Another War, Another Pentagon Cover-Up

A new report from the New York Times confirms the adage that, in war, the first casualty is the truth.

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The New York Times is out with a report on a Pentagon cover-up of injuries and exposures suffered by American soldiers fighting in Iraq who ran across depleted stockpiles of what used to be a chemical weapons stockpile that existed prior to 1991:

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.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

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 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.

(…)

Rear Adm. John Kirby, spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, declined to address specific incidents detailed in the Times investigation, or to discuss the medical care and denial of medals for troops who were exposed. But he said that the military’s health care system and awards practices were under review, and that Mr. Hagel expected the services to address any shortcomings.

“The secretary believes all service members deserve the best medical and administrative support possible,” he said. “He is, of course, concerned by any indication or allegation they have not received such support. His expectation is that leaders at all levels will strive to correct errors made, when and where they are made.”

The first thing to get out of the way about this story is that this report does not, in any way, provide some kind of vindication for Bush Administration and it claims during the run up to the Iraq War that Iraq was maintaining an active WMD program that included the production of chemical and other weapons. They were not part of an active WMD program, most of them had been abandoned and even forgotten by the Iraqis themselves and could not be used as a military weapons. Moreover, the existence of this pre-1991 program was well known to the West due to our collaboration with Saddam during the Iran -Iraq War and the inspections that followed the Persian Gulf War. These are not the weapons that anyone in the Bush Administration was speaking of in the run up to the Iraq War and which formed the principal justification for the war.  This is a suggestion that I have seen being pushed by many on the on the right since this story broke overnight. As the Times goes on to note, however, the material in question here was, in some sense at least already known to the West both because of collaboration with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War and because of the inspections that followed the Persian Gulf War:

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.

National Review’s Patrick Brennan agrees with the Times’ assessment:

The existence of these weapons doesn’t affect the debate over the war’s justification either way: They’re not evidence that Saddam Hussein was, as proponents of the war contended, in the process of resuming chemical-weapons production or starting other WMD programs. But on the other hand, as the existence of thousands of hidden or mislabeled chemical-weapons munitions reported in Chivers’s article could suggest, Saddam was clearly not complying with United Nations requirements about exposing and dismantling his chemical-weapons stores, which was the legal justification for the war.

Rather than providing evidence in a decade-old debate, it seems clear that what these revelations do show is both an intelligence failure on the part of the United States regarding the whereabouts of at least some of these depleted pre-1991 stockpiles and yet another example of the Pentagon choosing to cover-up the fact that troops were placed in danger and exposed to dangerous materials, a story that has been repeated in too many of America’s recent military conflicts to count. After all, while these materials were not part of an active WMD program they were still chemical weapons or remnants of highly dangerous and volatile chemicals. For the most part, it appears as though many of the soldiers that encountered this material had no idea what they were coming upon and were not provided the proper gear to deal with it, at least not until they had already been exposed to caustic chemicals of some sort or another. That, in part, is where the intelligence failure, or at the very least a failure to communicate, comes into play, because it obviously would have been preferable for the soldiers who encountered this material to know what they were dealing with and to have the proper gear to deal with.

Instead of doing that, though, military officials seemed intent on downplaying the risks:

In September 2004, months after Sergeant Burns and Private Yandell picked up the leaking sarin shell, 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.

The report also played down the dangers of the lingering weapons, stating that because their contents would have deteriorated, “any remaining chemical munitions in Iraq do not pose a militarily significant threat.”

(…)

In late 2005 and early 2006, soldiers collected more than 440 Borak 122-millimeter chemical rockets near Amara, in southeastern Iraq. And in the first nine months of 2006, the American military recovered roughly 700 chemical warheads and shells, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

British forces also destroyed 21 Borak rockets in early 2006, including some that contained nerve agent, according to a public statement to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2010.

The Pentagon did not provide this information to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as it worked in the summer of 2006 examining intelligence claims about Iraq’s weapons programs.

Even as the Senate committee worked, the American Army made its largest chemical weapons find of the war: more than 2,400 Borak rockets.

The rockets were discovered at Camp Taji, a former Republican Guard compound, when Americans “running a refueling point for helicopters saw some shady activity on the other side of a fence,” said Mr. Lampier, who lived at the camp at the time.

An Iraqi digging with a front-end loader ran away when an American patrol approached, leaving behind partly unearthed rockets.

Mr. Lampier, then a captain commanding the 756th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, was with the first to arrive. “At first we saw three,” he said. “Then it wasn’t three. It was 30. Then it wasn’t 30. It was 300. It went up from there.”

