Here's an update on some key events which have occurred since this site - "Debating Gulf War Syndrome" - was posted in January 1997:
The CIA released dcuments this month showing it had detailed information - as early as 1986 - that the Iraqi storage site at Kamisiyah contained thousands of mustard-gas munitions.
The agency acknowledged that this information was omitted from a list of Iraqi chemical-weapons sites provided to the Pentagon before the war.
Robert Walpole, the CIA official overseeing the agency's probe into possible Gulf War chemical exposures, blamed the intelligence analysts' failure on "tunnel vision." The analysts had convinced themselves chemical weapons were not at Kamisiyah during the war, even though chemical weapons were stored there in large quantities during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
The Pentagon announced that before the March 1991 demolition of the Iraqi arms depot at Kamisiyah, the Army had information it might contain chemical weapons. But the engineers who destroyed the munitions never received the warning.
According to the Pentagon, the CIA conveyed the warning in late February 1991. The Pentagon in turn passed the information to the 18th Airborne Corps. But because of errors, members of the 37th Engineer Battalion who conducted the demolition at Kamisiyah were not alerted.
Following this disclosure, President Clinton directed the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (a panel created in 1995) to investigate the circumstances surrounding Kamisiyah, where as many as 20,000 US troops may have been exposed to chemical weapons in a toxic cloud released in the explosion. One question is why it has taken the Pentagon and the CIA this long to release the new information about Kamisiyah despite assurances by both agencies that they had released all the relevant facts on the incident months ago.
Documents posted by the Pentagon on its website also show that the CIA had relayed to the Army in November 1991 the findings of UN inspectors pointing to chemical weapons at Kamisiyah. Yet a long-running Pentagon investigation did not unearth this fact until mid-1996.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study that may shed light on the possible health consequences of the chemical-weapons demolition at Kamisiyah.
The study suggests that members of the U.S. demolition team closest to Kamisiyah may have higher rates of arthritis-like joint symptoms than other soldiers who fought in the Gulf War. But the VA emphasized that the study is preliminary, and the finding is not considered definitive.
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