Posted on Fri, Mar. 28, 2003
Army reports Iraq moving toxic arms
By Bernard Weinraub
The Army officials said they strongly believed that Saddam would use the weapons as allied troops move toward Baghdad to oust him and his government.
Officials with V Corps said intelligence information pointed to Saddam deploying 155mm artillery weapons with shells carrying mustard gas as well as sarin, or nerve agents, an especially deadly weapon. Saddam used these chemical agents against the Iranians and his country's Kurdish population in the 1980s.
Easy to hide
Army officials said monitoring the movement of chemical weapons was sometimes difficult because Saddam often hides chemical pellets inside bunkers that carry conventional armaments.
But some military officers said Saddam had, in the past week or so, moved the artillery pieces that could fire chemical weapons into hiding, not only near the Medina Division, south of Baghdad, but in western Iraq. Officials said Iraqi officers had been warned by the United States, through leaflets and other means, that they would be held responsible for war crimes if they participated in a chemical attack.
Intelligence officers said the apparent deployment of chemical weapons by Saddam was not merely a sign of rage by the Iraqi leader toward the Americans. Although deployment of the weapons would give the lie to Saddam's denial that he had them, officers said Saddam might be calculating that the step would actually turn to his advantage and stunt the American assault.
Military officials said that in the event of a chemical attack, American forces might receive an early warning if satellite photos picked up Iraqi units wearing protective gear against chemicals at a weapons site. Officials said the protective clothing was usually worn at least one hour before the launching of a chemical weapon. But officials also said well-hidden Iraqi artillery sites about to launch such a weapon could possibly avoid detection.
Since the war started, American soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait have been threatened by Iraqi missiles, but missiles launched so far been have intercepted and destroyed by Patriot missiles. No chemical weapons have been used against allied troops to date.
Col. Tim Madere, the V Corps chemical officer, said he was not alarmed about the potential for a chemical attack.
``The soldiers have gone through training and know what to do and know how their equipment works in the event we get hit,'' he said. ``But it's a concern because most soldiers have not experienced real agents.''
Madere said such an attack would slow down the advance on Baghdad, but not seriously set back the effort to depose Saddam.
There are reports that Iraqi forces killed or injured more than 20,000 people in attacks against Kurds and other Iraqis in the 1980s that involved nerve and mustard agents.
U.S. military personnel in Kuwait and Iraq carry not only protective gas masks and protective clothes, boots and gloves, but also antidote kits for nerve agents.
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