Retired Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf invited Senate investigators yesterday to examine his private logs for clues about chemical weapons releases during the Persian Gulf War.
Schwarzkopf, vacationing in Colorado, spoke in a telephone interview hours after the issue of his logs came up in a hearing of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Calling suggestions of a coverup "ridiculous," the former Gulf War commander said 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 yesterday, "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."
Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), pressed CIA witnesses on whether they knew of the logs and would ask Schwarzkopf to release them. George J. 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."
Defense Secretary William J. Perry, asked about allegations of a Pentagon coverup, said: "I have no evidence of any such action."
The secretary, speaking at a photo session in his office, said that Gulf War illnesses "are real, real problems" and that he was committed to getting as much information as possible to help find out what is causing the illnesses.
The 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 also are 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 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 confidential commitments.
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.
"There were no reports, absolutely none, zero," about release of chemical agents, Schwarzkopf said. "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 and discounted incidents in which Czech soldiers reported sarin gas detections. A follow-up inquiry by the United States 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."
@CAPTION: Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), left, with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), questions CIA witnesses on Gulf War logs.
@CAPTION: CIA Executive Director Nora Slatkin, left, and CIA analyst Sylvia Copeland before Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press