Those 500 Chemical Artillery Shells That Shouldn’t Exist
Posted by ssbg on June 22, 2006
So far, besides the Cybercast News System (CNS) article cited in our previous post on this subject, I've found only a few other MSM reports on the WMDs that have been found in Iraq since 2003. Here's the story by Fox News; it's well written and gives us both sides — actually "fair and balanced," if you like.
(It even links to the 4-page declassified summary of the original document, though it's not particularly informative.)
Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: "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."
This is, of course, the "bombshell" (sorry) lede of the story… a story that AP, Reuters, and the New York Times have chosen not to even bother covering. Not even to debunk it! The antique media has for the most part left "the liberal man's burden" to tireless lefties, such as Weldon Berger at Betsy the Crow and Ellen at News Hounds, and to the Washington Post (more on that later).
The Santorum argument is that finding WMDs in Iraq means there were WMDs in Iraq to be found… but that the myriad international inspectors and the Iraq Survey Group failed to find; This seems pretty reasonable on its face and hard to counter.
The gist of the argument against is about what we predicted: these are chemical shells from before the 1991 Gulf War, so they don't count.
I'm not sure why they don't count; BTC seems to believe that "degraded" is the same thing as "disintegrated," and therefore these shells are harmless toys. This is preposterous enough that I'm sure Berger doesn't really believe it himself; it's just something you say to calm your troops, reassure them that (as Timothy Leary used to say) "situation normal, nothing has changed."
In fact, we don't know that all of the 500+ shells we found are unfirable; we don't know whether they could be used to deadly effect as IEDs; we don't know whether terrorists are clever enough to extract the Sarin or mustard gas and make their own WMDs; and we don't know how many of these shells have already been sold or given to terrorist groups — to al-Qaeda In Iraq, for example. So it's a bit thick to dismiss their existence with an airy wave of the hand and a Scroogian "bah, humbug!"
Back to the elite media: the Washington Post is the only representative of that club to lumber forward with a debunking article. Alas, fantasy (literally) collides with reality in a self-indulgent dream world, and fantasy gets the better of it. Here, read this; you wouldn't believe me if I just told you about it:
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered….
The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.
This is astonishing on several levels:
- How on earth does Dafna Linzer (the writer, one of the most anti-Bush writers for the Post) imagine he knows whether or not the Iraqis had "long forgotten" about those hundreds of chemical shells? The translated Iraqi documents make frequent reference to such caches.
It's clear that Linzer simply added that line — unsourced — to make it appear as though the chemical munitions were no threat.
- In an inversion of the normal rules of evidence, Linzer's point in the first graf above appears to be that we can't have found these chemical shells — the official DoD report notwithstanding — because the Pentagon said, back in 2004, that we hadn't found any WMD. Except for the pesky fact of "several crates of the old [chemical] shells" containing Sarin, found that same year… but which don't count, according to unnamed "intelligence officials" and Dafna Linzer.
Look, either we found the 500 shells or we didn't. If we did, then the Pentagon was wrong to close the books in 2004. If we didn't, then the Pentagon is wrong to report today that we did. Either way, whether we found them is not determined by what the Defense Department or the CIA said years ago. This one is a real head-scratcher; does Linzer really believe such nonsense?
The New York Sun has a more straightforward news article:
Since the formal search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was called off in January 2005, the American military has found more than 500 shells of ordinance containing Sarin or mustard gas.
While the shells are believed to date from the Iran-Iraq war, two Republican lawmakers are saying it raises enough questions for the president to order a new search for the biological, chemical and nuclear weapons program he said Saddam Hussein was concealing from the international community before the invasion of Iraq.
Particularly with the wealth of information we've gained from translated Iraqi military and intelligence documents, which were not available or not translated and sorted through in January, 2005… at least some of which refer to specific caches of WMD in specific sites.
The lefty bloggers keep saying the Pentagon has dismissed this report. What they refer to are unidentified "Pentagon officials" who say that these chemical shells were "not the weapons we were looking for." The Sun:
Indeed, unexploded chemical ordinance dating from before 1991 are different from the stockpiles of anthrax and other toxins the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council in January 2003 was awaiting inspectors in Iraq.
Yes, they are different: anthrax and "other toxins" (they mean VX and other nerve agents, as well as biological cultures) are significantly easier to hide than big, heavy artillery shells made out of metal.
And why, exactly, wasn't the Iraq Survey Group looking for Sarin-filled chemical artillery shells in small caches, scattered around the country? Isn't that exactly how we would expect to find an Iraqi WMD "stockpile?" If the ISG wasn't even looking for these, then we certainly should start a new search… and this time, look for everything — not just for a big warehouse in Tikrit with a sign reading "Achmed's WMD — Get 'Em While They're Hot!"
The Sun acknowledges the real point — unlike the Washington Post, which is too busy pooh-poohing:
The latest information about the chemical weapons shells, however, is most damaging to those who suggest the work of former weapons inspectors David Kay and Charles Duelfer have provided the definitive word on the whereabouts of the suspected WMD, according to the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Duelfer after 18 months was not able to find this stuff," Mr. Hoekstra said. "We made this determination that hundreds [of weapons] were found. I think this is a significant quantity. What does this say about all of the other issues that continue to be raised [such as] stuff transported to Syria. I don't believe everything that is out there is credible, but it shows how much we still don't know."
That, of course, is the real lesson here: the ISG searched for a year and a half, after Saddam had been deposed… and they didn't find any of this. But since then, our soldiers and Marines have stumbled across more than five-hundred shells actually loaded with deadly chemicals… does that not speak volumes about the effectiveness of weapons inspectors in general?
If the ISG couldn't find these, under the ideal condition of actually occupying the country they were searching, then it's brutally clear that inspection regimes simply do not work.