Santorum recycles bogus Iraq WMD claims

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has been making the rounds claiming that the US has in fact discovered banned weapons in Iraq. The claims are based on the continuing sporadic appearance of pre-Gulf War I munitions containing variously disintegrated chemical weapons, and the Pentagon has said that the claims are crap: the munitions in question, mostly artillery rounds, are unusable and have been for years.

Santorum somehow roped House intelligence committee chair Peter Hoekstra into going along with this idiocy. Both men could have saved themselves considerable embarrassment, assuming they’re capable of it, had they read this site’s commentary on similar claims made by California Republican Chris Cox, then the House homeland security committee chair and now the SEC boss, more than a year ago.

In February of 2005, Cox told an audience at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that continuing discoveries of the same munitions made fiction of “leftist” claims that there Iraq had no banned weapons. The speech transcript is unfortunately no longer online now that Cox’s House website is gone, but fortunately Radley Balko was present to record and transcribe the relevant portion for posterity.

I called Cox’s office at the time to ask what the hell he was talking about. His press secretary pointed me to this story at Fox News, from May of 2004, about an attempt to use one of the rusted-out rounds as an IED.

I called the Pentagon to ask about the story and the press duty officer actually laughed when I asked him if the report was significant. Apparently not much has changed during the following year: a Fox News reporter contacted the Pentagon to check on Santorum’s and Hoekstra’s claims and was told that the munitions were no longer serviceable and were “not the WMDs for which this country went to war.”

In fairness to Santorum and Hoekstra, they refrained from echoing Cox’s claim that the Iraqis were planning to fill knock-off perfume bottles with chemical weapons and smuggle them onto Middle America’s department store shelves.

An annex to Volume 3 of the Duelfer report, the final gasp of the Iraq Survey Group, addressed the particular details of the Cox Bomb and the general details of other similar discoveries. The gist is that, as the Pentagon reiterated to Fox yesterday, the munitions were no longer usable for their intended purpose — i.e., as artillery rounds — and posed little threat as unconventional IEDs because even if the chemical components remained intact, which isn’t the case, the sudden detonation prevents them from mixing and activating.

But the stupidity of Santorum’s, Hoekstra’s and Cox’s harping on the subject goes beyond the question of whether the stuff is usable or not. What I wrote in response to Cox is as true now as it was then.

More relevant to the Congressman’s remarks, though, is the report’s conclusion that the Iraqi government were probably unaware that the particular shell referenced by Cox, along with others discovered by the group—a total of 53 as of the completion of the report—still existed. Most of the shells found were partially destroyed or otherwise unusable, many were unmarked, and the total represents a tiny fraction of what the Iraqis were known to have possessed at one time and to have destroyed either under UN supervision or, according to multiple Iraqi sources, independently.

What this suggests, of course, is that the only remotely likely scenario in which the munitions could have been used against the US or anyone else is the scenario under which that actually occurred: an invasion of Iraq by the US which permitted insurgents and looters to obtain the forgotten and lost munitions for use—probably, according to the report, without even realizing the shells contained the chemicals— against our troops.

I’m not going to hold my breath, but it’d be nice if some enterprising reporter were to confront Santorum and Hoekstra with that particular inconvenient truth.

31 thoughts on “Santorum recycles bogus Iraq WMD claims”

  1. YOU sir,are a fool!You libs wouldn`t know the truth if it bit you on the ass!WMDs WERE found in Iraq.Quit lying about it,loser!

  2. I agree. The simple truth is that Iraq DID have WMDs. Did Iraq have an active WMD program post-9/11? That is an unknown, but probably not. But the fact remains that WMDs have been found in Iraq, The Iraqi leaders used them, and later lied about their existence. This simple reality is that the Left simply refuses to acknowledge it.

    I actually welcome articles like this because it shows that no matter how much the Left tries to refute the facts, the more and more ignorant they make themselves look.

  3. At least you’re consistent in denying there was a weapons issue.

    At least you’re consistent in repeating the oft-heard statement that the U.S. went to war in Iraq because of WMDs.

    At least you’re consistent in saying the only reason terrorists are in Iraq is because the U.S. invaded.

    At least you’re consistent in giving Saddam Hussein a pass for “losing” or “forgetting” about some of his WMD stockpile.

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”


  4. Ken Masey and Someone: If anyone had found viable WMDs in Iraq, wouldn’t Bush go to Congress or the UN to crow about it? Wouldn’t he send all of his Cabinet and staff out to spread the word? Damn right he would, but he hasn’t. Maybe Bush is a leftie, too!

  5. The hundreds of sarin nerve gas rounds sound like they were stored in binary Soviet artillery and mortar shells. It is probably correct, and completely irrelevant, that the shells themselves may or may not have been mechanically operative. The WMD is the sarin, not the shells.

    Moreover, it is also probably correct that the sarin solution had degraded somewhat over the years. Let’s say for the sake of argument that only 25% of the 500 some shells were still effective. If you load that into a couple crop dusters and run it over Central Park on a sunny day, this would be sufficient to massacre the thousands of people in that park.

    The age of the munitions hardly discounts them as WMD. Sarin is an extremely deadly compound. We spent millions of dollars carefully removing and incinerating the decades old chemical weapons which we possessed because it was so deadly.

    Why is it so hard for you on the left to acknowledge these basic facts? The fact that the Dem press has not picked up this story on the wires yet speaks volumes as to the left’s agenda- apologizing for Saddam Hussein.

  6. Geoff, the comment about going to war on account of WMDs was the Pentagon response to a Fox News reporter inquiring about Santorum’s claims. The “pass” on losing the munitions came from the Duelfer report, which you may recall as the official US government report on the search for banned weapons. The assessment that Iraq has become a live-fire training ground for terrorists who weren’t there prior to the invasion comes from the CIA.

    As for Emerson, correct me if I’m wrong in assuming that your support for the war has been consistent.

  7. If I killed you with a gun that was 20 years old, would it make a difference? Just because the chemical nerve agents are old, doesn’t make them any less lethal. Sarin and mustard gas have a shelf life of many, many years, and if you cracked open one of these right now under your nose – you would DIE. And so would all of your stupid liberal friends in denial over these REAL WMD’s. It’s the chemical agents stupid, it’s the chemical agents.


    old news. bush was such a good liar, that he even convionced saddam he had wmd’s. now thats a good trick. bush is quite the mental genius. he would have to be to convince saddam he had wmd’s when he didnt. oh, dang, i forgot. bush is an idiot. and a liar. or was it cheney and rove, the puppet masters who really did it? its soooo confusing.

    too funny. what lengths will the libs go to to cling to their fantasy land creations? this could perhaps be an immeasurable point. i suppose if you create a false reality for so long, it does get hard to venture into the real world; evene for a moment. i guess its better they stay “out there”. keep them away from regular folks. and children and kids. (thanks john k) yikes.

  9. I agree with the writer of the original piece. I write this comment to make a slightly different point. The problem with cherry-picking any intelligence document or source (which is what Santorum and Hoekstra have done) is that you remove important context. Assuming that there are 1000 old artillery rounds with Sarin or mustard gas, some additional questions should be asked.

    1. Exactly where were these munitions found.
    2. Exactly when were they found.
    3. Did we know they existed before the March 2003 invasion?
    4. What Iraqis knew about the weapons, and did Saddam leave any recent (post 9/11 maybe) instructions about their use?

    We don’t know because we haven’t read this classified intelligence report (which is the way that these politicians want it). It’s probably true that we didn’t have any idea that these particular WMD shells existed (much less their location in Iraq) at the time of the invasion. We probably did nothing to secure them after the regime fell. We probably stumbled onto them months later.

    Thus, this intelligence report might actually reveal intelligence failures (didn’t know that these particular artillery rounds existed or where these chemical weapons were) and policy failures (didn’t bring enough forces to secure potential WMD sites so the terrorists that we invited in with President Bush’s tough-talk could get their hands on these chemicals and deploy them on some sunny Central Park day).

