In what some suspect was an attempt to deflect attention away from the president’s failures ahead of the midterms, The New York Times published a “blockbuster” piece Wednesday on an immense stash of chemical weapons that was allegedly kept secret by the Pentagon. The piece is very long and took days – perhaps weeks to construct – and aims to concoct a Bush era cover-up scandal.
Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades was mostly offended by the false weapons of mass destruction charge which most conservatives have ample experience refuting – but it goes to the heart of the dishonesty of the piece.
Now, let me start by saying there are parts of this piece that are noteworthy, and those parts recount acts of valor and duty by U.S. service members. That’s not the despicable part. The despicable part is how the NYTimes writers have twisted what happened to these service members to their own end of rewriting the Iraq War.
According to the NYTimes, chemical weapons of mass destruction were indeed found in Iraq during the war, as has been a simmering, off-again-on-again open secret. But the NYTimes says these were not the chemical WMD that President Bush said would be found:
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 first sentence is an absolute lie, uttered at Bush 43’s expense, and made to justify the terrifying conclusion, laid at Obama’s feet, in the last sentence.
This NYTimes piece has an over arching political goal: to cement forever the lie that the Iraq War was directed solely at stopping an active weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. As we know, the military never found an active weapons program, which makes this a particularly compelling slander.
Fox News’ Bill Hemer had Col. Ralph Peters on to discuss the report – which Peters called a perfectly timed “political stunt” meant to divert attention from Obama’s countless screw-ups.
“At the heart of this story, the US military may have mishandled one to two dozen cases of US troops – no fatalities – who had been exposed to chemical weapons during the occupation of Iraq,” Peters said.
“It looks like bureaucratic clumsiness – there’s no vast, right-wing conspiracy in all of this.” He said the story tries to connect a lot of dots that aren’t there and “jumps to contusions as the Bowery Boys used to say.”
He continued, “I really believe that the timing is a pre-election attempt to divert attention away from Obama’s reckless deployment of 4,000 (not 2 dozen four THOUSAND) largely unprepared US troops to an Ebola country in West Africa, his utter screw-up of the air campaign against ISIS, his screw-up of Ukraine, the screw-up in Libya, and it’s just not going to work.”
Peters noted that the one time Obama made a prompt decision about sending US troops into a crisis zone it was about Ebola. “Premature, unprepared, and boy I hope they come home safe.”
Both the host, Hemmer and Peters indicated that they didn’t remember the military disclosing in 2006 that they had found chemical weapons, but a June 29, 2006 post at the Dept. of Defense website does just that.
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2006 – The 500 munitions discovered throughout Iraq since 2003 and discussed in a National Ground Intelligence Center report meet the criteria of weapons of mass destruction, the center’s commander said here today.
“These are chemical weapons as defined under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and yes … they do constitute weapons of mass destruction,” Army Col. John Chu told the House Armed Services Committee.
The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. It was signed in 1993 and entered into force in 1997.
The munitions found contain sarin and mustard gases, Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said. Sarin attacks the neurological system and is potentially lethal.
“Mustard is a blister agent (that) actually produces burning of any area (where) an individual may come in contact with the agent,” he said. It also is potentially fatal if it gets into a person’s lungs.
The munitions addressed in the report were produced in the 1980s, Maples said. Badly corroded, they could not currently be used as originally intended, Chu added.
While that’s reassuring, the agent remaining in the weapons would be very valuable to terrorists and insurgents, Maples said. “We’re talking chemical agents here that could be packaged in a different format and have a great effect,” he said, referencing the sarin-gas attack on a Japanese subway in the mid-1990s.
This is true even considering any degradation of the chemical agents that may have occurred, Chu said. It’s not known exactly how sarin breaks down, but no matter how degraded the agent is, it’s still toxic.
“Regardless of (how much material in the weapon is actually chemical agent), any remaining agent is toxic,” he said. “Anything above zero (percent agent) would prove to be toxic, and if you were exposed to it long enough, lethal.”
Though about 500 chemical weapons – the exact number has not been released publicly – have been found, Maples said he doesn’t believe Iraq is a “WMD-free zone.”
“I do believe the former regime did a very poor job of accountability of munitions, and certainly did not document the destruction of munitions,” he said. “The recovery program goes on, and I do not believe we have found all the weapons.”
The Defense Intelligence Agency director said locating and disposing of chemical weapons in Iraq is one of the most important tasks servicemembers in the country perform.
Maples added searches are ongoing for chemical weapons beyond those being conducted solely for force protection.
There has been a call for a complete declassification of the National Ground Intelligence Center’s report on WMD in Iraq. Maples said he believes the director of national intelligence is still considering this option, and has asked Maples to look into producing an unclassified paper addressing the subject matter in the center’s report.
Much of the classified matter was slated for discussion in a closed forum after the open hearings this morning.
Peters thought the weapons today would be too degraded to be put to much use, but there are reports coming out that ISIS have been used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Kobane.