Chemical Weapons

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The WashPost has posted a Reuters's article that NPR has reported that coalition forces have found chemical weapons in Iraq (got that?):

NPR, which attributed the report to a top official with the 1st Marine Division, said the rockets, BM-21 missiles, were equipped with sarin and mustard gas and were "ready to fire." It quoted the source as saying new U.S. intelligence data showed the chemicals were "not just trace elements."

Recent polls suggest that Americans don't care overly much whether such weapons are found, but their discovery is absolutely key to US standing in the world community after the war's over. Or, more precisely, if they are not discovered, then the US's main rationale for the invasion has been undercut.

While it's unlikely that countries opposed to the invasion will change their tune retroactively, if the worst-case accusations against Saddam are borne out, it will still have a major impact on international relations.

NEXT: Bumpkin Support Act

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  1. Now that is pessimism. There would be no reason for Coalition forces to “plant” chemical weapons.

  2. We have had so many “Aha!” reports only to have to retract the findings. It is apparent the U.S. needs to find this smoking gun. Of course, if we really thought these weapons of mass destruction existed, one wonders if we would be shelling areas suspected of containing deadly gas or deadly germs. Wouldn’t that be imprudent?

    I suspect the “coalition forces” have a few “throw-downs” to plant as evidence. I predict the quality of the “found” weapons will be much higher than anyone thought Iraq capable of.

  3. yeah MountainGoat is correct. those gas masks the RG was wearing were for fashion purposes only

  4. WMD has become a pretty plastic term. Is a pint of mustard gas a WMD? A quart? A gallon?

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Iraq supposed to destroy it’s WMD, and not it’s anti-WMD gear? I wouldn’t be surprised if those chemical suits, gas maskes, etc. were left over from the 80s.

    The whole thing is likely to remain dubious unless manufacturing equipment and quantities of weapons too large for the US to plant are found.

  6. In order to believe Saddam has no WMD, you would have to believe one of the following, right?

    1. Saddam NEVER had chemical weapons and never used them on the Iraqis (Kurds) or Iranians.

    or

    2. If he had chemical weapons that he used against the Kurd and Iran, he destroyed (or used up) ALL of them – every last ounce.

    Can anyone (who posts with a name – LOL) stand up and take postion number 1 or 2, and argue it coherently?

  7. When i heard this report this morning, they made a rather big error. The NPR reporter said the missiles had a range of 300 miles, which seemed way too high.

    More likely it’s 30 miles, which would be more typical for multiple-launch unguided missiles, which are basically artillery.

    I wonder if the NPR reporter made a mistake, or if he was told by the military that it was a range of 300 miles.

  8. > Can anyone (who posts with a name – LOL) stand
    > up and take postion number 1 or 2, and argue it
    > coherently?

    No, you haven’t really thought that through.
    First off, does he really have to have not a single usable ounce, to say he has none?
    I think it is reasonable to set a standard that he has not enough to be usable. (How do you use one ounce of sarin? Water pistol?) even the most determined destruction campaign would undoubtedly leave traces and would probably miss a bucket or so. This hardly proves intent to use them, and I would take the destruction of 99.9999% of stores to indicate intent to comply.
    Secondly, you can’t _argue_ whether he has any or not. This is a physical fact, and will be determined in the coming months by American forces (as was being done somewhat more slowly, but much more cheaply by Blix et al before hostilities began.)

    I don’t know whether he has any or not, but its pointless to debate without the facts.

  9. Why does it matter whether he has them or not? If he doesn’t, the U.S. wasn’t alone in that error; in fact, the “Security” Council was unanimous on that point. Our disagreement was over whether Saddam’s WMD justified a war, not over whether he had them at all.

  10. “I think it is reasonable to set a standard that he has not enough to be usable”

    Agree 100% – I didn’t mean LITERALLY one “ounce” but rather “virtually all”. (ie. you would have to believe, on faith?, that although he at one time killed thousands of people with these weapons, he now has all but given up that course of action)

    I disagree that it is pointless to debate without facts. And is this debating without the facts? Saddam used chemical weapons in the past. Nobody will argue that one, so it is a FACT. He either still has some quantity of those weapons, or he virtually used the entire supply, or he destroyed or hid the weapons and components. One of those must be a FACT. I think its OK if we debate on that…

  11. Ok, took you too literally about the ounce.
    Fair enough.

    Fact: Saddam had WMD
    Possibility 1: He destroyed all WMD (or used)
    Possibility 2: He still has WMD

    How do we debate between #1 and #2? How can we argue it? What persuasive facts can we present to decide between #1 ands #2? Saddam is a bad guy, therefore he probably has them. Blix found no traces, therefore he doesn’t.

    None of it sounds persuasive to me.
    We will see in time.

  12. Whats interesting is that even when we think we have all the facts, someone somewhere will dispute every one of those facts and we will be debating in the same manner as today.

  13. My understanding is that CENTCOM is presently debating whether the body of Chemical Ali qualifies as a “chemical weapon”.

  14. At this point, I am convinced the coalition forces will find WMD in Iraq even if Iraq doesn’t have any.

  15. Yeah, whether they find them or not it will be debated, and I doubt it will change anyone’s opinion. Most people I talk to seem to think our government would plant them if they aren’t there, even if they’re in favor of the war. So I am sure the antiwar conspiracy theorists are already planning to make those arguments. Also, on the other hand if we find none (or a small quantity) we may have no idea at what point they actually destroyed them. Perhaps shortly before invasion since they were still playing cat-and-mouse with the inspectors, or just to embarrass America after it barges in and finds nothing? Are you no less guilty of drug possession just because you flushed it down the toilet before the cops break down your door (just as an analogy)?

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