Captain Ed has rolling updates on the story. The quick summary is that Senator Rick Santorum has a declassified summary from Intel Czar John Negroponte confirming that between 2003 and now, forces in Iraq have found 500 artillery shells containing degraded mustard gas and sarin.
The bullet points (via The Corner):
* 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.
But 500 shells is not a small number. Any half-trained artillery unit could do a lot of damage on unprotected troops or on any town full of civilians, much as Saddam Hussein did during the Anfal campaign.
Col. Austin Bay makes a point that we ought to remember as this story develops, assuming it does.
I gather the stocks are 1991 (Desert Storm-era) weapons (in other words, left over weapons). I’m not sure that means Saddam had an active chemical weapons program but if this report proves to be true chemical weapons stock would be a violation of UNSCR 687.
Remember, that the UN Security Council demanded that Hussein report and deliver for destruction all of his WMDs. This is more proof that he clearly did not and that he was inviolation not only of UNSCR 687 but also UNSCR 1441. Those who say that we’re waging an “illegal” war forget this point, on purpose.
So, as Captain Ed and others ask, why now? Allah chalks it up to “political value” and I don’t think that’s very far from the truth. Senator Santorum is in a political dogfight (well-deserved, as I see it) and he needs every political advantage he can get.
Patterico is less than impressed.
I don’t mean to suggest that only an active program would have justified the invasion. Stockpiles of usable chemical weapons would also.
Old, unusable, forgotten ones probably wouldn’t.
It remains to be seen which this is.
Not the way I see it. No weapon full of mustard gas or sarin is “unusable” in the hands of someone who can get to the goodies inside. Given that Hussein was snugged tight to more than one terrorist organizations (PIJ, al-Qaeda, ANO, to name three off the top of my head), the idea that he would turn over weapons like these was exactly the point of the resolutions we sought. That concern was why the resolutions demanded that he give over all of his weapons stocks, not just the ones that were brand new.
But, hey, maybe we could understand how Hussein forgot a few hundred shells full of poison. As Jeff Goldstein says:
After all, Hussein was a busy man, what with the Oil for Food stuff and the romance novels. And even tyrants can find themselves overextended from time to time…
I’m not inclined to downplay this, even though it’s more confirmation of what some of us have known for years. I’m not sure I’m ready to shout it to the skies, but Iowa Voice is:
The President…indeed ALL Republicans…need to shout this from the rooftops, that Bush was right.
And perhaps he’s right. Five-hundred shells, on top of everything else we have found, strikes me as a big deal, mostly because we found it years after our troops covering nearly every corner of the country. It makes me wonder what else we and the Iraqis will find. The one place where I’d differ from Iowa Voice, though is to say that it shouldn’t only be the President and Republicans touting this news, but everyone who has any interest in making sure that this page of history is written correctly.
With repetition, we can kill the laughable notion that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs and that a record number of Americans were so gullible as to elect a man who lied his way into killing a few thousand American soldiers for his own nefarious purposes
So I’m going to disagree with Patterico here. I think this is a big deal.
UPDATE: Ace wonders why this information was classified in the first place. He has a good point, I think.
UPDATE 2: See-Dubya, writing at JunkyardBlog, brings us a defensive quote from an “unnamed Pentagon official” pooh-poohing the whole matter:
This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991,” the official said, adding the munitions “are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war.
I’ll go ahead and say this official has no idea what he’s talking about.
As I said earlier, the reslolutions passed unanimously by the UN Security Council demanded that Hussein bring out all his WMDs for disposal, not just the new ones. That includes any weapons that were manufactured prior to 1991. Period. End of story.
I’d expect that someone at the Pentagon that eager to downplay this find who has the kind of operational knowledge about what we have found in Iraq (read the rest of See-Dubya’s post for more from the leaker) would be able to comprehend a UNSC resolution. I mean, they are chock-full of jargon and bureaucrat-speak but they’re also written in English. They’re not that hard to understand.
See-Dub is off to light up a good cigar and pop the champagne cork. I hope he has enough for two.
UPDATE 3: When you’ve been wrong for three or four years – not just wrong but stupendously and stubbornly wrong – any half-baked rationalization look like solid reasoning.
But let me correct.
Maha quotes a NewsHounds story that asserts, “FOX News’ own Jim Angle had already reported that the Bush administration said the weapons were not in usable condition and were not the WMD’s for which we went to war.” Maha follows that up with her own super-italicized and boldfaced assertion of the same sentence.
Except that the “administration” did not assert that. As See-Dubya quoted in the second update to this post, that assertion was made by an anonymous leaker from within the Pentagon, not the administration itself. One unnamed source inside the Pentagon espousing his own suppositions does not an administration make. Unless, of course, that you’re finding your “reality-based” rationales slowly collapsing like a badly-baked flan.
The rest of the post is the typical snorting and hand-waving that we’ve gotten from folks like Maha since 2001. It’s the dismissive Dogbertian “Bah” that is the mating call of those without an actual argument for a very long time, since Copernicus was met with his very first “bah” centuries ago.
Unfortunately, snark and spittle is not a substitute for an intelligent argument. But, I suppose that Maha has to use what she has.