Monday, May 17, 2004

They're high-fiving and breaking out the champagne in Neocon Land:

Sarin Nerve Agent Bomb Explodes in Iraq

A roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday. Two people were treated for "minor exposure," but no serious injuries were reported.

"The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the chief military spokesman in Iraq. "The round had been rigged as an IED (improvised explosive device) which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy.

"A detonation occurred before the IED could be rendered inoperable. This produced a very small dispersal of agent," he said.

The incident occurred "a couple of days ago," he said....

"The former regime had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War," Kimmitt said....


Now, I did think Saddam had WMDs before the war -- I opposed the war in the belief that Saddam clearly wanted to play ball with the West and was no longer giving any thought to attacking the West with such weapons (and was boxed in anyway).

But that isn't the point. Kimmitt implies that these are old Saddam weapons. If so, why weren't they used as U.S. forces approached Baghdad? Why weren't they used in the past year? Why only now? What reason do we have to believe that this is old sarin?

Abu Musab Zarqawi, headquartered in the essentially autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, was reportedly making WMDs (ricin and cyanide) before the war (when it appears we chose not to attack him because he made such a nice smoking gun). Zarqawi seems to be rampant now in the anarchic failed state that is post-Saddam Iraq. Why shouldn't we suspect this is his sarin, made fresh?

Of course, we're also free to wonder why the WMDs conveniently show up -- but apparently do no harm -- in the darkest moment, poll-wise, of Bush's presidency.


UPDATE: The CNN story is a bit clearer about Kimmitt's reason for believing this is a Saddam-era weapon:

Kimmitt said the artillery round was of an old style that Saddam Hussein's regime had declared it no longer possessed after the Persian Gulf War....

Kimmitt said it appeared that whoever set up the roadside bomb was unaware that it contained the chemicals.

"It was a weapon we believed was stocked from the ex-regime time," Kimmitt said. "It had been thought to be an ordinary artillery shell, set up like an IED. When it exploded, it indicated that it had some sarin in it."

I don't know what to make of this. U.S. analysis of Iraqi technology has been so off base that I'm deeply skeptical.

There is some evidence that the administration and its allies want to revisit the WMD question -- a reader has pointed to this article by Kenneth Timmerman at David Horowitz's Front Page Magazine, which argues that there are WMDs in Iraq and a media conspiracy is concealing the truth. The articles sources are nearly all anonymous, and the story doesn't seem to have been picked up by mainstream right-wing media. So I remain a skeptic -- though maybe we are now encountering scattered, decrepit, decade-old Saddam WMDs.

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