New media accounts — including coverage by NRO’s Patrick Brennan — confirm what I repeatedly have written since the depths of Operation Iraqi Freedom: The late dictator Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass death, and the United States of America was correct to invade Iraq, find these toxins, and destroy them. Also vital: padlocking this Baathist general store for militant-Islamic terrorism.
As I explained on July 17, 2006:
While the liberal press gently sleeps, evidence continues to mount that Hussein had WMDs, though perhaps not in quantities that would bulge warehouses.
“Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent,” states a June 21 declassified summary of a report from the National Ground Intelligence Center. “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.”
It turns out that — based on open sources — I vastly underestimated the size of Hussein’s stockpiles of deadly devices.
In this story’s first outrage, it now transpires that Hussein had some 5,000 tank shells filled with sarin nerve gas, mustard gas, and other lethal agents. This is roughly ten times the arsenal that I reported that he possessed. Had I access to more accurate information back then, my pieces would have reflected the depth of Hussein’s supplies of these munitions.
These recent news stories overlook another discovery from 2004: The U.S. Department of Energy and the Pentagon removed 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium from Iraq “that could potentially be used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program,” according to a DOE press release. This development was almost totally overlooked by the entire press corps, absent The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, author Richard Miniter, and yours truly.
These 3,902 pounds of uranium were like a pinch of salt compared with the 550 metric tons (yes, five hundred and fifty metric tons) of yellowcake uranium that the U.S. boxed up and shipped from Iraq to a Canadian processing facility. “What?” you insist. “There was no yellowcake!” This contradicts the entire scandal that engulfed Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson, and Bush’s notorious 16-word statement to Congress about Saddam Hussein’s hunt for uranium in Africa. That controversy proved that Bush lied, once again.
And yet, as those tea-party types at CBS News reported, Hussein HAD yellowcake, and the Bush administration whisked 1,212,542 pounds of it out of Iraq in July 2008. Rather than bus the entire international press corps from Baghdad to Basra to watch this vessel give proof of Hussein’s atomic ambitions, Team Bush stayed as quiet as sleeping puppies about all of this. Meanwhile, Bush and his defenders melted in a rotisserie of liberal hatred over their “lies.”
Team Bush’s near-silence about Saddam Hussein’s boatloads of uranium points to this story’s second outrage: the Bush administration’s phenomenally flaccid response to its most vociferous detractors on the WMD question.
Then-president George W. Bush’s critics used the most bitter and vicious tones to accuse him of deceiving America and the world about weapons of mass death. “Bush lied, people died” was the Left’s relentlessly repeated anti-Bush indictment. The liberal fever swamps were rife with theories that Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their pals at Halliburton concocted the WMD charges from whole cloth. Why? To justify a U.S. invasion in order to seize Iraq’s oil fields. Lifting sanctions and simply letting Iraq’s oil flow must have been too much trouble.
The notion that Operation Iraqi Freedom rested upon a giant foundation of even bigger lies severely damaged the reputations of the United States of America, Bush, the conservative movement, and the GOP — the latter two of which tended to support the Iraq invasion. (So did then-senators Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and John Kerry, and 108 other congressional Democrats at the time, although most later turned tail and pretended never to have voted to attack Iraq.)
Amid this wholesale meltdown of domestic and international public opinion, the Bush administration inexplicably and unforgivably yielded to the architects in Bush’s political operation and sat on this treasure trove of exculpatory evidence. In fact, Bush did not lie about WMDs. They really existed — and in enormous amounts. Moreover, they were sitting in the Iraqi desert, making U.S. GIs physically ill. (In yet another outrage, 17 soldiers reportedly were denied the medical attention or subsequent commendations that they deserved for handling these poisons. They also allegedly were told to clam up about what they saw.)
It is outrageous that the Pentagon and, apparently, Bush’s political team concealed proof that America’s chief casus belli actually existed. Instead, the howling hyenas of the Left were allowed to gnaw away at Bush’s political corpse.
Why did anyone involved in this disaster think that this would be good for America domestically or globally? How thick were the skulls of Bush’s political advisers not to see the importance of presenting this information amid deafening shouts that the president and those of us who supported Operation Iraqi Freedom were a pack of filthy liars?
Anyone who aided and abetted this extremely destructive cover-up should be removed immediately and barred permanently from government agencies, political campaigns, and party organizations.
The third and most frightful outrage here is that some 2,500 of these canisters of nerve gas and mustard gas remained in Iraq. Rather than implement a policy of “No WMD Left Behind,” roughly half of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs were cast adrift in Iraq.
And now they are in the humane and prudent hands of the Islamic State.
“Experts” now say that these deadly weapons have degraded and pose no threat to anyone.
Would you bet your life on this?
At any time, the Islamic State can use these weapons against American and allied targets in the Middle East or anywhere else. If they detonate them and they work, hundreds or thousands could be killed.
Then again, they or their comrades in the Jihadist International could strap these artillery shells to sticks of dynamite and threaten to explode them. While the sarin and mustard gas might be inert, which mayor, governor, prime minister, or president could bank on that? Such uncertainty would give the Islamic State tremendous leverage: “Obey our demands, or those sticks of dynamite will become a cloud of nerve gas.”
Bush did not lie, we now learn.
However, in some twisted act of self-mutilation, his government severely wounded itself and America by hiding the abundant evidence that would have silenced Bush’s and the USA’s loudest and harshest opponents and enemies. Even worse, these “imaginary” weapons — that proved to be all too real — were abandoned in the sands for the Islamic State to adopt as their own.
And, before he prematurely withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq, Obama did nothing to fix any of this.
From the Euphrates to the Potomac, this is nothing short of governmental malpractice.
— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.