The New York Times published an article this week that has re-ignited a 12-year-old debate: Was then-President George W. Bush right about Iraq? The report examined U.S. service personnel’s encounters with abandoned chemical weapons in Iraq – and some conservatives were quick to pounce on the story as evidence that claims by Bush in the lead-up to the war that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction were true and that the United States’ 2003 invasion was justified.
The article by Times reporter C.J. Chivers focused on U.S. soldiers who suffered from exposure to the sulfur mustard and other nerve gases which emitted from the bombs. According to the story, about “5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs” were found scattered across Iraqi soil. The U.S. government buried the cases from both the public and the troops. As a result, injured soldiers did not receive proper medical treatment.
The conservative Twittersphere immediately exploded with commentary – not over the military’s negligent health service or the government’s secrecy, however.
The roots of the debate hark back to a year after the 9/11 attacks when Bush told the U.N. that inspections showed that “stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents” were likely hidden in Iraq and that the regime was “rebuilding and expanding” chemical weapons production facilities. But Bush’s often-reiterated claims of an impending WMD threat were contradicted by a 2004 CIA report that said there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq, and liberal media outlets had charged that Bush misled the country into an unnecessary war.
After years of criticism from Democrats, Bush loyalists felt validated by Chivers’ article and cast the story as a victory for an unpopular former president.
“I bet George Bush is feeling on top of the world today, as it turns out that our presence in Iraq was justified, and contrary to what liberals would have us all believe, the war wasn’t about oil,” wrote Michael Cantrell of Young Conservatives.
Just as swiftly as right-wing supporters celebrated the find, liberal critics were quick to point out that Chivers never said the bombs were the same WMDs that Bush described; they were from the 1980s and early 1990s.
“Conservatives may hope to exploit the New York Times report, but the article references pre-1991 weapons,” wrote Steve Benen on the MaddowBlog. “Everything Republicans said in the lead up to the 2003 invasion is still wrong. Indeed, a little common sense is in order – if U.S. troops had found WMD stockpiles, the Bush/Cheney administration would have said so. Indeed, they were desperate to do exactly that.”
Source: The New York Times