E. United Nations Special Commission on Iraq Inspections: 1991 - 1992

Figure 33 shows the 1991 and 1992 events resulting from the United Nations Security Council’s establishing a Special Commission on Iraq.

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Figure 33.  UNSCOM events: 1991 to 1992

In April 1991, United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 created the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM). Its primary responsibilities were to identify and destroy Iraq’s surviving chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles, have the weapons moved to an Iraq destruction facility, or destroy the weapons in place.[148] Almost immediately after its creation, UNSCOM began inspecting Iraq’s facilities and continued through December 1998.

May 16, 1991: Iraq announced for the first time that chemical weapons were stored at Khamisiyah Stores during the Gulf War. Iraq declared to UNSCOM that 2,160 destroyed sarin-filled rockets were located at Khamisiyah Stores. [149] US intelligence analysts knew before Desert Shield/Desert Storm that An Nasiriyah ASP SW was a suspected chemical weapons storage site and so assumed that Iraq had identified the site they knew as An Nasiriyah ASP SW as Khamisiyah.[150] Furthermore, the name Khamisiyah had no significance to US analysts since they generally did not refer to any of Iraq’s weapons storage sites by that name. Khamisiyah Stores was the site the US knew as Tall al Lahm Ammunition Storage Area.[151] This confusion over names would prevail within the US government for years[152] and was one of the main reasons the government did not realize sooner that US forces had destroyed chemical weapons at Khamisiyah. Iraq’s declaration also included "6,240 intact mustard-filled 155mm artillery shells at Khamisiyah Stores (Nasiriyah)."[153]

October 1991: An UNSCOM team inspected Iraq’s chemical weapons at Khamisiyah. The UNSCOM team inspected what their map depicted as An Nasiriyah Depot SW (Khamisiyah). However, the inspectors were actually taken to Khamisiyah. Here, Iraq told the UNSCOM team Coalition forces had destroyed chemical munitions and warehouses and showed UNSCOM inspectors three sites in and around Khamisiyah that Iraq claimed had chemical munitions.[154]

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Figure 34.  UNSCOM photo of remnants of Bunker 73

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Figure 35.  UNSCOM photo of pit rockets

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Figure 36.  UNSCOM photo of mustard rounds

UNSCOM inspectors and many Intelligence Community analysts thought Iraq had placed these chemical munitions there after US forces left Khamisiyah, sometime between mid-April and October 1991. UNSCOM’s report of its inspection in October stated, "It was evident that ammunition had been moved to its current location well after the end of the Gulf War. The reason for this is not clear."[156] This suspicion of Iraq’s motives would continue to hamper the Khamisiyah investigation for years to come.

By November 1991, the Arms Control Intelligence Staff (ACIS) recognized the error in confusing Khamisiyah and An Nasiriyah ASP SW. During the Gulf war, ACIS was an interagency organization that was the Intelligence Community’s focal point supporting US government efforts in Iraq. Using Global Positioning System receivers and a better description of the facility, ACIS determined that Iraq’s October declaration referred to the Khamisiyah ASP, not An Nasiriyah ASP SW.[157,158] Unfortunately, the DoD did not make this connection at this time.

On November 12, 1991, the Joint Staff disseminated an ACIS report including Iraq’s claims that the Coalition destroyed chemical munitions at Khamisiyah:

The Iraqis claimed the buildings and munitions were destroyed by occupying Coalition forces. In the team’s estimation, the destruction occurred as a result of locally-placed explosives as opposed to bombing.[159]

The report was widely disseminated within the Intelligence Community and DoD. On the same day, an internal ACIS administrative cable, distributed within the CIA only, suggested US forces could have conducted demolition operations in the area UNSCOM inspected and could have been exposed to "chemical contamination."

The inspectors also noted that the buildings [at Khamisiyah] were destroyed by demolitions as opposed to aerial bombardment. They also found an empty US crate labeled as M48, which are shape charges used by the US military. [We] notified Army Central Command (ARCENT) of the location and evidence found at Tall al Lahm. We received information from ARCENT to the fact that 24th Mechanized Infantry Division was located in the vicinity of Tall al Lahm, but we are unable to confirm if US troops did in fact destroy buildings at this particular site. We are sending this information to you in order to take appropriate action as you see fit as the risk of chemical contamination by 24th ID personnel is a possibility.[160]

