Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify before
you today. I sincerely hope that my testimony will help to clarify issues and answer some
of the many complicated questions that this committee must deal with.
In planning our military campaign again Iraq six years ago, we focused on our enemy's strengths and weaknesses. The one area in which they far exceeded our capabilities was in chemical and biological warfare. We knew that they had a very large stockpile of chemical weapons and had embarked upon a program to develop biological weapons. Further, they had demonstrated their willingness to use such weapons both in the war again Iran and in campaigns against the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq.
The measures we took to eliminate the enemy's chemical and biological threat were both active and passive.
The active measures were the destruction of known storage and production sites in the earliest stages of the strategic air campaign and also the systematic destruction of the enemy's chemical delivery systems, which consisted of the air force and artillery. There was always some concern that they could deliver chemical weapons using Scud missiles, although we had been assured repeatedly by the intelligence community that this capability did not exist.
The passive measures that we took were all designed to protect our troops with the absolute finest technology available. It should be remembered that this technology was designed to fight in a chemical environment created by the Warsaw Pact. The sophistication of the Warsaw Pact far exceeded the sophistication of the weapons possessed by the Iraqis. Our troops were issued and were extensively trained in wearing chemical over garments, boots, gloves, and protective masks. We developed alarm systems that were highly sophisticated and sensitive to provide early warning in the event of a chemical attack. We further developed and trained our troops in the use of countermeasures when exposed to chemical agents. As protection from biological agents, our soldiers were immunized against many diseases and some were further immunized against the two biological agents we suspected the Iraqis might use. In addition to all of these measures, we conducted the largest medical mobilization that has taken place since World War II. By the beginning of the offensive campaign, we had over 20,000 hospital beds available in country and many thousands more available (in Germany and the U.S.) for use by our troops, if needed.
I will be happy to expand on any of these measures as best I can in further questions, but I would like to briefly touch on the destruction of weapons stockpiles during the air campaign. We were faced with a very difficult moral dilemma. We had to weigh the risk of contamination or the spreading of, particularly, biological agents among thousands of innocent members of the Iraqi population versus not destroying these stockpiles and therefore leaving them available to the enemy to use indiscriminately against our own troops. It was a problem that we agonized over for many months and sought expert advice from all quarters to help us with our solution. It was finally decided that we owed it to our troops to destroy the enemy's chemical and biological stockpiles. Once that decision was made, we then determined how to do so with minimum risk to our forces and the local population. We considered everything from weather conditions, wind factors, etc., to destruction methods which would destroy not only their munitions but the bacteriological agents and also result in minimum dispersion of chemical agents. On the night that the majority of the attacks were made, I was happy to receive reports that the winds were only four knots and the wind directions were such that our own troops would not be in danger. I was told the munitions had performed as expected and there was no possibility of endangering the innocent civilian population or our troops. I want to emphasize that this part of our air campaign received far more attention than any other aspect of our campaign plan, and it was a subject we visited and revisited over and over again right up to the last few days prior to the execution of the campaign. During the conduct of the war, many chemical alarms activated. In every case, survey teams entered the area with the most sophisticated detection devices available, and in every case that I am aware of the alarms were declared false alarms. No one every showed any symptom of chemical exposure. Further, even though we were quite sure there were no chemical Scuds, every time a Scud landed in the vicinity of any of the troops, we again put the troops in protective clothing and surveyed the area before declaring an all clear. I never received before, during or after hostilities any report of Iraqi use of chemical weapons nor the discovery of or destruction of, Iraqi chemical weapons. I feel sure that had such events knowingly occurred, I would have received reports since this was the highest intelligence priority in my command.
One final point, certain people, for reasons of their own, have charged that I and my commanders knowingly placed our troops at risk to chemical weapons while we sought protection for ourselves and subsequently engaged in cover ups of chemical contamination of our troops. Such a statement at best demonstrates an abysmal ignorance of the standards of conduct that we expect of all military leaders in our armed forces today and at worst is a blatant lie, which strikes at the heart of our armed forces since it undermines the confidence of the mothers and fathers of America who place the well being of their sons and daughters in our hands. Such a statement cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. Every one of my senior commanders in the Gulf was a man of the highest integrity, morals, and professionalism. I do not know of one of them who would not have willingly sacrificed his life in order to ensure the safety of the men and women placed under his command. I would not have tolerated anything less from them and, believe me, they would never have tolerated anything less from me. We went to extraordinary lengths to protect our troops, to the point that some self-appointed military experts have claimed that we were too concerned for the lives of our military personnel. That is a charge that we all willingly plead guilty to. But I think the fact that we were able to accomplish a very dangerous mission with an absolute minimum loss of human life speaks for itself regarding our concern for the men and women who served under our command.
Finally, for me the bottom line now is that some of the men and women who served under my command during the Gulf War are sick. I believe we should leave no stone unturned and do everything we possibly can to seek cures for these veterans, so that they may return to full and productive lives. They deserve nothing less.
I will be happy to answer your questions on matters I have addressed or any others that you might have.
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