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GULF WAR COMMANDER DENIES COVER-UP CLAIMS.

Byline: Michael E. Ruane Knight-Ridder Tribune News Wire

Retired Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf told Congress on Wednesday it was a ``blatant lie'' to suggest that he or his commanders knowingly exposed GIs to chemical contamination during the Persian Gulf War and then tried to cover it up.

Many Gulf War veterans have come forward since the war, saying they believe they were carelessly exposed to Iraqi chemical weapons that U.S. commanders had to have known were present on the battlefield.

Schwarzkopf, who led the allied coalition to its swift victory over Iraq in 1991, passionately defended his leadership Wednesday at the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which is looking into Gulf War syndrome.

``Certain people, for reasons of their own, have charged that I and my commanders knowingly placed our troops at risk to chemical weapons, while we sought protection for ourselves and subsequently engaged in cover-ups of chemical contamination of our troops,'' he said.

``Such a statement at best demonstrates an abysmal ignorance of the standards of conduct that we expect of all military leaders in our armed forces today, and at worst is a blatant lie.

``We went to extraordinary lengths to protect our troops,'' he said. And every one of his top officers would have ``willingly sacrificed his life in order to ensure the safety of the men and women placed under his command. I would not have tolerated anything less.''

Many veterans have reported hearing sophisticated Army chemical alarms going off in the Persian Gulf, or seeing what they believed to be unexploded Iraqi chemical munitions, or feeling what they believe to be fallout from overhead chemical weapons explosions.

And many gulf vets believe the mysterious ailments that have been dubbed Gulf War syndrome are the result of exposure to chemical weapons or to the array of medications GIs were issued during the war.

Schwarzkopf, who was several times called a hero at the hearing, said the idea that he or any of his generals would needlessly expose their troops to chemical weapons was absurd.

But Schwarzkopf did acknowledge that it was a ``very real possibility'' that U.S. forces may have bombed chemical-weapons storage facilities that they didn't know about.

Schwarzkopf was drawn into the Gulf War syndrome debate when investigators began looking into personal logs kept for him and into logs tracking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons reports for Central Command, which he headed.

Controversy developed when large sections of the Central Command logs turned up missing - especially sections covering the March 1991 period when an Iraqi ammunition depot at Khamisiyah was blown up by Army engineers after the war.

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Photo: Norman Schwarzkopf

Tackles chemical weapons issue
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 30, 1997
Words:446
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