In my view, the key issue as to whether there is any real significance to the recent chemical weapon disclosures is whether the weapons are still usable and dangerous.
The L.A. Times finally gets around to mentioning the story this evening (it didn’t make today’s dead trees edition), by reprinting an AP story on its web site, which you can read here. I call this story the “battle of the hundred-percenters.” First, David Kay:
[Kay] said experts on Iraq’s chemical weapons are in “almost 100 percent agreement” that sarin nerve agent produced from the 1980s would no longer be dangerous.
“It is less toxic than most things that Americans have under their kitchen sink at this point,” Kay said.
And any of Iraq’s 1980s-era mustard would produce burns, but it is unlikely to be lethal, Kay said.
Meanwhile, Rumsfeld says they are WMD; they are “harmful to human beings.” Of course, so are those things under the kitchen sink. Then we have House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra:
“David Kay says anything produced prior to 1991 is not lethal anymore, so what is the discrepancy here?” Hoekstra said. “I am 100 percent sure if David Kay had the opportunity to look at the reports that describe these things, he would agree with the finding that … these things are lethal and deadly,” Hoekstra said.
I don’t understand why Hoekstra doesn’t understand what the discrepancy is.
There’s an awful lot of certainty floating around on this, but the actual facts are emerging very, very slowly.
Meanwhile, another tidbit emerges: this group of 500 shells was not found all in the same place:
Intelligence officials said the munitions were found in ones, twos and maybe slightly larger collections over the past couple of years.
So much for the mental image many have had of a pile of hundreds of gas-filled shells, piled up one on top of the other.
I’d like to see these intelligence officials going on record with this information. Where is the need for anonymity? The public has a right to know what the significance of these materials is, and who is saying so.