The story of Khamisiyah has three parts:
A. United States Military Operations at Khamisiyah
Immediately following the end of Operation Desert Storm, US Army units occupied an area in southeastern Iraq that encompassed Khamisiyah (also known then as the Tall al Lahm Ammunition Storage Area). Soldiers of the Armys XVIII Airborne Corps conducted two large-scale demolition operations to destroy the munitions and facilities around Khamisiyah:
Soldiers also conducted numerous demolitions to destroy smaller caches of munitions and to test techniques for destroying bunkers. Demolition operations continued in the Khamisiyah area through the middle of April 1991. The soldiers conducting reconnaissance and completing the inventories before these demolitions were confident that they had destroyed only conventional munitions.
Throughout the US occupation of Khamisiyah, including the demolition period, no reports were made of chemical warfare agent detections. Nor were there reports of anyonesoldier or civilianexperiencing symptoms consistent with chemical warfare agent exposure.
B. United Nations Special Commission on Iraq Inspections at Khamisiyah
In October 1991, March 1992, May 1996, and in 1998, UNSCOM inspected Khamisiyah. In October 1991, Iraqi officials led UNSCOM inspectors to three sites that had contained chemical weapons (Figure 2):
Figure 2. Site locations shown to UNSCOM
Bunker 73. During the 1991 inspection, Iraq claimed that chemical munitions found in the Pit had been salvaged from Bunker 73 and that Coalition forces had destroyed the bunker. UNSCOM could not determine if Bunker 73 contained chemical warfare agents at this time because damaged munitions made it too dangerous to get close enough to sample or take CAM readings. However, on a return visit to the site in May 1996, UNSCOM conclusively determined that debris (e.g., burster tubes, fill plugs, and plastic inserts) in the rubble of Bunker 73 was characteristic of chemical munitions.
The Pit. In October 1991, UNSCOM inspectors found several hundred 122mm rockets that appeared to have been bulldozed and placed into piles in an excavated area southeast of the main ASP. This area became known as "the Pit." The UNSCOM investigation showed that the intact rockets contained the chemical warfare agents sarin and cyclosarin. During a subsequent visit in March 1992, UNSCOM ordered Iraq to destroy about 500 leaking rockets near the Pit, and ship the remaining rockets to Al Muthanna, Iraq, for destruction. UNSCOM supervised Iraqi destruction of a total of approximately 782 rockets at the Pit and Al Muthanna.
Above-ground storage area. Iraq also showed the UNSCOM team an above-ground storage site about 3 kilometers west of the Khamisiyah ASP that contained 6,323 intact 155mm artillery shells, one of which was leaking mustard agent. No evidence exists that any Coalition forces had been to this site. Again, UNSCOM ordered Iraq to ship these rounds to the destruction facility at Al Muthanna.
In November 1991, US intelligence and DoD became aware of the UNSCOM findings, but at the time, the information did not result in identifying which, if any, US troops participated in the Khamisiyah demolition activities. The lack of US reports of chemical weapons, combined with Iraqs less than full compliance with UNSCOM, led to doubts about Iraqs claims that chemical weapons had been at the site when the demolition occurred.
C. The United States Government Response Regarding Illnesses of Gulf War Veterans
The US government did not immediately make the connection between the chemical munitions found by UNSCOM at Khamisiyah and US demolitions operations there. The following is a chronology of the government response.
The early work of the Office of the Special Assistant placed an emphasis on researching US military operations at Khamisiyah. On February 21, 1997, we published the first Khamisiyah case narrative. The narrative provided important insights into what actually took place and which US military units were involved. We intensified our efforts to identify and contact the thousands of soldiers potentially involved, and began detailed computer modeling of events in the spring and summer of 1997 to determine the size and path of the potential hazard area created by demolition activities in the Pit. The modeling resulted in DoD sending notification letters to approximately 99,000 veterans. It is important to note that the modeling process is based on computer simulations and not empirical data. Results, although based on best science, are predictions and should be evaluated carefully.
Modeling refinements continued through 1998 and 1999. Some of the more significant refinements included revision of meteorological models, an updated CIA estimate of how much chemical warfare agent was released, addition of deposition and decay to the models and consideration of toxicity of both sarin and cyclosarin in the models. The modeling team completed remodeling the Khamisiyah Pit demolition in January 2000 that resulted in redefined potential hazard areas. DoD identified 100,923 veterans in the potential hazard areas who possibly were exposed to low levels of nerve agent. Our fundamental modeling methodology has not changed since 1997. In 2000, like 1997, we used the outer boundaries of the union of the results from different models to define the potential hazard area. This conservative approach gave us greater assurance of identifying US units in the potential hazard area. The veterans notification process is ongoing.
The first narrative left the following five questions for follow-up research:
This updated narrative includes significant additional information that enabled the Office of the Special Assistant to address each of these five questions and to better understand the effect of the demolition operations on US soldiers.
Additionally, the updated narrative addresses, and assesses, two more questions:
This narrative includes the following conclusions:
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