500 Chemical Weapons Found in Iraq: Who Cares?

The big news story, at least in the Right Blogosphere, is that Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum announced in a press conference that a declassified Pentagon document finds that at least 500 chemical weapons have been found in Iraq since our invasion of the country in 2003:

WASHINGTON — 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.

“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said in a quickly called press conference late Wednesday afternoon.

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: “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.”

Who cares?

Certainly not the Right Blogosphere. Anybody who’s been paying attention knows that caches of chemical-filled shells and the chemicals to put in the shells have been found from time to time since 2003. The count mounts up over time. I also remember reports during the battle for Baghdad that traces of mustard gas and sarin had been found in the Tigris River, the implication being that chemical weapons-armed Iraqi military units had dumped what they had rather than being caught with them in their possession. That Saddam possessed chemical weapons and/or had the resources to reconstitute his stockpiles is not news.

Certainly not the Left Blogosphere. Many loathed Bush and the Republicans before September 11, 2001, allowed a breathing space after the destruction of the World Trade Center, and returned to the regularly scheduled program in full force shortly thereafter. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that there are those in the Left Blogosphere who, had a fully functional nuclear weapon found in Iraq in 2003, would have loudly declaimed that Saddam had been driven to the possession of nuclear weapons by an intransigent United States and a nuclear-armed Israel.

Consider this graph from the most recent Pew Research report on American opinion on Iraq:

There are lots of possible interpretations of this. Here’s mine: most people have made up their minds, we’re nearly evenly divided, and people are unlikely to be much swayed one way or another by changes in what they know about the situation in Iraq before, during, or since major combat operations there.

It doesn’t change the substance of the situation in Iraq at all or alter what we need to do or what we’re likely to do there. It won’t save a single American or Iraqi life, it won’t strengthen the new Iraqi government, it won’t have any impact on the insurgency in Iraq, it won’t change public opinion there. It won’t build a school or hospital or keep the electricity turned on or the oil pipelines pumping.It won’t persuade anyone of anything.

It doesn’t change the fact that Americans and Iraqis are dying. It doesn’t change the fact that the Iraqi people are completely exhausted by the ongoing violence.

It doesn’t change the fact that President Bush has repeatedly and unqualifiedly stated that he will keep American troops in Iraq until the Iraqi government is able to defend itself against the insurgency. It doesn’t change the reality that both Democratic and Republican Congressmen and Senators overwhelmingly recognize that “stay the course”—shorthand for American military presence in Iraq to root out insurgents, train the Iraqi military, and act as a combination bodyguard and referee—is the only realistic alternative we have for the foreseeable future in Iraq.

Does it matter to Rick Santorum? He’s struggling in a bruising re-election campaign. If I were a Pennsylvanian I might care, but I live in Illinois and don’t honestly give a damn about who Pennsylvania sends to the Senate.

But I’m getting mightily tired of this endless search for who shot John and I think a lot of other Americans are, too.

5 comments… add one
  • kreiz Link

    As usual, your common sense approach rings true. Along the same lines, Rick Moran posted this: “What the American people want is not confirmation of the justification for going into Iraq but rather progress by the Iraqi government that would help get us out. That sounds just about right.

    What clear-thinking people are trying to assess is whether real progress is possible and at what cost. If we stay, will we be in substantially the same position 5 years or 10 years from now? How long do we nurse a nascent government before it stands on its own? Extracting ourselves is going to be difficult. Lots of questions, few answers, plenty of murkiness.

  • If we stay, will we be in substantially the same position 5 years or 10 years from now? How long do we nurse a nascent government before it stands on its own?

    I’ve assumed from the start that a generational change would be required.

  • kreiz Link

    And that returns us to political realities, Dave. I just don’t see a post-Vietnam America giving a 7-10 year blank check. Few have focused upon the Administration’s failure to constantly resell the war. This goes directly to the Blank Check idea- the good will that the people will extend if they believe our efforts are worthy. The days are gone when a president can sit back and stay the course, particularly in light of the MSM’s constant negative drumbeat- a known factor in the post-Vietnam world.

  • kreiz Link

    I didn’t comment directly on your 10 year commitment prediction. It’s exactly right; my qualm is a practical one- the doubtful political support needed to underlie the commitment. As an aside, I was impressed by the compelling logic of A Newer World’s “One Liberal’s Argument for Still Staying in Iraq”.

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