Gulf War veterans accuse Pentagon of cover-up
From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
November 10, 1996
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A congressional committee heard dramatic testimony Tuesday from soldiers who say they have first-hand knowledge about the use of chemical weapons by Iraq during the Gulf War.
While the Pentagon admits to only a few instances of possible exposure to chemical agents, the soldiers told the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee a different story.
Hobbled by Lou Gehrig's disease, Marine Corps Maj. Randy Hebert struggled to stand for his swearing in. His wife translated his impaired speech.
Hebert said he is convinced an exploding chemical mine made him sick -- and the Pentagon is covering it up.
"My view is the Pentagon knew from day one," Hebert said.
So far, the Pentagon says it has confirmed the presence of chemical weapons only at the Kamisiyah ammunition storage complex in southern Iraq, where U.S. troops destroyed them in March of 1991.
But soldiers who operated the sophisticated Fox chemical weapons detection systems said other detections were routinely dismissed as "false alarms."
"I tried to pass that up my chain-of-command but they continually ... (said) that it had to be false readings," said Army Sgt. George Glass, a Fox operator.
One detection of mustard gas months after the war was later ruled to be SCUD missile fuel.
But Maj. Michael Johnson, the Army officer who made the detection, doesn't accept that explanation.(94K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The Pentagon says it is vigorously investigating low-level chemical exposures, but members of the committee and veterans are suspicious.
Rep. Stephen Buyer, R-Indiana, a Gulf War veteran, said he hoped Defense Secretary-designate Sen. William Cohen "will clean house..."(85K/7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Asked for a reason for a Pentagon coverup, Hebert said, "...it boils down to money."
The Pentagon denies it is worried about having to pay benefits.
"The presumption is you are service-connected and therefore will be treated at a veterans facility or treated on -- and appropriately compensated if there's a problem," said Bernard Rostker, a Pentagon Gulf War illness adviser.
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