WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government has tried to hide the extent to which its troops were exposed to chemical weapons in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing intelligence documents and former soldiers.
American forces uncovered 5,000 warheads, shells and bombs filled with chemical agents but their findings were kept secret, the Times wrote, citing government papers obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Before the 2003 invasion, president George W. Bush insisted Baghdad was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction programme.
Although US forces never found evidence of an active programme, they did find remnants of an aging chemical arsenal and often they were not trained nor equipped to handle it, according to the report.
Members of Congress were only partially informed about the chemical weapons and American soldiers were told to keep silent or to offer misleading accounts of what they found, the paper reported.
One former US Army sergeant who suffered from mustard burns in 2007 and was reportedly denied hospital treatment and medical evacuation told the Times: “I felt more like a guinea pig than a wounded soldier.”
Responding to the article, the Pentagon said it has always been open about US forces finding chemical agents in Iraq as far back as 2006.