So this morning I crank up the laptop and cruise over to Memeorandum to see what blog folks are talking about today, and what do I see but a big headline —
I keep reading, and find that this is not a new discovery, but an account of some stuff found in Iraq since May 2004. And it wasn’t exactly “500 chemical weapons,” as Fox News reported, but 500 chemical weapons shells. These shells contained old, degraded mustard OR sarin “nerve agents” dating from before the Gulf War, but for some reason nobody was interested enough to analyze the stuff to find out for sure what it was. The declassified document detailing the “discovery” — released by our old pal John Negroponte, note — is artfully vague about how much toxin was actually contained in the shells and what condition the toxin was in. Or even exactly what it was.
Apparently Rick Santorum, whose Senate career is in its final throes, got his hands on a classified document from the National Ground Intelligence Center. He pulled key points out of the document and had them declassified, and then made a big whoop-dee-doo announcement that he had in his hand proof that there were WMDs in Iraq, plus a list of 205 Communist agents known to work in the State Department. And here are the key points:
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 Iraqâ€™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 shortage 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.
Even at 7:30 in the morning my critical reading skills are acute enough to determine that this document doesn’t say shit.
“Munitions are assessed to still exist.”
We’re guessin’ there’s some stuff we haven’t found yet.
“Chemical weapons could be sold in the black market.”
We’re not sayin’ they have been sold on the black market, but ya never know.
“Possibility of use outside Iraq cannot be ruled out.”
Hey, anything’s possible.
“The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.”
That or individually packaged golden spongecakes wrapped around creamy vanilla fillings made with high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings.
“The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors.”
But we ain’t tellin’ you how pure the stuff we found was. You just have to guess.
“Insurgents and Iraqi groups desire to acquire and use chemical weapons.”
And they want nukes and fighter jets and great big battleships, too. And a palace on the Tigris River. And Brittney Spears for their third wife.
I mean, who’s stupid enough to fall for this? Oh, wait …
Fox News summarized the findings for its news consumers, thus:
The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.
And the righties wonder why we dump on Faux Nooz.
News Hounds (“We watch FOX so you don’t have to”) provides a blow-by-blow of the doin’s at the Un-News Network:
What a coincidence that one week after Karl Rove urged Republicans not to make excuses for going to war against Iraq and to put critical Democrats on the defensive, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), 18 points behind in his re-election efforts, and representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) suddenly came up with some report that 500 chemical weapons have been found in Iraq. Almost the entire hour of Hannity & Colmes last night (6/21/06) was devoted to this â€œdiscoveryâ€ despite the fact that FOX Newsâ€™ own Jim Angle had already reported that the Bush administration said the weapons were not in usable condition and were not the WMD’s for which we went to war.
Got that? The Bush administration said the weapons were not in usable condition and were not the WMDs for which we went to war. But what the hell do they know?
The entire show was filled with â€œFOX News Alertsâ€ about the report. â€œThis is exactly what we suspected he had,â€ Hannity crowed, before adding, falsely, â€œThis is only a part of why we went into Iraq.â€ But he never asked either Santorum or Hoekstra, both of whom appeared on the show, about the administrationâ€™s response or the likely degraded condition of the chemical weapons.
In fact, it wasnâ€™t until Alan Colmesâ€™ portion of the discussion that Jim Angleâ€™s reporting was even mentioned. â€œJim Angle, who reported this for FOX News, quotes a defense official who says these were pre-1991 weapons that could not have been fired as designed because theyâ€™d already been degraded and the official went on to say these are not the WMDâ€™s this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had and not the WMDâ€™s for which this country went to war. So the chest-beating that the Republicans are doing tonight, thinking this is a justification is not confirmed by the Defense Department.â€
And speaking of coincidences — what a coincidence that John Negroponte had a hand in this! Negroponte was also behind last March’s “junk intelligence” escapade, also known as Dumbo Document Dump; see here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Essentially, from time to time Negroponte pulls a toy rabbit around a track and lets the righties get some exercise by running in circles, chasing it.
I took all this in, and then made some coffee, and then sat down to consider the burning question of our time — how stupid are Bush supporters, really? This goes way beyond your average left the keys in the car stupid, which plagues the best of us from time to time. There’s something more primordial going on here. In some cases, IMO, we’re looking at simple turtle crossing an interstate stupid. You can’t really blame them for it. In other cases we may be dealing with more exotic forms of cognitive handicaps, however, such as I’m getting messages from Mars stupid, or the cookbook said to separate the yolk from the white so I boiled the egg first stupid.
By now most of the rabbit chasers have moved on to the next phase of the exercise, which is wondering why the Bush White House hadn’t said something about this sooner? Some of the results are real knee-slappers, but as I have to be somewhere pretty soon I will have to save that post for another time.
Update: Digby takes another look at stupid.