One prominent hypothesis about illnesses among Gulf War veterans is that some reported symptoms may have resulted from exposure to chemical warfare agents. During and after the Gulf War, some veterans reported they had been exposed to chemical warfare agents. To investigate these incidents and assess the likelihood of chemical warfare agents’ presence in the Gulf, the Department of Defense (DoD) developed a methodology for investigation and validation based on work of the United Nations and international community. The investigation examines these factors:

While our investigative methodology (more fully described in Tab D) is based on these factors, the passage of time since the Gulf War makes it difficult to obtain certain types of documentary evidence, and physical evidence often was not collected when an event occurred. Therefore, we cannot apply a rigid template to all incidents and must tailor each investigation to its unique circumstances. Accordingly, we designed our investigative methodology to thoroughly define each incident’s circumstances and determine what happened. Alarms alone are not certain evidence of chemical warfare agent presence, nor is a single observation sufficient to validate the presence of a chemical warfare agent.

The thoroughness and enormity of the investigation into the events in and around the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Point in March 1991 are reflected in thousands of hours of research; declassification of several thousand documents; hundreds of personal interviews; testimony to committees and subcommittees of both houses of Congress; town hall meetings throughout the United States; field demolition tests at Dugway Proving Ground; and fact-finding trips to London, Prague, Paris, Kuwait City, Riyadh, Cairo, and Tel Aviv.

The DoD Khamisiyah team sought information and conducted its investigation in various locations:

  • United Nations Special Commission on
    Iraq in New York City
  • Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
  • Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
  • Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
  • Fort Belvoir, Virginia
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Dugway Proving Ground, Utah
  • Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland
  • US Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia
  • Fort Gillem, Georgia
  • MacDill Air Force Base, Florida

The Khamisiyah investigative methodology depended heavily on locating and interviewing veterans who had directly participated in the destruction of the facility. Investigators interviewed members and former members of more than forty military units. These units included:

  • 37th Engineer Battalion
  • 307th Engineer Battalion
  • 307th Medical Battalion
  • 3-73rd Armor Battalion
  • 2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
  • 3-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
  • 60th Explosive Ordnance
    Disposal Detachment
  • 1-319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment
  • 92nd Chemical Platoon
  • 450th Civil Affairs Battalion
  • 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment
  • 84th Engineer Company
  • 82nd Engineer Battalion
  • 146th Explosive Ordnance
    Disposal Detachment
  • 101st Airborne Division
  • 24th Infantry Division
  • 4-64th Armor Battalion
  • 82nd Airborne Division
  • 1st Cavalry Division
  • 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions
  • 1st Infantry Division
  • Support elements from XVIII Airborne
    Corps and VII Corps
  • Separate Army Central
    Command element

The methodology particularly emphasized interviewing the policy makers, as well as those directly involved in the demolitions at Khamisiyah. Commanders of engineer and explosive ordnance disposal units, operations officers of engineer and infantry units, intelligence officers at all levels of command, noncommissioned officers who supervised the bunker and warehouse inventory, and the soldiers who placed the demolition charges on munitions formed the core of the interviews. We interviewed more than 800 veterans who either participated in the demolitions, were believed to be on-site at the time of the demolitions, or responded to the survey distributed to soldiers believed to be within 50 kilometers of Khamisiyah. We interviewed some veterans on more than one occasion to clarify conflicting information. We also reviewed over 15 reports regarding Khamisiyah prepared by other Department of Defense and US government agencies, such as the Department of the Army Inspector General’s, "Inquiry into Demolition of Iraq Ammunition"; the Central Intelligence Agency’s "Khamisiyah: a Historical Perspective on Related Intelligence"; and the Senate Investigative Unit’s "Report of the Special Investigative Unit on Gulf War Illnesses." Without the information provided by the veterans and agencies, the investigation would not have succeeded in recreating day-to-day activities that occurred more than six years before the publication of the initial case narrative.

Close coordination between the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency significantly aided the investigation and ultimately provided the answers to what happened at Khamisiyah in March 1991.

Following our methodology, we accumulate anecdotal, documentary, and physical evidence; interview witnesses and key servicemembers; and analyze the results of all available information. The investigator then assesses the possibility of the presence of chemical warfare agents on the battlefield. Because we do not expect to always have conclusive evidence, we developed an assessment scale (Figure 1) ranging from Definitely Not to Definitely, with intermediate assessments of Unlikely, Indeterminate, and Likely. This assessment is our best judgment, based on facts available on the report publication date; we reassess each case 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 present or not? If insufficient information is available, the assessment is Indeterminate until more evidence emerges.

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