Iraq and WMD’s

Rant3On  February 19th, MSNBC ran a special called Hubris about WMD’s in Iraq. It was an excellent documentary which discussed, in detail, the evidence presented by the Bush administration for WMD’s in Iraq. The video may no longer be available at MSNBC on line but it is available at You-Tube.  Or, click on “Transcript” to read a transcript of the show.

Hubris walked through the major pieces of ‘evidence’ that were used to justify the invasion: Curveball, the defector questioned by the Germans who talked about biological weapons; the aluminum tubes supposedly for purifying uranium; the memo supposedly about an Iraqi attempt to purchase Niger yellow cake uranium ore; the supposed meeting between Muhammad Atta with Iraq security and a couple of others. Hubris did a good job of showing how none of these pieces of evidence were the slightest bit believable. There seemed to be a lot more that could have been said but it was a one hour show. A five hour show couldn’t have covered all of the issues.

One very serious problem was that the show never discussed the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. But before beginning that discussion, it is extremely important to point out that the reason for the invasion of Iraq was never solely that Iraq had WMD’s. Generally, that is what those on the right say now but that was not what was said at the time. The case that was presented was that Iraq represented an imminent threat. That was why the US had to invade Iraq. Because the threat was imminent, the US couldn’t wait for the weapons inspectors to finish their job.

The threat was composed of two parts. The first, certainly, was that Iraq had WMD’s. The second part, though, was the danger that Iraq would either use these weapons on the US or turn those weapons over to terrorists who would use them on the United States. Since Iraq had no weapons delivery system that could take a WMD from Iraq to the US, it was the terrorism connection that was important. Hubris recognized and discussed this fact. Here’s a bit from the show:

MADDOW: In a PBS interview on “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer”, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reveals with certainty more evidence of Saddam`s supposed terrorist link:

RICE: We know too that several of the detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development.

Hubris also had a scene from after the war with Matt Lauer interviewing Dick Cheney:

LAUER: We sit here some eight years later, 4,000 Americans lost their lives, maybe 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives. It cost about $1 trillion. Was it worth it? Did you give the right advice?

CHENEY: I think I did. If you look back at the proposition we faced after 9/11, with respect to Saddam Hussein, we were very concerned about the prospects of terrorists like the 9/11 crowd acquiring weapons of mass destruction, biological agents or nuclear weapon that they could use on the United States.

That was the point: the United States could not take a chance that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would end up in the hands of terrorists. Iraq constituted an imminent threat to the United States, a threat to our very existence. The Center for American Progress has a selection of 65 similar quotes regarding the imminent threat from the President Bush administration, quotes like:

“There are many dangers in the world, but the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place. Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.”
President Bush, 10/7/02

This is a quote from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Speech to the United Nations on Iraq on Feb 5, 2003, as reported in the Washington Post:

”But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida lieutenants.”

In his April 22, 2002 column in The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer wrote:

“Saddam survived, rearmed, defeated the inspections regime, and is now back building weapons of mass destruction.” He added “Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us.”

Or this quote from Fred Barnes:

“The president made the argument, successfully I believe, that attacking Iraq, deposing Saddam Hussein, is a part of the war on terrorism. Because after September 11th, we realized that all of a sudden, despite the lack of intercontinental missiles on part of a country like Iraq that does have weapons of mass destruction, there is a delivery vehicle, and it’s called terrorists, it’s called al Qaeda.”

It was also covered in the authorization to use force against Iraq, H.J.RES.114 — Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002:

“Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;”

In summary, the Bush Administration convinced the country that there was a severe risk that WMD’s from Iraq might fall into the hands of terrorists and then be used against Americans. That possibility represented a threat to our very existence. This was presented as the reason for the invasion.

This brings us to the major issue of the war, what I described as the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room, something that no one seems to talk about and I don’t know why. It is absolutely essential to understanding the war in Iraq. What I am referring to is a report prepared by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and titled GAO-07-444.

