Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Military makes religious exception for atheism but not Christianity

October 31, 2014 by Todd Starns

A colonel’s column was removed from an Air National Guard newsletter because the writer violated military policy by including references to Jesus Christ and God, an Ohio National Guard spokesman said.

Col. Florencio Marquinez, the medical group commander of the 180th Fighter Wing, wrote an essay in the September edition of the “Stinger.” It was titled, “A Spiritual Journey as a Commander.”

He wrote about how his mother’s faith in Jesus Christ influenced his life and he referenced a Bible verse from the New Testament, “With God all things are possible.”

Before you could say God bless America, the military ordered the colonel’s remarks stricken from the newsletter. Ohio National Guard spokesman James Sims told me the column was a clear violation of military policy.

“So no matter how stressful your life can be with juggling family issues, relationships, career advancement, work, school, or any burden that life throws your way, cast it upon the Lord and He will sustain you,” the colonel wrote.

It wasn’t too longer after the newsletter was posted online before someone filed a complaint – lamenting that the colonel’s words had caused great angst and offense.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation’s Mikey Weinstein reached out to Air Force officials at the Pentagon, the Air National Guard is governed by Air Force rules, as well as the 180th Fighter Wing demanding they remove what he called “that odious and offending proselytizing commentary.”

Before you could say God bless America, the military ordered the colonel’s remarks stricken from the newsletter. Ohio National Guard spokesman James Sims told me the column was a clear violation of military policy.

“It’s very clear what you can and cannot say in an Air Force publication,” Sims said. “Once it was brought to our attention and we compared it with the regulation, we found it was in violation of the regulation.”

So what rules did Col. Marquinez violate by referencing the Almighty? I want to quote from the official statement provided by the Ohio National Guard:

“The article violated AFI 1-1, Sections 2.11 and 2.12.1, and the Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force guidance, and finally, ‘The Air Force Military Commander and the Law’ book.”

A bit much, don’t you think? All that for mentioning that “With God all things are possible.”

I’m surprised the Air Force didn’t convene a court martial. For the record, Sims told me that to his knowledge the colonel was not reprimanded for writing about Jesus – just censored.

But the Air Force wasn’t content with just removing the colonel’s column. No sir. They had to publically shame and humiliate this officer and gentleman.

As Sims noted in his statement, after the article was removed from the newsletter, it was “followed up with a base-wide email, with updated link for the Singer, stating: ‘The 180th FW Public Affairs office has removed the article ‘A Spiritual Journey as a Commander’ from The Stinger, Volume 52, Issue 09, September 2014 due to sensitivities.”

Sensitivities?

I’ve included a link to the colonel’s “offensive” column. Please note the “sensitive” nature.

Here’s one of the sections that violated the “godless” standards of the Air Force.

“I would not be the man I am today if it wasn’t for my mother leading our whole family to Jesus Christ,” Col. Marquinez wrote. “Her creed to us five children growing up is God first in your life, then comes family and third work.”

The Air Force regulations that were allegedly violated regard “government neutrality regarding religion.”

“Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion,” the regulation states. “For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion.”

Think of it as a sort-of religious version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

As you might imagine, the Air Force’s censorship rubbed religious liberty advocates the wrong way.

“Not only did you publicly humiliate him by your actions, but you have sent a chilling message to other members of the Air Force, that they need to keep their faith to themselves or else rise the judgment of the command,” wrote Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty executive director Ron Crews in a letter to the wing commander.

“Your actions violated his rights under the First Amendment – both his free exercise of religion and his free speech,” Crews added.

Chaplain Alliance is calling on the Air Force to reverse its censorship and repost the colonel’s column.

“The Ohio National Guard is not free to censor the protected speech of one of its members based on the content that speech,” he said.

As Crews pointed out in his letter, just last year a Moody Air Force Base publication posted a column entitled, “Atheist Ponders Spiritual Fitness.”

So if the Air Force can make an accommodation for atheists, why can’t they make one for Christians?

original article: Does the military have a problem with Jesus?

anti-religion, bias, bigotry, censorship, christian, government, intolerance, military, oppression, political correctness, public policy, religion

Filed under: anti-religion, bias, bigotry, censorship, christian, government, intolerance, military, oppression, political correctness, public policy, religion

Former Marine banned from daughter’s school after dispute over Islam lesson

October 30, 2014 by Fox News

A former Marine who served in Iraq says he’s been banned from his daughter’s Maryland high school after a heated argument over a lesson on Islam.

Kevin Wood told MyFoxDC.com that he went to La Plata High School in La Plata, a town about 30 miles southeast of Washington, and challenged a history assignment requiring students to list the benefits of Islam. He said the meeting with the vice principal got heated; the school said he made a threat and banned the Iraq veteran from school property.

“[Wood] was threatening to cause a disruption or possible disruption at the school,” a district spokesperson said.

Wood did not deny getting worked up over the issue, but said he was standing up for the Constitution and is against any religion being taught at the public school.

“I have witnesses that have said I did not threaten anybody,” he told the station. “I don’t force my religious views on them, so don’t force your religious views on me.”

The school is allowing his eleventh-grade daughter to spend the class time in the school’s library, but defended its assignment and said it is teaching world history, not religion.

Wood’s wife, Melissa, wondered how teaching about one religion is considered a history lesson while teaching about Christianity would be viewed diffrerently.

“We cannot discuss our Ten Commandments in school but they can discuss Islam’s Five Pillars?”

The three-page assignment asked questions including, “How did Muslim conquerors treat those they conquered?”

A homework assignment obtained by MyFoxDC.com showed the correct answer was, “With tolerance, kindness and respect.”

original article: Former Marine banned from daughter’s school after dispute over Islam lesson

bias, diversity, education, history, indoctrination, islam, left wing, liberalism, political correctness, propaganda, religion

Filed under: liberalism, religion, bias, propaganda, left wing, education, political correctness, history, diversity, islam, indoctrination

The Rape ‘Epidemic’ Doesn’t Actually Exist

October 24, 2014 by Caroline Kitchens

A group of 100 protesters – including many topless women – recently marched the streets of Athens, Ohio chanting, “Blame the system, not the victim” and “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape.” Organized by an Ohio University student organization called “f*ckrapeculture,” the protest was designed to bring attention to what the founders believe is a toxic culture of sexism and sexual violence infecting their campus.

F*ckrapeculture cofounder Claire Chadwick explained to the campus newspaper, “The name of our organization and the statements that we’ve made are loud. But it’s because we need to be heard.” But saying something loudly does not make it true or just.

Chadwick and the members of f*ckrapeculture aren’t the only student sexual violence activists that are demanding attention. Since last spring, an expansive network of student activists has emerged to fight “rape culture” and change the way universities respond to cases of sexual misconduct. However, as universities reexamine their sexual assault policies, administrators should be wary of the demands of these “rape culture” activists. Not only is their movement built on a foundation of dubious statistics and a distorted view of masculinity, but it has already led to policies that have proved devastating to those who have been falsely accused.

Activists claim that reform is urgent because one in five women will be raped during her time at college. I have yet to see an article lamenting the campus rape culture that does not contain some iteration of this alarming statistic.

But is it accurate? Statistics surrounding sexual assault are notoriously unreliable and inconsistent, primarily because of vague and expansive definitions of what qualifies as sexual assault. Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute explains that the study often cited as the origin of the “one in five” factoid is an online survey conducted under a grant from the Justice Department. Surveyors employed such a broad definition that “‘forced kissing” and even “attempted forced kissing” qualified as sexual assault.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ “Violent Victimization of College Students” report tells a different and more plausible story about campus culture. During the years surveyed, 1995-2002, the DOJ found that there were six rapes or sexual assaults per thousand per year. Across the nation’s four million female college students, that comes to about one victim in forty students. Other DOJ statistics show that the overall rape rate is in sharp decline: since 1995, the estimated rate of female rape or sexual assault victimizations has decreased by about 60 percent.

Of course, there are still far too many college women who are victims of sexual assault. But there’s little evidence to support the claim that campus rape is an “epidemic,” as Yale student activist Alexandra Brodsky recently wrote in the Guardian.

Bolstered by inflated statistics and alarmist depictions of campus culture, advocates have been successful in initiating policy changes designed to better protect victims of sexual violence. Duke, Swarthmore, Amherst, Emerson and the University of North Carolina are among the many institutions that have recently reviewed and revised their policies. It is not clear that these policies have made campuses safer places for women, but they have certainly made them treacherous places for falsely accused men.

In January 2010, University of North Dakota student Caleb Warner was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student. A UND tribunal determined that Warner was guilty of misconduct, and he was swiftly suspended from school and banned from setting foot on campus for three years. Yet the police – presented with the same evidence – were so unconvinced of Warner’s guilt that they refused to bring criminal charges against him. Instead, they charged his accuser with filing a false report and issued a warrant for her arrest. Warner’s accuser fled town and failed to appear to answer the charges.

