DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
1010 DEFENSE PENTAGON WASHINGTON, DC 20301-1010
MEMORANDUM FOR PERSIAN GULF WAR VETERANS CONCERNING KHAMISIYAH, IRAQ
The Department of Defense is continuing its wide-ranging investigation of incidents that might be related to Persian Gulf veterans' illnesses. We are asking for your help in providing us with important information.
Evidence from an ongoing investigation indicates that chemical weapons were present when U.S. forces destroyed a series of ammunition storage bunkers and crated munitions in an open pit area at a complex called ''Khamisiyah'' or "Tal al-Lahm," about 15 miles southeast of "An Nasiriyah" in southern Iraq. Our records show that your unit participated in the demolition operations at Khamisiyah in March 1991.
To our knowledge, service members at that time did not report the symptoms associated with acute exposure to chemical agents (nerve gas), but our search for information continues. Since you may have been part of the demolition operations, we need to hear from you, not only about your experience at or near the site but also any health problems you think may be a result of your service during Operation Desert Storm/Operation Desert Shield.
We urge you to call our PERSIAN GULF INCIDENT HOTLINE at 1-800-472-6719. When you call please indicate you were a member of the Khamisiyah demolition team. The person answering the telephone will ask you a few simple questions and then, if you desire, refer you to an appropriate medical facility for medical evaluation and care. We want to be sure you receive any health care you may need for health problems related to your service in the Gulf War.
Be assured, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are working together to bring all necessary resources to bear on this issue. But we can not do it alone. To understand the events at Khamisiyah and to address the concerns of our Gulf War veterans, we need your help in this effort.
We are indebted to each one of you for your service to our country during the Persian Gulf War.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Khamisiyah
Here are the answers to several frequently asked questions relating to the events at Khamisiyah.
Q: What kinds of weapons were destroyed by U.S. forces at Khamisiyah?
A: Khamisiyah was a large Iraqi ammunition storage site. Of the approximately 100 bunkers destroyed in March 1991, one has been assessed by UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) to have held 122mm rockets containing chemical agents (the nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin). In addition, rockets containing these nerve agents were found by UNSCOM inspectors in an open pit near the bunker complex, where U.S. forces also conducted demolition operations in March, 1991.
Q: What are the effects of these chemical weapons?
A: As you may recall from your training, chemical weapons create serious immediate symptoms (blurred vision, tightness in the chest, runny nose, dizziness) and, if immediate treatment is not provided, can incapacitate or kill troops on the battlefield. While research continues, the best current medical evidence indicates you should not experience long-term health problems from low level exposure to chemical nerve agents.
Q: Were any such symptoms experienced by our troops during the Gulf War?
A: To our knowledge, service members neither died or reported such immediate symptoms in connection with Khamisiyah. Soldiers reported possible chemical events during the war, but we have been unable to confirm any nerve agent exposure from these reports.
Q: What are the long-term health effects of non-lethal exposure to nerve agent?
A: Although they are limited in number, studies of human exposure to nerve agent suggest that no long-term health effects from low level, short-term exposure to nerve agent are likely, even when doses are large enough to produce some immediate symptoms. We are stepping up the research directed toward finding a more definitive answer to this question.
Q: If I, as a Gulf War veteran, experienced no symptoms at the time and studies indicate there are no long-term health effects, why am I receiving this letter and being asked to call the hotlines?
A: First, we are asking your help in our understanding of the events surrounding Khamisiyah. Second, we want to be sure you receive any health care you may need for health problems related to your service in the Gulf War.