During the run-up to the 2004 election, John Kerry brought up the fact that weapons sites in Iraq were not secured following the American invasion in 2003, specifically, the Al Qaqaa weapons depot. He said that U.S. troops “are being shot at” with “weapons stolen from the ammo dumps that this president didn’t think were important enough to guard.” (See the Washington Post) President Bush responded by saying: “A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as commander in chief.” President Bush went on to say that he commissioned the GAO to investigate.

The GAO did investigate, in fact, they conducted a very thorough investigation. What they found out was that U.S. and coalition forces were unable to adequately secure conventional munitions storage sites in Iraq. This resulted in widespread looting of munitions depots. They found that this was because Coalition Forces had insufficient troop levels to secure the sites. Here is a quote from t the GAO Repot:

“The overwhelming size and number of conventional munitions storage sites in Iraq, combined with certain prewar planning assumptions that proved to be invalid, resulted in U.S. forces not adequately securing these sites and widespread looting, according to field unit, lessons learned, and intelligence reports. Pre-OIF estimates of Iraq’s conventional munitions varied significantly, with the higher estimate being five times greater than the lower estimate. Conventional munitions storage sites were looted after major combat operations and some remained vulnerable as of October 2006. According to lessons learned reports and senior-level DOD officials, the widespread looting occurred because DOD had insufficient troop levels to secure conventional munitions storage sites due to several OIF planning priorities and assumptions.”

One caveat needs to be made: all through the report, the term “conventional munitions storage sites” is invariably used to describe the sites that were left unsecured. Obviously, this was a response to pressure from the Bush administration and was correct to the extent that no WMD’s were actually found in any depots so all sites must have been conventional sites. The misdirection is exposed for what it is in some of its conclusions. For example, it refers to future operations and makes suggestions like “conventional munitions storage sites” must be secured to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of insurgents. Obviously, it is even more important to prevent WMD’s from getting into the hands of insurgents. Clearly, ‘unconventional’ was inserted before every instance of ‘munitions storage sites,’ whether it made sense or not.

Another way to explore this caveat in the report is to look at the weapons depots described by the Bush administration as potential WMD sites then look at sites actually searched by coalition forces. While the expeditionary force didn’t have the troops to secure the weapons depots, there was an effort made to try to find WMD’s. A group called the “75th Exploitation Task Force” started racing around Iraq trying to find WMD’s.

Its role was described by the Washington Post as follows:

“The 75th Exploitation Task Force, as the group is formally known, has been described from the start as the principal component of the U.S. plan to discover and display forbidden Iraqi weapons.”

Notice that the article said “display.” It did not say “secure”. The weapons depot mentioned by John Kerry- Al Qaqaa had over a hundred warehouses. It was the size of a small city. According to a paper by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace (page 5) the 75th Exploitation Task Force had no more than 25-120 staff actively searching. Clearly, the 75th Exploitation Task Force did not have the resources to even thoroughly search such a weapons depot. They certainly couldn’t secure even one weapons depot. Additionally, they went from one to the next. The article continues:

“By far the greatest impediment to the weapons hunt, participants said, was widespread looting of Iraq’s government and industrial facilities. At nearly every top-tier “sensitive site” the searchers reached, intruders had sacked and burned the evidence that weapons hunters had counted on sifting. As recently as last Tuesday, nearly a month after Hussein’s fall from power, soldiers under the Army’s V Corps command had secured only 44 of the 85 top potential weapons sites…”

Note that the article calls them “intruders.” In short, ‘terrorists’ as we would later find out. This was the team going around to the sites that they thought most likely to contain WMD’s. When they got there, the sites had already been visited by terrorists who had “sacked” the evidence the team was looking for. The evidence they were looking for was WMD’s. Do I even need to say  this? We invaded Iraq to keep WMD’s out of the hands of terrorists. Then, we left the same weapons depots unguarded that we thought were chock a block full of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and allowed terrorists to loot them. This did not advance the cause of keeping WMD’s out of the hands of terrorists.

All of the sites discussed in the press as potential locations of WMD’s are also mentioned in the articles about weapons depots that were looted. At the beginning of the war they were thought to be WMD storage locations. Only years later could they all be described as “conventional munitions storage sites.”

Here are more articles about the looting of weapons depots:

The Seattle Times:

“Aid worker tells troops about the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area being looted.”

US News & World Reports:

“It came out of nowhere to dominate the final week of the presidential campaign. But the disclosure that tons of advanced explosives had somehow vanished from an Iraqi weapons dump came as no surprise to David Kay. The former chief U.S. weapons inspector says there has been looting at scores of unguarded Iraqi weapon dumps since the American invasion.”

The Boston Globe:

“Iraqi officials reported that thieves looted 377 tons of powerful explosives from an unguarded site after the US-led invasion last year, the top UN nuclear official said yesterday. And a former weapons inspector said he had counted about 100 other unguarded weapons sites that may have been stripped of munitions.”

BBC News:

“Employees at one of Iraq’s main nuclear sites, Al Tuwaitha, have appealed for help after the facility was looted.”

CBSNews:

“Dozens of ballistic missiles are missing in Iraq. Vials of dangerous microbes are unaccounted for. Sensitive sites, once under U.N. seal, stand gutted today, their arms-making gear hauled off by looters, or by arms-makers.”

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the weapons depots all over were left unguarded or, in a few instances, guarded by a force too small to protect the site. There can be no doubt that they were looted. Not only that, the sites that were looted were, in many instances, exactly those sites that the Bush administration had declared as those most likely to contain WMD’s. Had those depots contained WMD’s, terrorists would have gotten them.

Going back to the GAO report the report states:

“Despite war plan and intelligence estimates of large quantities of munitions in Iraq, knowledgeable DOD officials reported that DOD did not plan for or set up a program to centrally manage and destroy enemy munitions until August 2003, well after the completion of major combat operations in May 2003. The costs of not securing these conventional munitions storage sites have been high, as explosives and ammunition from these sites used in the construction of IEDs that have killed and maimed people. Furthermore, estimates indicate such munitions are likely to continue to support terrorist attacks in the region.”

“Furthermore, the sites remained vulnerable from April 2003 through the time of our review. (note: the review was conducted in March, 2006- three years later.) For example, an assessment conducted from April 2003 through June 2003 indicated that most military garrisons associated with Iraq’s former republican guard had been extensively looted and vandalized after the military campaign phase of OIF ended. It concluded that the most prized areas for looting were the depots or storage areas. The assessment further concluded that the thorough nature of the looting and the seemingly targeted concentration on storage areas suggested that much of the looting was conducted by organized elements that were likely aided or spearheaded by Iraqi military personnel.”

The report points out that the cost of not securing the weapons depots was that fully half of the casualties were soldiers killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices made out of weapons looted from the unsecure weapons depots. The suggestion that the looting was done by Iraqi military personnel means that the looters, in many instances, were people that new exactly what the facilities contained and where it was stored.

First, let’s point out what would have been involved in securing these depots. They were huge, covering acres and acres with hundreds of buildings. I can’t imagine, given the description of some of them, that they could have been guarded by fewer than thirty men. That’s one shift. They’d need three, so figure 90 per site. Throw in a commander, a messenger, a cook… say a hundred total. There were 2,400 sites. That’s two hundred and forty thousand troops. Just for comparison sake, the total number of US troops involved in the invasion was 148,000. Just to secure the weapons depots would have required almost double the number of troops. That’s just on-site. A large number of troops would also have been needed to be available to back up the troops on site in case of attacks.

Below is a NY Times article about the looting of Al Qaqaa and other sites. Here’s an assessment from the article:

“One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a “medium priority” site on the Central Intelligence Agency’s list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. ‘Should we have gone there? Definitely,’ said one senior administration official.”

In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.”

Also in that article is a description of the al Qaqaa complex:

“It’s like Mars on Earth,” said Maj. Dan Whisnant, an intelligence officer for the Second Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. “It would take probably 10 battalions 10 years to clear that out.”

A battalion is composed of between 300 and 1200 troops. Multiplied by 10 that’s 3,000 to 12,000 in total. That’s one site. For all of Iraq, that would be between 720,000 and 2,800,000. AND they would have had to work for ten years. Clearly, there weren’t sufficient troops in Iraq to secure the sites and dispose of the weapons.

