Posted on July 31, 2004


What Defines WMD?

Semantics, not weapons, prove elusive


Daniel Clark



While accepting the Democrat nomination for president, John Kerry lectured that "saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so." It's no wonder he's so adamant on this point, since he reserves this mystical power of suggestion for himself and his fellow liberals. For it is they who have succeeded in creating a virtual reality in which there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just by repeatedly saying, "There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

John Kerry, Hans Blix and Sean Penn

We should all know the routine by now. WMD are discovered in Iraq. Immediately, press reports cast doubt on their authenticity and efficacy. UN weapons inspector Hans Blix pronounces that the latest find is "not a smoking gun." Pundits assure us that Saddam had no intention of using the weapons, but that he'd merely forgotten they existed while he was busily destroying the rest of his arsenal.

Overnight, it is declared by the media in near unanimity that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Democrat politicians are given generous sound bites in news stories, in which they angrily complain that there were no WMD. This conclusion is repeatedly put forth with such force that some conservative commentators become intimidated into parroting it, lest they be declared "extremist" for deviating from the common wisdom.

Because of a couple false alarms -- like an unsubstantiated Iraqi newspaper report that three nuclear missiles had been uncovered -- people who have read about legitimate WMD finds with their own eyes will assume that those accounts must also somehow have been debunked. After all, if those discoveries had stood up to scrutiny, then why does almost every major newspaper, morning and evening news anchor, and cable talk show host continue to insist that no WMD have been found?

In reality, the answer is not that the evidence of Saddam's weapons is tainted, but that the media have accepted a definition of "weapons of mass destruction," promoted by the United Nations and the Democratic Party, that seeks to rule out as much as possible.

On June 9th, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC) briefed the Security Council on its conclusion that Saddam Hussein had dismantled missile sites and transported weaponry out of the country shortly before, during, and even after the U.S.-led invasion. UNMOVIC showed the Council before-and-after aerial photographs illustrating the disappearance of a missile site near Baghdad.

Not only had missile components been at the site, explained UNMOVIC spokesman Ewan Buchanan, but so had fermenters, a freeze drier, and a reactor vessel -- each of them an example of "dual use" technology that can be used in the production of biological and/or chemical weapons. "You can make all kinds of pharmaceutical and medicinal products with a fermenter," he said. "You can also use it to breed anthrax."

UN discovers weapons it still says don't exist

Any sober-minded person would conclude that the existence of these dual use devices at a missile site makes them weapons of mass destruction, but in the land of the anti-war lotus-eaters, it must be considered more likely that Saddam's military was only making pills there. For the UN's part, they have only referred to these items as WMD "components," not actual, entire WMD. Got it? Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, just an anthrax production plant inside a missile site.

But that's not all. The U.S. Army confirmed the discovery of an artillery shell containing sarin gas on May 17th. It had been rigged as a booby-trap that the army refers to as an improvised explosive device (IED). A shell containing a deadly chemical agent qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction, right? Well, no. At least not according to the prevailing semantics of the day.

Here's why it doesn't. First of all, the shell is believed to predate the Gulf War, which immediately led to speculation that the reason it didn't detonate as planned was because the sarin had become inert with age. The real reason for the fizzle, as pointed out in London's Globe and Mail among other sources, was that it was a "binary shell" that housed sarin components in separate chambers. Those components would only mix to produce sarin in large quantities once the shell was launched. The way it was detonated on the ground, only tiny amounts of sarin were mixed, which is why there were no fatalities.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt reasonably deduced from this that the terrorists who planted the device thought it contained ordinary explosives, and were unaware that the chemical agent even existed. He said that the shell, when used in that way, "is virtually ineffective as a chemical weapon." With apparently deliberate illogic, critics of the invasion took that to mean that it was not a chemical weapon at all.

the keen insight of Hans Blix

Hans Blix dismissed the finding by suggesting, "There can have been debris from the past and that's a very different thing from having stocks and supplies." Former Pentagon weapons inspector David Kay, seemingly embarrassed by the discovery of WMD that he had not found during his tenure, agreed.

... But wait a minute, there were supposed to have been none of these weapons in Iraq. When one is found, Blix disqualifies it based on the possibility that it had not been part of a large supply. Since the media treat Blix as the foremost authority on the matter, it became understood that the finding of one sarin-filled bomb proved that there were really no chemical weapons in Iraq at all.

In the January before the invasion, UN inspectors came upon eleven empty chemical warheads. Again, reason was smothered by a prejudicial assumption of Saddam's innocence. He must have meant to destroy them all, but a few things are bound to fall through the cracks here and there. You can't expect the dictator of a totalitarian state to keep tabs on everything.

Then, around the first of this July, the Polish army discovered sixteen warheads they said were filled with cyclosarin, a nerve agent closely related to sarin. A report released by the Coalition Press Information Center in Baghdad disagreed, saying instead that the munitions "were all empty and tested negative for any type of chemicals." The Poles stand by their story, which begs the question of what accounts for the tremendous disparity between the two tests. Let's give the "no WMD" crowd the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that the coalition report is correct. That still adds up to 27 of Saddam's warheads that were designed to carry chemical agents. Are we to believe, despite the sarin found in the IED, that he had nothing to put in them?

Saddam: a big bag of sarin gas

To the ultimate skeptic, the fact that the warheads are empty means that one cannot assume what was meant to be put in them. Who knows? Maybe after Saddam got rid of all his deadly chemicals, he decided to keep the receptacles to store baby milk, baby aspirin, baby shampoo, or one of the many other benign substances that was so abundant in his placid land of kites.

Then why was he so frantically hiding and moving his missiles? Not only did UNMOVIC report on its surveillance of Iraqi missile sights, but there have been multiple discoveries of U.N.-proscribed long-range missiles in Iraq, both before and since the invasion. So to summarize: Saddam Hussein had sarin, he had warheads designed to carry sarin, and he had the missiles to deliver those warheads. But it's not as if he had weapons of mass destruction, or anything.

dots, dots everywhere

President Bush's political enemies have routinely damned him for failing to "connect the dots." Now that the dots are smashing into each other like the swinging metal balls on one of those irritating office toys, those same diligent Democrats are tilting back in their chairs and letting the consistency of the noise soothe them into a slumber.

Perhaps they would admit that Saddam's WMD existed if they could see them fully assembled. If one of those warheads had been filled, and mounted onto a missile, they'd have to concede that it was a weapon of mass destruction, right? Not really. You see, these warheads, like the booby-trapped artillery shell, contain the components of sarin separately, to be blended into the lethal gas only once the missile is airborne. So, technically, any such missile found before it was launched would have no sarin in it.

If that same missile were fired into a neighboring country like Kuwait, it could still be said that there were no WMD in Iraq. How could one prove that the sarin had been created while the missile was still in Iraqi air space? The Kuwaitis would then be the ones with the WMD. "What have we done?" alarmed pundits might ask. "Why, we've attacked the wrong country!"

Well, all right. Kerry, Blix and company wouldn't likely take things that far, but it's only a logical extension of their persistence in acting as defense attorneys for our enemies. If the glove don't fit, there must be no WMD. Pay no attention to the rest of the evidence.

Kerry is correct, of course, when he says that "saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so." The question he should be asked during the presidential debates is whether the existence of Saddam's WMD is made to be so by the evidence listed here. His answer would give the voters a pretty good idea who they would want in charge of connecting the dots for the next four years.



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