Army: Sorry for How We Dealt With Chemical Weapons Reports

Military promises to provide medical care, support to troops wounded in Iraq
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2015 10:10 AM CDT
Army: Sorry for How We Dealt With Chemical Weapons Reports
A marine officer of the Cape Ray, a ship equipped to neutralize Syrian chemicals, shows a chemical protection suit to reporters on the ship near Spain’s southwestern coast on April 10, 2014.   (AP Photo/Alfonso Perez)

An October New York Times article revealed disturbing details about secret chemical weapons recovered in Iraq and the American troops injured by them. Now, according to a follow-up by C.J. Chivers for the Times, the Army is apologizing to wounded veterans and promising not only prompt and thorough medical care for those affected by toxic agents, but also to reinterpret policy and bestow medals on soldiers injured this way. "The scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater," Army Undersecretary Brad Carson says, per the Times. "That was a mistake. … I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward." Carson is leading a Pentagon team to find out which military members were injured, then lend the support they need.

At least 1,500 active-duty troops and former service members are expected to show up for screenings, Carson notes. Who receives such assistance will be determined not only by pulling names from the original Times article, but also by a veteran's own exposure suspicions noted on post-mission surveys, as well as calls placed to a dedicated hotline established last year. Also causing buzz: a Purple Heart approved Tuesday for Spc. Richard Beasley, burned in 2007 by mustard agent while taking apart an explosive, per the Times. The previous gauge for whether chemically exposed troops received the decoration was only if an enemy had released the chemical, eliminating soldiers injured while handling chemicals in abandoned weapons; Carson tells the Times these injuries will now be recognized. (More US Army stories.)

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