Everything We Thought We Knew About Iraqi WMDs Is Wrong

Editor’s note: The following text is from Jim Geraghty writing in the National Review email “Morning Jolt” on October 16, 2014, excerpting sections from a New York Times article.

Dear Bush Administration . . . What the heck? I mean, what the heck?

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.

This is the sort of information that would have been useful in a lot of really important national discussions from 2004 to 2009, wouldn’t it?

How is it that almost every other national-security secret leaks, but not this one?

Even if you want to argue that the statements of the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War were inaccurate — particularly the ones about the Iraqi nuclear program — the post-2003 shorthand that “there were no WMDs” was equally inaccurate.

If you want to denounce the Bush administration for the Iraq War, denounce them for this:

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, an al-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.

The Bush administration didn’t lie about chemical weapons being there. They lied about chemical weapons NOT being there. The anti-Bush crowd was right, for completely the wrong reasons.

Congress, too, was only partly informed, while troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found. “’Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” said Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major who was present for the largest chemical-weapons discovery of the war: more than 2,400 nerve-agent rockets unearthed in 2006 at a former Republican Guard compound.

Unbelievable. Unforgivable.

Wrap your mind around it: Our government lied to us about attacks on our troops using chemical weapons:

The United States government says the abandoned weapons no longer pose a threat. But nearly a decade of wartime experience showed that old Iraqi chemical munitions often remained dangerous when repurposed for local attacks in makeshift bombs, as insurgents did starting by 2004.

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,” Mr. Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

And this isn’t just a shell here and a shell there:

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 . . .

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.”

The rockets appeared to have been buried before American airstrikes in 1991, he said. Many were empty. Others still contained sarin. “Full-up sloshers,” he said.

And it gets worse, with plenty of blame for both the Bush and Obama administrations . . . we left the stuff there.

Didn’t we nearly bomb Bashir Assad’s regime in Syria for using chemical weapons? Isn’t our policy to consider these poisons and gases as one of the most dangerous weapons imaginable?