Skip to comments.YEARS LATER, US MEDIA STILL CANíT GET IRAQI WMD STORY RIGHT
Posted on 10/17/2018 6:49:48 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
This past fall The New York Times began publishing a powerful, ongoing series revealing the U.S. militarys mistreatment of soldiers who were exposed to decades-old chemical weapons during Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to The Times, between 2004 and 2011 U.S. troops stumbled across about 5,000 Iraqi chemical munitions of various types, and at least 17 American personnel, mostly bomb disposal experts, were wounded by them. All of the ordnance was manufactured by Iraq prior to the 1991 Gulf War, during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.
Much of the conservative media has seized on the Times articles as long-awaited, sweet vindication of Bush’s case for war. According to Rush Limbaugh, it is now proven that “Saddam Hussein was doing and had done pretty much everything he was being accused of that justified that invasion.”
And the conservative glee is understandable: after all, Bush said Iraq had WMD, and here they are. Unfortunately for the right, however, they are just as wrong about this issue now as they were in 2003 but for a peculiar, little-understood reason: Saddam Hussein was not trying to hide the chemical munitions found by the U.S. Just the opposite, in fact.
In an interview with The Intercept, Charles Duelfer, head of the CIAs definitive post-war investigation of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction programs, explained that Saddam didnt know he had it … This is stuff Iraqi leaders did not know was left lying around. It was not a militarily significant capability that they were, as a matter of national policy, hiding.”
It is long established that Iraq with assistance from the U.S. and other Western countries produced enormous quantities of chemical weapons during its eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s. After Iraq was expelled from Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations Security Council sent inspectors to ensure that Iraq disclosed and destroyed its entire chemical (and biological and nuclear) weapons programs. Iraq repeatedly said that it had done so, while the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations claimed it was still hiding pre-1991 weaponry.
The chemical ordnance described in the Times series falls into two categories:
The first was munitions that had been sealed in bunkers at Iraqs Al Muthanna weapons complex by U.N. inspectors during the 1990s. The inspectors destroyed enormous quantities of chemical weapons at Al Muthanna between 1992 and 1994, including 480,000 litres of live chemical weapons agent, but some could not be incinerated because it was too dangerous to move it. The U.N. and U.S. knew these chemical weapons were there, Saddam Hussein knew they knew, and there was no way for the Iraqi military to access them without the world immediately finding out. But after the invasion the U.S. failed to secure the site, and insurgents broke into the bunkers to retrieve some of the munitions. This is well-known to anyone who follows this issue closely. However, the U.S. media, as Duelfer puts it, periodically “rediscover this and get excited about it.” (The Intercept explained some aspects of the remaining Al Muthanna munitions last fall.)
The second category was simply ordnance that the Iraqi military had lost track of. Says Duelfer, “Keeping in mind that they used 101,000 munitions in the Iran-Iraq War … it’s not really surprising that they have imperfect accounting. I bet the U.S. couldn’t keep track of many of its weapons produced and used during a war.” And as the Times series notes, Iraqs chemical shells often looked identical to its conventional ones: An X-ray of internal features was sometimes the only way to tell [the difference].
The Saddam Hussein regime was well aware of this issue when U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq in 2002, and knew that it would be disastrous for the Iraqi government if the U.N. found such prohibited weapons even if the regime had been unaware such weapons existed. Duelfers Iraq Survey Group reported that four months before the March 2003 invasion, Saddam ordered his top officials to cooperate completely with inspectors, with army commanders required to ensure their units retained no evidence of old WMD. (Colin Powell played intercepted audio of Iraqi soldiers discussing this at his infamous U.N. presentation but doctored the translation to make it appear suspicious; in fact, the soldiers were following Saddams orders to make certain they did not accidentally have chemical munitions mixed in with their conventional ones.)
But to locate all of Iraqs old chemical ordnance was an impossible task. As Duelfers report predicted in 2004, the U.S. would continue to find chemical shells not because the Saddam Hussein regime had been hiding them, but because they had been abandoned, forgotten and lost during the Iran-Iraq war [since] tens of thousands of CW munitions were forward deployed along the frequently and rapidly shifting battle lines.
As Duelfer points out, the U.S. military itself is itself not immune to losing things; the federal governments General Accounting Office found $1.2 billion worth of equipment was misplaced in just the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And in a situation oddly analogous to the munitions found in Iraq, in 1993 contractors digging the foundations for new mansions in one of Washington, D.C.s most expensive neighborhoods discovered a cache of chemical weapons manufactured by the U.S. Army in 1918. Similarly, during the 2004-11 period in which 5,000 chemical munitions were found in Iraq, about the same number dating from World War I were apparently found in Europe.
