It may have been the shortest lived news story in a good long while. Last night, Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum held a press conference announcing that Iraq had WMD and they had been found. The claims evaporated like freon once the 'evidence' had been presented. From a press release by Santorum's office:
- Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.
- Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq’s pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist.
- Pre-Gulf War Iraqi chemical weapons could be sold on the black market. Use of these weapons by terrorists or insurgent groups would have implications for Coalition forces in Iraq. The possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.
- The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.
- The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal.
- It has been reported in open press that insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.
Lots and lots of 'ifs' and 'coulds'. But what Santorum and Hoekstra seem to miss is that, in order to qualify as a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction', the weapon has to be able to cause mass destruction. Maybe the dynamic duo misunderstood the word 'degraded' and thought it meant the shells had been humiliated. These chemicals have a shelflife and these munitions were left over from the Iran/Iraq war - they're as fresh as sun-dried mayonnaise. Santorum and Hoekstra even admit that the 'mass destruction' part of their supposed WMD ain't there - the press release reads, "While agents degrade over time, chemical warfare agents remain hazardous and potentially lethal."
'Potentially lethal' is not the same as 'mass destruction'.
This has come up before. In 2004, FOX News reported:
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent (search) recently exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said Monday.
Two people were treated for "minor exposure" after the sarin incident but no serious injuries were reported. Soldiers transporting the shell for inspection suffered symptoms consistent with low-level chemical exposure, which is what led to the discovery, a U.S. official told Fox News.
FOX talking heads were delighted by the news that US troops had been exposed to chemical agents. Sean Hannity, who'd been pushing the idea that WMD would be found in Iraq eventually, told a caller he felt vindicated. But the problem was, this WMD was triggered and what didn't happen?
Mass destruction. In fact, the two soldiers exposed to the stale sarin suffered a headache.
Santorum got his defeat on home turf - Fox News. Think Progress reports, "Fox News’ Jim Angle contacted the Defense Department who quickly disavowed Santorum and Hoekstra’s claims. A Defense Department official told Angle flatly that the munitions hyped by Santorum and Hoekstra are 'not the WMD’s for which this country went to war.'
Of course, Santorum wouldn't back down. He told Alan Colmes, who'd broke the news that his big revelation was a bunch of horseshit to Santorum, ""I’d like to know who that defense dept, spokesperson is. The fact of the matter is, I’ll wait and see what the actual Defense Department formally says or more important what the administration formally says." (Click photo for videoclip)
Rick, Rick, Rick. The DoD has spoken - the evidence you presented was put out as proof that Iraq did not have WMD. You cherrypicked data and hoped that the US public would be slightly less stupid than you are.
We're not. And this stupid stunt isn't going to help your downward slide in the polls on election day.