NY Times Shock Investigation: U.S. Troops Misled, Ill From Long-Abandoned Iraq Chemical Weapons
Weapons that had been abandoned by Saddam Hussein long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq caused illnesses to Americans serving there. It was covered up. Also kept secret was the Pentagon’s lack of preparedness for finding such weapons, weapons we helped them obtain in the first place.
Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, these soldiers had entered an expansive but largely secret chapter of America’s long and bitter involvement in Iraq.
From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule…
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 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…
“They put a gag order on all of us — the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” Lieutenant [James F.] Burns [pictured] said. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified top secret.”
…the American government issued a detailed analysis of Iraq’s weapons programs. The widely heralded report, by the multinational Iraq Survey Group, concluded that Iraq had not had an active chemical warfare program for more than a decade.
The group, led by Charles A. Duelfer, a former United Nations official working for the Central Intelligence Agency, acknowledged that the American military had found old chemical ordnance: 12 artillery shells and 41 rocket warheads. It predicted that troops would find more.
[su_r_sky_ad]But these were not the WMD’s used as justification for the war.
Reached recently, Mr. Duelfer agreed that the weapons were still a menace, but said the report strove to make it clear that they were not “a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction.”
“What I was trying to convey is that these were not militarily significant because they not used as W.M.D.,” he said. “It wasn’t that they weren’t dangerous.”
The Pentagon withheld information.
The publicly released information also skirted the fact that most of the chemical artillery shells were traceable to the West, some tied to the United States.
These shells, which the American military calls M110s, had been developed decades ago in the United States. Roughly two feet long and weighing more than 90 pounds, each is an aerodynamic steel vessel with a burster tube in its center.
Most shocking in the story is the coverup by the United States that prevented troops it sent to battle to be properly cared for. Information was also kept from the world at large.
The United States had invaded Iraq to reduce the risk of the weapons of mass destruction that it presumed Mr. Hussein still possessed. And after years of encountering and handling Iraq’s old chemical arms, it had retroactively informed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2009 that it had recovered more than 4,500 chemical weapons.
But it had not shared this data publicly. And as it prepared to withdraw, old stocks set loose after the invasion were still circulating. Al Muthanna had still not been cleaned up.