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Weapons of Mass Dis-information: 5 Different Books By or About Navy SEALs That Repeat the Same Misinformation

For 42% of Americans, Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction when America invaded. They believe this because, after invading Iraq, the U.S. did indeed fail to find weapons of mass destruction. (Another 25% have no idea.)

The other 30% or so? Why do they still think Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction? Mostly, because they watch Fox News. They might, however, also read war memoirs by or about Navy SEALs.

A while back, Michael C found this tidbit in an article on Wired’s “Dangerroom” blog about the politics in Chuck Pfarrer’s non-fiction account of SEAL Team 6.   

“Author Chuck Pfarrer is taking flack over his account of the Osama bin Laden raid in his new revisionist history, SEAL Target Geronimo. But that’s overshadowed another big problem with the book: Pfarrer’s claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are absolutely bananas.

"To read SEAL Target Geronimo is to get sucked into a vortex of WMD insanity. Pfarrer says that Saddam Hussein had dangerous, active chemical, biological and nuclear programs up until the day of his downfall. Worse, those weapons made it into the hands of Osama himself. Why didn’t you know about it? Because craven politicians and the lying media hid the truth about what U.S. military weapons experts uncovered.”

Unfortunately, I’m not shocked. Why? Because this would only be the second book I’ve read by a Navy SEAL that makes this ridiculous claim. Yeah, I’m talking about Lone Survivor. Here’s what Luttrell and Patrick Robinson actually wrote about WMDs and Iraq:

“You may remember the CIA believed they had uncovered critical evidence from the satellite pictures of those enormous government trucks rolling along Iraq’s highways: four of them, usually in convoy, and all big enough to house two centrifuges. The accepted opinion was that Saddam had a mobile spinning program which could not easily be found, and in fact could be either lost and buried in the desert or alternatively driven across the border into Syria or even Jordan.

“Well, we found those trucks, hidden in the desert, parked together. But the inside of each one had been roughly gutted. There was nothing left. We saw the trucks, and in my opinion someone had removed whatever they had contained, and in a very great hurry.

“I also saw the al Qaeda training camp north of Baghdad. That had been abandoned, but it was stark evidence of the strong links between the Iraqi dictator and Osama bin Laden’s would-be warriors. Traces of the camp’s military purpose were all around. Some of the guys who had been in Afghanistan said it was just about a direct replica of the camp the United States destroyed after 9/11.”

When the movie comes out and people ask us, “Well, how bad is Lone Survivor actually?” I’ll respond, “Read this passage.” Luttrell not only argues that Saddam had WMDs, he argues that Iraq harbored Al Qaeda terror camps, which is so insane and so factually wrong words fail me. This is why we find Lone Survivor so distasteful.

So that’s it. Only two SEAL memoirs describe WMDs in Iraq...wait, what another memoir by a Navy SEAL repeats this claim? This example comes from American Sniper by Chris Kyle. (It’s also being turned into film.)

“At another location, we found barrels of chemical material that was intended for use as biochemical weapons. Everyone talks about there being no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they seem to be referring to completed nuclear bombs, not the many deadly chemical weapons or precursors that Saddam had stockpiled.

“Maybe the reason is that the writing on the barrels showed that the chemicals came from France and Germany, our supposed Western allies.

“The thing I always wonder about is how much Saddam was able to hide before we actually invaded. We’d given so much warning before we came in, that he surely had time to move and bury tons of material. Where it went, where it will turn up, what it will poison —I think those are pretty good questions that have never been answered."

Here’s another example, not as egregious, but still wrong, also from a book about Navy SEAL Lieutenant Patrick Murphy, SEAL of Honor.

“Saddam Hussein remained a threat for his refusal to allow international weapons inspectors to account for his known inventory of known chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction...”

If you have to repeat the word known twice in one sentence, that thing is probably not known.

Finally, from the book Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Behm

“And in Iraq Adam remembered this photo of a Kurdish girl lying dead on the street, eyes open, after Saddam Hussein had gassed her whole town. All this argument about whether or not they had weapons of mass destruction--that was proof enough for Adam that they not only had them but that Saddam Hussein had used them against his own people.”

In conclusion, that’s five memoirs or non-fiction books--all about SEALs--by five different authors who all repeat the same, patently wrong information. I searched about 11 books or memoirs from Navy SEALs to research this post. About half of them repeated this patently false claim. Wow.

Don’t think that this has an effect? In an old post from My Pet Jawa (we'd link to it, but the site now redirects to an ad), the author writes, about Luttrell’s claims, “Maybe the libs should just try calling him a delusional chickenhawk warmonger who had no idea what he saw with his own two eyes.”

That’s my fear. When Lone Survivor and American Sniper open in box offices around the country, people will go out and buy these books. They’ll read passages like the ones above and say, “Huh. Saddam did have WMDs.”

And that’s how society remains misinformed.

fifteen comments

Are there any books written by ex-SEALS that say Saddam didn’t have any NBC weapons? I ask because of the books you cited I’ve only read Kyle’s. Why would all five of them lie? I know becoming a SEAL doesn’t make you a saint but I thought SEALS never ever lied to or about each other.

