WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014 – The responsibility for investigating a report that service members received inadequate treatment following exposure to chemical weapons in Iraq will lie with the military services, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
“I don’t expect that there’s going to be … a Pentagon-level review of these particular cases,” the spokesman said. Kirby was responding to questions from reporters about a New York Times article that said 17 American troops were exposed to chemical weapons remnants left over and buried from the Iran-Iraq war, material troops found while on patrol from 2004 to 2011, and that some service personnel were denied proper medical care.
Kirby said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has seen the article and that he has concerns about whether the troops, about 20 of whom he says were believed to have been exposed to chemical material, were treated fairly and received proper medical care.
“We take any indication, any indication that a member of the armed services did not get the medical care that they deserve seriously, just like we take any indication that they didn’t get any other kinds of support that they deserved seriously,” he said.
Hagel has high expectations for all leadership, medical or otherwise, that they will provide troops with the best possible care and support, Kirby noted.
“The secretary’s expectation is that service members and their families are going to get the care and support that they need. And if they aren’t, he wants to make sure that leadership addresses that,” the admiral said. “… And if errors were made, mistakes were made, [the defense secretary’s] expectation is they’ll be rectified,” he added.
There is no evidence that terrorist forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have come into possession of any chemical weapons potentially remaining in Iraq, Kirby said.