Washington (CNN) – High-level U.S. government officials knew in November 1991 that chemical weapons had been stored in an Iraqi depot blown up by U.S. troops earlier that year, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday, August 28.
About 150 soldiers participated in the demolition of the Kamisaya facility in southern Iraq in March 1991, after the Gulf War. In the years since, many have suffered from various medical problems that they claim could have stemmed from exposure to chemical weapons.
A senior Defense Department official told CNN that the United States government was made aware in November 1991 about the presence of the chemical weapons stored at the depot. The Pentagon informed troops only this year they may have been exposed to mustard gas sarin.
The official said the information had been widely distributed within the White House, CIA, and State Department in November 1991.
But troops were not informed at the time, he said, because officials aware of the presence of the chemical weapons did not realize that the demolition unit had been present at the destruction in March.
Chemical weapons were detected as many as seven times in the first week of the 1991 Gulf War near the area that housed tens of thousands of U.S. troops, the Pentagon acknowledged. Many of the exposed soldiers have since developed debilitating medical problems which have been labeled “Gulf War Syndrome,” a syndrome similar to CFIDS. Nearly 60,00 other Gulf War veterans have asked for special health screenings.
Defense Secretary William Perry disputed the idea that the initial reported had been suppressed.
Much of the material was obtained from United Nations war inspectors, who had traveled to Iraq following the end of the Gulf War in February 1991.
CNN, August 28, 1996
Associated Press, August 28, 1996
New York Times, August 28, 1996