Chemical Weapons Found in Iraq Were Not Those Used to Justify Invasion
U.S. troops and U.S.-trained Iraqi forces uncovered about 5,000 chemical weapons in Iraq between 2004 and 2011 and soldiers were injured by these weapons in six instances. However, the weapons had not been manufactured during an active, ongoing chemical weapons program, which the Bush administration cited as justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Details of the discovery of these weapons were published by the New York Times on October 14, in a lengthy, 9,000-word report written by former Marine Corps officer and veteran journalist C.J. Chivers.
Despite injuries to our troops, the U.S. government withheld information about the discovery of the weapons even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors.
“‘Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” retired Army Major Jarrod Lampier told the Times. Lampier was on site when the largest chemical weapons dump, containing 2,400 warheads, was found.
The Times report offered reasons why the news of the discovery of the weapons and the injuries they inflicted on our soldiers was withheld from the public:
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,” Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”
Others pointed to another embarrassment. 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.
All the weapons found in Iraq were produced during a crash program started in the 1980s for use against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War from September 1980 to August 1988. Since the overthrow of the Shah in the 1979 Iranian revolution, and the subsequent hostage crisis that began with the occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Tehren by Iranian revolutionaries on November 4, 1979 — after which 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days — the United States and the revolutionary Iranian government had regarded each other as fierce adversaries.
With this history, the United States covertly aided Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran. A report in the New York Times on August 18, 2002 referenced then-current statements made by President George W. Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iran was justification for “regime change” in Iraq. The article, headlined “Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas,” pointed to the blatant hypocrisy of the Bush administration’s position, given U.S. complicity in Iraq’s earlier chemical weapons program.
When the Times contacted Frank Carlucci, the Reagan administration defense secretary from 1987-89, he stated: “I did agree that Iraq should not lose the war, but I certainly had no foreknowledge of their use of chemical weapons.”
Col. Walter Lang, retired, the senior defense intelligence officer at the time of the Iraq-Iran War, told the Times he would not discuss classified information, but added that both DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and CIA officials “were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose” to Iran.
“The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern,” Land said. He added that Reagan’s aides were more concerned that Iran not break through to the Fao Peninsula and spread the Islamic revolution to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Colonel Lang said that the DIA “would have never accepted the use of chemical weapons against civilians, but the use against military objectives was seen as inevitable in the Iraqi struggle for survival.”
The chemical weapons discovered during the post-Saddam U.S. occupation of Iraq, according to what was revealed in this latest exposé, were basically surplus war materiel left over from Iraq’s war with Iran.