The legacy of Iraq's former WMD programs is noted repeatedly in recently leaked U.S. military logs from the war, along with concerns about more imminent unconventional weapons threats, Wired magazine reported Saturday (see GSN, Oct. 4).
The openness organization WikiLeaks on Friday released more than 390,000 reports prepared from January 2004 to December 2009 by U.S. military personnel in Iraq. It similarly posted documents from the Afghanistan war earlier this year (see GSN, July 27).
Matters related to biological and chemical weapons are raised hundreds of times in the Iraq documents, though most intelligence citations or expressions of concern proved unfounded. In one case, U.S. personnel in summer 2004 discovered containers of "unknown contents" alongside gas masks and gas filters at one location in Baghdad; the mysterious materials were eventually found to be vitamins.
Not all matters were as innocuous.
U.S. forces in summer 2008 located no fewer than 10 munitions that came up positive for the presence of chemical warfare materials, one leaked document states.
“These rounds were most likely left over from the [Saddam]-era regime. Based on location, these rounds may be an AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) cache," according to the document. "However, the rounds were all total disrepair and did not appear to have been moved for a long time."
Some assessed threats appeared fresher, documents indicate. A war log issued in January 2006 suggested that "neuroparalytic" weapons were being brought into Iraq from Iran.
Meanwhile, "chemical weapons specialists" were taken into custody that month in Balad, according to one document. The report cites the specialists as "foreigners" who came "to support the chemical weapons operations." A February 2006 intelligence document says that a "chemical weapons expert" had "provided assistance with the gas weapons."
The Bush administration and allied governments made Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction one of the key parts of their case for war. No indications of operational stockpiles or active WMD programs have turned up in the years since the March 2003 invasion.
The government of post-Hussein Iraq, though, has declared a chemical agent stockpile as a member state to the Chemical Weapons Convention (see GSN, April 27, 2009). The weapons date to before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and were not believed to remain in usable condition, the convention's verification agency has said.
U.S. military personnel in August 2004 quietly bought containers of what appeared to be sulfur mustard blister agent, according to one war log. The document said the personnel "reported two positive reports for blister" and that they "triple-sealed and transported" the material to a safe location near their installation.
Near the end of 2004, personnel operating in northern Iraq examined a "chemical weapons" site. "One of the bunkers has been tampered with,” the log states. “The integrity of the seal (around the complex) appears intact, but it seems someone is interesting in trying to get into the bunkers.”
Around that time in the city of Fallujah, personnel discovered a "house with a chemical lab … substances found are similar to ones (in lesser quantities located a previous chemical lab," a log states. A "chemical cache" turned up the next day in the city.
In July 2007, soldiers found a number of 155 mm artillery shells "filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance.” Subsequent analysis indicated the munitions were carrying mustard agent, one log states (Noah Shachtman, Wired, Oct. 23).