Truthout Interviews William Rivers Pitt on Chemical Weapons in Iraq

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US Marine Corps and US Army explosive ordnance disposal technicians at work in 2006. The New York Times reported that US soldiers uncovered caches of old and degraded chemical weapons in Iraq. (Photo: Expert Infantry)Ted Asregadoo talks to Truthout senior editor and lead columnist William Rivers Pitt about a recent New York Times piece on chemical weapons found in Iraq between 2004 and 2011 – and Bush administration efforts to silence news of their discovery.

Also see: George W. Bush: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Williams Rivers Pitt and I have been acquainted since 2003. Our professional relationship started when I used to host a public affairs radio program in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was a frequent guest whose opinion and sharp political eye were a welcome addition to the almost non-stop pro-Iraq invasion voices that dominated the airwaves. The lies told to the American public by the Bush Administration and parroted by the overwhelming majority of voices in the media constituted one of the most effective propaganda campaigns to sell a war since Vietnam. We were told over and over and over that the Hussein regime possessed stockpiles of chemical weapons of mass destruction, was procuring yellow cake uranium from Niger, was connected to Al Qaeda and was developing an active nuclear weapons program. Or as President Bush said in a speech to the American people in 2002, “Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

Images of mushroom clouds, terrorists, and the specter of Americans and/or close allies with boils and burns caused by chemical weapons were enough to scare an already emotionally vulnerable public into supporting an invasion of Iraq because of the threats Saddam Hussein posed to the free world. The propaganda campaign worked. But very soon after the invasion, it became clear that the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons the Bush Administration told the public about was nowhere to be found. However, in 2004 – and right until 2011 – US soldiers did find chemical weapons in Iraq, but they weren’t the weapons we were told about. As The New York Times reported, these weapons were manufactured and sold to Iraq by a combination of American, Spanish, French, German and Italian companies. These were the weapons Hussein used in his war with Iran and on his own people. The caches of these old, rusted and degraded weapons were certainly lethal, but not in a form to be used as the weapons of mass destruction that Hussein’s regime supposedly stockpiled.