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NYT 'Discovers' Iraq had chemical weapons

Last night, the NYT (PBUT) released a long, detailed article regarding chemical weapons that were found in Iraq.  It is interesting to note that they waited until now to release this information.

If you've been paying attention, you'd recall that within the last week, reports out of northern Iraq have said that ISIS may have used some chemical weapons against the Kurds.  Based on photos that were obtained of the Kurds who were killed, the injuries on the bodies seem to indcate some sort of chemical weapon affected them.  Speculation by experts points to ISIS having obtained and used some of Iraq's old chemical weapons.

Back in the day (was it really only 10 years ago?) during my tenure there, I handled reports by the Iraq Survey Group, who was tasked with finding Saddam's 'special weapons' that he had squirreled away since the UN ordered them dismantled in 1991.  Saddam had manufactured tons and tons of nasty stuff; the ISG was primarily concerned with locating and disposing of WMD's, which don't always include chemical munitions.  

I had a few discussions with Charles Duelfer, who was the lead of the ISG (after David Kay resigned) on things they were finding; chemical artillery rounds were NOT something they keyed on; the MANUFACTURING facilites were however.  Saddam had dispersed these munitions so far and wide that finding all of them was a sisyphean task.  Most were likely to have been taken to Syria to try to keep them out of reach of the US and the UN inspectors.


These munitions were certainly a huge problem, a risk, and a serious one.  BUT THESE WERE NOT WMD.  So why is the NYT coming out with a huge article now?

To take pressure off of the administration.  To throw this football back in the Bush camp.  That since he didn't find and destroy all of these munitions that any use by ISIS is his fault.

This is patently false.  ISIS has had opportunity to recover munitions on the Syrian side of the border; these could have been Assad's munitions, or, just as likely they were ones ferreted away from Iraq post-1991.  The article also tells the stories of soldiers who handled these munitions, and that their command chain didn't take it seriously.  That is the fault of their commanders and health care providers- for not realizing just how dangerous the regime munitions could be.

In one incident where I had to contact ISG, I received a call from a sergeant who had been on a patrol that had set off an IED; but instead of blowing half his squad up, it sort of 'poofed' and fizzled (his words).  When EOD showed up to recover it, they found out that these were wired 155-size artillery rounds that were chemical in nature- not high-explosive.  The insurgents could not tell the difference back then- that these were not meant to blow but to disperse.  So the sergeant called it in as a 'chem find'.  The insurgents had set this up like a typical IED- and the chemicals never fully released (go to Castle AAARGH if you want an artillery primer).  

Another implication of the article is that the US didn't do anything about what we found, and that we tried to 'sweep it under the rug'.  While we didn't go buying full-page ads in NYT or USAT, we never discussed operations in such detail that the NYT was ever satisfied.  I find this entire article disingenuous, especially on the part of Eric Schmitt.  He visited us several times, received briefs on items such as this, and we sat and discussed them at length.  All in 2003 and 2004.  So I really find this 'shock face' they are putting on pretty insulting.  But it's par for the course for a media outlet that cannot let the legacy of this administration bear any burden of shame and fault.

If you want a more historical look at these, take a look at this CIA article; we were releasing reports as far back as 2003 and 2004 on the fact we were finding chemical rounds, and admitting we were going to find many more.