ACIS queried the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, about the division’s presence at Khamisiyah. CIA documents indicate ACIS contacted a 24th Infantry Division staff officer on November 20, 1991.[161,162] In February 1997, the Office of the Special Assistant investigated this contact and spoke with the person who received the ACIS telephone call. We also contacted the division intelligence officer, division operations officer, and deputy intelligence officer, all of whom did not recall or vaguely recalled the message about their presence at Khamisiyah. They recalled 24th Infantry Division troops were further east, but nothing else. We found no evidence of any additional action taken on this telephone call.[163]

February - March 1992: UNSCOM continued inspections in Iraq, which repeated its claim that Coalition forces had destroyed chemical munitions in 1991. UNSCOM again inspected Khamisiyah from February 21 through March 24, when the team destroyed 463 122mm rockets. The inspection team described these munitions as "fully-, partially-, and un-filled rockets."[164] During the inspection, Iraq repeated its claim that Coalition forces had caused all the damage to the area.[165]

UNSCOM interest grew in Coalition occupation activities. After leaving Iraq, an UNSCOM inspector informally asked the CIA for information on Coalition activities at Khamisiyah: "who was there, what actions they took, when they were there, how long they stayed, etc."[166] UNSCOM never made a formal request, nor have we found any documentation indicating that CIA took any action. In February 1996, the CIA discovered an undated working paper, drafted in May 1992, in the Iraq chemical weapons inspections file in the Nonproliferation Center.[167] In the paper, the author suggests the possibility that US forces unwittingly destroyed chemical weapons at Khamisiyah. He does not recall, nor is there any indication, that any further action was taken on the draft.[168]

F. Heightened Government Interest and Congressional Action: 1993 - 1994

By the middle of 1993, Gulf War veterans’ complaints of undiagnosed illnesses had gained the attention of the public and government. Figure 37 shows government agencies and Congress creating panels, holding Congressional hearings, and increasing its emphasis on federally funded medical research. Highlights of 1993 include:

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Figure 37.  Governmental and Congressional events, 1993-1994


In February 1994, Congressman Browder requested the UN to provide any reports about the disposition of Iraq’s chemical weapons and biological warfare research. The UN response, dated April 5, 1994, listed sites where UNSCOM had found chemical warfare agents and weapons. In Table 2, "CW Munition Storage Sites," UNSCOM listed 122mm rockets filled with sarin nerve agent at two sets of coordinates as destroyed at "Khamisiyah Stores."[170]

Senior DoD officials’ testimony to Congress indicated a general state of confusion about activities at An Nasiriyah ASP SW and Khamisiyah. On May 25, 1994, senior DoD officials testified before the Riegle Committee about Iraq’s chemical, biological, and radiological warfare programs and their effect on Gulf War veterans’ health. Among those who testified were Dr. Edwin Dorn, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Dr. Theodore M. Prociv, Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Weapons; and Dr. John Kriese, Chief Officer for Ground Forces, DIA. The government’s lack of knowledge about the presence of chemical weapons near US troop units and the continuing confusion over the location of Khamisiyah (Tall al Lahm) versus An Nasiriyah ASP SW were particularly noteworthy. In his opening statement, Under Secretary Dorn testified, "All of the chemical agents and related equipment were found stored at locations a great distance from the Kuwait theater of operations."[171]

Undersecretary Dorn’s statement referred to known chemical storage sites located in Iraq’s interior and not to the Khamisiyah ASP, which was located in the KTO. Later in the hearing, the Chairman of the committee questioned Drs. Dorn and Kriese about chemical weapons located at An Nasiriyah SW and US troops’ proximity to that location:

Chairman: Now, earlier, you made a statement or a statement was made by one of the three of you that all of the chemical agents and related equipment that was discovered was found stored far from the Kuwait field of operations….

Dr [Kriese]:…I’ll say frankly the word, far, got in the last draft of Dr. Dorn’s testimony this morning. I thought we had that fixed to be stricken from the draft testimony that he was given. It is not correct to say that all munitions were found far from the KTL [sic], sir.

Chairman: Well, that’s an important clarification. So there were instances, then, where some of the munitions were found close to where we had troop deployments?

Dr. [Kriese]: That’s correct.

Chairman: But in terms of An Nasiriyah here, we did find them there. Do I assume that we continued to use our forces to secure that area as the War went along? We would not have just been in that area and then left, would we?

Dr. [Kriese]: I don’t know those details of how long we were in that area. My understanding is that munitions were found not at the site we bombed [referring to An Nasiriyah ASP SW], but some 15 nautical miles away from where we attacked [referring to the Khamisiyah ASP].

Chairman: How close would US forces have been stationed to that?

