Pre-war Livermore memo provided
general analysis, not a warning

WASHINGTON, September 8, 1997 (GulfLINK)--- Contrary to some press reports, a recently released memorandum from a government laboratory to an Air Force major command did not warn, as reported by USA Today, "that bombing Iraq's chemical weapons facilities would release deadly nerve agents that could endanger U.S. troops."

The Oct. 5, 1990 memo from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to the intelligence directorate of the Tactical Air Command, said researchers assumed "generic source material" and resulting calculations "do not relate to any geographical reference point." No locations, chemical agents, or troops are mentioned in the memo.

Eight computer simulations attached to the two-page memo show how smoke clouds would travel from a munitions storage area bombed by aircraft. Although drawings depict simulated smoke cloud concentration levels and coverage area, they do not show entire smoke clouds or describe how far the clouds would travel. The largest smoke cloud covers 553.13 square kilometers with an apparent average width of five kilometers wide, thus making its possible length approximately 111 kilometers.

It's not clear how the memo was used prior to Desert Storm. The three chemical munitions areas bombed by coalition aircraft--Al Muthanna, Muhammadiyat, and Ukhaydir--were at least 300 kilometers from the nearest U.S. troops. The Central Intelligence Agency's assessment of a worst case analyses on the bombing of Al Muthanna and Muhammadiyat, published Aug. 2 1996 ,said, "Neither the first effects nor the general population limit levels would have reached US troops tht were stationed in Saudi Arabia." In another assessment, published July 29, 1997, the CIA said, "Preliminary analysis of a few modeling runs suggests that a potential chemical warfare agent release from Ukhaydir probably did not reach Coalition troops stationed in Saudi Arabia."

In a letter to the editor appearing in the Aug. 18, 1997 edition of the USA Today, Bernard Rostker, special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, said the inaccurate news reports appeared, "to be based upon information not in the Livermore report, but erroneously attributed to Livermore."

"We understand and accept criticism when it is justified," he said. "The Clinton administration has worked hard to get facts out so that the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, veterans and the public can gain a clear understanding of what happened. To that end, we encourage accurate reporting that increases public understanding."