(…)

With this discovery, the American military had found more than 3,000 pieces of chemical ordnance and knew that many were still dangerous. The military did not disclose this as the Senate worked; instead, it stood by data from the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center that it had declassified in late June, leading the Senate to publish an inaccurate report.

The report, released in September 2006, claimed “another 500 filled and unfilled degraded pre-1991 chemical munitions” had been found — about one-sixth of the Pentagon’s internal tallies.

This tally, obsolete as it was published, was not updated in the ensuing years, as more chemical weapons were found and as more troops were exposed.

The full Times report, which defies being excerpted here, is well worth reading if you have the time and goes on to detail injuries suffered by American troops who handled this material, as well as evidence that some blister agents that may have been recovered from these sites were used in roadside IEDs that were used to target American troops during the height of the war. To some extent, the cover-up of the injuries and the exposure of the troops to these dangerous chemicals is reminiscient of the way the military handled the Agent Orange issue in the years after the Vietnam War. In that case, the Pentagon and VA spent years pushing back on claims by veterans that exposure to the herbicide that was used extensively in the war was the cause of neurlogical and other problems that they were experiencing years later. It was only after years of intense lobbying and pressure, not to mention media exposure and litigation, that recognition was finally given to this issue. Will it take as long for the Iraq War vets who were exposed to these dangerous and caustic chemicals to get their recognition as well? Given the Pentagon’s record on these issues, it unfortunately seems as though that may be the case.

The final issue, of course, is the somewhat astounding fact that so little has been done to remove these stockpiles from Iraq or otherwise destroy them on site. That did happen in many cases, of course, but in others it seems as tough the material was either left behind where it was, and now that material is in danger of falling into unsavory hands. Near the end of the article, for example, the Times makes note of a depot called  Al Muthanna, which had been a site where chemical weapons had been manufactured and stored during the long history of the Saddam Hussein regime. For reasons that seem inconceivable to me, there was little done to secure this complex beyond turning it over to the Iraqis, who then had the responsibility for securing and entombing the site. The Iraqis had developed a plan to do just that, apparently, but that project had not been completed when the United States had left Iraq in 2011, and it was unclear what the status of the location was when reporters visited there last year. Today, that location, what has never been entombed as the Iraqis promised, is under the control of the Islamic State.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Intelligence, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    The first thing to get out of the way about this story is that this report does not, in any way, provide some kind of vindication for Bush Administration and it claims during the run up to the Iraq War that Iraq was maintaining an active WMD program that included the production of chemical and other weapons.

    Congratulations, Doug, you’ve finally signed on fully to the Big Lie. Please go back and find where the Bush administration spoke of an ACTIVE WMD program as the sole justification.

    From the Authorization for Use of Military Force:

    Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

    Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

    Whereas in 1998 Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in “material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations” and urged the President “to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations” (Public Law 105-235);

    Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;

    There were numerous reasons. And remember, the Big Lie for years has been “Iraq had no WMDs.” Now that that’s been proven a lie, a new one has to be constructed: “Iraq had no active WMD program at the time of the invasion.” Several thousand weapons stockpiled don’t count now; the “Saddam had no WMDs” argument is now Inoperative. Only the “active WMD program” lie is now Operative.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    So the same Pentagon that prohibited taking pictures of troops returning home in caskets, also hid injuries to soldiers due to abandoned chemicals? Shocking.
    The best part of this story is the wingnuts who now think this story vindicates the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Doh…Jenos proved my point pre-emptively.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Remember this one? It’s an oldie but a goodie:

    Rice acknowledged that “there will always be some uncertainty” in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but said, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

    Cheney and Rumsfeld repeated that one separately too.

  5. CB says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Congratulations, we found the stockpiles of old mustard gas that we gave Saddam in the 80’s. Sweet vindication!

  6. C. Clavin says:

    @al-Ameda:
    The whole outing-of-a-covert-operative by Scooter was about whether Iraq was actively pursuing WMD…and Cheney’s insistence that they were in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
    Cheney on CNN; 3/24/02:

    “[Hussein] is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time, and we think that’s cause for concern, for us and for everybody in the region,”

    As for sole justification…of course not…I think they eventually got to a bakers dozen…none of which held the water you still insist on carrying. But it was certainly the primary justification…and it was false.

    “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Dick Cheney said in a 2002 speech. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

    No doubt.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:

    none of which held the water you still insist on carrying.