Hubris tore apart the argument that Saddam might give WMD’s to al Quaeda. In fact, the idea made about as much sense as suggesting that Mossad might give WMD’s to Hamas. On the other hand, no one disputes that, after Saddam was deposed, Iraq was crawling with al Qaeda terrorists, who went to Iraq to help their Sunni brethren fight the Americans. At the time when the weapons depots were being looted. The only reason that al Qaeda didn’t end up with hundreds of tons of WMD’s is that the Bush Administration was wrong. There just weren’t any for them to loot.

Now, let’s stop right here. As the war progressed and the search for WMD’s progressed, the argument on whether or not the war was justified devolved into an argument over whether or not there were WMD’s in Iraq. As I said we did not invade Iraq because we thought there were WMD’s in Iraq. That was only half of the reason. The other half of the reason was the danger that Iraq might turn over these weapons to terrorists. Whether or not, in retrospect, this argument was sound is beside the point. Without the argument, the war would never have been approved. Even with the argument, the war probably would not have been approved without 9/11. Terrorist attacks were on people’s minds. Another event, also probably crucial to the approval, was the anthrax scare. A bunch of Democratic congressmen got letters containing anthrax spores in the mail. Neither the congress nor the people of America wanted to have to deal with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons attacks on American cities.

Remember the talks from Homeland Security about what to do if a dirty bomb was to blow up over a city? The use of duck tape to seal up windows? The idea of terrorist attacks with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons was frightening. That’s what the war in Iraq was designed to prevent: Saddam Hussein giving WMD’s to terrorists and those terrorists using them against Americans.

So, when the invasion was launched, the American forces only had about a third the troops needed to complete both of the goals of the war. There simply was no plan to secure the 2,400 weapons depots starting with the invasion. The GAO report gives a number of excuses about how this happened. One was that it was surprising how large the weapons depots were. Are you kidding me? An American, David Kay, was the chief UN weapons inspector. The US was involved in the inspections. Americans went to the weapons depots and inspected them. They walked around inside them. We knew where the inspections were taking place. We had aerial and satellite photos of the places. Satellite photos were presented in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Speech to the United Nations on Iraq. If those planning the attack didn’t know, they could have asked.

Another excuse was that the Defense Department planned on having Iraqi forces secure them until it was possible to secure them ourselves. Incredible. On April 22, 2003 General Jay Garner of the Coalition Provisional Authority assumed command of Iraq. He lasted a couple of months and was let go for being too nice to the Iraqi army. His replacement, Paul Bremer, was in office for a week and a half when he issued his second order-  he discharged the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military that was supposed to guard the weapons depots. Thomas Ricks, a military writer, wrote a book about the Iraq war entitled Fiasco. It had two chapters devoted to the incredible things done by those in charge of the invasion. The two chapters were entitled “How to Create and Insurgency 1” and “How to Create an Insurgency 2.” One chapter couldn’t cover all the mistakes. Of course, the failure to guard the weapons depots was certainly covered. Also included were things like the complete failure to develop a plan to restore order. The army acted in a hands off manner and didn’t stop looting. The first man in charge, General Garner, didn’t get along with Ahmed Chalabi so he was fired and replaced with Paul Brenner. Paul Brenner was on the job for just a few days when he issued an executive order firing the 300,000 top governmental leaders because they were Baathists, leaving a totally non functioning government. His next order of business was to discharge the entire Iraq army. He did this after the US Army had told the Iraq Army before and during the war that they would be kept on. This left them with no jobs, no income, a minority in a country they had controlled. They had a complete hatred towards the US and complete knowledge of where arms were stored. So much for depending on the Iraqi Army to guard the weapons depots.

That covers the first big problem with Hubris. It didn’t deal with the fact that US government failed to secure the weapons depots in Iraq. Here’s the second problem with Hubris. It implied that the neocons in the Bush administration were lying when they said that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. They implied that the Bush administration was lying when it said that Iraq had hundreds of tons of WMD’s on hand. For Hubris to say this was wrong.