Despite these developments, the university repeatedly rejected Warner’s requests for a rehearing. Finally, a year and a half later, UND reexamined Warner’s case and determined that their finding of guilt was “not substantiated” – but only after the civil liberties group FIRE intervened and launched a nationalcampaign on Warner’s behalf.

Unfortunately, Warner is not alone in his grievances. Across the country, students accused of sexual assault are regularly tried before inadequate and unjust campus judiciaries. At most schools, cases of sexual misconduct are decided by a committee of as few as three students, faculty members or administrators. At Swarthmore College, volunteers are now being solicited via email to serve on the Sexual Assault and Harassment Hearing Panel. Such a panel is far more likely to yield gender violence activists than impartial fact finders.  In a court of law, we rely on procedural safeguards to ensure unbiased jury selection and due process. But on the college campus, these safeguards have vanished.

What’s more, campus judiciaries operate under a dangerously low standard of proof for sexual assault cases, thanks to federal mandates. Since April 2011, the Department of Education has requiredinstitutions to consider cases of sexual misconduct under a “preponderance of evidence” standard (rather than a higher “clear and convincing” standard, which was commonly used prior to the new guidelines). This means that if a majority of committee members believe it is just slightly more likely than not that a sexual assault occurred, they must side with the accuser.

Sexual assault is a horrific offense, and institutions must do all they can to protect victims. It is admirable that activists like Chadwick are trying to fight it. However, a false accusation of rape can also have devastating, life-altering consequences. Universities have an obligation to protect the rights of all students – both victims of sexual assault and the accused. They must stop responding to questionable statistics and abstract claims about a rape culture and instead focus on ensuring basic fairness for all students.

Meanwhile, advocates for due process, rules of evidence, basic justice and true gender equality need to speak louder than the “f*ckrapeculture” alarmists.

original article: The Rape ‘Epidemic’ Doesn’t Actually Exist

abuse, bias, civil rights, criminal, education, left wing, liberalism, lies, oppression, political correctness, propaganda, sex

Filed under: lies, liberalism, criminal, bias, propaganda, left wing, education, political correctness, oppression, sex, abuse, civil rights

Former Guantanamo detainees suspected of joining ISIS, other groups in Syria

October 30, 2014 by Justin Fishel, Jennifer Griffin

As many as 20 to 30 former Guantanamo Bay detainees released within the last two to three years are suspected by intelligence and Defense officials of having joined forces with the Islamic State and other militant groups inside Syria, Fox News has learned.

The development has cemented fears that the U.S. military would once again encounter militants taken off the battlefield.

The intelligence offers a mixed picture, and officials say the figures are not exact. But they are certain at least some of the released detainees are fighting with the Islamic State, or ISIS, on the ground inside Syria. Others are believed to be supporting Al Qaeda or the affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria.

A number of former detainees also have chosen to help these groups from outside the country, financing operations and supporting their propaganda campaigns.

Sources who spoke to Fox News were not able to provide the identities of the fighters.

Senior Defense and intelligence officials say the vast majority of detainees released from Guantanamo don’t return to the fight — and of those who do, relatively few have made it to Syria.

Of the 620 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay, 180 have returned or are suspected to have returned to the battlefield.

Of those 180, sources say 20 to 30 have either joined ISIS or other militants groups in Syria, or are participating with these groups from outside countries. Officials say most of those 20 to 30 are operating inside Syria.

The development underscores just one of many long-running complications for efforts to shutter Guantanamo Bay, a promise President Obama made within hours of taking the oath of office in 2009.

Nearly six years later, that effort has run aground, complicated by problems with relocating prisoners, by concerns about fighters returning to the battlefield and by Congress’ resistance to allowing any to be detained on the U.S. mainland.

A majority of the jihadists released to their home countries tend to stay and fight locally. Afghans who return to the battlefield, for instance, tend to stay in Afghanistan.

But these officials said the former detainees who have joined ISIS in Syria have migrated from the European and African countries which agreed to receive them from the United States.
Egypt and Tunisia, as well as six European countries, are among them.

According to a senior U.S. official, there are between 150 and 160 detainees still at Guantanamo Bay, many of them from Yemen.

original article: Sources: Former Guantanamo detainees suspected of joining ISIS, other groups in Syria

extremism, foreign affairs, government, islam, scandal, terrorism, war

Filed under: extremism, foreign affairs, government, islam, scandal, terrorism, war

My child got Nation of Islam paper, too

October 28, 2014 by Todd Starnes

A second parent has now come forward acknowledging their child received a Nation of Islam “handout” in a third grade class at Harold McCormick Elementary School in Elizabethton, Tennessee – contradicting claims by the school district that the document was not distributed in the classroom.

I first told you about this story on Monday. Parent Sommer Bauer told me her son’s teacher gave him a document that portrayed the presidents on Mount Rushmore as being racists.

We still don’t know how that Nation of Islam information found its way into that third grade classroom.

School superintendent E.C. Alexander refuted allegations that the Nation of Islam document had been distributed in class. He told me the document was never meant for public distribution and that the child took the sheet of paper from the teacher’s work station without her permission.

“The student (without permission) took the sheet from a “ton” of discarded teacher’s material on that table; then, the student took it home and gave it to the parent,” Alexander wrote in an email to educators after my column was published.

Supt. Alexander also posted a statement on the school district’s website. He hurled all sorts of allegations my way – words like “misleading” and “totally incorrect” and “sensational.”

Yet, he never got around to telling us what was misleading or totally incorrect or sensational. And we still don’t know how that Nation of Islam information found its way into that third grade classroom.

“Our System has been defamed (possibly permanently),” he bemoaned.

“Now, the thought that we as public educators would deliberately distribute such material is absolutely absurd,” he wrote.

He also took great umbrage at my characterization of the Nation of Islam document as a “handout.”

“The sheet in question was not a hand-out sheet distributed to students,” he wrote on the school district’s website. I should point out that he underlined the word “not.”

Instead, he referred to it as a “sheet.” So for the sake of accuracy, the Nation of Islam “handout” will be known as the Nation of Islam “sheet.”

Parents were given a letter on Tuesday stressing that the material contained in the Nation of Islam “sheet ” was not distributed to students, was not shown during or after the lesson and was not used as a reference.

There’s just one problem with the school district’s explanation – a second parent has now come forward corroborating Mrs. Bauer’s story.

“Yes, they were handed out and yes the students did look at them and read them,” the parent told me.

The parent asked not to be identified to protect her child. She told me she came forward because of how the school is treating Mrs. Bauer’s son.

“I don’t want this little boy to be looked at as a liar,” the parent said. “As of right now that’s what all of these adults are making this boy out to be – and that makes me sick to my stomach.”

So what happened inside that third grade classroom at Harold McCormick Elementary School?

According to the parent, the children were separated into four groups. Each group was given two “sheets of paper.”

“The teacher held up each one and said, ‘These do not go home. These are just to use here,” the parent told me.

The Nation of Islam “sheet ” explained that George Washington hailed from Virginia, a “prime breeder of black people.” Of Theodore Roosevelt, it was alleged he called Africans “ape-like.” There were also disparaging comments made about Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

The parent told me that the teacher did not teach students from the Nation of Islam “sheet.”  But she did hand it to the students.

Maybe this was just an innocent mistake. It’s possible the teacher may have printed the first thing she Googled without giving it a second glance. It happens. Teachers are busy folks.

But what was not an innocent mistake was a school district trying to portray an eight-year-old boy as the bad guy.

And what is not acceptable is sending out mass emails accusing the child of pilfering a “sheet” from his teacher’s work station.

If I didn’t know better – I’d say that little boy is the victim of grownup bullying.

original article: Second Parent: My child got Nation of Islam paper, too

bullies, children, cover up, education, government, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, lies, nanny state, political correctness, propaganda, religion, scandal

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Parents OUTRAGED After Teacher Invades Privacy With Homework Assignment

October 24, 2014 by ROBERT RICH

Parents of students attending the Mapleton Junior High School are nothing short of outraged after it seems that a health teacher tried to pull a fast one. According to reports, the teacher handed out a form and directed students to go home, raid the family’s medicine cabinet and report back to her with their findings.

http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.html#ec=s3bGxhcTrRUI1AtepES9aS52DY7FF-ZN&pbid=3ce6404476914e86994d87aac3e4391b&docUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fmadworldnews.com%2Fparents-teacher-homework-assignment%2F

The public was made aware of the assignment by parent Onika Nugent, who posted it to social media and sent a note to both the teacher and principal. Sharing a portion of the letter written to the school, Nugent relayed, “Although it may be a good idea for parents to do an inventory of their medicine cabinet, I believe it is inappropriate for students to counsel their parents, or report to the school what that inventory is. It is a complete invasion of privacy.”

Many parents quickly became worried as news of the incident spread, thinking it was part of a larger Common Core plan. Thinking this was just the beginning of what was to come, those parent’s minds were put to ease as the school stated the acts were that of the teacher, not the curriculum.

