George W. Bush Iraq

We’re Still Learning How Terrible the Bush Admin Was

The New York Times has an enlightening article on the plight of American service members who uncovered old, decaying chemical weapons in Iraq who were systematically marginalized and even denied treatment.

I recommend reading the entire piece, but here’s the gist:

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule. [...]

The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.

“I felt more like a guinea pig than a wounded soldier,” said a former Army sergeant who suffered mustard burns in 2007 and was denied hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the United States despite requests from his commander. [...]

Congress, too, was only partly informed, while troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found. “ ’Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” said Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major who was present for the largest chemical weapons discovery of the war: more than 2,400 nerve-agent rockets unearthed in 2006 at a former Republican Guard compound.

According to interviews and information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Times, military personnel discovered at least 5,000 chemical warheads, shells and other munitions.

To be clear, these are not the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) the invasion was based on. According to the Times, these weapons were manufactured prior to Operation Desert Storm in 1991 during Iraq’s war with Iran. Furthermore, these weapons were manufactured with our help.

In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.

I don’t know if blindly sending men into the field to recover chemical weapons and then concealing their existence is evidence of a cover up or incompetence, or both, but it is entirely characteristic of the Bush administration doctrine of flying by the seat of your pants.

The timeline provided by the New York Times goes beyond the Bush administration (2004) into the early years of Obama administration (2011) and I get the impression that the full extent of the legacy of poor treatment of veterans left behind by the Bush administration (and exacerbated by austerity) is beyond the scope of what we currently know.

We deployed men and women to a war zone, and in some cases to chemical weapon dumps, without body armor or protective gear, and when they returned home they were greeted with bumper sticker ribbons and little else.

“Support the troops” my ass.

This story seems prescient given the GOP’s recent hardon for redeploying ground combat troops to Iraq which would undoubtedly reignite the quagmire that President Obama ended.

  • Draxiar

    And the GOP has the fucking nerve to bang the Benghazi drum.

    And this asshole wonders why the military doesn’t overthrow President Obama. As I commented in the article, aside from their oath, maybe it’s because he doesn’t lie them into a war of choice where they get blown up and poisoned.

  • 1933john

    Agent Orange shit all over again.

  • Christopher Foxx

    I don’t know if blindly sending men into the field to recover chemical weapons and then concealing their existence is evidence of a cover up or incompetence, or both, but it is entirely characteristic of the Bush administration doctrine of flying by the seat of your pants.

    I don’t think it’s just a characteristic of the Bush administration. Deception, incompetence and, above all, covering things up regardless of how much harm it causes to the troops seems pretty standard for the military since long before Bush took office. (Still can’t bring myself to say “since Bush was elected”.)

  • aynwrong

    I know this is the kind of thing that gets the left accused of being paranoid but I have to wonder why the Bush Administration was screaming about this way back when as a justification for the invasion. But when I read that it was America that sold these weapons to Iraq and when I remember that picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam back in the 80s I can’t help but wonder if that’s why military personal were ordered to shut up.

  • muselet

    Everyone up and down the chain of command who did not inform military personnel of the dangers they would be facing or who gave orders not to provide information to Congress or who denied wounded personnel the care they needed and deserved should be facing criminal charges.

    Also—surprise, surprise—Righties are loudly proclaiming the Times story vindicates the Bush Administration. This morning, Steve Benen ran a wearily sensible post, pointing out just how wrong that argument is.

    –alopecia

    • i_a_c

      Um, yellowcake? Aluminum tubes?

      Never mind, I was interrupting the right wing’s rewriting of history again.

    • aynwrong

      Yea that sounds about right. At one point during the Bush Administration I remember hearing Yawn Insanity screaming on his radio show about the discovery of mustard gas being discovered in Iraq was a justification of the war. The fact that it was mustard gas left over from World War 1 and that it was found in a canister on the side of some road didn’t seem to concern him.