Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) told reporters yesterday that weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found in Iraq, despite acknowledgments by the White House and the insistence of the intelligence community that no such weapons had been discovered.
“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Santorum said.
The lawmakers pointed to an unclassified summary from a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center regarding 500 chemical munitions shells that had been buried near the Iranian border, and then long forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988.
The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that several crates of the old shells had been uncovered and that they contained a blister agent that was no longer active. Neither the military nor the White House nor the CIA considered the shells to be evidence of what was alleged by the Bush administration to be a current Iraqi program to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the shells were old and were not the suspected weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.
This story appears on page 10. There is no story in the New York Times, and the Boston Globe allots two paragraphs:
To counter criticism that no weapons of mass destruction turned up in Iraq even though that was a key argument for going to war, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., released a newly declassified military intelligence report. It said that coalition forces had found 500 munitions in Iraq that contained degraded sarin or mustard nerve agents, produced before the 1991 Gulf War.
Democrats downplayed the intelligence report, saying that a lengthy 2005 report from the top U.S. weapons inspector contemplated that such munitions would be found. A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the weapons were not considered likely to be dangerous because of their age.
Note that the “intelligence officials” in the Post story and the “defense official” in the Globe account are saying different things, and that the account in the Post –one cache that had been forgotten– differs from the description given by Senator Santorum, and does not explain why the report itself cannot be declassified.
If it was one cache of old and useless weapons, buried and forgotten, then the intelligence agency that insists on the classification of the report is not competent.
If the report has different information than that provided the Post, then the paper and its brothers are blinkered by an anti-war ideology from asking the sort of questions such allegations as those made by Senator Santorum would oridnarily prompt.