Parents OUTRAGED After Teacher Invades Privacy With Homework Assignment

Communication specialist for Nebo School District, Lana Hiskey, further relayed that they actually appreciate when parents come to them with information of this sort. Saying they’re not always aware of everything that goes on, she goes on to say, “Sometimes we’re blindsided, we don’t know if a teacher is giving something out that they shouldn’t be doing and so we absolutely want parents to come forward, let us know…. I wouldn’t be comfortable having my own children go through my medicine cabinet.”

Given the increasing infringements on rights to privacy in the name of “security,” hearing news like this really isn’t all that shocking. Would you think this to be part of a larger plan if it happened to your child? Should the school be held accountable for the actions of this teacher? Let us know in the comments.

original article: Parents OUTRAGED After Teacher Invades Privacy With Homework Assignment

abuse, children, education, government, left wing, liberalism, nanny state

Filed under: abuse, children, education, government, left wing, liberalism, nanny state

University officials threaten students passing out U.S. Constitution

University officials threaten students passing out U.S. Constitution
October 14, 2014 by Kaitlyn Schallhorn

University officials threatened to call the police and disciplinary action against students who were passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution at Southern Oregon University (SOU) last week.

A group of four students at SOU handed out copies of the Constitution on campus Tuesday while collecting signatures to end the university’s restrictive speech policies, which limit free speech to an area that totals less than one percent of campus. While doing so, the students were approached multiple times by school administrators and campus police who all asked the students to move to a different area of campus.

“We encountered wild accusations that because the event was affiliated with SCC, there was legitimate fear for the imminent danger of students on campus.”   

“I would very much like you to leave, if you would, please, because the students have the right to be able to come by here without you guys, you know, invading their space and asking them to do something,” Tim Robitz, director of university housing, can be heard telling the students in an exclusive video obtained byCampus Reform.

School administrators threatened to call the police on the students when the group did not leave. One of the students in attendance told Campus Reform that some administrators resorted to “personal attacks” and threatened disciplinary action.

“We have our free speech zone. I understand that you may not like it, but that’s where it is,” Allyson Beck, SOU’s family housing coordinator, told the students in the video.

WATCH: Officials confront pro-Second Amendment students

The four students are affiliated with Students for Concealed Carry (SCC), a nonpartisan student organization that advocates for concealed carry rights on college campuses.

“We encountered wild accusations that because the event was affiliated with SCC, there was legitimate fear for the imminent danger of students on campus,” SCC member Stephanie Keaveney told Campus Reform after the incident. “Administrators accused us of causing an immediate panic for the safety of students in the face of gun violence, or the promotion of such.”

Campus police did inform the group that they had received a complaint from another student who said he felt uncomfortable, although members of SCC told Campus Reform that not a single student complained to them.

“[S]tudents on this campus were in no way framing themselves to be a legitimate threat to safety or inciting unlawful behavior,” Keaveney said. “This action was only related to SCC in that its members on this campus believe in order to fight for our second amendment rights; we must first be free to exercise our first amendment rights.”

Besides asking the group to move to the designated free speech zone, SOU officials asked the students to make sure they were explaining to their peers why the free speech zone exists in the first place.

“Well I just think if you’re going to ask someone to sign a petition, it’s always helpful if you’re explaining both sides of the petition–why the policy exists is certainly useful as opposed to saying ‘we want this,” Robitz can be heard telling the students in the video.

While Robitz did tell the students he would be willing to sit down and have a conversation about SOU’s speech policies, but that “doesn’t necessarily mean [he] supports doing it.”

“If you’re asking me if I support it, I don’t think I could say yes or no at this point because clearly there’s a number of reasons why it exists and I think we need to look at all those–good, bad, and indifferent–because it’s not just about the free speech of students,” Robitz told the students in the video. “When you open it up to free speech that means anyone anywhere can come on here and do that and that might create some other challenges for this campus that we’re not prepared to manage.”

Students were handing out the free Constitutions in what SOU considers a “residential area” because of its close proximity to residence halls. The four students didn’t have a table and stayed on a sidewalk which led to a main road.

“Caging students in censorship zones flies in the face of the First Amendment and undermines the reason for education,” David Hacker, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, toldCampus Reform. “Colleges and universities are and should be the marketplace of ideas, and the Constitution protects the speech rights of everyone, not just groups or students that a few university officials personally choose.”

Keaveney confirmed to Campus Reform that city police never approached the student group or asked them to leave. She also said that so far the university hasn’t taken any action against the students despite the threats to the contrary.

“While it is lawful for the university to maintain policies prohibiting activities which genuinely disrupt the educational process, restricting speech as acutely as SOU has by instituting and upholding the free speech zone is grossly more broad than necessary to ensure the educational process is not interrupted,” she said.

Neither Beck nor Robitz responded to a request for comment from Campus Reform.

A university spokesperson did confirm to Campus Reform that the incident took place but did not say if the students would be further disciplined.

Another view of the incident: 

UPDATE: In an email Tuesday afternoon, SOU confirmed to Campus Reform that it has no plans to further discipline the students.

original article: University officials threaten students passing out U.S. Constitution

abuse, bias, bullies, censorship, constitution, education, free speech, freedom, government, gun rights, left wing, liberalism, oppression, power, progressive

Filed under: abuse, bias, bullies, censorship, constitution, education, free speech, freedom, government, gun rights, left wing, liberalism, oppression, power, progressive

CDC not controlling Ebola outbreak in US, blames those infected

U.S. CDC head criticized for blaming ‘protocol breach’ as nurse gets Ebola
October 13, 2014 by JULIE STEENHUYSEN

(Reuters) – Some healthcare experts are bristling at the assertion by a top U.S. health official that a “protocol breach” caused a Dallas nurse to be infected with Ebola while caring for a dying patient, saying the case instead shows how far the nation’s hospitals are from adequately training staff to deal with the deadly virus.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, made the declaration on Sunday at a news conference and called for an investigation into how the unidentified nurse became infected while caring for Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States. Duncan died last week at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

Healthcare and infection control experts said that hospital staff need to be coached through the stages of treating an Ebola patient, making sure they have the right safety equipment and know how to use it properly to prevent infection.

It was not immediately clear whether the Texas hospital prepared its staff with simulation drills before admitting Duncan, but a recent survey of nurses nationwide suggests few have been briefed on Ebola preparations. Officials at the hospital did not respond to requests for comment.

Some experts also question the CDC’s assertion that any U.S. hospital should be prepared to treat an Ebola patient as the outbreak ravaging West Africa begins to spread globally. Given the level of training required to do the job safely, U.S. health authorities should consider designating a hospital in each region as the go-to facility for Ebola, they said.

“You don’t scapegoat and blame when you have a disease outbreak,” said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and a disaster relief expert at National Nurses United, which serves as both a union and a professional association for U.S. nurses. “We have a system failure. That is what we have to correct.”

More than 4,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that began in West Africa in March.

In recent months, the CDC has published detailed guidelines on how to handle various aspects of Ebola, from lab specimens and infectious waste to the proper use of protective equipment.

How that information gets communicated to frontline workers, however, varies widely, Castillo said.

In many cases, hospitals “post something on a bulletin board referring workers and nurses to the CDC guidelines. That is not how you drill and practice and become expert,” she said.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said the agency is still investigating the case of the Dallas nurse, but stressed that “meticulous adherence to protocols” is critical in handling Ebola. “One slight slip can result in someone becoming infected.”

Skinner said the CDC is going to step up its education and training efforts on how to triage and handle patients, and may consider designating specific hospitals in each region as an Ebola treatment facility.

“We’ve been doing a lot over the past few months, but clearly there is more to do,” he said. “The notion of possibly transporting patients diagnosed with Ebola to these hospitals is not something that is out of the question and is something we may look into.”

LEGAL RECOURSE

Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, an expert on public health preparedness at Pennsylvania State University, also disagreed with the talk of a breach of protocol, saying it just puts the onus on the nurse.

“I think that is just wrong,” said Macgregor-Skinner, who helped the Nigerian government train healthcare workers when a traveler from Liberia touched off an outbreak of Ebola this past summer.

“We haven’t provided them with a national training program. We haven’t provided them with the necessary experts that have actually worked in hospitals with Ebola,” he added in reference to U.S. hospital staff.

Legal experts said the Dallas nurse may be entitled to compensation if the hospital carries workers’ compensation insurance. If it doesn’t, she would have the right to sue the hospital for damages under Texas law, said Jay Harvey, a lawyer in Austin, Texas.

Her ability to show that the hospital was negligent by, for example, not providing proper training, would be key to winning such a suit, Harvey said.

Sean Kaufman, president of Behavioral-Based Improvement Solutions in Atlanta, helped train healthcare staff at a special isolation unit at Atlanta’s Emory University which treated U.S. aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the first two Ebola patients to be treated on U.S. soil.

He would observe the nurses and doctors as they cared for patients and keep detailed notes when someone would accidentally touch their sleeve or mask with an infected glove.

He then helped coach them through the process of carefully removing their infected gear. Facilities caring for Ebola patients are encouraged to use a buddy system so that colleagues are watching each other to make sure they don’t take risks.

“Doctors and nurses get lost in patient care. They do things that put themselves at risk because their lens is patient-driven,” Kaufman said. In Dallas, “I suspect no one was watching to make sure the people who were taking care of the patients were taking care of themselves,” he said.

CDC and Texas health officials said the nurse who became infected had been wearing the recommended personal protective gear for Ebola, which consists of gloves, a gown, a mask, and a shield to protect the eyes from possible splatters from the patient.

According to experts, that gear offers the minimum level of protection. When an Ebola patient enters the latter stages of the disease, as Duncan did, they become so-called fluid producers, Kaufman said.

“Towards of end of the illness, the virus is trying to live and thrive. It’s trying to get out of the person’s body. It’s producing massive amounts of fluid,” he said.

At that point, caregivers need to add more layers of protective gear, such as double gloves and a respirator or a full bodysuit. Those kinds of decisions need to be made by managers who are constantly assessing the risk to healthcare workers, Kaufman said.

Macgregor-Skinner said all U.S. hospitals must be ready to identify and isolate an Ebola patient, but should also be able to turn to a regional facility that is better prepared to receive them.

“Every hospital can then prevent the spread of Ebola, but not every hospital in the U.S. can admit a patient in the hospital for long-term care,” he said.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Additional reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Martin Howell)

bureaucracy, crisis, foreign affairs, government, health care, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, crisis, foreign affairs, government, health care, unintended consequences

How many times were we told Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction?

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons
October 14, 2014 by C. J. CHIVERS

It was August 2008 near Taji, Iraq. They had just exploded a stack of old Iraqi artillery shells buried beside a murky lake. The blast, part of an effort to destroy munitions that could be used in makeshift bombs, uncovered more shells.

Two technicians assigned to dispose of munitions stepped into the hole. Lake water seeped in. One of them, Specialist Andrew T. Goldman, noticed a pungent odor, something, he said, he had never smelled before.

He lifted a shell. Oily paste oozed from a crack. “That doesn’t look like pond water,” said his team leader, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Duling.

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.”

Five years after President George W. Bush sent troops into Iraq, these soldiers had entered an expansive but largely secret chapter of America’s long and bitter involvement in Iraq.

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

The secrecy fit a pattern. Since the outset of the war, the scale of the United States’ encounters with chemical weapons in Iraq was neither publicly shared nor widely circulated within the military. These encounters carry worrisome implications now that the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.

The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.

“I felt more like a guinea pig than a wounded soldier,” said a former Army sergeant who suffered mustard burns in 2007 and was denied hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the United States despite requests from his commander.

Congress, too, was only partly informed, while troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found. “ ’Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” said Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major who was present for the largest chemical weapons discovery of the war: more than 2,400 nerve-agent rockets unearthed in 2006 at a former Republican Guard compound.

Jarrod L. Taylor, a former Army sergeant on hand for the destruction of mustard shells that burned two soldiers in his infantry company, joked of “wounds that never happened” from “that stuff that didn’t exist.” The public, he said, was misled for a decade. “I love it when I hear, ‘Oh there weren’t any chemical weapons in Iraq,’ ” he said. “There were plenty.”

Rear Adm. John Kirby, spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, declined to address specific incidents detailed in the Times investigation, or to discuss the medical care and denial of medals for troops who were exposed. But he said that the military’s health care system and awards practices were under review, and that Mr. Hagel expected the services to address any shortcomings.

“The secretary believes all service members deserve the best medical and administrative support possible,” he said. “He is, of course, concerned by any indication or allegation they have not received such support. His expectation is that leaders at all levels will strive to correct errors made, when and where they are made.”

The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.

Then, during the long occupation, American troops began encountering old chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs. Typically 155-millimeter artillery shells or 122-millimeter rockets, they were remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

All had been manufactured before 1991, participants said. Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin. Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them.

In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.

As Iraq has been shaken anew by violence, and past security gains have collapsed amid Sunni-Shiite bloodletting and the rise of the Islamic State, this long-hidden chronicle illuminates the persistent risks of the country’s abandoned chemical weapons.

Many chemical weapons incidents clustered around the ruins of theMuthanna State Establishment, the center of Iraqi chemical agent production in the 1980s.

Since June, the compound has been held by the Islamic State, the world’s most radical and violent jihadist group. In a letter sent to the United Nations this summer, the Iraqi government said that about 2,500 corroded chemical rockets remained on the grounds, and that Iraqi officials had witnessed intruders looting equipment before militants shut down the surveillance cameras.

The United States government says the abandoned weapons no longer pose a threat. But nearly a decade of wartime experience showed that old Iraqi chemical munitions often remained dangerous when repurposed for local attacks in makeshift bombs, as insurgents did starting by 2004.

Participants in the chemical weapons discoveries said the United States suppressed knowledge of finds for multiple reasons, including that the government bristled at further acknowledgment it had been wrong. “They needed something to say that after Sept. 11 Saddam used chemical rounds,” Mr. Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

Others pointed to another embarrassment. In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.

Nonproliferation officials said the Pentagon’s handling of many of the recovered warheads and shells appeared to violate the Convention on Chemical Weapons. According to this convention, chemical weapons must be secured, reported and destroyed in an exacting and time-consuming fashion.

THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT DID NOT FIND WHAT IT HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR AT THE WAR’S OUTSET, THEN IT FAILED TO PREPARE ITS TROOPS AND MEDICAL CORPS FOR THE AGED WEAPONS IT DID FIND.

The Pentagon did not follow the steps, but says that it adhered to the convention’s spirit. “These suspect weapons were recovered under circumstances in which prompt destruction was dictated by the need to ensure that the chemical weapons could not threaten the Iraqi people, neighboring states, coalition forces, or the environment,” said Jennifer Elzea, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The convention, she added, “did not envisage the conditions found in Iraq.”

Nonetheless, several participants said the United States lost track of chemical weapons that its troops found, left large caches unsecured, and did not warn people — Iraqis and foreign troops alike — as it hastily exploded chemical ordnance in the open air.

This was the secret world Sergeant Duling and his soldiers entered in August 2008 as they stood above the leaking chemical shell. The sergeant spoke into a radio, warning everyone back.

“This is mustard agent,” he said, announcing the beginning of a journey of inadequate medical care and honors denied. “We’ve all been exposed.”

PART 2

Expecting Explosives, Finding Chemical Arms

The cache that contaminated Sergeant Duling’s team was not the first discovery of chemical weapons in the war. American troops had already found thousands of similar warheads and shells.

These repeated encounters sprang from a basic feature of the occupation: After the invasion, Iraq became a battlefield laced with hidden, lethal traps — most tied to the country’s protracted history in the global arms trade.

Iraq had attacked Iran in late 1980, expecting quick victory against a military sapped of officers by Iran’s revolutionary purges. Mr. Hussein also thought Iranians might rise against their new religious leaders.

He miscalculated. By June 1981, as Iran blunted Iraq’s incursions and unleashed its air force against Iraqi cities, Mr. Hussein was seeking new weapons. He created a secret program — known as Project 922 — that produced blister and nerve agents by the hundreds of tons, according toIraq’s confidential declarations in the 1990s to the United Nations.

War provided urgency; Mr. Hussein added the cash. Western nations, some eager to contain Iran’s Islamic revolutionary state after the American hostage crisis from 1979 to 1981, lent Iraq support.

With remarkable speed, Iraq built a program with equipment and precursor purchases from companies in an extraordinary array of countries, eventually including the United States, according to its confidential declarations.

German construction firms helped create a sprawling manufacturing complex in the desert south of Samarra and three plants in Falluja that made precursor ingredients for chemical weapons. The complex near Samarra, later renamed Al Muthanna State Establishment, included research labs, production lines, testing areas and storage bunkers.

MUCH OF THE STOCKPILE WAS EXPENDED OR DESTROYED, BUT THOUSANDS OF CHEMICAL SHELLS AND WARHEADS REMAINED.

Iraq produced 10 metric tons of mustard blister agent in 1981; by 1987 its production had grown 90-fold, with late-war output aided by two American companies that provided hundreds of tons of thiodiglycol, a mustard agent precursor. Production of nerve agents also took off.

Rising production created another need. Mr. Hussein’s military did not possess the munitions for dispersing chemical agents. So it embarked on another buying spree, purchasing empty ordnance — aviation bombs from a Spanish manufacturer, American-designed artillery shells from European companies, and Egyptian and Italian ground-to-ground rockets — to be filled in Iraq.

As these strands of a chemical weapons program came together, Iraq simultaneously accumulated enormous stores of conventional munitions.

Much of the chemical stockpile was expended in the Iran-Iraq war or destroyed when the weapons programs were dismantled after the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But thousands of chemical shells and warheads remained, spicing the stockpile of conventional ordnance left unsecured in 2003 after Iraq’s military collapsed as the United States invaded.

Chemical munitions can resemble conventional munitions — a problem compounded by Iraq’s practice of mislabeling ordnance to confuse foreign inspectors and, with time, by rust, pitting and dirt.

These were the circumstances that combined against ordnance disposal teams as they pursued their primary duty in the war: defeating makeshift bombs.

