Thirteen years ago, after the Towers came down but before the war started, I wrote a book that claimed there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and therefore there was no reason to go to war there. That book has stood the test of time, but as it turns out, there were WMD in that shattered, battered and bombed-out nation…just not in the way it was explained to us.
On Tuesday, The New York Times published a thunderclap of an article titled “The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons.” The gist of it, in short, is that Iraq was littered with thousands of chemical munitions the US and other countries had sold to the country before 1991. US troops were tasked to police them up and destroy them, a process that injured many of them in ways they still endure today, but because the Bush administration wanted to keep these munitions secret, the troops who happened to scoop up a leaking mustard gas shell and woke up the following day covered in boils and unable to breathe never received proper medical treatment.
But wait, hold the phone: Wasn’t the whole point of the exercise about the presence of WMD in Iraq? If US troops found thousands of chemical shells, which they dealt with at their peril, why didn’t the Bush administration bellow the fact to the heavens?
Starting in 2004, some members of the George W. Bush administration and Republican lawmakers began to find evidence of discarded chemical weapons in Iraq. But when the information was brought up with the White House, senior adviser Karl Rove told them to “let these sleeping dogs lie.”
The issue of Iraq’s WMD remnants was suddenly thrust back into the fore this week, with a blockbuster New York Times report accusing the Bush administration of covering up American troops’ chemically induced wounds.
To people familiar with the issue, both inside that administration and outside, the blame for the coverup falls on one particular set of shoulders: Rove’s.
Some very stupid people heralded the Times’ article as vindication of their long-embraced belief that Iraq actually did have WMD, and therefore George W. Bush’s calamitous war was justified. There are several problems with this premise: 1. One actually has to read the article, which is long and full of words, several of which explain that the chemical munitions discovered were from 1991 or before, and were utterly useless as designed when found during the war; 2. None of it was worth fighting a decade-long war over; 3. The Bush administration didn’t announce the existence of these decrepit munitions to the world because the US sold them to Iraq during the last Bush administration, and because pretending they weren’t there meant the VA could blow off the affected soldiers.
The rhetoric, circa March 2003: Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX gas, mobile biological weapons labs, and uranium from Niger for use in a “robust” nuclear weapons programs.
The rhetoric in this brave new year of 2014: THE NEW YORK TIMES SAID THERE WERE A BUNCH OF SHELLS IN IRAQ FROM BEFORE 1991 THAT GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH SOLD TO SADDAM HUSSEIN WHICH GEORGE W. BUSH USED AS AN EXCUSE TO PLUNDER THE TREASURY AND SINK US INTO PERMANENT WAR IN THE MIDEAST AND WIN SOME ELECTIONS WHICH MEANS WE WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG YOU GUYS.
Meanwhile, as these old dogs grapple and scrape over this well-stripped bone, the fruits of their pestiferous labors continue to bloom. The latest revelation, from McClatchy News, reads US Will Build New Syrian Rebel Force to Battle Islamic State:
For most of the three years of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. ground game hinged on rebel militias that are loosely affiliated under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA. Their problems were no secret: a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front.
This time, (retired Marine General John) Allen said, the United States and its allies will work to strengthen the political opposition and make sure it’s tied to “a credible field force” that will have undergone an intense vetting process.
“It’s not going to happen immediately,” Allen said. “We’re working to establish the training sites now, and we’ll ultimately go through a vetting process and beginning to bring the trainers and the fighters in to begin to build that force out.”
It is always this time, until next time, which becomes this time, and by God, we’re going to deploy the same catastrophically failed tactics that led us here to begin with. Why? Because eternal war means eternal weapons sales…and a nifty side benefit happens to be the irrational paranoia consistently dosed to the American public by way of the “news” media, which lets things like “George W. Bush was right and the Iraq war was good!” slide by unremarked.
I have said this many times before, and will have to say it many times again until either these people are in jail or I am wrapped in my shroud: The single greatest strength of the American right is their utter and complete lack of shame. They will say anything – literally anything – if it moves the political ball even a few inches down the field.
P.S. The region of Iraq where the majority of these pre-1991 US-made chemical munitions can still be found is currently under the control of ISIS.
Thanks, George. You’re the gift that keeps on giving.