Dr. [Kriese]: I think they were across the river. Not stationed, but during the ground force phase of the campaign, that’s as close as we got.

Chairman: Our troops were right across the narrow river from where we found these things. Is that right?

Dr. [Kriese]: They got that close but I don’t know how long they were there.[172]

Questions submitted for the record by DoD in September and October 1994 revealed continued confusion over the location of Khamisiyah and its proximity to US forces. DoD’s answer to Question 19 perpetuated this confusion:

Question: Were chemical munitions or binary precursor materials capable of being used in chemical warfare discovered in any area of Iraq, Kuwait, or Saudi Arabia before, during, or after the war by US forces, civilian personnel, or other Coalition participants?

Answer: The Kuwaiti Theater of Operations (KTO) includes southern Iraq south of 3100'N [Latitude], Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. This was the area eventually occupied by Coalition ground forces before, during and after Operation Desert Storm. No chemical munitions, bulk agent, or binary precursors were discovered in the KTO before, during, or after the war by US Forces, civilian personnel, or Coalition participants.... Finally, it has been widely circulated that UN inspection teams found thousands of destroyed and intact chemical rounds in an ammunition depot at Nasiriyah, and that this discovery contradicts our statement in paragraph one of this answer. Nasiriyah technically is outside the KTO, being north of 3100'N and the Euphrates River. More importantly, it was not in the territory occupied by Coalition Forces after the war. Moreover, the following points are relevant because UN inspectors did not really "find" the subject munitions. In reality, the Iraqis declared the munitions to the UN and the inspectors eventually went to that location to check what the Iraqis had reported:

1) The UN inspection occurred at least eight months after the war;
2) The location of the "found" chemical rounds was 15 miles from the widely discussed CBW bunkers bombed at Nasiriyah (the site which was originally expected to be inspected). The bombed bunkers were not inspected until one year later in October 1991 and found to contain no chemical or biological weapons.[173]

Several inaccuracies in these testimonies are evident today:

These inaccuracies distorted the history of events at Khamisiyah since, in June 1994, these beliefs formed the basis of information DoD provided to the Defense Science Board Task Force on Persian Gulf War Health Effects. The Task Force report stated in part:

There were also reports of damage by the United Nations Special Commission inspection team that visited a different location [referring to Khamisiyah] in the general vicinity of An Nasiriyah several months after the cessation of hostilities. There are indications that the site visited by the UNSCOM team was not a site targeted during the air war but may have been specially constructed for the UN inspectors.

It appeared this was a separate site constructed by Iraq after the war to show to the UN inspectors. The Iraqis claimed that munitions containing 16 tons of Sarin were destroyed in the bombing….There was also some indication that the munitions were only destroyed subsequent to the ground war by the Iraqis. The uncertainty stems from the fact that it is not clear whether the site the UN inspection team was shown was in fact this subject of bomb damage.[174]

The information reflected DoD’s, UNSCOM’s, and the Intelligence Community’s suspicion Iraq had fabricated the entire incident at Khamisiyah to try to conceal their weapons of mass destruction from UNSCOM inspectors.

In June, DoD established the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program (CCEP) to provide an in-depth medical evaluation for all eligible beneficiaries who had health concerns after service in the Gulf and a toll-free information line whose operators assist veterans with care and benefits questions and scheduling examinations for either DoD or DVA hospitals.

G. Intensive United States Government Efforts Commenced: 1995

Among other efforts of 1995 (Figure 38), with President Clinton’s strong support, DoD announced the opening of two specialized care centers whose major focus was diagnosing and treating illnesses unique to service in the Gulf War, and the addition of $10 million for research to the 1995 Defense budget.[175]

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Figure 38.  US government efforts in 1995

In March 1995, Deputy Secretary of Defense Deutch directed the creation of the Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team (later the Persian Gulf Investigation Team (PGIT)), which opened in July. PGIT’s mission was to focus on the causes of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. During the same month, the CIA’s Acting Director, called for a comprehensive review of relevant intelligence information. The CIA focused on identifying and quantifying Iraq’s chemical, biological, or radiological releases during and after the war that could have affected US forces.[176] As part of the President’s initiative, the DoD and CIA began new efforts to collect and review operational, intelligence, and medical records from the Gulf War. In April, declassification of DoD health-related documents started.

In August 1995, the President established the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (PAC) to review government activities in determining the health effects of service in the Gulf War.

While these agencies worked closely to identify possible chemical releases through demolition or Coalition bombings, DoD took additional steps to gain more information from veterans.

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