On March 19, 2003, a solemn-faced President George W. Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office, announcing the early stages of American and coalition forces taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder,” Bush said.
Two months prior, in his State of the Union address, Bush spoke the phrase that would define a decade of war: Weapons of mass destruction. “My hope is that all nations will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own…Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction…Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.”
It appears that Bush – either knowingly or unwittingly led to the conclusion – was correct, at least in part. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the NY Times obtained a heavily redacted, 45-page document from the Department of the Army, dated Jan. 16, 2014, that showed over 4,990 chemical munitions were discovered in Iraq between 2004 and 2011.
The World Tribune on Oct. 15, citing the report from the Times, stated that U.S. troops “repeatedly encountered Weapons of Mass Destruction. Meanwhile, voters back home and the world at large had been repeatedly told precisely the opposite by U.S. media reports. The Republican administration of George W Bush was condemned on a daily basis by partisans in and out of government for executing a war in Iraq on the false premise that such WMD existed and posed a threat to Iraqis and the region at large.”
But while many media outlets have painted a superficial spin on the article and dangled the news for some salacious clickbait, the Times was quick to point out the obvious – these weapons were old, outdated armaments, many of them inoperable, sourced from long-abandoned programs. Hardly the justification that would mirror Secretary of State Colin Powell’s convincing contention that Iraq had an active WMD program, something that inspectors from the United Nation could never find.
An excerpt from the Times:
The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.
The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.
The secrecy fit a pattern. Since the outset of the war, the scale of the United States’ encounters with chemical weapons in Iraq was neither publicly shared nor widely circulated within the military. These encounters carry worrisome implications now that the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.
The information was so closely withheld that even American troops and military medical doctors were kept in the dark regarding what they were walking into – and many suffered for it.
“I felt more like a guinea pig than a wounded soldier,” said one former Army sergeant who suffered mustard burns in 2007, the Times reported.
Jarrod Lampier, a retired Army major, was there when his unit came across 2,400 nerve-agent warheads in 2006. However, he was firmly ordered to give a misleading reply if asked about them. “’Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” said Lampier.
Jarrod L. Taylor, a former Army sergeant, oversaw the destruction of mustard shells located in old Republican Guard bunkers. He sarcastically joked of “wounds that never happened” and “that stuff that didn’t exist,” adding that the American people were lied to for over a decade. “I love it when I hear, ‘Oh there weren’t any chemical weapons in Iraq,’” Taylor said. “There were plenty.”
Soldiers injured by the leaking chemical weapons were sworn to secrecy. “They put a gag order on all of us — the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” one officer quoted in the report said. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified top secret.”
The discovery of WMDs and chemical agents: Conservatives are hailing Bush as being unmistakably spot on, liberal media outlets are trumpeting the discovery. And yet, the Bush administration, so desperate to vindicate themselves with the presence of lethal weapons, never revealed the information? Why?
According to the Times, the majority of the weapons “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 weapons were made by the West, then discovered decades later.
Further evidence of gross political manipulation? Or long-sought vindication? Sound off below with your thoughts.
For the full report, head over to the New York Times article: The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons