Like chanting Buddhist monks, the president’s critics repeat 100 times daily: “Bush Lied — People Died.” The “lie,” of course, is that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons of Mass Death. “There were none,” Senator Jack Reed (D., R.I.) told his colleagues June 21. “They were not there.” Absent such munitions, the argument goes, U.S. involvement in Iraq is nothing but a blood-soaked misadventure unfolding on a collapsed façade of falsehoods.
Nevertheless, 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.”
Are these weapons old and inert? The Pentagon unit warns, “While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.”
“Iraq was not a WMD-free zone,” said House Intelligence chairman Peter Hoekstra (R., Mich.). “Weapons have been discovered. More weapons exist.” Hoekstra and Senator Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) have pressured the administration to detail its WMD findings.
What if terrorists acquired a few of these shells? “You’re not talking about transferring hundreds to make an impact in New York, in a subway, or anything like that,” Hoekstra told reporters June 21. “One or two of these shells, the materials inside of these, transferred outside of the country can be very, very deadly.”
Here and there, other potentially deadly things have emerged from Iraq’s sands:
Former weapons inspector David Kay declared on October 2, 2003 that U.S. personnel discovered “a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B. from which a biological agent can be produced.” This was, Kay said, “hidden in the home” of an Iraqi biological weapons researcher.
In January 2004, according to a New York Sun editorial published that June 1, a 7-pound block of cyanide salt popped up in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Baghdad safe house.
On May 2, 2004, U.S. forces in Iraq found a mustard-gas shell, rigged as an Improvised Explosive Device. The Iraqi Survey Group dismissed this as “ineffective” due to improper storage. Of course, the effectiveness of Hussein’s weapons was not the issue. He either was supposed to prove they had been destroyed, or open his facilities for inspection. Instead, Hussein failed to account for 550 mustard-gas projectiles. This may have been among them.
“The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found,” also reworked as an IED, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt told reporters that May 15. Two soldiers exposed to the device “displayed ‘classic’ symptoms of sarin exposure, most notably dilated pupils and nausea,” Fox News reported. Officials also told the network that the shell contained three to four liters of sarin, roughly three-quarters of a gallon.
Weapons sleuth Charles Duelfer told Fox News June 24, 2004: “We found, you know, 10 or 12 sarin and mustard rounds.”
That July 6, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a joint effort with 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,” said a DOE statement. Those 3,894 pounds of uranium were in “powdered form, which is easily dispersed,” DOE spokesman Bryan Wilkes told Hudson Institute adjunct fellow Richard Miniter, author of Disinformation: 22 Media Myths that Undermine the War on Terror. As Miniter concludes: “The material would have been ideal for a radioactive dirty bomb.”
So, Americans in Iraq have found 500 sarin- and mustard-gas-filled artillery shells, live botulinum toxin, cyanide salt, and nearly two tons of uranium. Yet, no, Virginia, there were no WMDs in Iraq.
Without exposing intelligence contacts and techniques, the ever-bashful Bush administration owes it to American taxpayers and our Coalition allies to unveil everything it safely can about what we really have found in Iraq. Hiding evidence of Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Death serves no one. For all the talk of “lies,” the truth will set the president free.
— Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.