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May 17, 2004

Sarin Bombshell

Like ants when their anthole has been disturbed, the Bush-haters are running around crazy, not quite sure what to make of this Sarin story. From DU:

Call me crazy but the finding of Sarin gas seems to indicate a spiralling decrease in security. If true it simply proves the point that borders are not secure. WMDs that were not in Iraq before are there now. Note to Bush: Be careful what you wish for.
Nice spin. Why is it so hard to admit the possibility that Bush was right? DU is a laboratory for cognitive dissonance. It ought to be assigned reading in psychology 101 courses.

When it comes to poison gas discoveries, i'm still holding my breath (heh heh). i'll wait and see if any significant stockpile is discovered. You see, unlike the Bush-haters, i had pretty much accepted that my side might have been wrong about WMDs. It's called intellectual honesty.

On the right, guys like Hannity and Medved were always pretty confident that we'd find the stuff. But even John Kerry was hedging his bets, saying last week that the WMDs might still be found. If you asked me, i would have scowled and said that asshole Scott Ritter was probably right. In fact, i said as much over a year ago.

On the right, the counter-argument was always: "If Saddam didn't have WMDs why did he refuse to allow inspections? Why didn't he cooperate fully?"

Two reasons make perfect sense to me. One, Saddam did finally relent. Just before the war started, i seem to remember a report about Saddam's 11th hour offer to allow full, unrestricted inspections, which we refused. If true, i'm not bothered by our refusal in the slightest. He had to go.

The other reason is that Saddam, correctly as it turns out, believed that we were going in no matter what. Knowing that he had an unavoidable fight coming, and that his military was totally unprepared to resist, much less win, he needed the myth of WMD as a force multiplier. If you know you're going to get rolled no matter what, isn't it a good idea to let the other guy think you've got a knife in your back pocket. It might give you that extra second or two you'll need to get the hell out of Dodge.

Another factor i've considered, in my attempt to explain why Saddam acted like he had WMD's while saying that he hadn't, is an often overlooked rationale behind most inexplicable human behavior: simple incompetence. You've seen it at your job countless times, i'm sure. A huge task is given to be completed within an unreasonably short time limit. Everybody scrambles to put it together, but there are inevitable mistakes.

The better the workers, the fewer mistakes, of course. But in the case of Iraq, these people were all short timers, who knew they were going to be out of a job soon. So the 1441 report they had to do contained a lot of errors, things they just didn't have time to check out for consistency. A lot of it might have been cut and paste. They probably didn't proofread it properly. Then when we got the report we interpreted it as being evasive; they had something to hide. When in fact they didn't. They were simply incompetent.

But, now that i've given my reasons for thinking that there were in fact no WMDs, it appears that i may be wrong again. Hopefully, i am wrong and we will uncover a cache of the stuff, if only to get it out of the hands of the enemy.

Update: According to Michele, now the Bush-haters are saying sarin is not a WMD? That's one for the Huh? files!

Posted by annika, May. 17, 2004 |
Rubric: annikapunditry


Great post, Annika. I love the line about DU being a laboratory for cognitive dissonance--no kidding!

Posted by: ilyka on May. 17, 2004

Excellent post. The spin on this story is making my head ache.

Posted by: Michele on May. 17, 2004

If anything, this proves (yet again for the umpteenth time) that even if we'd literally found Saddam and Bin Laden in bed together with the trigger for an ICBM pointed at the US, there actually are people for whom that wouldn't be "enough." The mind boggles.

Posted by: Dave J on May. 17, 2004

Once we find more than 1 shell from pre-GWI erra that even the insrugents didn't know conatined sarrin then we'll have found something. But this is just grasping at starws.

Posted by: Zip on May. 17, 2004

Excellent post. ISG has already found plenty of evidence of WMD capability, as well as scattered elements of actualy WMD. The whole argument, when it is conducted at a rational level, is a semi-useless debate over AMOUNT/QUANTITY, and whether said amount/quantity means Bush lied or not. Oddly, when it's conducted at an irrational level, might it decide a Presidential election?!

Posted by: gcotharn in Texas on May. 17, 2004

Zip, I can understand the age objection if this were unitary Sarin, but it was described as binary, which would mean a considerable shelf life.

Given what the US was trying to avoid (Iraq becoming an ammo dump for international terrorists, among other things), the discovery of even one unmarked shell looms large. Imagine what that would do if properly mixed and detonated in a train station or mall or school -- if it happened here or in Europe, it might change behaviors for decades. One terrorist proxy with one shell and a few ideas about how to use it could terrify millions, even if they only killed hundreds. Aren't those the numbers the terrorists are looking at?

That shell is Madrid 10 times over, if "used properly."

Posted by: DrSteve on May. 17, 2004


From what do you conclude that it's pre-GWI stock? And who cares if it is? Old WMDs don't count? A WMD is a WMD, my friend. As long as it functions, it counts. The danger was never that he'd make them, it was that he'd use them. I don't care if the "sarrin" that's released in Grand Central Terminal is ten years old or newly-minted, if it performs as it's supposed to. And what does it matter whether the "insrugents" knew what it was? The question is whether Saddam's boys knew what it was -- and I'd be terribly surprised if they didn't. Even that bunch of incompetent assholes must've had a separate pile for the chem rounds.

Also, it's two chemical artillery shells that've been found: One mustard, one "sarrin."

No, this doesn't prove that "Bush was right." We're still a ways from knowing with any certainty what it means. But methinks thou doth protest too much, at such an early stage of the game. "Grasping at straws?" Gimme a break!

Posted by: Matt_Rustler on May. 17, 2004

Let's see - where to start:

DrSteve - if the administration were concerned about existing stockpiles and ammo dumps, they would've taken the obvious steps to secure the several thousand open air sites where shells like these and others are just sitting around for anyone to pick up. As for the shell... this type of binary shell can only be mixed in flight after firing. Attempting to dismantle and then physically mix would fail or at the least kill the perpetrators... where would they find the facilities to do that anyway?

Matt - can I remind you of AUM Shinrikyo? You know , cult in Japan that tried to unleash a coordinated Sarin Gas attack on the tokyo subway system in '95... they used more Sarin than was present in the shell (mixed).

It's a tragedy anytime innocent people are killed for anyone's political/social/religious agenda... and we've had more than enough already - though I feel fairly sure we're not even close to this opera being over. You think Zip "dost protest too much?!" No, give me... and yourself a break - as soon as this story broke - the right wing propaganda machine, and those merely duped by it rushed to trumpet it as proof... "here are the WMD's" - get real.

Posted by: rainlion on May. 20, 2004