The Department of Defense released today the final version of its case narrative, "Reported Mustard Exposure Operation Desert Storm." This final report concludes the investigation into the possibility that a soldier was exposed to mustard agent during the Gulf War. Investigators from the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military deployments assessed this incident as "indeterminate."
This final report concurs with the interim narrative published in October last year. Since then, no new evidence and no new leads were developed that contradict the assessment as stated in the second interim report. However, minor editorial changes were made prior to publishing this final report.
The investigation examines the March 2, 1991, diagnosis of then-Pfc. David A. Fisher as having been exposed to liquid mustard chemical warfare agent. Among the strongest evidence supporting the conclusion that he was exposed to a chemical warfare agent were statements from well-trained medical personnel who diagnosed and treated the injury as an exposure to mustard agent. However, the only surviving evidence that supports a mustard exposure was a videotape of a MM-1 operator's screen during an examination of a flak jacket. While the videotape was evaluated in 1993 by an expert as a valid detection, further examination in 2000 revealed the sample was missing critical ions necessary for mustard presence.
In 1991, a physician and leading expert in the field of chemical warfare agent injuries concurred with the diagnosis of chemical warfare agent injury. However, in 1995 and 1999 interviews, this doctor also stated that other causes could explain Fisher's injury. Because another cause could not be found, the nature of the injury remains open. A urinalysis also failed to detect thiodiglycol, a mustard breakdown product. This result was inconsistent with the diagnosis, but not unexpected considering the low-level of exposure.
Additionally, the location of the bunker where Fisher was believed exposed was 100 miles from Iraq's nearest chemical warfare storage facility according to the CIA and the United Nations Special Committee on Iraq. The CIA and UNSCOM have reported no evidence that Iraq moved any chemical warfare agents south of Khamisiyah.
Due to the conflicting evidence, investigators are less certain and the assessment of this event remains as indeterminate.
This narrative, and all other publications of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments, is posted on GulfLINK at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/fisher_final/ .