Clearly, the things that the Bush administration said about WMDs in Iraq weren’t just untrue, they were blatantly untrue. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the Bush administration didn’t believe that Iraq had WMD’s. But this is what Hubris said or, at least, implied. Here’s a sample:

Rachael Maddow:

“But what we did with “Hubris” was not tell the story of the Iraq war, but rather the story of what made us start that war. So, we didn`t peg it to the 10-year anniversary of the invasion, we pegged it earlier than that. We pegged it to the lying to us by our own government that made that invasion possible.”

It was wrong of them to have implied that the Bush administration didn’t believe there were WMD’s in Iraq. First of all, it is impossible to know for sure just what is in someone else’s mind. Second, there is good reason to think that the Bush administration really did think that the weapons depots they left unguarded were full of WMD’s. The reason has to do with a right wing think tank called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). It was located in the building that houses the American Enterprise Institute, another right wing think tank. There were a few things about this organization that are critical to understanding the Iraq War. The first thing is that this organization was promoting a war with Iraq for years. In 1998, they sent and open letter to newspapers all over the country. The letter was addressed to then President Bill Clinton and it claimed that Iraq was developing WMD’s once again. This was done by people who were not actively employed by the government at the time and, therefore, not privy to information from government agencies keeping track of Iraq.

The second thing that needs to be understood is that for a number of years, they were working closely with a Shiite Muslim named Ahmed Chalabi. There is reason to believe that Chalabi convinced those at the PNAC that Saddam had re-constituted the WMD program in Iraq. Here are a couple of articles that discuss the connection:

Seymour M. Hersh, in New Yorker Magazine writes about them back in 2003:

“They (the group from PNAC) call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi. By last fall, the operation rivaled both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s own Defense Intelligence Agency, the D.I.A., as President Bush’s main source of intelligence regarding Iraq’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and connection with Al Qaeda.”

Wikipedai:

“Chalabi is a controversial figure, especially in the United States, for many reasons. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), with the assistance of lobbying powerhouse BKSH & Associates,provided a major portion of the information on which U.S. Intelligence based its condemnation of the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, including reports of weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Most, if not all, of this information has turned out to be false and Chalabi a fabricator.That, combined with the fact that Chalabi subsequently boasted, in an interview with the British Sunday Telegraph, about the impact that their alleged falsifications had on American policy, led to a falling out between him and the U.S. government. Furthermore, Chalabi has been found guilty of the Petra banking scandal in Jordan. In January 2012, a French intelligence official stated that they believed Chalabi to be an Iranian agent.”

The Guardian:

“An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.”

“Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.”

The Bush administration put together a plan that involved invading Iraq without sufficient forces or a plan to secure the weapons depots. They say they thought that the weapons depots had hundreds of tons of WMD’s in them. They say they thought there were terrorists in Iraq. It certainly looks like they deliberately tried to put WMD’s in the hands of terrorists. The Democrats say, “Oh, the Bush Administration was lying when they said that Saddam had WMD’s and might give them to terrorists.” When they do that, they are making up an excuse for the Bush administration. If the Bush administration didn’t believe the things they were saying, let them say so. The outcome is that most Democrats believe that the Bush administration was lying. Meanwhile, 63% of the Republican base believes that the Bush administration was telling the truth and that the war was justified because WMD’s were discovered in Iraq. (YouGov Poll, spring 2012, Page 26, question 63)

OK, why?  Why invade Iraq in the belief that there were WMD’s in large quantities and terrorists running around the country and then stand aside and let terrorists loot them? I’ve only seen one news report that might account for why the Bush administration might want that. God help me, I saw the article in NewsMax which has about the same journalistic standards as the National Enquirer. NewsMax no longer keeps an archive of their ‘publication’ so there is no link but this article helps.