Almost all of the bombs were made with conventional ordnance or homemade explosives. Here and there, among the others, were bombs made from chemical arms.

PART 3

On a Routine Mission, ‘Bit’ by Sarin

Staff Sgt. James F. Burns, a team leader in the 752nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, peered into a video screen at a bomb’s cracked remains.

It was an unusual device. A short while before, it had been detonated beside an American patrol in southwest Baghdad. The blast had been small. No one had been wounded.

Two ordnance disposal techs, Sergeant Burns (since promoted to first lieutenant) and Pfc. Michael S. Yandell, manipulated a robot toward the device to examine it via video feed. They expected to find a high-explosive shell.

The video showed a damaged shell rigged to a telephone cable. It was May 15, 2004. Weeks before, Sergeant Burns had found a similar bomb made with an illumination shell — a pyrotechnic round that lacked explosive power. It, too, had been rigged with an identical telephone cable.

This shell, the sergeant thought, was a duplicate. The bomb maker had goofed again.

To prevent militants from reusing materials, disposal teams often destroyed any warheads and shells they found on the spot. But snipers stalked this neighborhood. Sergeant Burns understood that risks grew the longer the soldiers remained. He decided he would destroy the shell near their base.

Private Yandell carried the shell to their truck bed.

The drive back passed through a bazaar. Sergeant Burns noticed a bitter smell and thought, he said later, that “it was rotten vegetables.”

Then he felt the onset of a headache. He told Private Yandell, who was driving, that he did not feel right.

Nauseated and disoriented, Private Yandell had quietly been struggling to drive. His vision was blurring. His head pounded. “I feel like crap, too,” he replied.

Dread passed over Sergeant Burns. Maybe, he wondered aloud, they had picked up a nerve agent shell.

Neither man remembers the drive’s last minutes. At the base entrance, they did not clear the ammunition from their rifles and pistols — forgetting habits and rules.

As they arrived at their building, Sergeant Burns was sure. In the back of the truck, the shell had leaked liquid. Illumination rounds, he knew, do not do that.

“I thought: ‘I’ve gotten Mike killed, and maybe everyone else around here, driving a chem round onto the FOB,’” he said, using the acronym for forward operating base.

Disposal teams kept bleach for decontamination. Sergeant Burns found a jug and poured it onto the shell before stumbling to the showers, where he found Private Yandell at a mirror, transfixed by his own image.

“It was just pinpointed pupils,” Mr. Yandell later recalled. “And that is like the classic sign of sarin exposure.”

He faced the sergeant. “I don’t want to freak you out,” he said. “But look.”

Private Yandell’s irises were so constricted they seemed solid. “I didn’t see pinpointed pupils,” Lieutenant Burns said recently. “I didn’t see his pupils at all.”

The soldiers lived with three sailors, who told them to rush to the clinic.

The soldiers staggered in claiming exposure to a nerve agent. The staff, Mr. Yandell said, acted as if he and Sergeant Burns were lying. “They suspected we were doing drugs or something,” he recalled.

A medic who had been with them vouched that they had just handled an artillery shell. The staff changed its stance. “They stripped us down and helped us shower,” Mr. Yandell said.

“Pt being admitted for possible chemical contamination,” his record reads, noting the pinpointed pupils, headache and dizziness. “Wheezing audible.”

The two techs were given oxygen, then Tylenol. At 3:20 p.m., medics irrigated their eyes with atropine gel.

By then the Navy techs had examined the shell. Word was circulating. Sergeant Burns’s team had picked up an exceedingly rare weapon: a 152-millimeter binary sarin shell.

In 1988, late in the war against Iran, Iraq had tested a batch of prototype 152-millimeter shells containing segregated containers for sarin precursors, according to its confidential declarations.

Very few were thought to have been assembled, fewer still to have survived. But this one found its way into a makeshift bomb. Sergeant Burns and Private Yandell mistook it for an illumination round in part, several techs said, because it was so rare it was not in the military’s standard ordnance recognition guides.

Its canisters had ruptured during the roadside bomb’s detonation, mixing precursors to create sarin with a purity of 43 percent — more than enough to be lethal.

Private Yandell had handled the shell without gloves. Both men inhaled sarin vapors. Their cases, said Col. Jonathan Newmark, a retired Army neurologist, became “the only documented battlefield exposure to nerve agent in the history of the United States.”

As the two soldiers were afflicted by symptoms of this unlucky distinction, their supervisors initially pressed for a cover-up.

“They put a gag order on all of us — the security detail, us, the clinic, everyone,” Lieutenant Burns said. “We were briefed to tell family members that we were exposed to ‘industrial chemicals,’ because our case was classified top secret.”

Two days later, the military released an account of their sarin exposure, without revealing names or units involved. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a spokesman, offered a prescient warning: “There may be more out there.”

For nearly a decade this would be the only time the military released details of a chemical incident in Iraq in which troops were exposed.

Ten days after the incident, both soldiers were awarded Purple Hearts. Both men said their company commander urged them to rest.

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians are part of a small field with a code that encourages selflessness: Any call one team does not take, another team must.

In June the two soldiers, still suffering symptoms, including intense headaches and difficulties with balance, asked to return to duty. Soon they were ordered to a site hit by 60-millimeter mortar fire.

Two shells had been duds. They were stuck, fins up, in the sand. Sergeant Burns freed them with rope and then set off carrying them to a disposal pit.

“I was walking with one in each hand, and I just fell,” he said. “I remember falling and trying to keep the fuzes from hitting the ground.”

He wondered why the Army had not sent the two of them home. “We really should not have been operating out there,” he said.

PART 4

Playing Down Dangers, Withholding Evidence

In September 2004, months after Sergeant Burns and Private Yandell picked up the leaking sarin shell, the American government issued a detailed analysis of Iraq’s weapons programs. The widely heralded report, by the multinational Iraq Survey Group, concluded that Iraq had not had an active chemical warfare program for more than a decade.

The group, led by Charles A. Duelfer, a former United Nations official working for the Central Intelligence Agency, acknowledged that the American military had found old chemical ordnance: 12 artillery shells and 41 rocket warheads. It predicted that troops would find more.

The report also played down the dangers of the lingering weapons, stating that because their contents would have deteriorated, “any remaining chemical munitions in Iraq do not pose a militarily significant threat.”

By then the Pentagon had test results showing that the sarin shell could have been deadly. American chemical warfare specialists also knew, disposal technicians and analysts said, that in the 1980s Iraq had mastered mustard agent production in its Western-built plant. Its output had been as pure as 95 percent and stable, meaning that the remaining stock was dangerous.

Reached recently, Mr. Duelfer agreed that the weapons were still a menace, but said the report strove to make it clear that they were not “a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction.”

“What I was trying to convey is that these were not militarily significant because they not used as W.M.D.,” he said. “It wasn’t that they weren’t dangerous.”

The Duelfer report also claimed that the United States had cleared more than 10,000 arms caches but found no other chemical ordnance. Several disposal technicians said this claim was false, though the report’s authors did not know it.

THE DUELFER REPORT WAS PART OF A PATTERN OF UNDERSTATED GOVERNMENT ASSESSMENTS ABOUT CHEMICAL WEAPONS, AT ODDS WITH THE GOVERNMENT’S INTERNAL ACCOUNTS.

One reason that government tallies were low, and that Mr. Duelfer’s team was not aware of all the chemical weapons recoveries, the techs said, was that by 2004 the military’s procedures for handling Iraq’s chemical weapons had created disincentives for troops to report what they found.

During 2003 and 2004, the United States hunted for unconventional weapons and evidence that might support the rationale for the invasion. But as the insurgency grew and makeshift bombs became the prevailing cause of troops’ wounds, the search became a lower priority for the rank-and-file. Some saw it as a distraction.

One tech who served three tours in Iraq said his team twice encountered chemical weapons, but did not report one of them.

That was in 2004, he said, when his team found a mustard shell in a conventional ordnance cache. Reporting it, he said, would have required summoning chemical warfare specialists, known as a technical escort unit, and adding 12 to 24 hours to the job. The team decided to put the mustard shell with the high-explosive shells and, he said, “get rid of it.”

In the difficult calculus of war, competing missions had created tensions. If documenting chemical weapons delayed the destruction of explosive weapons that were killing people each week, or left troops vulnerable while waiting for chemical warfare specialists to arrive, then reporting chemical weapons endangered lives.

Many techs said the teams chose common sense. “I could wait all day for tech escort to show up and make a chem round disappear, or I could just make it disappear myself,” another tech said.

The tech who exploded a mustard shell in 2004 said the disposal teams had little time to register and report each item they found in Iraq’s stockpiles. Everything, he said, went into demolition piles.

“You set up these huge shots day after day and you don’t research every single round because you would just use up all of your time doing research,” he said. “There were more chem rounds that were discovered and just blown in place.”

Late in 2004, roughly simultaneous to the release of the Duelfer report, the Army signaled internally that it was concerned about the risks of chemical weapons by distributing detailed new instructions for treating troops exposed to warfare agents.