    Sorry…that was directed at Jenos…not
    @al-Ameda:

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    C’mon, people. You had a good run. You kept up the “Saddam had no WMDs” lie going for what — 12 years? But the cat’s out of the bag now. Just give it up.

  9. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    These were not WMDs. They could not be used militarily. They were, in essence, the equivalent of an Iraqi Superfund site.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    I for one have never said Iraq had no WMD’s. In the lead-up to the war, and in the aftermath, I thought it was nuts to claim they had no gas weapons since they’d quite clearly used gas weapons against the Iranians, and done so with not a peep of protest from us.

    However, I’ve never accepted the notion that gas weapons are Weapons of Mass Destruction. I think that term applies accurately to biological and nuclear. Gas weapons can massively complicate a battlefield or murder civilians, but you can’t wipe out New York City with mustard gas or even nerve gas.

    I’ve also never said or believed it was crazy to suspect Saddam of making gas weapons – since he had – or of suspecting that he would be capable of making biological weapons. I suspect he tried, and he may have succeeded, but biologicals are pretty damned tricky unless you’re bent on suicide.

    I assumed he’d tried to make nukes – witness Dimona – but did not know whether he had them at the time war started, though his failure to use them in Gulf War 1 or at least to threaten their use made me wonder.

    That said, WMDs were never the reason I supported (51/49) Gulf War 2. Nor were human rights abuses per se, though they were reason enough to believe that Saddam needed killing.

    I supported the war because the Arab Middle East is a festering boil, a diseased culture that seemed incapable of curing itself or of containing the infection. I’d suggest that particular opinion is hard to argue with given what we’ve seen subsequently. I thought we were going all Japan 1945 on them. I thought Cheney at least was enough of a realist to understand that this would mean a very heavy hand for a long time.

    I turned on the war when I saw the looting and realized we had not even bothered to bring MP’s along to manage crowd control. It was the staggering incompetence of the Bush administration that I objected to. It was a sickening display of cowardice, cupidity, stupidity and ideological blindness.

    Had we been able to pull it off in the style of Japan, Germany, Italy and Austria 1945, I believe the world would be a better place today. I said at the time it was a 51/49 thing for me because the difficulty level was very high. I still think it could have been done in the sense that it was not inherently an impossible task. But I have come to accept that it could not have been done with the population and culture of this era. I think I fundamentally mis-read the willingness of the American people to take a long view and do hard things. But of course the pitiful efforts of the Bush-Cheney administration doomed the effort before it started, so I guess we won’t know that for sure.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Everyone knew they had old unusable chemicals.
    From 2006:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/weapons-found-in-iraq-old-unusable/
    The only news here is that there were injuries previously not disclosed. And the only ones who believe the nonsense you are spewing are the people who have themselves invested by the very nature of being so god-damned wrong…and having the blood of 4000 troops o their hands.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Talk about mentally lazy.

    If I present five good reasons in favor of something, and you focus all your attention to discredit one, you don’t win. You’ve left four more unchallenged. The Iraq AUMF cited over a dozen grounds.

    And this “active” thing is quite entertaining. Imagine if cops had to deal with that kind of mentality.

    “Sorry, chief, the big pot raid was a bust.”

    “What happened? We had solid evidence the guy was growing pot in his basement!”

    “When we got there, he was sleeping upstairs, and the grow lights were turned off.”

    “DAMMIT!”

    @Doug Mataconis: They were a “Superfund” site filled with things that, by the terms of the 1991 armistice, were supposed to be accounted for and destroyed.

    Which was Item 1 on the 2002 AUMF.

  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    So, let’s to recap Jenos:

    1. An article is posted stating that soldiers came across the chemical weapons we developed in conjunction with Iraq and claims this proves the Iraq War was justified all along.

    2. He takes offense at the word “active” WMD program, and claims that no one in the Bush admin said that there was an active program, just that there were WMDs.

    3. Everyone on the thread posts examples of the Bush Administration doing just that.

    4. He goes back to point number one.

    I know this has been said time and time again, but you really really do enjoy being spanked, don’t you?

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Cliffy, one day you should actually read what you link.

    Hundreds of chemical weapons found in Iraq were produced before the 1991 Gulf War and probably are so old they couldn’t be used as designed

    Produced before the 1991 Gulf War: Covered under the terms of Saddam’s surrender.

    Probably: Classic weasel word.

    Couldn’t be used as designed: so, instead of being fired out of an artillery gun, they could be used as part of an IED. Or strapped to a suicide bomber.

    “We have found stockpiles.”

    Have you ever presented a link that didn’t disprove your own point?

