During and after the Gulf War, people reported that they had been exposed to chemical warfare agents. To investigate these incidents, and to determine if chemical weapons were used, the DoD developed a methodology for investigation and validation based on work done by the United Nations and the international community where the criteria include:
- A detailed written record of the conditions at the site
- Physical evidence from the site such as weapons fragments, soil, water, vegetation or human/animal tissue samples
- A record of the chain of custody during transportation of the evidence
- Testimony of eyewitnesses
- Multiple analyses
- Review of the evidence by experts.
While the DoD methodology (Tab D) for investigating chemical incidents is based on these protocols, the passage of time since the Gulf War makes it difficult to obtain certain types of documentary evidence, and physical evidence was often not collected at the time of an event. Therefore, we cannot apply a rigid template to all incidents, and each investigation must be tailored to its unique circumstances. Accordingly, we designed our methodology to provide a thorough, investigative process to define the circumstances of each incident and determine what happened. Alarms alone are not considered to be certain evidence of chemical agent presence, nor is a single individuals observation sufficient to validate a chemical agent presence.
By following our methodology and accumulating anecdotal, documentary, and physical evidence, and by interviewing eyewitnesses and key personnel, and analyzing the results, the investigator can assess the validity of the presence of chemical warfare agents on the battlefield. Because information from various sources may be contradictory, we have developed an assessment scale (Figure 1) ranging from "Definitely" to "Definitely Not" with intermediate assessments of "Likely," "Unlikely," and "Indeterminate." This assessment is tentative, based on facts available as of the date of the report publication; each case is reassessed over time based on new information and feedback.
Figure 1. Assessment of Chemical Warfare Agent Presence
The standard for making the assessment is based on common sense: do the available facts lead a reasonable person to conclude that chemical warfare agents were or were not present? When insufficient information is available, the assessment is "Indeterminate" until more evidence can be found.
This investigation concerns the possible presence of chemical warfare agents, chemical weapons, and biological weapons at Iraqs An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point, during, and immediately after, the Gulf War. The proximity of this ammunition storage point to Tallil Air Base, and the fact that many of the same units conducted similar operations at both installations, makes this investigation a continuation of Tallils.
This munitions storage facility is located south of the city of An Nasiriyah and the Euphrates River and consisted of two separately fenced storage areas. The western storage area, which stored primarily army munitions, contained over 100 concrete storage bunkers, bermed storage buildings, and open storage revetments. The eastern storage area, which stored primarily air force munitions, contained a smaller number of similar storage bunkers, buildings, and open revetments. During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, this installation was a major Iraqi munitions depot. During the 1990-1991 time frame, the national Intelligence Community suspected that this ASP contained chemical weapon or biological weapon munitions. By the Gulf War, the Intelligence Community had judged certain types of Iraqi bunkers to be associated with chemical weapon and biological weapon storage, including what analysts dubbed "S-shaped" and "12-frame" bunkers. This facility has one S-shaped bunker and four 12-frame bunkers. All five of these bunkers were struck by air delivered ordnance and, by February 3, 1991, had been either heavily damaged or destroyed. During the post-war US occupation and demolition, no chemical weapons or biological weapons were found at this facility, nor was any chemical agent contamination detected in the storage area. Analysis of post-war information, including information from United Nations Special Commission inspections of various Iraqi chemical weapon and biological weapon storage sites, indicates that, during Desert Storm, the Iraqis had stored chemical weapons and biological weapons in a variety of bunkers, and often in open storage. Today, the Intelligence Community believes that their pre-war assessments of suspect chemical weapon and biological weapon bunkers was inaccurate, and that, during Desert Storm, the five bunkers at An Nasariyah Southwest probably did not store chemical weapons or biological weapons.
In 1996, in accordance with United Nations Resolution 687, Iraq declared that the more than 6,000 155mm mustard-filled artillery rounds stored in an open area 5 kilometers to the west of the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Point had been originally stored in a bunker at the An Nasiriyah Southwest from approximately January 15, 1991, to February 15, 1991. Iraq claims to have moved these munitions to prevent them from being destroyed by coalition air strikes. To date, United Nations Special Commission inspections, interviews, and other research support this declaration. These 155mm mustard rounds are the only chemical weapons likely to have been stored at the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point during the air campaign. Bunker 8, which according to Iraqs declaration held the munitions, was not one of five bunkers suspected of chemical weapon or biological weapon storage, and was not struck. This bunker was searched by US ground forces during the cease-fire and destroyed by demolition charges prior to the withdrawal of US troops.
In March 1991, while identifying munitions in the vicinity of this ammunition storage point, Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel located a damaged munition with some chemical weapon characteristics. They immediately departed the area and reported the sighting to higher headquarters. A Fox nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicle checked the munition and surrounding area for the presence of chemical agents and found none. Photos of this damaged munition were provided to the investigation by the photographer, the senior 60th Explosive Ordinance Disposal member.
The 9th Chemical Detachment conducted biological weapons sampling and testing operations in-theater. Some of their testing was performed at fixed sites near major Coalition installations, while other sampling missions were conducted at field sites throughout the theater. Eight biological weapons sampling missions were conducted at field sites in southern Iraq, including one at the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point. Four of the veterans interviewed for this investigation were Blackhawk helicopter crew members who supported this sampling mission on March 6, 1991. The Blackhawk crewchiefs sighting of artillery shells leaking unidentified materials, as well as his knowledge that the sampling team members burned their chemical protective suits at the completion of the mission, led the crewchief to believe that the crew may have been exposed to chemical agents. Interviews with three of the biological weapons sampling team members indicate that they tested for chemical agents with M256 kits and collected soil samples for laboratory analysis. The sampling team collected five samples: one from a melted liquid from an artillery shell, one from a liquid from a different artillery shell, and three soil samples from two different bunker sites within the ammunition storage point. These samples tested negative for biological weapon associated substances. The 513th Military Intelligence Brigade chemical officer, who led this sampling team, stated that the aircrew had requested that they burn their chemical protective gear prior to departure to avoid any potential contamination of the helicopter. Interviews with Explosive Ordinance Disposal experts, Chemical Weapon technicians, and engineers involved in demolition operations at this ammunition storage point failed to uncover evidence of either chemical weapon or biological weapon presence. US troops at this installation conducted demolition operations for 5 weeks (from March 2 to April 7, 1991) without wearing chemical weapon protective gear, yet none reported or sought medical attention for symptoms of blister or nerve agent exposure.
Based on these interviews, the results of United Nations Special Commission inspections of this facility, Iraqs Chemical Weapon Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure, and a review of theater operational reports and national intelligence reporting, it is "Likely" that chemical weapons were present prior to the US occupation, and "Unlikely" that chemical weapons, biological weapons, or bulk chemical agents were present in this complex during the US occupation. Based on inspections by US and the United Nations, and considering the results of the sampling conducted by US personnel, the release of chemical agents due to bombing is also "Unlikely."
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