THE BLOG
10/15/2014 09:13 am ET Updated Dec 15, 2014

ISIS May Be Using Mustard Gas Linked to US Against Kurds

There's much to analyze and lament in the new New York Times bombshell (so to speak) article by C.J. Chivers on the decade-long U.S. cover-up of injuries caused to soldiers who came upon abandoned chemical weapons remnants in Iraq. (See the main points and video here.) For the moment, let's consider that the prime reason for the blanket secrecy that kept Congress and the American public -- and, most importantly, U.S. troops -- in the dark was that so many of the chemical shells or toxic contents were designed or made in the USA.

In fact, Chivers reports that in five of the six most serious cases of exposure the weapons were linked to the U.S. in one way or another. And two U.S. companies, one in Maryland and the other in S. Carolina, had provided material necessary for the mustard gas production.

Now much of the remaining dangerous material is in the hands of ISIS -- and reports this week suggest that some of it may have been used against Kurds in Kobani. More here. And see how NYT covered the "missing" chem weapons back in April 2003. (My book on Bush and media failures on Iraq here.)

In any case, the Times emphasizes that ISIS is now in complete control of a major former chem site in Iraq at Al Muthanna where mustard shells and sarin was stored. The highly dangerous site had been controlled by the U.S. and then turned over to the Iraqis after our departure with firm instructions to destroy or dismantle the deadly contents and "entomb" it in cement.

The Chivers story closes with this:

When three journalists from The Times visited Al Muthanna in 2013, a knot of Iraqi police officers and soldiers guarded the entrance. Two contaminated bunkers -- one containing cyanide precursors and old sarin rockets -- loomed behind. The area where Marines had found mustard shells in 2008 was out of sight, shielded by scrub and shimmering heat.

The Iraqi troops who stood at that entrance are no longer there. The compound, never entombed, is now controlled by the Islamic State.

Whether ISIS is now actually deploying the weapons still needs to be proven but there can be no question that they now control them -- and some can be traced back home to the United States.