  15. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Nope. It would be the same as if the cop came across an empty attic, found the leftover stems from a dimebag, and some crazy guy is standing outside the police station yelling about how this proves there is an active grow operation.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    So your argument is that we sent 4000 troops to their death and spent over $2T because Saddam had chemicals so old they couldn’t be used as designed?
    OK then. Got it. Don’t believe it. But I understand the argument…which is ridiculous…even for the likes of you.

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I thought it was nuts to claim they had no gas weapons since they’d quite clearly used gas weapons against the Iranians, and done so with not a peep of protest from us.

    Exactly. We looked the other way while they gassed the Iranians, and then we redefined the Iraqi Sarin Gas inventory (that we were sure that they had) as WMDs because we needed to sell the threat to us.

  18. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Neil Hudelson: 1. An article is posted stating that soldiers came across the chemical weapons we developed in conjunction with Iraq and claims this proves the Iraq War was justified all along.

    From the article:

    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.

    Quite a jump there, Neil. “The West” is incredibly ambiguous. If the Times could link it to the US or a specific administration, why wouldn’t they say so?

    Here’s two explanations that are consistent with what the article says:

    1) These were developed from dual-use programs originally intended for humanitarian reasons, like pest control.

    2) Some other Western nation — such as France, which supplied Saddam with a LOT of his weapons — did it.

    Just as valid conclusions from the article, which is nowhere near as absolute as you purport it to be.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    The chemical weapons were still dangerous and might have been used in battle, but to describe them as WMD’s is the “weasel” word here. There’s was nothing mass about their destructive capacity. They’d have been more dangerous to the Iraqi soldiers than to us.

    Further, the Bush administration’s propaganda was not about gas weapons, it was about nukes. Condi Rice talked about mushroom clouds, not a few dozen people dying painfully. Gas weapons are no more mass-destruction weapons than high explosives.

    So, no, Jenos, you do not win the point.

  20. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: So your argument is that we sent 4000 troops to their death and spent over $2T because Saddam had chemicals so old they couldn’t be used as designed?

    Because, obviously, weapons that can’t be used as designed are totally harmless. They can’t be used in any kind of Improvised fashion, right?

    And under the 1991 surrender, Saddam wasn’t supposed to “hide ’em until they’re harmless.” He was supposed to account for them and destroy them.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Dude, we didn’t care if Saddam had nerve gas to use on his own people or neighbors. Our only concern was weapons that could have been shopped to terrorists for use against US and European targets. These quite clearly do not qualify. You just cannot sneak leaking nerve gas shells on board a plane. So stop being obtuse and dishonest.

  22. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: The chemical weapons were still dangerous and might have been used in battle, but to describe them as WMD’s is the “weasel” word here. There’s was nothing mass about their destructive capacity.

    Educate yourself. “Weapons of Mass Destruction” have been defined as Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical for decades. The only recent change was to include “radiological,” as in “dirty bombs” that don’t use nuclear reactions.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Again…that was worth 4000 lives and over 2 trillion dollars?

  24. gVOR08 says:

    The only story here is that DOD didn’t recover this stuff and covered up the resulting casualties. The US government knew Iraq had these old weapons. The public has known, or should have known for years that they had these weapons. Our collaboration with Iraq providing intelligence facilitating use of these weapons is the least of it. Per WAPO last year

    As documented in 2002 by Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, the Reagan administration knew full well it was selling materials to Iraq that was being used for the manufacture of chemical weapons, and that Iraq was using such weapons,

    IIRC Cheney later vehemently denied the US ever sold chemical and biological weapons to Iraq. Apparently his out was that the government didn’t sell the materials directly, it facilitated private sales.

    And at the same time the Reagan admin was selling missiles to the Iranians. Parody is dead.

  25. C. Clavin says:

    we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud…of chemical munitions that do not pose a militarily significant threat

    Just doesn’t quite have that ring to it….if you know what I mean.

  26. C. Clavin says:

    Next Jenos is going to tell us that Saddam and OBL were indeed in cahoots.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Don’t ever try to condescend, you’re not up for it.

    Obviously – as I acknowledged up-thread – gas has been tossed in as a “WMD” I’m saying I think that’s nonsense. And in any event, no one, ever, has defined unusable chemicals as WMDs. It’s not a weapon if it cannot be used as a weapon, and unstable gas shells are not exactly weapons so much as they are a great way to kill your own artillery soldiers.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Let me put it this way: the medical waste being produced in West Africa and Texas is more of a WMD than anything Saddam had. You could definitely kill some people with the used gloves at that Texas hospital, and they would therefore theoretically be a biological threat, and if you had thousands and stuffed them into a warhead you might have yourself WMD, but I don’t think we’re going to invade Texas.