One of the memorandums, by the Medical Command, stated that “exposure to chemical weapons is a continuing and significant risk to our deployed forces.” The instructions required blood and urine tests for patients and follow-up tracking of the exposed — for life.

In the years ahead, these steps would often not be followed.

By then the soldiers wounded by sarin had returned home. They still suffered symptoms. Private Yandell complained of severe headaches. Sergeant Burns, in a note for his medical record in late 2004, described memory lapses, reading difficulties, problems with balance and tingling in his legs.

“I have been dropping items such as tools, soda cans, cups of water, pens and pencils,” he wrote. “I will stumble or nearly fall while standing up from a chair. While speaking, I will stutter or stammer and lose my thought.”

Nonetheless, the Pentagon continued to withhold data, leaving the public misinformed as discoveries of chemical weapons accelerated sharply.

In late 2005 and early 2006, soldiers collected more than 440 Borak 122-millimeter chemical rockets near Amara, in southeastern Iraq. And in the first nine months of 2006, the American military recovered roughly 700 chemical warheads and shells, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

British forces also destroyed 21 Borak rockets in early 2006, including some that contained nerve agent, according to a public statement to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2010.

The Pentagon did not provide this information to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as it worked in the summer of 2006 examining intelligence claims about Iraq’s weapons programs.

Even as the Senate committee worked, the American Army made its largest chemical weapons find of the war: more than 2,400 Borak rockets.

The rockets were discovered at Camp Taji, a former Republican Guard compound, when Americans “running a refueling point for helicopters saw some shady activity on the other side of a fence,” said Mr. Lampier, who lived at the camp at the time.

An Iraqi digging with a front-end loader ran away when an American patrol approached, leaving behind partly unearthed rockets.

Mr. Lampier, then a captain commanding the 756th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, was with the first to arrive. “At first we saw three,” he said. “Then it wasn’t three. It was 30. Then it wasn’t 30. It was 300. It went up from there.”

THE AMERICAN MILITARY HAD FOUND MORE THAN 3,000 CHEMICAL MUNITIONS AND KNEW THAT MANY WERE STILL DANGEROUS. THE PENTAGON DID NOT TELL THE SENATE.

The rockets appeared to have been buried before American airstrikes in 1991, he said. Many were empty. Others still contained sarin. “Full-up sloshers,” he said.

At least 38 techs worked for weeks, excavating rockets, crushing many of them and then reburying them and covering them with concrete. Mr. Lampier said he was told to describe the work in blandly bureaucratic terms: “Nothing of significance.”

With this discovery, the American military had found more than 3,000 pieces of chemical ordnance and knew that many were still dangerous. The military did not disclose this as the Senate worked; instead, it stood by data from the Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center that it had declassified in late June, leading the Senate to publish an inaccurate report.

The report, released in September 2006, claimed “another 500 filled and unfilled degraded pre-1991 chemical munitions” had been found — about one-sixth of the Pentagon’s internal tallies.

This tally, obsolete as it was published, was not updated in the ensuing years, as more chemical weapons were found and as more troops were exposed.

The publicly released information also skirted the fact that most of the chemical artillery shells were traceable to the West, some tied to the United States.

These shells, which the American military calls M110s, had been developed decades ago in the United States. Roughly two feet long and weighing more than 90 pounds, each is an aerodynamic steel vessel with a burster tube in its center.

The United States has long manufactured M110s, filling them with smoke compounds, white phosphorous or, in earlier years, mustard agent.American ordnance documents explicitly describe the purpose of an M110 filled with blister agent: “to produce a toxic effect on personnel and to contaminate habitable areas.”

The United States also exported the shells and the technology behind them. When Iraq went arms shopping in the 1980s, it found manufacturers in Italy and Spain willing to deal their copies. By 1988, these two countries alone had sold Iraq 85,000 empty M110-type shells, according to confidential United Nations documents. Iraq also obtained shells from Belgium.

By 2006, the American military had found dozens of these blister-agent shells in Iraq, and had reports of others circulating on black markets, several techs said. Tests determined that many still contained mustard agent, some at a purity level of 84 percent, officials said.

Had these results been publicly disclosed, they would have shown that American assertions about Iraq’s chemical weapons posing no militarily significant threat could be misread, and that these dangerous chemical weapons had Western roots.

Public disclosure might also have helped spur the military’s medical system to convert its memorandums into action, and to ready itself for wounds its troops were bound to suffer.

PART 5

‘Bit’ by Blister Agent in Roadside Bombs

Once American forces began finding large numbers of M110 shells, it was all but inevitable that disposal teams would be exposed to blister agent.

This happened for the first time, several techs said, on Sept. 25, 2006, after militants detonated two roadside bombs near an American patrol in southern Baghdad.

Two Navy techs — Chief Petty Officer Ted Pickett and Petty Officer Third Class Jeremiah M. Foxwell — arrived at the blast site.

They found three damaged shells, decided against destroying them in a populated area, and drove them to a demolition range beside their base, according to Mr. Foxwell, who left the Navy in 2008.

There they discovered that one 155-millimeter shell had leaked a noxious liquid. As he inhaled its vapors, Petty Officer Foxwell was instantly alarmed. “It smelled overbearingly like extreme toxicity,” he said recently. “The hair stood up on the back of my neck.”

The shell contained a brown crystalline substance they had thought was a homemade explosive. A swab with detection paper tested positive for sulfur mustard.

The sailors radioed for a technical escort unit, then put on gloves and gas masks and wrapped the shell in plastic and duct tape. They waited. Hours passed. No chemical specialists arrived.

Mustard agent acts slowly on victims. Symptoms of exposure often do not appear for hours, and intensify for days.

Late that afternoon, with the sailors worried about the effects of mustard inhalation, they destroyed the shell with an explosive charge and entered the Army clinic on their base.

Within two days lesions formed in Petty Officer Foxwell’s nasal passages and upper airway, according to his medical records, which noted exposure to “chemical vapors — mustard gas” from a “terrorist chemical weapon.”

But the care he would receive proved to be much less than that mandated under the Army’s treatment order.

The clinic did not perform the required blood and urine tests on Petty Officer Foxwell, according to his medical records. (His former team chief did not reply to written questions.)

Both men were returned to duty within days, though Mr. Foxwell said his breathing remained labored and his chest hurt.

Dr. Dave Edmond Lounsbury, a former Army colonel who helped prepare for the chemical warfare victims expected at the war’s start in 2003, said in an interview that Petty Officer Foxwell’s care was inadequate.

“When you first meet the patient it is impossible to tell how he is going to do,” he said. “You have to get the blood work, monitor him and follow him over time.”

“To return them soon to duty?” he said. “I would be uncomfortable with that.”

The Army opened an investigation into why the chemical specialists were delayed in arriving. An officer taking statements from participants forbade Petty Officer Foxwell from discussing the incident with his peers, restricting him from issuing a warning.

“I couldn’t walk outside and tell the next route-clearance team that this was out there,” he said. “It was just not natural, the idea of not sharing. If you experience a new battlefield weapon, it is your responsibility to share that actionable information with other teams.”

Mr. Foxwell said his Navy officer-in-charge did not visit them in the clinic or submit them for Purple Hearts. The insurgents’ use of a mustard shell faded from view. “No one in my chain of command, outside of Ted, discussed the incident with me again,” he said.

After Mr. Foxwell was honorably discharged, the Veterans Administration awarded him a partial medical disability in 2008, noting chronic respiratory infections and the development of asthma.

The incident was a foreboding sign. Several months later, on March 11, 2007, two Army techs were burned.

This second exposure occurred when a team from the 756th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company was summoned to a roadside bomb made with a rusty artillery shell.

The team remotely detonated the shell and continued to the usual steps: checking to ensure the bomb was rendered harmless, and collecting evidence.

Specialist Richard T. Beasley, one of the techs, picked up the broken shell, not knowing it contained mustard agent, and stowed it in a bin on their truck beside a fresh-air intake.

A foul smell filled the truck and irritated the soldiers’ eyes. Suspecting the shell was the odor’s source, they stopped and heaved it into a deep canal.

The next day Specialist Beasley noticed his pant leg was wet. Mustard exposure symptoms had set in. “I undid my pants,” he said, “and felt the bubble.”

His fingers were tracing a seeping blister nearly the size of his hand.

His team leader, a former sergeant who asked that his name be withheld to protect his medical privacy, discovered a similar blister on his own left leg.

At first the soldiers were confused. Then, remembering the odorous shell, the sergeant felt a rising fear. If that was mustard, he thought, and was burning their skin, what might be happening in their lungs?

The patrol sped to an Army clinic at Camp Taji.

Had the techs been burned a few years earlier, the military medical system, which had prepared before the invasion for chemical warfare casualties, might have recognized their wounds. But in 2007, with blast and gunshot wounds the predominant causes of casualties, the doctors were not ready.

The Army’s medical orders were not followed. The staff rinsed the soldiers’ eyes, put cream on Specialist Beasley’s blister, and turned them away.

“I don’t know how to describe it, except to say: confusion,” the former sergeant said. “They really didn’t know what to do. The general feel was a whole lot of people shrugging their shoulders nonstop.”

