Correction: US Did Find Chemical Weapons in Iraq – The Ones They Sent There

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Jon Queally writes at Common Dreams:

These aren’t the chemical weapons you’re looking for.

New reporting from the New York Times, published online late Tuesday, reveals that although the administration of George W. Bush employed false claims of a chemical weapons program to justify its 2003 invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (no such program existed) – the reality is that substantial, largely forgotten and degraded stockpiles of older weapons did exist inside the country.

However, according to the Times, because those weapons dated back to the 1980’s—when the U.S. and other western nations were acting as an ally to Iraq and supplying weapons and chemical agents to Hussein during his war against Iran—U.S. troops who ultimately came across these weapons and ordered to destroy them were told to remain quiet about what they’d encountered, even as it put their own health and those of others in grave danger.

As the newspaper reports, former U.S. soldiers who participated in the disposal of such weapons during the long occupation of Iraq said the Bush administration, including the Pentagon, suppressed the existence of them for several 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,” Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major who was present for the largest chemical weapons discovery of the war, told the Times. His unit, he says, found more than 2,400 nerve-agent rockets unearthed in 2006 at a former Republican Guard compound, but said, “all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

According to the Times:

The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.

Then, during the long occupation, American troops began encountering old chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs. Typically 155-millimeter artillery shells or 122-millimeter rockets, they were remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

All had been manufactured before 1991, participants said. Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin. Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them.

In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.

As a result, Murtaza Hussain, a journalist with The Intercept, responded to the story by tweeting, “What is new from this story is the U.S. government under Bush was as cavalier about American lives as it was Iraqis.”

And what’s more? “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.”

Continue reading.

  • ikonag

    LOL.. Nice spin by the NY Times: “OK so there were WMD in Iraq but Bush still lied about…ummm…something. We’ll get back to you on that”

    • Adam’s Shadow

      “…because those weapons dated back to the 1980’s—when the U.S. and other western nations were acting as an ally to Iraq and supplying weapons and chemical agents to Hussein during his war against Iran—U.S. troops who ultimately came across these weapons and ordered to destroy them were told to remain quiet about what they’d encountered, even as it put their own health and those of others in grave danger.”

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Aha! Caught you reading again!

        • misinformation

          Look’s like we got ourselves a readuh… -Bill Hicks

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Amazing how Al Qaeda managed to mimic US chemical weapons technology so completely as to fool even us.

    • sveltesvengali

      They were really grasping at straws after the anthrax attacks.

      “Al-Qa’ida! … Iraq?! … Uh, possibly Russia, maybe? … Sh*t!” Things got pretty close to home from there on out.

  • BuzzCoastin

    reminds me of that bill hicks joke
    “They have incredible weapons!”
    “How do we know that?”
    “We read the receipt. ”
    “As soon a the check clears, we’re goin in!”

    yeah, like it’s a surprise that duh homeland’s “enemies”
    are armed to the teeth with homeland made weapons
    duh
    homeland

  • Simon Valentine

    so happy to make the sale Saddam

    well, time to buy stock in snack vending!

  • sveltesvengali

    Not that it was a new story anyways (see here: http://web.archive.org/web/20030102165511/http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/archive/1980s/wpost121586.htm ), but wasn’t it ironic that these files were declassified right when the United States was calling out the government of Syria for ostensibly perpetrating their own little atrocity last year?

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran

    • misinformation

      Even though the best intel I’ve come across points the deployment finger at the ‘rebels’, not Assad using chemical weapons.

      • sveltesvengali

        Sure. At the very least, BND intelligence reports suggest that Assad did not personally rubber-stamp the Ghouta attack, and there is an overall absence of substantive evidence suggesting that any high-level government official did (c’mon, German Foreign Affairs Committee – you’re really gonna’ go on some third-party rumor sourced from Hezbollah?!):

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/08/us-syria-crisis-germany-idUSBRE98707B20130908

        Obviously, if this is true and even if some rogue element of the Syrian military conducted the attack (as I recall speculating before I had even heard about this), the US trying to use it as a casus belli is equivalent to China hypothetically attempting to make the same case against us using the Mỹ Lai massacre as a pretext. It wasn’t for no reason that up to 94% of some survey samples thought the ambiguity of the evidence smelled like Iraq all over again.