Report: Schwarzkopf doubts chemicals made vets sick
Says he doesn't know why some records missing
December 6, 1996
In this story:
(CNN) -- Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of American troops in the 1991 Gulf War, said he did not believe that Iraqi chemical weapons had anything to do with the mysterious health problems reported by thousands of those troops, The New York Times reported on Friday.
A Pentagon official said Thursday "there's no doubt" that sarin nerve gas and mustard gas were present at an ammunition dump in southern Iraq destroyed by U.S. troops shortly after the Gulf War.
The Pentagon, which for years said there was no evidence of such exposure, also denied Thursday any effort to hide data that might show that U.S. military officials at the time knew American troops who blew up the Kamisiyah weapons dump in March 1991 were contaminated.
In what the Times called the first detailed interview on the subject since the Pentagon's announcement this year that thousands of troops might have been exposed to nerve gas after the destruction of the Kamisiyah depot, the retired general said he did not recall any confirmed reports during the war that U.S. troops had been exposed to Iraqi chemical or biological weapons.
"We had lots of alarms, but I personally know of no incident in which there was any chemical uncovered," Schwarzkopf told the Times.
Schwarzkopf said he did not know why several pages were missing from a military log that should have recorded reports of chemical or biological detections during the war, the Times said.
Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that despite an exhaustive search they had been unable to track down the missing entries from computer disks that had once contained the chemical warfare logs.
Schwarzkopf told the Times he never saw the logs, and information from them was not routinely brought to his attention.
In the interview with Times, Schwarzkopf also said he resented suggestions that he and other commanders hid in an airtight bunker in Riyadh to avoid exposure to deadly chemicals. "We were just as susceptible as anybody else," he said.
The Pentagon announced last June that U.N. investigators who visited the Kamisiyah site in southern Iraq in October 1991 found canisters thought to contain the nerve gas sarin and mustard gas.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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