The soldiers returned to Balad Air Base, where they were stationed, and visited another clinic.

A doctor ordered treatment with painkillers, antibiotics, burn cream and cleaning of the blisters — a sensation, the former sergeant said, “like a having a wire dog brush being rubbed across your leg.”

Specialist Beasley’s medical record shows that blood and urine specimens confirmed the mustard agent exposure. But the patients were not admitted to a hospital.

Mr. Lampier, then the soldiers’ commander, said he argued that they should be evacuated to the United States. “They were raw meat trying to heal in the worst environment imaginable,” he said. “There was dust and ash and smoke from the burn pits, and they had these wounds that shouldn’t have been exposed to that.”

The soldiers remained outpatients at a clinic.

SECRECY PREVAILED. VICTIMS SAID WORD OF THEIR EXPOSURE WAS PURPOSEFULLY SQUELCHED.

All the while secrecy prevailed. The military determined the soldiers had been burned by an M110 shell. Both victims said word of their exposure was purposefully squelched.

“We were absolutely told not to talk about it” by a colonel, the former sergeant said. The order, he added, included prohibitions against mentioning mustard agent when writing home.

The secrecy was so extensive that Dr. Lounsbury said he suspected officials hid the cases even from him and two other Army doctors assigned to prepare an official textbook on treating battlefield wounds.

Their book, “War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007,” published in 2008, provided an inventory of traumas and treatments.

“We would have certainly included this case if we had known about it,” he said, “and not just for obvious medical reasons but because here was exactly the kind of wounds at the very heart of the reason the government sent our nation to war.”

The exposed soldiers’ objections to how their cases were handled grew after their commander submitted them for Purple Hearts.

The medals were disapproved by the headquarters of the American-led coalition “because the incident was deemed to have occurred after the I.E.D. was destroyed, and therefore was no longer considered to have been in contact with the enemy,” Tatjana Christian, an Army spokeswoman, said, using the abbreviation for an improvised explosive device.

Purple Hearts, awarded for “wounds received in action,” according to their certificates, are a respected martial decoration. They are also contentious, given the subjectivity in defining “action.”

This is particularly true in the ordnance disposal field, because improvised bombs are dangerous before and after a foe sets them out. Bombs made with chemical ordnance pose more questions, because unlike explosives, chemical agents do not pass from dangerous to harmless in a flash.

TROOPS WOUNDED BY CHEMICAL DEVICES WERE TREATED INCONSISTENTLY: SOME RECEIVED THE MEDAL, OTHERS DID NOT.

Several techs pointed out that chemical munitions found in explosive devices were a result of conscious enemy action. But troops wounded by chemical devices were treated inconsistently: Some received the medal, others did not.

Under presidential order, Purple Hearts are awarded by each military service, which follow separate rules.

The Army regulation, another spokesman said, excludes soldiers wounded by chemical agents not released by an enemy. And because this exposure was caused when the soldiers destroyed the chemical device, he said, it did not qualify for Purple Hearts.

Mr. Beasley, who was honorably discharged in 2008, said the Army’s position was dismissive. “I remember it being, basically, that we wounded ourselves,” he said, which he called “baloney.”

“I didn’t put that shell in that hole,” he said. “And I did exactly what we were supposed to do when we dealt with an I.E.D.”

In the years since he returned to the United States and left the Army, he said, the Army has never contacted him again. His follow-up care amounted to one unsatisfying visit to a doctor near his last base.

“I went to a civilian doctor who didn’t actually believe I had been exposed to mustard agent,” he said. “That was the extent of my follow up.”

PART 6

On the Old Chemical Warfare Complex, Marines Find Mustard

By mid-2008, as incidents with mustard shells accumulated, ordnance disposal techs suspected one area had become a principal source of the weapons: Al Muthanna State Establishment, the former nexus of Iraq’s chemical warfare program.

Although incidents with chemical arms were scattered across Iraq, many were clustered near the ruined complex, which this June was overrun by the Islamic State.

During the occupation, little remained of Al Muthanna. The United States had destroyed much of it from the air in the 1991 gulf war. United Nations demilitarization in the 1990s had made the grounds a boneyard.

But one bunker, a massive, cruciform structure, still contained a menacing dud — a 2,000-pound airdropped bomb among a stockpile of sarin-filled rockets, according to people familiar with the complex.

On July 11, 2008, a platoon of Marines unwittingly discovered that another bunker still held mustard shells, too.

The shells were found after about 15 Marines from the Second Tank Battalion’s scout platoon noticed a freshly cut hole in a small bunker, according to three Marines who participated.

A peek inside, said one of them, Jace M. Klibenski, then a corporal, showed “there were just rounds everywhere.”

As the Marines were carrying the shells out, another corporal swore. Mustard agent had spilled on his upper body. Corporal Klibenski helped him pull off his fire-retardant shirt.

“We climbed out,” he said, “and high-tailed it” to their base, Combat Outpost Hawas, from which they were moved by helicopter to Balad Air Base.

Six Marines had been exposed: five lightly, and the corporal who had lifted the leaking shell, the participants said. Doctors sedated him ahead of the expected symptoms.

THE KNOWLEDGE THAT MUSTARD SHELLS REMAINED ON AL MUTHANNA REMAINED OUT OF PUBLIC VIEW, LONG AFTER TWO WARS AND AN INTERNATIONAL EFFORT TO REMOVE THEM.

“He was pretty much just laying flat as the blisters started popping up,” said another participant, Jonathan Martin, then a private first class.

The exposed corporal’s skin erupted on his right arm, left hand, right side and feet, according to the victim, who asked for anonymity to protect his medical privacy.

The military evacuated the corporal to the United States. Five days after being burned, he was awarded a Purple Heart. He later returned to duty.

Mr. Klibenski said an officer visited the other five exposed Marines at Balad and urged them not to talk about what had happened. “They told us that this was something that was going to be kept confidential for a long time,” he said.

The incident remained out of public view, and with it knowledge that mustard shells remained on Al Muthanna — long after two wars and an international demilitarization effort to remove them.

PART 7

The Shells Beside the Lake

The military’s handling of mustard exposure cases — combining reflexive secrecy, substandard medical care and an inconsistent awards system — reached a low point after Sergeant Duling’s team was exposed on Aug. 16, 2008.

The exposures followed the discovery of a seemingly small batch of artillery shells by Bushmaster Company, First Battalion, 14th Regiment, a mechanized Army infantry unit searching an area from which American forces had taken fire.

Sergeant Duling, of the 710th E.O.D. Company, arrived and relieved another disposal team. The first team leader was in a chemical protection suit.

“He was shot,” Sergeant Duling recalled. “It was like 115 degrees. He was throwing up in his mask.”

“I said, ‘Roy, we can take it from here.’ ”

Sergeant Duling and his team put on protective suits, approached the crater from upwind and found a pile of rusty 155-millimeter shells. They tested negative for chemical agents.

Relieved, the techs removed their chemical suits and detonated the pile from afar. The blast unearthed still more munitions.

Soldiers from Bushmaster Company formed a human chain to stack shells for another blast, said one participant, Philip Dukett, a former sergeant. “I would pick one up,” he said, “put it on my thigh, and pass it on.”

In the blast crater, Specialist Goldman noticed one of the shells was leaking; soon it tested positive for sulfur mustard. He swore.

Sergeant Duling ordered everyone to decontaminate with bleach, but the team was not fully prepared. “Then I was out of bleach, so I just used baby wipes and hand sanitizer and whatever else I could find to clean myself up,” he said.

The chemical specialists did not arrive until after midnight.

Shortly after dawn on Aug. 17 the disposal techs and the chemical specialists detonated the pile, including many M110 mustard shells. An orange blast shook the desert.

Weary soldiers laughed as the breeze caught the blast’s gray-brown plume. They had been told the explosion’s heat would destroy the agent. “Ahhh!” one shouted, mockingly. “It’s mustard gas!”

When the cloud reached them, they coughed. “Everything smelled really funky,” Mr. Taylor said recently. “The smoke really irritated our eyes and kind of burned more than smoke from a usual controlled det.”

The blast had uncovered still more shells.

Sergeant Duling and his soldiers were spent, and had a more pressing priority — finding medical care.

They undressed, set their contaminated clothes afire with a thermite grenade, and left, leaving the shells unsecured. The Army did not return for two months, when it destroyed more than 20 remaining mustard shells, a participant said.

The team entered a clinic at Camp Taji. The staff, all three victims said, was unhelpful. “They said, ‘Well, you’re not showing any signs or symptoms, so you weren’t exposed,’ ” said Mr. Goldman, who was honorably discharged in 2012.

In the shower a short while later, he felt a blister on his buttock. Sergeant Duling struggled to breathe.

The soldiers slept a few hours, woke feeling worse, and returned. By then, Mr. Goldman said, he too was short of breath. Blisters were forming around his eyelids.

The medical staff remained unmoved. On Aug. 18, two days after the exposure, an optometrist prescribed drops for Specialist Goldman’s eyes.