The Village Voice,

“This morning Newsmax.com, the big right-wing website, published an interview with Tommy Franks, the former chief of the Central Command who led the war against Iraq, under the headline, “Gen. Franks Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack.” In an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine, the general, now living in Tampa, argues that in the event of a WMD hit on the U.S., our form of government would go out the window. “The Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

Here are some additional sites that quote the same article:

Rense.com,  Free Republic, Information Clearing House, Tranceaddict, DemocraticUnderground,

Well, there it is, the possibility that the Bush administration invaded Iraq, and allowed terrorists to loot the weapons depots that they thought were loaded with WMD’s. The plan was to suspend the constitution and install a military dictatorship. Was that actually the plan of the Bush Administration? I doubt it. Still, it is up to them to tell us why they invaded Iraq with no plan for securing weapons depots that they said were filled with WMD’s. The assumption that the Bush administration lied about WMD’s protects them from having to answer the tough questions. Like when President Bush told a reporter that the biggest disappointment of his presidency was that no WMD’s were found in Iraq. The reporter was thinking ‘Liar.’ What the reporter should have done was ask: “Mr. President, the invasion of Iraq included neither a plan nor staffing to secure the weapons depots that you said were filled with tons of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Terrorists looted them. Are you saying that the biggest disappointment of your presidency was that those terrorists didn’t get stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons?”

Then there is the right wing base. They believe that WMD’s were found. They are referring to about 500 warheads that were buried near the Iran border and were believed to pre-date the Gulf War. Here are two articles about the use of those warheads:

NBC News:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — “A roadside bomb thought to contain deadly sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. It was believed to be the first confirmed discovery of any of the banned weapons that the United States cited in making its case for the Iraq war.”

“Two members of a military bomb squad were treated for “minor exposure,” but no serious injuries were reported.”

“The chemicals were inside an artillery shell dating to the Saddam Hussein era that had been rigged as a bomb in Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq”

Washington Post:

“An artillery shell containing the nerve agent sarin exploded near a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad recently, releasing a small amount of the deadly chemical and slightly injuring two ordnance disposal experts, a top U.S. military official in Iraq said yesterday.”

“The discovery of the nerve agent, reported yesterday by a team that has been searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since shortly after last year’s U.S.-led invasion, marked the first time the team has found one of the types of weapons that the Bush administration cited as initial justification for toppling the government of Saddam Hussein.”

“But weapons experts cautioned that the shell appeared to predate the 1991 Persian Gulf War and did not necessarily mean that Hussein possessed hidden stockpiles of chemical munitions.”

“Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, told reporters in Baghdad that a roadside bomb made from an artillery shell containing small amounts of sarin was “virtually ineffective as a chemical weapon.”

The right wing latched upon this development to tout their “victory:”

Washington Post:

“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.”

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Santorum said.

“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”.

“The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that several crates of the old shells had been uncovered and that they contained a blister agent that was no longer active. Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.”

“Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.”

Between 1991 and 1997 Carl Rolf Ekéus was director of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, the United Nations disarmament observers in Iraq after the Gulf War. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on WMDs. Here’s what he had to say about them:

Washington Post

“During its war against Iran, Iraq found that chemical warfare agents, especially nerve agents such as sarin, soman, tabun, and later VX, deteriorated after just a couple weeks’ storage in drums or in filled chemical warfare munitions. The reason was that the Iraqi chemists, lacking access to high-quality laboratory and production equipment, were unable to make the agents pure enough.”  (UNSCOM found in 1991 that the large quantities of nerve agents discovered in storage in Iraq had lost most of their lethal property and were not suitable for warfare.)  . . .The rather bizarre political focus on the search for rusting drums and pieces of munitions containing low-quality chemicals has tended to distort the important question of WMD in Iraq…”

And this was from a man who supported the invasion. Clearly, there was absolutely no chance that these scraps constituted a weapon.

That’s what the mainstream media said, the White House, the intelligence community and everyone who knew anything about WMD’s. But that wasn’t the end of it. Rick Santorum and Pete Hoekstra went on FoxNews and proclaimed that WMD’s had, in fact, been found in Iraq. Really, it was just a matter of definition. The right wing base was in real pain so the right wing leadership proclaimed a pile of junk to be WMD’s and the right wing base grabbed it like a drowning man would grasp at straws. Just a change in definition that’s all. A rule change, so to speak. Media Matters has a terrific description of all the FoxNews shows that proclaimed the wonderful news that WMD’s had, in fact, been found. This is a section from Bill O’Reilly:

“Host Bill O’Reilly repeatedly chided his guest Rev. Al Sharpton for being “a ‘Bush lied’ [about Iraqi WMD capabilities] guy” and asked if Sharpton was going to “write an apology letter to Bush.” O’Reilly asserted that the discovery “is the real deal” and again reminded Sharpton: “I’m happy you’re going to apologize for the [remarks on the lack of] weapons of mass destruction. … Can’t wait for the WMD apology.” Also on The O’Reilly Factor, former speaker of the House and current Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich remarked that “those people who claimed there were no weapons of mass murder, in this case, are just plain wrong. … For all the people who were so confident that George W. Bush lied and so confident that there were no weapons of mass destruction, 500 chemical weapons should at least make them slow down … and rethink.”