  29. Dave says:

    @C. Clavin: Please, you might also want to include other casualties, besides just U.S. deaths and $ when reckoning the costs.

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And under the 1991 surrender, Saddam wasn’t supposed to “hide ‘em until they’re harmless.” He was supposed to account for them and destroy them.

    And of course all of these old Sarin Gas inventories left from the 1980s could be repurposed as a direct threat to the United States homeland.

    We went to war in Iraq for nothing related directly to the security of the United States, and now we’re paying a steep price for that miscalculation.

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @Dave:
    Point taken.

  32. Barry says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “If I present five good reasons in favor of something, and you focus all your attention to discredit one, you don’t win. You’ve left four more unchallenged. The Iraq AUMF cited over a dozen grounds.”

    If you present reasons which are knocked down, one after the other, then that’s a different story.

  33. Paul L. says:

    But progressives said “There were NO WMDs in Iraq.”

  34. Grewgills says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    and the guy outside screaming is the one that sold him the weed.

  35. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: The term “weapon of mass destruction”, which by definition is a tool of immense power, cannot be reasonably said to apply to a weapon dependent on temperature and which way the wind is blowing. The Great War is the only conflict in which gas saw significant use and was only truly effective on one occasion during the Battle of Second Ypres. Other attempts were as likely to fail as to harm one’s own soldiers. Even the Nazis didn’t bother producing or deploying it in mass quantities as they considered it (rightly) a diversion of resources.

    The U.S. wanted gas weapons labeled a weapon of mass destruction so it would have the freedom to respond to a chemical incident with nuclear weapons, should it choose. It’s a politicized definition and gas is more accurately designated a weapon of terror for the fear and demoralization it can provoke.

  36. al-Ameda says:

    @Paul L.:

    But progressives said “There were NO WMDs in Iraq.”

    And, we were right. That is, unless you want to redefine the leftover stock of Sarin Gas cannisters to be WMDs – which they are not.

    Also, in a related matter, and one that relates to empirical evidence – in 2003, actual on-the-ground weapons inspectors found nothing to support the administration’s claims of WMDs. Some 11 years later there is still no evidence of those so-called WMDs.

  37. grumpy realist says:

    What was that old comment: “Yeah, we know that Saddam had WMDs because we held on to the receipts” ?

    Give the amount of crap leaking around Superfund sites, I guess Jenos will insist we go invade Louisiana now….

  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: Don’t ever try to condescend, you’re not up for it.

    Obviously – as I acknowledged up-thread – gas has been tossed in as a “WMD” I’m saying I think that’s nonsense. And in any event, no one, ever, has defined unusable chemicals as WMDs. It’s not a weapon if it cannot be used as a weapon

    First up, don’t argue with me about the definition of WMD. Argue with the lawmakers and policy makers who’ve been using it since before you were born.

    And you’re fudging the truth again — the weapons were cited as “probably couldn’t be used as designed.” That is NOT the same as harmless or no longer functional, and you’re too intelligent to make that mistake.

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    BTW, here’s an interesting thread from almost exactly ten years ago. I couldn’t help but notice a very familiar name in the comments.

    Did Bush lie? I don’t really know. Clearly war with Iraq was something the Bush admin wanted. I think WMD were a rationalization for the war. But I admit I was a bit suprised they did not have any.

  40. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    BTW, here’s an interesting thread from almost exactly ten years ago. I couldn’t help but notice a very familiar name in the comments.

    … and I couldn’t help but notice that you left out about 80% of what he posted, not that context matters.

    By coincidence that – 20%, or 1 in 5, – is roughly the proportion of truth to lies and manipulation that the Bush Administration used in selling the war in Iraq based on WMDs, possible nuclear threat, and so forth.

    Cheers.

  41. Thomas de Cive says:

    The predominance of the national press insisted that there were NO chemical weapons in Iraq in its effort to politically discredit the Bush administration.
    This NYT article is a slap in the face of those who insisted that Hussein had either destroyed his chemical weapons or turned them over to the UN for accountability.

    Further, these chemical munitions, some 5000 units, where disposed of OUTSIDE the UN chemical munitions Al Muthanna site and NOT accounted for by the UN inspectors….per the NYT.
    This “validation” of GWBush isnt about his “justification” for war……its about the lack of intellectual honesty in this nations media.

