agent detected in the air in KKMC prior to January 24, 1991, was given to a U.S. special forces member. In subsequent discussions with the Codel staff, Smehlik indicated that the individual in question could also have been an intelligence specialist.
LTC Smehlik also mentioned that he had heard the Egyptians had detected mustard agent in the air in the vicinity of KKMC. Representatives of the French military offered the same thoughts on Egyptian detections.
The Codel met with Dr. Graham Pearson, Director General, Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment; Mr. Brian Pitts, Surgeon General's Office; Ms. Jill Ferguson; LTC John Esmonde-White, and Colonel Christopher Box.
There were approximately 42,000 British soldiers who served in the Persian Gulf War. The representatives of the British government the Codel met were not very helpful.
They do not believe that the Czech units detected the presence of any chemical weapons, nerve or mustard agents, in the Persian Gulf. They spent a considerable amount of effort attempting to find plausible means of discrediting the Czech reports.
The British government does not recognize the possibility of any connection between service in the Persian Gulf and any illness that cannot be explained by conventional medical diagnosis. The British have about 30 veterans from the Persian Gulf with medical problems. These medical conditions are not considered peculiar to their service in the Persian Gulf. British citizens have, however, set up a Persian Gulf Families Hot Line, located in Glouchester, England, that serves as a clearing house for those who believe they have illnesses related to their service in the Persian Gulf. I met with Mr. Raymond Donn, a solicitor from Manchester, England, who is in the process of filing a class action suit against the British government to obtain compensation for these veterans. Mr. Donn informed me that there could be as many as 500 sick British veterans.
The British government does not recognize Multiple Chemical Toxicity/Sensitivity as a valid concept. Additionally, the representatives with whom the Codel met believe the Persian Gulf Syndrome is the result of American veterans attempting to increase their medical and disability benefits. The Codel was advised that the United States did not have to invent a new environmental disease to explain the symptoms being experienced by American veterans.
While in Paris, the Codel met with Lieutenant Colonel Gerrard Emile Ferrand, a French Army infantry officer who served in the Persian Gulf. The French had about 12,000 personnel in the Gulf.
Colonel Ferrand informed the Codel that the French had detected nerve and mustard agent at a Logistics Facility approximately 26 or 27 kilometers south of KKMC on the evening of January 24th or January 25th. He indicated that the wind at ground level had been from the north--from Iraq. French chemical alarms were activated at two locations approximately 100 meters apart. Colonel Ferrand, who arrived at the location about 30 minutes after the initial alarm, indicated that litmus badges on the protective suits worn by French troops registered the presence of mustard agent. They contacted a Czech chemical unit and asked it to conduct tests to verify presence of the chemical agents. The Czech chemical unit arrived about 2 hours later, confirmed the presence of a mustard agent and a nerve agent--either Soman or Tabun--and decontaminated the area.
Colonel Ferrand also noted that, about 2 or 3 days later the French chemical alarms were again activated in the same area. At this time, the wind had shifted and was from the south. The French were unable to determine what chemical agent was present. They again asked the Czech chemical units for assistance, but none responded.
Colonel Ferrand reported both these events to the French command located at Riyadh. Colonel Ferrand believes these reports were forwarded to CENTCOM headquarters.
Members of the Codel also met with representatives of the French military medical community including Major General Lauric, head of the French Military Medical Service. The French have no empirical evidence on which to base a connection between service in the Persian Gulf and any illness that cannot be explained by conventional diagnosis. The French veterans were all volunteers from the Rapid Reaction Corps and the French Foreign Legion. As such, these individuals had spent considerable time in Africa and other areas which would have exposed them to hostile environmental influences, and, perhaps, made them less susceptible to environmental factors in the Persian Gulf. The French are, however, monitoring the medical conditions of their veterans.
(Note: In discussions with the members of the Czech chemical defense unit, they did not mention any contact with the French concerning a detection of either or both nerve agent or mustard agent. The French had no knowledge of the Czech chemical agent detections.)
(1). Did any of the coalition allies serving in the Persian Gulf have chemical weapons in the theater of operations or conduct chemical weapons training using live agents or simulants?
(2). Did representatives of any of the coalition allies receive any air samples from the Czechs while in the Gulf? Specifically, did a US Special Forces soldier or Intelligence Community member receive an air sample from the Czech chemical defense unit?
(3). Did any member of the allied coalition receive reports, other than the report of the January 19 event, from any coalition partner of a detection of chemical agents including any reports of chemical agents at a level considered to be militarily insignificant and no threat to the safety or health of U.S. troops, or other coalition personnel?
(4). What were the true weather (wind) conditions during the period in question. There is a discrepancy regarding the reported wind directions during the time the various detections were made.