SSBG

A worldview is a set of claims that purport to be based on ultimate reality.

Santorum: 500 Chemical-Weapons Shells Found In Iraq

Posted by ssbg on June 21, 2006

**Video from Hannity & Colmes is here.**   _fox517.jpg

He’s reading from a document about it right now with Pete Hoekstra by his side. The shells allegedly contained degraded mustard or sarin gas. He says they believe there are other shells inside the country that haven’t been found yet.

Negroponte letter can be viewed in PDF format here.

According to numerous sources but not yet on the wires, Senator Rick Santorum announced a few minutes ago that the US has found 500 chemical-weapons shells in Iraq. Hot Air has the hot link for what little data exists thus far. Apparently, some of the shells contained sarin and others mustard gas. No word has come yet on when and where the US found these munitions.

I will update this as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Nothing on the wires yet at 5:10 pm CT, but let's think through what this discovery — if it is new — means. We have found a handful of such shells already in Iraq; I reported such a find here in November 2004. The shells had come from around the time of the first Gulf War and the contents had likely been rendered inert by the passage of time and exposure to air. That has a lot less significance than a find of 500 shells; that kind of stockpile could have done real damage to our troops during the invasion, and of course could also have caused a lot more trouble with civilians in the hands of terrorists, if properly deployed.

The political significance will be difficult to calculate without more information on when and where the shells were found, in what condition, and so on. However, their existence in those numbers will at least eliminate the argument that Saddam's WMD existed only in his head, a position that former Saddam henchmen have taken ever since they fell into Coalition hands.

UPDATE II: Here's a post that noted confirmation of one shell with sarin gas found in May 2004.

UPDATE III: The Corner has the bullet points from the declassification:

* Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.* Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.

* Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.

* The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.

* The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.

* It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.

I think that we have known of a handful of recovered chemical-weapons shells, but not 500. That number has more significance. An artillery company could have laid down a very effective attack on an enemy position, quickly killing or disabling them in a manner outlawed for decades. Of course, that had been the entire point of the UN Security Council resolutions — to strip Saddam of that capability — and he obviously retained it, and lied about it.

The next question will be why the White House did not release this information at the time of their discovery. Santorum's statement says, “The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq[.] It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.” That implies that a broader analysis of WMD in Iraq exists — and that it differs significantly from the common understanding shown thus far.

Some will claim that the release is strictly for political purposes. They may have a point, but I doubt it will have anything to do with domestic politics. If Bush wanted to use it for that, he would have done so in October 2004 and not in June 2006. This information changes the picture about our pre-war intelligence in time for the Iranian confrontation — and I suspect that the White House wants to declassify it in order to convince European leaders that our intel actually paid off.

This will be an interesting story, and I will keep on top of any new revelations.

UPDATE IV: I have the PDF file of the letter from John Negroponte. Also, here is the transcript of the press conference with Santorum and Hoekstra.

UPDATE V: None of the wire services have seen fit to report on this development, but CNS has a report here. One argument that may come up is that these munitions predated the first Gulf War. Well, that's exactly what the sanctions regime, UNSCOM, and the majority of the 16 UN Security Council resolutions addressed — and what Saddam defied. He was supposed to account for and destroy all of his existing WMD stock. Obviously he did not do that, and in reading the Negroponte letter and the transcript of the Santorum/Hoekstra presser, the Pentagon feels that more of it still exists in Iraq — perhaps a lot more.

So why keep this quiet? Perhaps CENTCOM did not want to tip the AQ-I forces to their continued existence. Another explanation may have been that some of this got captured through active intel sources that would have blown continuing operations. Obviously the Intelligence Committee felt that the need for secrecy had passed.

UPDATE VI: Rick at The Real Ugly American has an update with an explanation of the reason the Bush administration kept this quiet:

General Tom Mcinerney is reporting on Fox Hannity and Colmes right now that that the administration has been keeping this low profile to avoid exposing 3 of the 5 members of the UN Security council; Russia, China, and France. McInerney says these weapons will be traced to these countries, and asserts it is well known that Russia helped Saddam move most of his WMD stockpiles out of Iraq before the war.

We wanted to keep France, Russia, and China from embarrassment? Well, maybe. And if that is true, then maybe the White House has decided that the silence has hampered its attempts to get tough on Iran, and thus the declassification now.

UPDATE VII: At 8:46 PM, the first wire report from the mainstream media comes from Fox four hours later:

Hoekstra and Santorum lamented that Americans were given the impression after a 16-month search conducted by the Iraq Survey Group that the evidence of continuing research and development of weapons of mass destruction was insignificant. But the National Ground Intelligence Center took up where the ISG left off when it completed its report in November 2004, and in the process of collecting intelligence for the purpose of force protection for soldiers and sailors still on the ground in Iraq, has shown that the weapons inspections were incomplete, they and others have said."We know it was there, in place, it just wasn't operative when inspectors got there after the war, but we know what the inspectors found from talking with the scientists in Iraq that it could have been cranked up immediately, and that's what Saddam had planned to do if the sanctions against Iraq had halted and they were certainly headed in that direction," said Fred Barnes, editor of The Weekly Standard and a FOX News contributor.

The DoD reminds people that these munitions likely would not have worked if deployed and were not necessarily the WMD that intel agencies reported. However, they also acknowledged that Saddam's retention of his Gulf War munitions shows his deception to the UN and the cease-fire powers.

From: http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/

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