Iraq and the Arab World Redux


The New York Times rececntly discovered much to their astonishement that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction all the while ! No not nuclear weapons – at least not yet.

It was assumed that the  U.S. invaded and  destroyed the Saddam regime before he could  rebuild his facilities. But, yes chemical ammunition was recently in the news again. Not that it had not been reported before. It has many times,  but the public, as led by the media, came to associate weapons of mass destruction as simply nuclear weapons.

The extensive chemical weapons which the Iraqi regime not only had, but used extensively against both the Iranians and Kurds, was somehow deemed unimportant! Now that the Iraqi chemical storage areas, once deemed as closed and non dangerous, are in the territory controlled by the Islamic State, another look has been advised.

In fact the whole question of Iraqi WMD should be relooked. The expert, the true expert, on this subject is a friend of mine, Dr. Laurie Ann Mylroie.

She has followed this  from day one and from the States and a lot of time in Iraq. Her recent and important article on this subject highlights critical issues as she described them:

The Iraq Survey Group ( ISG) that declared Weapons of Mass destruction (WMD) free failed to use the huge amount of work previously done by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the final ISG report was obviously false because tons of WMD materteil was destroyed after the war by UNSCOM.

The initial UNSCOM hunted down WMD weaponry between 1991 and 1998.  Saddam managed to get rid of them  and obviously restarted his programs. The  ISG which came in after the 2003 war had neither the expertise of the UNSCOM nor did it bother to build on the huge amount of data and findings unearthed, despite constant Saddamist duplicity and obfuscation,  by the UNSCOM team. The ISG only had about “five to ten” real experts out of the massive thousand man team  comprising the ISG.

Many of the personnel were shuttled in and out without having the time in country to acquire the necessary experience. How over a thousand people could have missed all the chemical munitions left over in supply points all over Iraq is difficult to understand. Now a later article carries the news that over 600 have US soldiers reported to medical facilities suspecting that had received injurious  exposure to chemical agents.

In the article cited by Dr. Mylroie, these and many  issues clouding the ability of the ISG to come up with sound conclusions were surfaced, including their  methods of interviewing the key Iraqi WMD personnel, which was to  present questionnaires to US military or FBI handlers, most of whom can be safely assumed to have  zero cultural experience dealing  with the Iraqi and Arab culture.

On my first visit to Iraq I was stationed in a former Special Republican Guard Camp and next door was the huge, sprawling  encampment of the ISG. What exactly everyone was doing day to day was very hard to determine. They had amassed huge piles of conventional weapons which I and friend took advantage of by firing a dozen of different types of firearms on an temporary firing range.

In our travels around the nearby Republican Guard camps, we came across one cantonment area in which we discovered dozens of boxes of protective  and atropine syrettes designed as an antidote to nerve gas. Of course those who still seek to deny the obvious would say these are defensive measures and does not indicate any vast program to launch chemical warfare.

With the history of Saddam and expansive use of poison chemicals against the Kurds and the Iranians who could possibly believe that the chemical materials were no longer dangerous and degraded.

I took a couple of pictures of the protective masks , manufactured in Germany and the syrettes manufactured shortly before the war…made in Turkey


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANotice that the injector had been manufactured in 2003.

The US army in 2006 admitted that some 500 munitions had been found in Iraq. Other reports say more than 10 times that amount have been uncovered since the war.

The Obama administration in its usual “all is well” attitude to all things Iraqi have downplayed this renewed and recently reviewed information.

This has all come to light in view of the fact that many of these munitions are in areas under “Islamic State” control and there has been one report that the ISIL has used Mustard gas against the Kurds.

Some, as other who closely follow this issue have opined, if the survey team  was wrong on chemical weaponry still laying about, how could be sure that the nuclear component of the program has been destroyed? Was it so impossible to believe that Saddam had not sent nuclear materials to Syria? The regimes of Syria and Iraq were bitter rivals but one must remember that Saddam sent a  large proportion of his aircraft to Iran, with whom he had only a few years before fought one of the most deadly wars in Middle Eastern history.

So much of the wars against Iraq have been politicized and mythologized that it may be quite some times before all the truth comes out.

In the meantime the question to be pondered is why the Bush administration did not more vigorously defend their invasion/liberation of Iraq..

If people like me can make a strong case for it why could not the Bush people? Was it as reported that advisor Karl Rove advised the president that it was a loser issue and to avoid it all together?

About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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