    Here’s the final analysis for me: assuming again there are 1000 rounds like this in the country, then we have traded 2.5 American lives for every round we found. For me, that ratio wouldn’t be good enough even if it was 1000 to 1.

  10. Face it!! Libs were trying to play political hardball by telling everyone Bush was a liar and they got there ass handed to them.

  11. Would you people listen to yourselves? You don’t have to possess the logic of Spock to get it; you were purposely misled into this war; period. There were no WMD; there was no connection to Al Qaeda. The 9-11 fight and Bin Laden was and continues to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Norman Swarzkopf didn’t even support the Iraq invasion until he heard Powell’s now discredited report to the UN.

    In order to believe this election desperation iteration by Santorum, you would have to believe this administration, with all their political capital on the line, with the last election coming down to a few thousand votes in Ohio, sat on this and allowed administration reports, ordered and conducted by partisan officials i.e. Dulfer, to say there were no WMD found in Iraq, nor were there stockpiles prior to the invasion.

    Oh and just to preemptively head of the Saddam\Al Qaeda connection. Zarqaiwi was living in Kurdish controlled Iraq, was not a guest of Saddam, and could have been killed several times prior to the invasion but the administration wanted him alive to support the lie. When you really, honestly, examine the Saddam\Al Qaeda connection argument, a dishonest person could make the same claims about the US. After all, the 9-11 hijackers lived in the US, got their flight training in the US and used US technology to move money and personnel. Both arguments are lies pure and simple, however many simple minds will believe them.

  12. It’s amusing that Rick can make the claim that Iraq had and knew about the WMD’s. Living in Washington D.C. he must be familiar with the recent uncovering of similiar weapons in north west Washington itself, specifically on the campus of American University. The U.S. Army used the grounds after WW I as a dump for the very same types of weapons, covered them up and then forgot about them. They had to dig up the yards of million dollar plus homes searching for these WMD’s and today they can’t be 100% sure they got them all. It’s convienent to hold everyone else accountable to standards we don’t apply to ourselves. (Remember Condi’s Syria must control their borders comments. Look at our own first.)

  13. Jeebus, where did all the lunatics here come from? In particular, Ken Masey makes me question whether this “democracy” concept is really ever going to fly.

  14. Its always nice for the rightwing nutjobs to stop by..and not have a website for the left to scoot over and enjoy a little name-calling and bashing isn’t it?

  15. Reading the comments on this page leads me to one conclusion: that America is at war with ITSELF far more than anyone else. Some posters actually accuse the “leftists” of supporting Saddam. Please lets tone it down a bit. No-one likes Saddam or Al Quaeda or or anyone of that ilk. No American of any political persuasion actaully wants “America to fail”. Such idiotic statments just destroy the much needed debate. Everyone wants the best solution to a big problem but we disagree on strategy. Shrill accusations of wanting failure expose the abject fear underneath.

  16. Poorly written slanted article! they found the weapons…. period.your attempt to water down every success over there is too much!Yuck..

  17. Bush said Saddam was actively working on building a nuclear weapons program. Remember that? Have we found any evidence of such a program?

    Bush said Saddam was capable of organizing a biological weapons attack in 45 minutes. Remember that? Have we found any biological weapons?

    But for the sake of argument, let’s say that these rounds had enough chemicals in them to be used in a deadly attack. And that Saddam was intent on using these weapons against Americans.

    Sooo…. why didn’t he? Why didn’t he launch them against invading U.S. forces?


  18. Do not be surprised by the WMD claims. They appeal to people with a considerable lack of historical knowledge.

    Go back to Iraqgate and the Reagan administration’s dealings with Iraq – both economic and military ones – and the Reagan’s indifference to Iraq’s usage of chemical weapons during the Iraq-Iran war. Who do you think gave military and logistic support to Iraq? What did we do when Iraq gassed the Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988?

    Further, check our relations with Iraq beyond the 1980s to perhaps the first gulf war and the way the first Bush administration handled the situation. Or shall we say our initial indifference as to whether Iraq occupies parts of Kuwait. And since Iran has been in the news lately as well, check the Iran contra affair in the 1980s as well.

