Schwarzkopf says he will open logs to Gulf War investigators
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf invited Senate investigators Thursday to examine his private logs for clues about chemical weapons releases during the Persian Gulf War.
Calling suggestions of a cover-up ``ridiculous,″ the former Gulf War commander told The Associated Press in an interview he had no evidence of chemical weapons exposure during or after the conflict. The Pentagon and other agencies are investigating whether exposure to chemical weapons may lie behind the mystery illnesses afflicting thousands of Gulf War veterans.
``There is nothing in those logs at all about chemical contamination of my troops,″ Schwarzkopf said. He added that he told a Senate committee staff member Thursday, ``If you don’t believe me, I welcome a member or members of their staff to come down to my office in Tampa and they could look through those logs to their heart’s content.″
Schwarzkopf, vacationing in Colorado, spoke by phone hours after the issue of the general’s logs came up in a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., pressed CIA witnesses on whether they knew of the logs and would ask Schwarzkopf to release them. George Tenet, acting CIA director, said he did not know of the logs but added, ``If there’s information in those logs that bears on what we’re trying to do, we’ll try to access it.″
The so-called executive logs were kept by an officer assigned to Schwarzkopf while the four-star Army general was in Saudi Arabia directing the coalition buildup and war against Iraq in 1990 and 1991. Schwarzkopf maintains they are his private papers, and in 1994 the Pentagon inspector general upheld that view in a dispute with federal archivists.
The logs are distinct from official records of orders and reports handled by Schwarzkopf during the war. They are also separate from a much talked-about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons log kept by the general’s staff devoted specifically to reports of chemical weapons use. An eight-day gap in that log has been one of many avenues of inquiry in the growing government investigation into Persian Gulf War illnesses.
Schwarzkopf described his personal log as ``incomplete, cryptic in some cases″ and said it was a record of private conversations, particularly sensitive discussions with foreign leaders in which he made promises and commitments that the foreign leaders asked be kept confidential.
A gruff, burly commander who presented himself as a champion of the common soldier, Schwarzkopf has been particularly angered by suggestions that he is unconcerned about the plight of ill veterans or that he served out the war in headquarters sealed from the dangers of chemical attack.
``People know me well enough to know that I’m going to take care of my soldiers first,″ Schwarzkopf said. ``There were no reports, absolutely none, zero,″ about release of chemical agents. ``I would have loved to have announced that we found huge caches of chemical weapons.″
Schwarzkopf said his command headquarters was vulnerable to a chemical attack, contrary to published reports. He also discounted incidents in which Czech soldiers participating in the coalition reported sarin gas detections. U.S. followup on those reports found no evidence of the nerve gas.
``With a chemical alarm, you’re going to build one that is oversensitive because you would rather the alarm go off and give you a false alarm than to err on the other side,″ Schwarzkopf said. ``So the alarms went off all the time over there. When they did, we put our troops in protective gear and then we sent in our most sophisticated equipment.″
Schwarzkopf said the committee staff said it would send a representative to review the logs. He also said he offered to testify.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman, said continued investigation into the Gulf War issue ``is the committee’s top priority.″