Therefore the war was justified. The rest of us say no, the shells were no longer functional and, therefore, can’t be considered WMD’s. The terrorists in Iraq were pragmatists and didn’t take either position. They remembered where they had buried the junk weapons out in the desert near the Iranian border, took one, turned it into an IED and blew it up as a column of American troops went by. No one was hurt, although a few of the soldiers claimed that their eyes were tearing and got some eyewash. The terrorists were more interested in death and destruction so they abandoned the weapons they dug up and went back to conventional weapons which delivered much more massive destruction. They abandoned the warheads and only then did the Polish unit in the coalition forces discover them.

What I facetiously refer to a ‘rule change’ is what, in the study of propaganda. is referred to as a Big lie. The neocons referrer to it as a Nobel lie . Sometimes, the right wing base simply can’t see the big picture and needs to be given a reason to accept some situation. Hence, calling the junk dug up in the desert WMD’s. At first glance, calling weapons discarded back in the eighties because they didn’t work and then buried in the desert where they rusted away to poor husks of their former nonfunctional selves seems dumb. On closer inspection, though, it is really, really stupid.

Here’s why it is so incredibly stupid. I know I’m wasting my time, The Republican base has come to like the lies that they are told. I’m certain that, at some level they understand that they are being lied to but they like it. Believing the lies makes it possible for them to feel like they are part of the ‘in group.’ It allows them to say “Yeah! Our team is winning!” Just this once, I’m going to try. Let me address the lie head on. Let me remind you once again, that we did not invade Iraq because Iraq had WMD’s. We invaded Iraq because it represented an imminent threat. The threat was that Saddam Hussein would allow terrorist to get their hands on those WMD’s and use them on Americans, either American citizens or American soldiers. Well, Saddam Hussein was overthrow, convicted of a bunch of crimes and hanged. Not once, in his entire life, did he allow a single one of those weapons to get into the hands of terrorists to use on Americans. What I say is that if the right wing considers them to be WMD’s, fine. Then, what happened in Iraq was that the US invaded in order to prevent WMD’s from falling into the hands of terrorists. Then, they stood aside, allowed terrorists to loot the warehouses. The terrorists found WMD’s and used at least one on American soldiers.

So, who was more evil? Saddam Hussein, who we thought was going to give WMD’s to terrorists, or the Bush Administration who did put WMD’s in the hands of terrorists?

And that isn’t even the worst of it. The right wing believes that the war in Iraq was justified. They believe that it was worthwhile to spend three trillion dollars, suffer 36,000 American casualties, and a million Iraqi casualties in order to create hundreds of thousands of al Qaeda linked terrorists and allow them to loot the weapons depots in Iraq. The only reason there wasn’t a mushroom-shaped cloud over an American city was that the Bush Administration was wrong about there being nuclear weapons. The only reason there weren’t tens of millions of Americans dying from small pox and other diseases from biological weapons was that the Bush administration was wrong about biological weapons. Finally, even if Saddam Hussein had allowed chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists the way the Bush Administration did, at least he would have done it for free and, given the conditions of the poison gas shells, no one would have died.

Well, I don’t spend all my time on politics. Check out my art work at The Irish Wedding Toast or that of my good friend, the author Doug Page.

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About Brian Baxter

I attended the NY University at Stony Brook and graduated in 1968. I worked for many years in the NYS Office of Mental Health but left in the eighties. Since then, I did a variety of things including owning and operating a liquor store, work as a recruiter, a woodworker and as a salesman. Currently, I'm retired.
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