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Context of 'February 27, 2003: Defense Department Refuses to Certify that Troops Have Adequate Protective Gear'

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Army investigators discover that 62 percent of its gas masks and 90 percent of its chem/bio detectors—which alert soldiers to the presence of chemical or biological toxins—are defective. Nevertheless, the Bush administration continues to prepare for war with Iraq, a country believed to have a large and dangerous stock of chemical and biological weapons. Tens of thousands of US soldiers will be issued defective chem/bio suits, many with holes or ripped seams. Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth will later recall: “When the Pentagon tried to trace down these bad suits, they couldn’t find them at all. So a trooper out in the… middle of a desert is putting on a suit, [and] he doesn’t know if he’s got a good one or a bad one. It’s, it’s kind of like Russian roulette.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 57]

Entity Tags: David Hackworth, US Department of Defense, US Department of the Army

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Army-issue chemical and biological protective gear.Army-issue chemical and biological protective gear. [Source: Approved Gas Masks (.com)]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responds to a request from House member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to certify to Congress that US troops going to Iraq “have the minimum required levels of chem/bio protective equipment” as established by the Pentagon, even as Army units are selling the same equipment on eBay (see Early March 2003). Rumsfeld says that he cannot make such a certification. [Carter, 2004, pp. 58-61] The General Accounting Office has reported that up to 250,000 chem/bio suits are defective. Furthermore, the GAO reported that the Army has been aware of the problem since 1996. When asked by House member Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about the deficiency in late 2002, Defense Department Inspector General Joseph Schmitz replied, “There is no such thing as perfect safety in warfare.” [United Press International, 10/1/2002]

Entity Tags: General Accounting Office, Jan Schakowsky, Joseph Schmitz, US Department of the Army, Dennis Kucinich, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says during a House Subcommittee on National Security meeting that, according to the General Accounting Office, many US military units are selling their protective chem/bio suits (see Late 2002) on the Internet for three dollars “while other units [are] desperately clamoring for those critical items.” Congressional investigators will find that the Army has sold 429 of the $200 protective suits on eBay for three dollars apiece. The problem goes beyond a few hundred suits. One entire military wing has “only 25 percent of the protective masks required.” The Pentagon’s Inspector General has found that 420,000 protective suits listed on inventory and intended for distribution to troops bound for Iraq cannot be found. In February, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld refused to certify that US soldiers had the proper chem/bio equipment necessary for the invasion (see February 27, 2003). [Set-Aside Alert: Federal Contract News and Information, 9/6/2002; Carter, 2004, pp. 57-58]

Entity Tags: Dennis Kucinich, General Accounting Office, House Subcommittee on National Security, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Jan Schakowsky.Jan Schakowsky. [Source: Washington Post]Fifty-six Democratic members of the House of Representatives send a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking him to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether top Bush administration officials committed crimes in authorizing the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics against suspected terrorists (see April 2002 and After). The lawmakers, who include John Conyers (D-MI), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and House Intelligence Committee members Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), cite “mounting evidence” that senior officials personally sanctioned the use of such extreme interrogation methods. An independent investigation is needed to determine whether such actions violated US or international law, the letter states. “This information indicates that the Bush administration may have systematically implemented, from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or otherwise violate the law,” the letter says. It adds that a broad inquiry is needed to examine the consequences of administration decisions at US detention sites in Iraq, at Guantanamo, and in secret prisons operated by the CIA. The interrogation methods have resulted in “abuse, sexual exploitation and torture” that may have violated the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the American Anti-Torture Act of 2007. “Despite the seriousness of the evidence, the Justice Department has brought prosecution against only one civilian for an interrogation-related crime,” the letter reads. “Given that record, we believe it is necessary to appoint a special counsel in order to ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation occurs.” Conyers tells reporters after sending the letter, “We need an impartial criminal investigation.” The entire detainee controversy is “a truly shameful episode” in US history, he says. “Because these apparent ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were used under cover of Justice Department legal opinions, the need for an outside special prosecutor is obvious.” The Justice Department refuses to comment on the letter. Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch says that the letter is significant even if Mukasey refuses to appoint a special counsel. “The fact that so many representatives have called for the investigation helps lay the groundwork for the inevitable reckoning and accounting that the next administration is going to have to do regarding this administration’s practices,” she says. [US House of Representatives, 6/6/2008; Washington Post, 6/7/2008; United Press International, 6/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Jerrold Nadler, House Intelligence Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), House Judiciary Committee, Human Rights Watch, Michael Mukasey, US Department of Justice, John Conyers, Jan Schakowsky, Jennifer Daskal

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties

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