The assessment for this incident is that chemical warfare agent was "definitely not" present at the Kuwaiti Girls School. This assessment is based on the following facts that have already been addressed:
- Analysis of the Fox tapes indicates chemical warfare agent was not present;
- Contemporary CBDE Porton Down analysis of the samples on resin shows no chemical weapons material present;
- Safety Officer for the US Army Corps of Engineers, Kuwaiti Emergency Recovery Office exhibited no symptoms corresponding to chemical agent exposure after unprotected contact with the tank;
- Injuries sustained by Major Watkinson and the British soldier were not consistent with the chemical agents alarmed for (though the soldiers injury was potentially similar to effects of phosgene oxime exposure, no alarm was ever received for phosgene oxime being present);
- No known chemical warfare agent is capable of destroying NBC protective gear;
- No known chemical warfare agent gives off brown or red-brown vapor;
- Mustard agent is physically too persistent to have evaporated from the sample dish used during the Fox testing;
- Phosgene rapidly evaporates, and given the high temperatures in the desert, it would have diffused out of the tank before the initial investigation of the tank by 21st EOD Squadron;
- Iraq is not known to have had phosgene in its inventory.
The possibility that the tank actually contained IRFNA is assessed as "definitely." This is based on the following facts:
- The Fox tapes clearly show the presence of mass 46 ion at 100%, which is indicative of IRFNA;
- Contemporary CBDE Porton Down analysis of the samples on the resin shows high nitrate readings, consistent with the contents being nitric acid;
- The chemical agent monitor was known to register a false positive (8 bars on mustard) for IRFNA;
- IRFNA would be expected at the school, because it was used as a SILKWORM missile maintenance and test facility by the Iraqis;
- The tank itself was identified by the Sampling Team Leader as a type used by the Iraqis to store IRFNA
- The Safety Officer for the US Army Corps of Engineers, Kuwaiti Emergency Recovery Office indicated that the vapor smelled like nitric acid;
- IRFNA fumes are a red-brown vapor;
- IRFNA can cause immediate blistering of skin upon contact as happened on the British soldier;
- IRFNA can penetrate and destroy material used in NBC protective gear as happened in this case.
All personnel involved in the testing of the tank at the Kuwaiti Girls School performed their duties in an exemplary manner. Proper planning and coordination were made between UK and US forces; all field equipment was used properly; all technical resources were employed; and following proper NATO procedures, samples were taken and transported for laboratory analysis.
The equipment utilized by UK and US Armed Forces operated in accordance with its design. The Fox did not have a spectrum for IRFNA in its library, and thus could not positively identify it as such. The other detectors were overwhelmed by such a strong interferent as IRFNA, for which none of the detectors were designed. It is the policy of both the UK and US militaries to set chemical weapons detector parameters loosely so as to err on the side of caution - i.e. to accept a false positive response, rather than run the risk that a genuine positive might be overlooked. From the safety perspective, it is more preferable to have a small number of false positives, which cause soldiers to take an additional measurement or don protective gear, rather than to take the chance that a false negative would result in injury to troops. This incident was clearly a case in point. While IRFNA is not a chemical warfare agent, it poses a serious health hazard to anyone in contact with it. A description of IRFNA and its related health hazards is at TAB D.
Several key factors prevented a rapid inquiry and assessment of these events. The sensitive nature of the testing limited distribution of pertinent information. This meant that some individuals ended their involvement with limited information and unanswered questions about the nature of the tanks contents. A summary of individuals knowledge regarding the Kuwaiti Girls School is at TAB F. The numerous and varied groups having contact with the tank further hindered investigations, as it was thought for a while that the various operations may have been unrelated incidents. Finally, inconsistencies in reporting made an early assessment impossible. Individuals often had to be interviewed several times, and documents were repeatedly analyzed. This process led to several issues of concern being identified and addressed. This, in turn, led to a more complete picture of events at the school from March 1991 until November 1991. A breakout of events and those involved is at TAB G. The key lessons learned by the US DOD from this investigation are at TAB K.
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