    It is policies like these that politicians would rather have you not remember. And they do count on you not knowing that there were weapons inspectors in Iraq for a number of years after the first gulf war destroying chemical and biological weapons. It is a shame that we do not hold our politicians accountable for bad international policies.

    If you are really interested in the topic go back to the days of when the Europeans divided the middle east land based on their economic preferences with disregard to anything else. Many of our problems now (albeit not all) arise from those days.

  19. Several years ago, the Democrats searching for a political strategy to counter the Republican President, determined that the best approach was to divide the country over Iraq. They have done a wonderful job.

    The success of this strategy surprised me. Perhaps I gave the democrats to much credit initially but now I realize that these are the same people who rely on their party to think for them, structure their thoughts and opinions, set their expectations and drive their emotions.

    They need this party to survive mentally, physically and emotionally. Even when they are wrong and factual evidence is presented, they search for any method possible to continue feeding their hysteria.

    It is my hope that they leave. If they feel Iraq, Iran, are so wonderful and safe and kind to their people, go live with them.

  20. This was old news. These rusty old shells were found buried in a garbage dump, and the traces of blistering agent was so degraded, it would have no effect on anyone it was fired at, even if could have been fired, which it couldn’t have been, because, and let me spell it out, it was J-U-N-K. This story was reported 2 years ago, when the FEDERAL GOVERNEMENT acknowledged that THE WMDS WE WENT TO WAR OVER DID NOT EXIST.

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  22. Are these sort of posts linked by some conservative blogger? Seems a few posts get such Bushite reaction.

  23. Look at us all. Fighting over a country that not one of us are ever going to visit. I have never seen in my life the BS bickering that is going on right now.
    Right wingers : Iraq is was and will be a cluster screw up. Democracy can not be instilled unless it comes from within.
    Left wingers: The sky is not falling. I repeat it is going to be ok.
    I remember a time when the people where Americans and the gov was Republ-CON and Demo-CRAP.

    I dont want my grandkids fighting in Iraq. 50 years of military in Korea and what do we get, well self explanitory. Same old same old. Old men talking and young men dying.

    Again why are we arguing over the undeniable. This admin has changed its story more times than I can count. Democrats scream do the opposite of Bush, again BS.

    Untill the young lions wake up, unite and bring something else to the table we will have more of the same.BS

  24. I am very disturbed by the vitriol posted here. I think Harkadahl is right. As a country we are at war with ourselves.

    Sad that so many people — whipped into a lather by the incessant fearmongering of this administration — equate questioning our leaders with treason, weakness, or blind politics.

    The US was born out a rebellion against oppression, and placed service to the citizenry at the center of our laws. The laws were designed with checks and balances to protect us from the corrupting, tyrannical tendencies of government. OUR OWN government.

    So some here think the dissenters should move to Iran or wherever. Brilliant. Doesn’t sound like the response of a healthy democracy. Thus our drift into fascism is carried on the backs of the ignorant…

  25. Very nice Ray. I am moved by the mere knowledge that I as an American am not alone in my thinking. Remember, it is the UNITED states of America and we are all on the same side.

  26. Ray – in response to your comment, i marvel at the writing of the Constitution, moreover what it tried to symbolise. It is a nobel document. I also marvel at how far America has drifted IN SPIRIT from the desires of the founding fathers. Just look at the sheer number of Americans who proudly ally themselves with totalitatrian characteristics (and dont even know it). I was in Pakistan recently and its ironic that fewer people talk with such self righteous fervour. The world is infinitley more complex than many people can handle.

  27. You stupid little neo-con losers. Here is the fact of the matter. Everyone knows that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. That is ingrained in history. If there were, then Bush is a failure, again, because he did not COMMUNICATE those findings to the rest of the world. Bush, the idiot, said himself just this year, on March 28, 2006, that there were NO WMDs found in Iraq. So either Bush is stupid and can’t read the reports that are sent to him, or he is part of the so-called liberal media also. You silly, stupid, little neo-con b%sta%rds.

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