Chemical and Biological Warfare in DESERT STORM? (U) Filename:0pc33.94d April 1994 PC-33-94 SUBJECT: Chemical and Biological Warfare in DESERT STORM? (U) Key Judgments (U) Responding to recent publicity regarding the many unexplained medical problems suffered by Gulf War veterans, DIA assesses that exposure to chemical or biological agents is not the cause of "Gulf War Syndrome." [ b.2. ] Background (U) Many veterans returned from Gulf War deployments reporting medical problems that collectively have come to be known as "Gulf War Syndrome" or "mystery illness." Symptoms range from fatigue, joint pain, and memory loss to bleeding gums, rashes, and lymphoma. Recently, these cases received a great deal of publicity from Congress and the media. Based largely on misinformation and misunderstanding, exposure to chemical or biological agents was speculated to be the cause of the mystery illness. This report details the basis for DIA's assessment that no chemical or biological weapons were used during DESERT STORM/SHIELD and, therefore, are not the cause of the Gulf War mystery illness. Details There were no indications and warnings (I&W) of imminent chemical warfare use during DESERT/SHIELD/STORM. During its war with Iran, the Iraqis moved chemical munitions from production and filling facilities in Samarra to an intermediate storage bunker in southern Iraq - at Tallil Airfield - and finally to the battlefield, where it was used against the Iranians. This activity was accomplished within roughly 2-3 weeks and, therefore, [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ]. The Iraqis operated in this way to overcome a short shelf life problem - because of low agent purity levels - they had with their nerve agent. This [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ] use of chemical warfare did not occur during the Gulf War. [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ] POWs unanimously stated that, in their opinion, there was no intent to use chemical and biological warfare (CBW) against the Coalition. Their reasoning included the fear of massive retaliation, possibly with nuclear weapons, and the belief that the Coalition was far better prepared than Iraq to fight in a CBW environment. (U) Immediately after the war, a massive effort to collect and destroy remaining Iraqi equipment throughout Kuwait and occupied Iraq began. Not one chemical or biological munition, nor any bulk agent, has been found in occupied Iraq or Kuwait. Moreover, the primary U.S. contractor for unexploded ordnance stated recently that, to date, the company had discovered and removed over 15,000 tons of all types of ordnance--including 350,000 mines--and has found no CBW weapons. Nor have any of its employees experienced Gulf War syndrome symptoms. (U) During the entire Persian Gulf crisis, not one person, military or civilian, was treated, hospitalized, or died as a result of CBW exposure. If CBW had been used, even on a limited basis, this most certainly would not have been the case. An Army private who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart after experiencing burns while searching bunkers is the only known injury with symptoms similar to CBW exposure. Advanced laboratory analysis of his flak jacket, shirt, and the swab used to clean his wound, as well as subsequent urinalysis, indicate conclusively, however, that the burns did not result from contact with chemical agent but from some other corrosive substance. (U) There were no confirmed chemical or biological agents detected during the entire crisis. Standard operating procedure to determine the presence of chemical weapons requires a two-step process--detection and confirmation. Automatic detectors alert troops by sounding alarms. Because the equipment is very sensitive by design, false alarms are often registered. A conservative estimate of the number of false alarms during the Gulf War crisis would number in the hundreds, if not thousands. Despite this large number of supposed detections, the second step, confirmation, using equipment and techniques available at the platoon level, never resulted in a single confirmation. Only the highly publicized Czechoslovak reports of chemical agent detection on 19 and 24 January, 1991 appear credible. The U.S. Department of Defense cannot independently verify the Czechoslovak detections, but does accept the Czechoslovak report as valid based on recent assessments of Czechoslovak technical competence and sensitivity of equipment. At the time, the Czechoslovaks reported extremely low, unharmful levels of agent in very localized areas near Hafar Al Batin and King Khalid Military City. According to the Czechoslovaks, the nerve agent detected on 19 January was present for less than 40 minutes. Somewhat suspiciously, no other units in the area detected nerve agent. (U) In addition to all the unconfirmed detections registered as false alarms, a variety of soil, liquid, and air samples suspected of containing chemical agents were analyzed at state-of-the-art labs in the United States and United Kingdom. These samples were taken before, during, and after the war from suspected "hot" areas in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq. The results from all samples tested were negative. Likewise, air samples checking for the presence of biological agents were continuously taken and analyzed at state-of-the-art labs. As with the chemical agent samples, all tests for biological agents were negative. (U) A popular theory suggests the cause of the mystery illness to be long- term exposure of U.S. troops to low (undetectable) levels of chemical agent. This, however, is impossible. The law of diffusion states that any gas or liquid naturally moves from an area of greater concentration to one of lesser concentration. Consequently, if in one area or time the concentration of chemical agent is low--as in the Czechoslovak detection--at some other area or time, the concentration must have been high. Therefore, other detections would be expected nearby, possibly resulting in casualties. This did not happen, even though other units were in contiguous areas. More to the point, the only possible explanation for long-term, low-level exposure below detection range is the deliberate, continuous release of very small amounts of agent throughout the area where troops are to be exposed. This scenario would contaminate much of the Saudi Arabian peninsula rather than localize effects. Had this been the case, the mystery illness would have been reported by veterans stationed throughout Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabian civilians would have experienced and reported symptoms. The facts simply do not support this theory. Although it is another popular theory, the Czechoslovak detection did not result from chemical agents released from bombed Iraqi targets. Under ideal ditions, models indicate that 80 tons of nerve agents would need to be instantaneously released from the closest bombed CBW target (An Nasiriyah, 140 miles north of Hafar Al Batln) to register at the low levels detected by the Czechoslovaks. An 80-ton release of nerve agent in Iraq would have resulted in an area of certain death or casualty that covers hundreds of square miles. Detection equipment throughout the area would have been triggered, and additional confirmations would have been expected - neither happened. In addition to the law of diffusion, weather conditions further argue against this possibility. The winds at the time were in the wrong direction - from the southeast - and it rained throughout the region the day before the Czechoslovak detection. Even a release caused by a bomb from Coalition aircraft striking a secondary target (perhaps an unknown CW storage site or convoy near the border) must still obey the law of diffusion. People nearby would die or become casualties, detection alarms would sound, and confirmations would be made. As stated before, this simply did not happen. Comment Ironically, the real intelligence mystery of this story (if the Czechoslovak detections are accepted as valid) is the source of the agent detected. The low concentration and short duration of the detection, the extremely localized area affected the meteorological conditions, the absence of other detectlons by other units nearby, the topography of the area, and the fact that no military action took place anywhere near the area all suggest a deliberate single release of a very small amount of agent. At this juncture, the best explanation of the agent's presence is a possible live-agent test of the Czechoslovak equipment conducted by the Saudis, who were paying the Czechs to provide them chemical weapon detection support. There is not enough evidence to prove this, however, and DIA is unlikely, [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ], to acquire any additional information. Only [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ] is likely to provide information that would allow progress beyond pure speculation in trying to explain the Czech detections.