Remember that joke: “how does Bush know there are chemical weapons in Iraq? Because he still has the receipt.” which was popular around 2004? Well, there may be some reason to think this joke holds more than just laughs: it is now coming to light that the Bush administration deliberately withheld information about chemical weapons that they did find in Iraq.

Classified intelligence documents reveal that the American troops discovered more than 4,990 chemical munitions in Iraq, and dozens of soldiers suffered injuries after being exposed to chemical weapons in the years following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

According to a new report by New York Times, these were not the “weapons of mass destruction,” that the George W. Bush administration used to justify invading Iraq in 2003. On at least six opportunities, soldiers were wounded by those weapons, which had been manufactured before 1991, so during a period when the United States was working hand-in-hand with Saddam Hussein.

US Army.

US Army.

The New York Times reported:

“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 chemicals, which were found by the soldiers (deadly sarin and mustard gas), remained active enough to cause injury. About 17 US soldiers and 7 Iraqi police officers were exposed to chemical agents as they were unaware of the munitions’ content. Some of them then received haphazard, inadequate medical care.

According to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the chemical munitions that the soldiers found included chemical warheads, shells, and aviation bombs.

The army reportedly admitted that it had not listen to the orders about treating soldiers exposed to chemical weapons in the years following the invasion. The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way, and also from military doctors. But the army has vowed to identify troops and veterans who had been exposed, and follow up on their cases.

In 2010, an Army news release stated that “numerous, pre-1991 Gulf War Iraqi chemical munitions have been discovered in Iraqi since 2004,” attributing the information to Army Capt. Clifford D. Latting, an adviser on chemical weapons for the Iraqi army. This recent break verifies this report.

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The U.S. forces in Iraq knew that there were aging chemical weapons stored in numerous locations across the country. Some proof can be found in the example of a U.S. Defense Department report from 2009 which led Iraq’s Defense Ministry to launch a Chemical Defense Regiment, trained to respond to occurrence involving chemical weapons that had been hidden across the Iraqi territory for years.

The troops were quoted in the New York Times report saying they were told to keep their finding secret. The Defense Department reported:

“Soldiers jumped into action quickly afterward, recovering nearly 400 rounds carrying toxic materials in one three-day period that year.”

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said:

“Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is concerned by any indication or allegation that our troops have not received the care and administrative support they deserve and has ordered a comprehensive review of our Military Health System.”

The report noted that most of the chemical agents were discovered around the Muthanna State Establishment northwest of Baghdad, which is now in the possession of ISIS/ISIL. This raises the questions as to whether or not the ISIS has also gained possession of chemical weapons.

The following image, which was posted on Twitter, shows a soldier who was burned by sulpher-mustard in a 155mm shell his unit had detonated in March 2007.

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According to Iraqi documents:

“During the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988), Baghdad actively sought the development of chemical weapons with the help of a number of Western countries, including the United States, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France.”

The senior editor at Veterans Today, Gordon Duff, said in an interview with Press TV that the chemical weapons being used by the ISIL “are made in the US-owned labs outside Tbilisi, Georgia.” Although unconfirmed, the claim is interesting and begs the question as to how involved the United States and others were in the Iraqi production of chemical weapons.

Further Resources:

  1. Bremer: ‘Serious Problem’ If Troops Exposed to Chemical Weapons
  2. The real question about chemical weapons in Iraq: Did the U.S. take care of its troops who were exposed?
  3. The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons