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Chemical Weapons and Iraq

Peter Suderman summarizes [1] the findings of a New York Times report [2] on old chemical weapons stocks in Iraq:

These were not products of the active, ongoing chemical weapons program that the Bush administration claimed existed and had to be stopped when it first made the case for war in Iraq. All the weapons were all more than a decade old by the time they were discovered. Most were made in the 1980s, and every single one of them had been created before 1991.

The Times says flatly that “the discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.” [bold mine-DL]

Not only was there no desire on the part of the government to publicize these findings, but the government made a point of keeping secret the existence of these weapons even when American soldiers had been exposed to them:

The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.

“I felt more like a guinea pig than a wounded soldier,” said a former Army sergeant who suffered mustard burns in 2007 and was denied hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the United States despite requests from his commander.

Congress, too, was only partly informed, while troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found.

The discoveries proved embarrassing to the government for a number of reasons. For one thing, they didn’t support the administration’s pre-war claims about Iraq’s WMD programs, but rather underscored just how wrong those claims had been:

Participants in the chemical weapons discoveries said the United States suppressed knowledge of finds for multiple reasons, including that the government bristled at further acknowledgment it had been wrong. “They needed something to say that after Sept. 11 Saddam used chemical rounds,” Mr. Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

In addition to that, many of the weapons were produced in the West:

In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.

The real story here is that the government mistreated American soldiers that were exposed to chemical agents, neglected to secure some of the weapons it found, mishandled many of the weapons that it did destroy, and all the while did its best to keep the public from learning about this outrageous behavior. As Suderman put it, “it looks like the revelation of another colossal failure in what is already widely recognized as a colossal failure of a war.”

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6 Comments To "Chemical Weapons and Iraq"

#1 Comment By HyperIon On October 15, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

DL wrote: As Suderman put it, “it looks like the revelation of another colossal failure in what is already widely recognized as a colossal failure of a war.”

But my Republican brother-in-law keeps telling me that it’s too soon to judge the Iraq invasion/war. He goes on: “Maybe years in the future we’ll understand that it WAS an good idea.”

I used to think he was a pretty smart guy…but now it is widely recognized (by me at least) that he’s just another GOPer who is still drinking the Kool-Aid.

#2 Comment By Comrade Dread On October 15, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

Sweet Christmas… how many times does selling or giving away arms to third parties have to come back to bite us in the behind before we stop doing it?

Or are we really that soulless as a nation and committed to violence and the almighty dollar above decency and humanity?

Don’t answer that last question. I just gave up drinking.

#3 Comment By AnotherBeliever On October 15, 2014 @ 8:14 pm

Wait, we’re talking some of the same artillery shells that the insurgents made IEDs and car bombs from. And the some of the same ones they blew up in place to defuse the threat from them. This means that while it was EOD specialists and engineers at highest risk, followed by folks who did a lot of convoys, in the end, anyone in the plume of anything that blew up over there is potentially at some risk. Which is to say, most of us.

This might be another explanation for the breathing problems and several other health problems which have so far been variously attributed to burn pits and weird metals suspended in dust storms. Well, the presence of old chemical munitions might actually account for both of those. The VA won’t admit there’s any nexus between the issues and service in Iraq, of course, not even as the list of exposures grows. Maybe when we’re all in our 60s, as with Vietnam and Agent Orange.

But I really feel for the Iraqis who don’t just do a tour or the there, but deal with it permanently. Plus ISIS.

#4 Comment By Holier Than Mao On October 16, 2014 @ 1:14 am

I guess they figured that with public trust in government at an all time low they’d best sweep everything under the carpet. Besides, there are too many prigs and party poopers around who might want to actually hold government officials accountable for innocent little boo-boos like detonating chemical weapons … “heckuva job”, “mission accomplished!”, “Yes We Can!”, “Hope and Change” …

#5 Comment By balconesfault On October 16, 2014 @ 7:38 am

And yet – so many veterans continue to support the GOP. Because some dirty hippie in the SF airport spit on a returning Vietnam vet back in 1967 or something.

Clearly, there are both liberals and conservatives who have done bad things to our military and our veterans … but as a matter of party politics the Republicans have been more likely to do bad things programmatically.

#6 Comment By Andy in CO On October 16, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

And yet I see all the neocons and all my right-wing friends who still think of that war as a great idea championing this revelation as some grand vindication of the Bush admin when in the exact same NYT piece it clearly shows that it is not. Even right now I’m hearing Mark Levin on the radio distort this story into what he wants it to sound like for his audience, that the Bush admin was completely justified in its unprovoked war of aggression.

And this still doesn’t account for the mythological link between Hussein and AQ/9-11 the neocons bombarded us with. Unfortunately the recent crISIS has given them another microphone after they had crawled back into their hole for a little while.