Thursday, June 22, 2006
Instapundit has a great round-up, including the text of the press conference given yesterday by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-NY).
The bottom line: it seems that American troops in Iraq, in the course of finding and eliminating weapons caches and ammo dumps over the past three years, have found a quantity of artillery shells -- over 500 of them -- loaded with mustard gas or sarin nerve-agent. From what I understand, these were not "stockpiled" (meaning that, on this point, the Duelfer report was technically correct); they were found scattered in various places in Iraq. It is also my understanding that Saddam had a nasty habit of not labelling his chemical-weapon shells; these may well have been mixed in with ordinary artillery shells. (If that's the case, my hat's off to the troops who found them.)
It also appears to be the case that many, if not all, of these discovered WMD rounds dated back to before Operation Desert Storm (that is, pre-1991). These were, in other words, weapons that Saddam knew he had, while he was busy complaining (but not proving) that he had destroyed all his WMD before 2002.
Now. What does this mean for me? Is this some sort of "gotcha", a proof that the invasion of Iraq was justified all along? No, it's not that; I was content with the invasion when it happened, and I still think it was utterly necessary, given what we knew at the time. I do not regret my support for the war in the least, and I don't need this discovery to justify me.
But I suspect that some Democrats on Capitol Hill are regretting their "no WMDs in Iraq!" pronouncements.
Let me add that I dearly hope we haven't compromised intelligence sources here. I think it unlikely; Hoekstra is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and part of the deal here is that this information has been known in committee for some time. Hoekstra and Santorum have been fighting, apparently since April, to get some of this information declassified, so that they could talk about it freely; this they have now done. (Read the transcript of their press conference; there are repeated references to information they can not talk about freely yet.)
More great comments here, in response to the question "why the heck didn't the White House tell us about this?". As one of the commenters points out, President Bush has a reputation as a sharp poker player, who is quite adept at getting his opponent to bet heavily on a losing hand. The amazing thing is that he was willing to let his opponents call him a liar, every day, getting ever more shrill and hysterical in their pronouncements... while he was willing to let them have all the hangin' rope they wanted.
In any event, I expect many more developments from this -- although the interesting news will be, not the discovery of WMD in Iraq, but how people respond to it. (Soon we'll have journalists writing about each other; fun, fun, fun!)
UPDATE: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has confirmed the findings -- and has not lost sight of what's important. He doesn't seem to care whether Iraq has, or had, WMD; he's concerned about whether Iraqi insurgents will have WMD. That's what it's about in the end -- we want to find the damned things before our enemies do. (And that, boys and girls, is why we invaded Iraq. Not because of what Saddam did or did not have... but because we couldn't trust him to be honest about what he had, and because we couldn't trust him not to arm our enemies. We invaded Iraq, ultimately, as the first step toward building a post-9/11 world -- a world in which terrorists don't see the United States as a soft target, to be attacked with impunity at a whim.)
We don't want our troops to be hit with a sarin attack tomorrow... and we certainly don't want a sarin attack against the United States the next day. So American troops, bless 'em, will continue hunting down the chemical warheads, however old they are, and will continue destroying them.