But the conservative media is not alone in its confusion about WMD in Iraq many centrist and liberal media publications also misunderstood the issue. Outlets such as Salon, MSNBC, The New Republic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and The Times itself all accurately reported that the Times series did not vindicate the case for war. However, their recollection of what Bush’s justification for war actually was as the Times put it, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program is not the whole story, either.
Its certainly true that most of the Bush administrations justification for war was that Iraq had active, post-1991 WMD programs. However, the administration also repeatedly claimed that Iraq was hiding elements of its pre-1991 chemical warfare program. In his State of the Union address two months before the invasion, Bush accused Iraq of concealing 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents from before the Gulf War. Colin Powell spoke of those munitions in his U.N. address, as well as 550 artillery shells with mustard and enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of chemical agents all from before 1991.
The complicated truth, then, is that part of the U.S. case for war was that the Iraqi government was hiding old, pre-1991 chemical weapons; such old chemical weapons were found in Iraq; but the U.S. case for war was still totally false because Saddams regime was not hiding those weapons.
Thanks in part to the failure of centrist and liberal media to explain this clearly, its now cemented as an article of faith on much of the right that Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destruction. Given this, many conservatives have been asking plaintively why Bush never took his own side in the argument. In fact, according to a recent story in The Daily Beast, during the Bush administration some Republican lawmakers wanted the president to hold a press conference with some of the old Iraqi chemical munitions while wearing a protective suit. However, the Bush White House in what was surely a first for them declined to do something incredibly foolish, rash and dangerous involving Iraqi WMD.
We should never have went to war and lost thousands of fine men and women. It was not necessary. Who was in charge of the war after 9/11 what General? A big failure. Who planned it. Troops killed by IED’s everyday.
I remember very clearly in 2003 though, the overwhelming sentiment in this FR forum was SUPPORTING the war to depose Saddam.
The overwhelming sentiment was that Saddam was conceiling his WMD’s.
I disagree. The Iraqi people were living under a murderous regime. Our primary mistake in prosecuting the war was that we did not do so as conquerors. We tried to paint ourselves as liberators but did a horrible job at it. We further failed to recognize the importance of local tribal affiliations and chieftains. By the time we did this, the dye was caste.
When your job is to distort the facts and or outright lie..the web can get kind of tangled.
That was me but I regret all that now. I see the dead faces on the facebook thread everyday beautiful faces and I have changed my mind. What kind of strategy was planned for that war? Probably none we just send them over to get blown up and die.
Thank you for this. The war was, and continues to be a multi $$$ trillion dollar mistake, not to mention an unnecessary bloodbath. My heart goes out to our brave kids who fought and were killed and injured there. In the future let people free themselves from tyrannical governments, rather than the US poking it’s nose in where it doesn’t belong. Trump’s instincts are right about foreign military intervention.
Hans Blix is on record regarding the extent of the post 1991 IRQ WMD capability. That’s not classified. The myriads of mobile “insecticide” plants and thousands of tank trailers found by the coalition during the early months of OIF tell a different story- that part is not being discussed. I am not sure why everyone who thinks WMD is given to the idea that such weapons require military platform delivery systems ( rockets/artillery tubes). Why did IRQ under Saddam have hundreds of crop dusting equipped small aircraft? hmm, not like they have millions of hectares of wheat growing other than in the far northern area not really much of anything else ag related other than along the rivers.
AFA the 5k plus miscellaneous arty shells and other chem ordnance, If you dig a bit, you will find reports of warehouses filled , that is not something that goes unnoticed by the Saddam govt. Too much is classified and unfortunately, the narrative is there for some reason.
There are other players involved and in my opinion, the reason why there are no “WMD capability” in IRQ, even though the record of the UN inspection program up till 2002ish tells a different story. Shrug. ISG data and official reports are available in part.
Wonder why the 20mt of yellow cake gets no traction? What purpose does Uranium ore have in a country with no nuke generation plants? I don’t know, but it sorta speaks to me, just a little bit. Same with the centrifuges and precision tubing (sound familiar-IRN?).
Anyway. The world system trundles onward towards the great and terrible of the LORD. Amen.
We all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.
Trump is an islationist? why are we in Sudan/HOA? Why are we in SYR/IRQ/AFG etc? Hmm, not fitting that narrative very well, espc with his NOK and KSA and RUS and IRN and stances.