  42. Scott O says:

    @Paul L.: @Thomas de Cive: GWB, 2006, “We thought he had WMDs, turns out he didn’t”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soohikNdbWs

  43. C. Clavin says:

    Pretty friggin ‘ pathetic that people are still trying to defend what was arguably the biggest foreign policy blunder in US history…with mustard gas way past it’s born-on-date.
    Even Bush has given it up.
    Yet some keep trudging on.
    Sad, sad, sad….

  44. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    They’re not even in the conversation, a bunch of these people are flacks trying to steer the conversation with repetition of their talking points. Not Jenos, he’s just being his usual self.

  45. anjin-san says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Here is something else I said on that thread 10 years ago. It was not that hard to foresee the rise of ISIS:

    Bush has managed to turn Iraq into something more closely resembling a terrorist state.

  46. dazedandconfused says:

    @Thomas de Cive:

    Rubbish. It’s difficult to find even fringe media making that claim. It was common knowledge the Kurds were gassed after GW1, and were used in the war with Iran. Furthermore Saddam was very reluctant to prove he didn’t have any usable to speak of because he was very worried Iran might get to feeling froggy if they knew exactly how weak Iraq actually was. The claim he might have them was generally considered at least plausible. Proving a negative, and all that.

    For me, the obvious lies leading up to the war were the claims we had to invade because Saddam was denying access to certain spots and because there was an AQ training facility in the NE corner. When we had the inspectors in there, any denial of access could have been replied to with: “OK. Then you have 30 minutes before it becomes rubble.” The NE corner camp could have been taken by an Airborne brigade at any time. The bullcrap was obvious, so obvious I suspect 70% or so of the US public knew it was bullcrap, but let it go because they thought it would be easy. GW1 changed the general opinion about war.

  47. jukeboxgrad says:

    C. Clavin:

    No doubt.

    You cited Cheney saying that. This is the key point.

    Bush/Cheney said they knew with “absolute certainty” that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons. They said there was “no doubt.” Trouble is, there was plenty of doubt. Number of intelligence agencies that said what they were saying: zero. What they said the intel said is not what the intel said. No intelligence agency expressed the level of certainty they expressed. When you pretend to know something for sure even though you don’t actually know it for sure, this is known as lying.

    The proof that Bush lied is not found in what we failed to find. The proof that Bush lied is found in comparing what the intel said with what he said the intel said. Link.

  48. jukeboxgrad says:

    Jenos:

    The Iraq AUMF cited over a dozen grounds.

    Roughly half the pre-war SOTU is about terrorism, WMD, and Iraq. There are at least 15 scary paragraphs (over 1000 words) describing how dangerous Saddam is, how he allegedly has accumulated large stockpiles of horrible weapons, and how essential it is that we move quickly to disarm him. The word “weapon” (or close variants of that word) appears in the speech almost 30 times. You cannot read the SOTU address fairly and conclude that there was any serious attempt to argue for the war on any basis other than WMD, and the fear of terrorists obtaining them.

    A similar analysis applies regarding Bush’s famous pre-war address. It also focused mostly on WMD.

    If you look at those very visible and widely-circulated statements (and many other similar statements, such as those documented in this pdf), you see virtually nothing aside from a whole lot of focus on WMD. WMD is how Bush sold the war.

    Bush did not read the AUMF to a national audience. He read the speeches I cited. If you want to know the reality of how he sold the war, you need to read those speeches, not the AUMF.

  49. Eric Florack says:

    @CB: (cough) trucks (cough) headed to syria…

  50. jukeboxgrad says:

    Too bad there is no real evidence to support this claim, and lots of reasons to understand that it’s ridiculous.

  51. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    (cough) trucks (cough) headed to syria…

    Those trucks were carrying the Ebola Virus too

  52. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    (cough) trucks (cough) headed to syria…

    Ummm. Yea.

    What time are you expecting the Great Pumpkin to show up on Halloween?

  53. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Roughly 50% of the commentary on this thread was used to try to refute Jenos–the Energizer Bunny of thread hijacking. Maybe we should start ignoring him more.

    Or maybe we could Eliza him…

    @Jenos Idanian #13: That’s very interesting. Please explain it more…

    and quietly snicker at the blather he produces.

  54. J-Dub says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    From 2004 to 2011

    I’m pretty sure Bush was still President during most of this time. If finding these stockpiles vindicated their push for war, then why didn’t they reveal their existence at the time?

    Why would Bush be complicit in a Big Lie that was meant to discredit him?