Their company commander, Capt. Patrick Chavez, who retired as a major in 2013, said that rather than help the patients, the clinic seemed intent on proving them wrong. “They were trying to come up with other causes for the symptoms — heat exhaustion, things like that,” he said.

“THEY WERE TRYING TO COME UP WITH OTHER CAUSES FOR THE SYMPTOMS — HEAT EXHAUSTION, THINGS LIKE THAT.”

He gave the team a week off.

As the techs went untreated, burns and blisters broke out on two soldiers from Bushmaster Company, who lived at another outpost.

One, Staff Sgt. Adam Hulett, noticed a large blister on his left foot, which turned bright yellow. Medics told him to put cream on it, he said.

“I went to the Internet feeling something was not right with their assessment and did a search on ‘mustard gas exposure,’ ” he said. The search results showed “the same symptoms I was having.”

Blisters also rose on Sergeant Dukett’s right thigh, as if someone had pressed a hot iron against his skin.

Both sergeants were evacuated to Germany, while the more heavily exposed victims were still denied treatment.

On Aug. 23, the Camp Taji clinic informed Specialist Goldman that he was fine. “Discontinue treatment O.K. to resume normal mission,” his records read.

The team returned to duty. The first day out, when Sergeant Duling was examining an exploded device, he quickly gasped for air.

“I literally got back to the truck and took off all the body armor, poured a bottle of water on my head and sat on the steps,” he said. “I pulled us off mission and we went back to medical.”

Still the doctors resisted. It was as if, Sergeant Duling said, the staff suspected the soldiers were malingerers. “We came in, we’re not bleeding, we’re not missing body parts,” he said. “So they were kind of like, ‘What’s your problem? ‘Are’ — you know, typical response – ‘are you trying to get out of duty?’

“It was sheer stupidity on their part.”

The clinic’s attitude changed, the techs said, only after a platoon leader broke the chain of command, sending photographs of Specialist Goldman’s blisters to a supervisor in the United States.

Medical records show the shift. On Sept. 1, a physician dropped the line that Specialist Goldman could return to duty. He reclassified the case: “poisoning by mustard gas.”

The team was flown to Germany and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. A colonel visited from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, an Army chemical warfare center, to discuss lab results.

“He said we would probably never see the paperwork, but our blood showed that we had all been exposed to mustard agent, and that my exposure was the highest,” Mr. Goldman said.

These lab results were not put in his medical records, Mr. Goldman said.

Why such vital information was withheld is not clear. The Army Medical Command, in a written statement, said it was unsure.

Next the Army took up the question of Purple Hearts. Captain Chavez submitted the soldiers for the medals. In late October, the hospital staff told them the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, would present awards and they needed soldiers for the photographs.

Sergeant Duling said he was told his medal had been approved first and the others’ would follow.

Mr. Geren pinned the medal on Sergeant Duling’s uniform on Oct. 23, and the Army announced he had been wounded by “blister agent while conducting operations in North Taji.”

The turnabout came weeks later. The team was told their Purple Hearts had been denied and that Sergeant Duling could not wear the medal — no matter the Army secretary’s role in presenting it.

Tatjana Christian, an Army spokeswoman, said Purple Hearts “were denied because the mustard agent that affected them was not caused by enemy actions.”

Another Army spokesman, who asked that his name be withheld so he could speak candidly, said it appeared the ceremony’s organizers had erroneously reissued Sergeant Duling a Purple Heart he had previously received for wounds from a bomb blast in 2006.

The rejection was a bitter turn. “They said, ‘You blew a cache and got bit, but it wasn’t enemy action,’ ” Sergeant Duling said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, who put them rounds there? And why were we in this country in the first place?’ ”

The mustard exposure left him in permanently poor respiratory health; in 2013 he had surgery to keep his airway open.

Mr. Goldman said he still suffered headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath. The Army, he said, has not tracked him to see how he has fared — part of what he described as a pattern of indifferent leadership and lackluster care, and secrecy to protect the bungling.

“Our doctors screwed up our treatment so much,” he said, “they didn’t want it public because it would have ruined their careers.”

Prompted by the Times reporting, the Army acknowledged that it had not provided the medical care and long-term tracking required by its chemical exposure treatment guidelines. It said it would identify all troops and veterans who had been exposed and update and follow their cases.

“We’re at the point of wanting to make this right,” Col. Bill Rice, director of Occupational and Environmental Medicine of the Army Public Health Command said last Friday. “We can’t change the past, but we can make sure they are pointed in the right direction from this point forward.”

PART 8

Unfinished Business: An Unspoken Legacy of Chemical Arms

At American prodding, Iraq entered the Convention on Chemical Weapons in early 2009. From that moment, its fledgling government assumed primary responsibility for securing and destroying any chemical munitions remaining from Mr. Hussein’s time.

The difficulties this posed for Iraq’s troops became clear in April 2010 when an Iraqi police patrol found about a dozen M110 mustard shells near the Tigris River.

One of the police officers involved, Farhan Hachel, said he and others were ordered to gather the shells and take them to Awenat, a village south of Tikrit.

Officer Hachel picked up one the shells and carried it across his chest. He woke the next morning with “small bubbles” on his upper body, blisters, he said that “were growing really fast.”

“THEY GAVE US SOME CREAMS AND SENT US HOME,” SAID OFFICER HACHEL. STILL MORE MUSTARD SHELLS WERE FOUND.

The next day, he said, “I received a phone call from my colleagues asking me if I was doing O.K., as two others were suffering the same thing.”

His friends told him then that they had carried leaking chemical shells.

In all, seven Iraqi police officers were burned, Officer Hachel and officials said. The American military secretly destroyed the shells, and photographed and briefly treated the burned police officers. The care was cursory.

“They gave us some creams and sent us home,” Officer Hachel said.

And still more mustard shells were found.

The last large discovery of chemical rounds widely known among ordnance techs occurred at a surprising place — a security compound known as Spider, beside a highway south of Tikrit.

During the occupation, both American and Iraqi units had worked from the compound. The presence of mustard shells there, soldiers said, appeared a result of negligence.

The discovery, described by different sources as in 2010 or early 2011, was made when an Iraqi security officer visited Contingency Operating Base Speicher, and told the ordnance disposal troops there that Iraqi troops had opened a shipping container and found it packed with chemical shells.

The report led to Operation Guardian, when an American soldier from a technical escort unit, wearing a protective suit and mask and carrying a detector, reopened the shipping container.

A detector’s alarm immediately rang, warning of mustard agent, said Staff Sgt. Paul Yungandreas, one of the American techs assigned to recover the shells.

Inside were stacks of M110-style shells. “We carried out the rounds, one by one, and put them on plastic tarps,” he said.

The operation’s planners had expected 150 to 200 shells. The disposal technicians found nearly 400.

Many of the shells were empty. Others still contained mustard agent. Most showed signs of age and decay.

Many had been wrapped in plastic — a powerful indicator, several techs said, that they had been collected elsewhere by an American or an Iraqi unit, which then failed to secure them properly.

575COMMENTS

Like most incidents in which American troops encountered chemical weapons in Iraq, Operation Guardian was not publicly disclosed.

By then adherence to the international convention, and the security of the stock, was not much longer a Pentagon concern.

The United States had invaded Iraq to reduce the risk of the weapons of mass destruction that it presumed Mr. Hussein still possessed. And after years of encountering and handling Iraq’s old chemical arms, it had retroactively informed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2009 that it had recovered more than 4,500 chemical weapons.

But it had not shared this data publicly. And as it prepared to withdraw, old stocks set loose after the invasion were still circulating. Al Muthanna had still not been cleaned up.

Finding, safeguarding and destroying these weapons was to be the responsibility of Iraq’s government.

Iraq took initial steps to fulfill its obligations. It drafted a plan to entomb the contaminated bunkers on Al Muthanna, which still held remnant chemical stocks, in concrete.

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.

original article: The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

oreign affairs, government, history, war, wmd

Filed under: foreign affairs, government, history, war, wmd

Some said it would be capitalism or religion that brings Nazism to America – they were wrong

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons
October 14, 2014 by Todd Starnes

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley. “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.

However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.

Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.

The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.

“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”

Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.

“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”

He accused the city of violating the law with the subpoenas and vowed to stand firm in the faith.

“We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights,” Welch told me. ‘This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.”

“This is a shot across the bow of the church,” he said.

This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.

Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.

Tony Perkins is absolutely right. Now is the time for pastors and people of faith to take a stand. We must rise up and reject this despicable strong-arm attack on religious liberty. We cannot allow ministers to be intimidated by government thugs.

The pastors I spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

“This is the San Jacinto moment for traditional family,” Welch told me. “This is the place where we stop the LGBT assault on the freedom to practice our faith.”

We can no longer remain silent. We must stand together – because one day – the government might come for your pastor.

original article: City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

anti-religion, bullies, christian, first amendment, free speech, freedom, government, homosexuality, law, oppression, regulation, religion

Filed under: anti-religion, bullies, christian, first amendment, free speech, freedom, government, homosexuality, law, oppression, regulation, religion

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