All wars are the result of mistakes in diplomacy, but often diplomacy only is one sided. Perhaps we should have done more diplomacy, perhaps not. Regarding the “bloodbath” part, why s it that now the story line misses the fact that the world’s jihadis’ found it easier to attack armed troops in IRQ than in say, Los Angeles? Think about it, some 10k know and identified foreign fighters from all over the Muslim world came to IRQ to die, where we were rather free and able to help them meet their end. Glad they did and didn’t decide to come to the US and seek their revenge.
AQI was a threat, Saddam invited them to IRQ, they were involved in 9/11 etc.
To me, the horror was not OIF 03-14, but the abandonment of the fledgling Representative Republic by Obama and congress in 14-16. It took nearly 40 years post WWII to see Germany stable and safe, why only 6-8 for IRQ?
Don’t get too committed to Trumps “nonintervention” policy-one day someone may just decide to test his resolve regarding his forceful diplomacy. Sooner than later I think.
Trumps’ policy is speak loudly and carry a big stick. I like it, but it works only as long as the opponent has something to lose.
Overall, MAGA is the key- all the parts- economically, militarily and diplomatically. Be too strong in all the above for any other state actor to risk it all.
As one of those who was there multiple times, thanks for your condolences, but our hearts ( as a whole) were in it to win it. Blame Obama for the wasted part. ISIS is Obamas ME legacy, along with failed states like Libya and Sudan and SYR etc.
The author forgot to touch on the all the bodies of the Indian scientists we found dead in the chemical facility. Sadam had them all gassed.
Show me where I said that and I'll take the time to read the rest of your post.
Didn't he use nerve agents on the ethnic Kurds in the north?
RE: Didn’t he use nerve agents on the ethnic Kurds in the north?
Yes he did. At issue is were those nerve agents still active? Or dormant?
I think looking back, the questions are:
1) Did Bush LIE about WMD’s?
I think he sincerely believed there were WMD’s. His intent was not to lie, however, intelligence given to him ( CIA Chief George Tenant’s “Slam Dunk” ) was INACCURATE.
He could only act on the intelligence provided for him.
2) Were there WMD’s?
Of course there were. As per the article, they discovered them. However, most of them were old and dormant and it is uncertain whether they could be reactivated usefully.
Saddam could not account for them because there was not an orderly system of accounting for them.
3) Was it worth invading Iraq because of this?
To answer the question, we have to ask ourselves how many lives were lost in this war to depose a dictator who is admittedly evil but who at least maintained order among the warring factions in that sorry country.
Was it worth sacrificing these American lives ( including the thousands of civilian deaths ) to depose this dictator under the uncertain possibility that he might have been lying about his WMD’s only to discover later that they were not as potent as we thought they were?
I think the answer, now that we have the benefit of hindsight, is NO.
I’d be happy to be proven wrong though. So give me your best refutation. I’m all ears.
I personally think (and I posted it at the time) that the reason we went to war was to follow the Bush Doctrine of "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here."
It wasn't just that Hussein was accused of having a WMD program. It was also that Hussein was giving safe passage to terrorists inside of Iraq; that there were terrorist training camps inside Iraq (some with airline fuselages to train in).
The stategery was to make Iraq "ground zero" for the war, and have it become a magnet for the al Qaeda forces to concentrate.
Junior High School English (7th grade) teaches the English verb system.
Today I go
Yesterday I went
I have gone many times
Iraq violated multiple U.N. sanctions and with that alone, was enough to invade.
Personally, I could not care less about the entire Middle East and would prefer to turn it all to glass rather than one American soldier risk their life.
RE: Over time, what I reviewed and the information made available showed that Saddam was in the market for and developing, weapons classed as “WMD’s”.
The reason why we invaded, if I am not mistaken is because we suspected that Saddam HAD WMD’s and was not cooperating with inspectors in showing and dismantling them.
Whether he was developing them or not, I am not sure of. His ability to develop them is not in question, but did he have the materials to develop them when we were inspecting? Or will he have the materials to develop them if we stopped inspecting?
Let’s say the answer is “Yes”, would that have been sufficient reason to invade? I thought the reason was because he HAD them and is HIDING THEM.
Finally, even the White House admitted errors in intelligence.
Saddam Hussein was a weapon of mass destruction.
We should be bombing Iran for supplying IEDs.
Uh, oh. Is this going to be like another Civil War thread on FR?
But we dont have 150 years of historical analysis on this issue. All we have is what weve heard from the IC and the media - both of which we distrust.
So as you debate, it might be good to keep this in mind, and realize that all of the facts about this episode will not become public for a very long time.
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