One of the problems about veterans’ accounts and opinions is that many of them did put much energy into spin.
Such people bought into propaganda and added to it in order to justify their actions (or simply the waste of years of their life and the waste of comrades’ lives and health).

On the one hand these people have first hand knowledge, on the other they’re simply not impartial any more and all-too often not even close to rational.

German WW2 generals had this problem as well: One the one hand they were invaluably experienced especially in fighting Soviets. On the other hand they had a huge desire to whitewash their troops and to put the entire blame for the strategic defeat on the big asshole.

German Afghanistan vets all too often sound very, very irrational when it comes to the ISAF mission as well. They’re either totally disillusioned Butler-style or outright fanatic Taliban-haters.

Conclusion: The more political stuff is in memoirs, the less useful they are. In fact, political remarks of vets should be ignored in general. They’re ‘emotionally compromised’.

Your hotlink to MyPetJawa redirects to an add page BTW.

@ Shreck – None of the books I searched mentions Saddam NOT having WMDs. If they mentioned it at all, they said that he did have them.

And I don’t know what’s up with the link. I took it down.

I can’t believe a CIA analyst would believe centrifuges could be transported by truck or that the Navy SEAL guy would believe this. The price is not right on that theory.

Such centrifuges can be 2 metres in length and thus in theory be mobile. You would likely need to open at least one side of the truck’s payload area for operation, though.

I think all the mobile bio labs, chem factories and centrifuges were speculations meant to excuse/explain why gazillions of location tips by the CIA didn’t enable IAEA inspectors to find a single piece of relevant kit.
By the way, by this standard I say GWB was creating a biovirus lethal only to blacks in mobile laboratories and he gave it to the KKK in 2008.
That makes about as much sense.

“By the way, by this standard I say GWB was creating a biovirus lethal only to blacks in mobile laboratories and he gave it to the KKK in 2008.
That makes about as much sense.”

Except Saddam actually gassed some folks, Bush did not. BBC news in 2004 reported on the removal of 1.77 metric tons on enriched uranium.

@ SO – But that’s the point, right? it’s ridiculous, patently ridiculous, but it gets repeated and repeated and repeated. Is there any blowback? is there any criticism?

Literally, millions of people will/have read Lone Survivor, especially after the movie comes out, who’s going to call out the book on its errors?

Last thing. we got an email from a reader a few weeks ago who wrote, basically, that Luttrell, as a trained medic, was an intelligent man. Then why would he think he saw an al Qaeda training camp with his own eyes? It’s absurd.

@Eric C, now I’m confused. Not to worry it’s my default setting, but do I get a hint of tongue in cheek here?

152 people were executed during GWB’s governorship, many of them blacks.
And Saddam gassed his own people and got political cover for it from Reagan – a Republican president as GWB.

Look, the Neocon lies about Iraq were so much pulled out of the ass and so ridiculous, even largely debunked prior to the war that I don’t have any difficulties maintaining my analogy. I’m good at constructing analogies to point out the ridiculousness of a notion, trust me on this.

Besides, your 1.7 tons of “enriched uranium” was apparently medical and research facility waste (including materials scavenged from hospitals) and even that was a never proved claim by a government long before exposed to be composed of liars. You STILL fall for their propaganda. Do you have no shame?

Found the IAEA report on the 1.8 tons


“The nuclear material – 1.8 tonnes of low enriched uranium and 500 tonnes of natural uranium – had been under IAEA seal since 1991. It was last visited by IAEA inspectors in February 2003.”

So that obviously useless stuff and the hospital stuff from radiotherapy departments. Not impressed.

Did you know Germany is producing the deadliest poison gas of the First World War in greater quantities every month than were spent during the entire First World War?
Sure we are preparing for WW3, right!?
It’s phosgene, an intermediate chemical product in the production of Polycarbonate, the stuff DVDs are made of.
Germany is mass producing poison gas!

“Wer suchet der findet.”
(Seek and you shall find.)

@ S O “52 people were executed during GWB’s governorship”
Saddam killed 5000 and left 10000 sick with sarin and you equate that with a governor signing death warrants of tried and convicted violent criminals?
What I posted was not propaganda, it’s exactly what I said it was, a story from the BBC. I do see the BBC used ‘enriched uranium’ rather than ‘weapons grade’ or ‘highly enriched”, I don’t know if they were deliberately being misleading but I don’t see them as a neocon news org.

Yes, I do. GWB was not in a civil war at the time. Different standards apply.

The BBC repeated propaganda. The BBC is not whitewashing propaganda – whatever propaganda it relays stays propaganda. Furthermore, the report did nothing to support your position nor did it contradict anything I wrote. You just threw a useless report from 2004 which was already debunked in 2003 into this discussion of some veterans’ delusions.

Yes, I do. GWB was not in a civil war at the time. Different standards apply. – See more at: http://onviolence.com/?e=757#comm
SO: so how is 52 convicted killers on death row > 5,000 Iraqi civilians. By this logic, you could say that Chicago is not in a civil war, yet people (a majority African American) are being gunned down daily, yet BO is doing nothing. As you say, different standards apply. Also, why would multiple sources (trained military at that) lie about WMD possibilites? Say you go to a home in your neighborhood, and you find rolling papers, scales, baggies, etc, yet no marijuana…Hmmm…pretty sure I can conduce what is going on there….