Posted by Scott Malensek on 7 April, 2017 at 1:09 pm. 19 comments already!


Let’s do a quick re-cap on the past 27yrs of America’s War in Iraq (1990-2017):

1990-Iraq had the 4th largest army in the world (about the size of Spain, Italy, France, and Britain combined).  They had chemical, biological, and were working on making an atomic bomb (even had the bomb ready, but not the radioactive material).  

1991-Iraq was invaded by a United Nations Coalition of forces, driven from Kuwait, and forced to agree to terms of surrender; terms which included getting rid of WMD.

What’s WMD?  WMD stands for Weapon of Mass Destruction.   It’s a term often used to describe chemical weapons, biological weapons like weaponized bacteria, radiological weapons like dirty bombs, and atomic bombs.   It’s a lot easier for people in power to just say, “WMD” than all the rest.  The United Nations calls them, “proscribed weapons;” meaning weapons that are too horrific to use because they kill 100% indiscriminately, their use almost certainly causes civilian casualties, and people don’t just die when they’re used…they die extra slowly and painfully.  

This is where things get tricky.  Just like war-wagers like generals, and U.N. diplomats prefer the acronym “WMD” to the long list of really bad weapons, so too do politicians, mass media, and people prefer to use it too.  There’s a problem with that, however.  In March 2003, after 6+ months of political and military buildup, the United States invaded Iraq, and unreported/hidden WMD in Iraq was one of the many reasons given for the invasion.

Politicians debated if there was a WMD threat.  That meant the mass media would debate it, and the rest of us wind up debating it too.  For 14 years the debate about Iraq and WMD has continued.   Kids who were 4 when the nation was invaded are 18 now and being sent into Iraq as soldiers, and the debate continues: did Saddam have WMD/was Iraq a WMD threat?

In late 2002, half a year before the invasion, the Bush administration claimed that Saddam was a WMD threat.  They said there had been no U.N. WMD inspections in Iraq for 4 years (since Saddam kicked the U.N. out in December 1998).   He was right on that.   What he didn’t tell the world was that in those 4 years the U.S. didn’t have a single spy inside Iraq-not one!  The last thing anyone knew about Saddam’s WMD program (according to President Clinton) was that after the December 1998 American bombing campaign on Iraq, much of their WMD threat was reduced, but it was not 100% destroyed.  Moreover, the Bush Administration showed satellite pictures of the WMD facilities that had been hit in 1998, and had been rebuilt by 2002.  They didn’t know what was going on in the buildings because there were no U.N. inspectors and no U.S. spies in Iraq during those 4 years.

The Bush Administration’s WMD-threat-argument was based on very limited information.  His speeches reflected this.  If you go back and read them you’ll see that not until the eve of the invasion did he really start saying, ‘Iraq has this WMD and that WMD.’  Instead it was always, ‘Iraq had this sort of WMD, and they haven’t accounted for it with the U.N.   Most of the Bush administration claims were of missing or unaccounted for WMD; weapons that Iraq told the U.N. it had, but had not told the U.N. if or how they were destroyed.

A lot of people didn’t trust President Bush.  He had come to power in a legal coin toss.  He had lost the popular vote.  He came to power after a politically divisive impeachment.  He lacked the charisma that President Clinton had before him.   The 9/11 attacks divided the country even more, and vengeance for those attacks was swift, but hadn’t satisfied the American people at the time; not with Bin Laden at large.  People felt that one war was enough for America.   People feared getting involved in the Middle East.  People feared, period, and support for holding Iraq to account for such dangerous weapons was not supported.  Oh, people supported sending in U.N. inspectors, but that was it, and that wasn’t enough.   There was no reason for Iraq to comply with U.N.   Any refusal on Iraq’s part in the past had only met with a few airstrikes as punishment, and they expected the same (Saddam said so himself).   Bush may have been threatening invasion, but the popular opposition to an invasion reassured Saddam that he was safe.   Opposition to the war destroyed the “credible threat of force” (as the U.N.’s chief inspector, Hans Blix, later said).

Given the political and cultural reluctance to believe the Bush administration might invade, many dismissed his casus belli one after another.  The Bush administration’s list of WMD allegations and concerns was dismissed from 2002-2017 by many people.   For that reason, let’s ignore what the American government’s Iraqi/WMD accusations were, and instead focus on the United Nations’ Iraqi/WMD concerns.

On March 6, 2003 the U.N. inspectors gave a report called, “Unresolved Disarmament Issues.”  It’s a 175 page list of “proscribed weapons” (what we call WMD) Iraq had openly declared it possessed.  After each “WMD” item, the U.N. explained several different ways that Iraq could resolve the “WMD” issue and remove any concerns the U.S.; remove that from the list of reasons for an invasion.   Each of those ‘ways to resolve’ a “WMD” issue ended with the mere request for just an explanation.  Iraq could have written a paragraph for each item and met the U.N.’s declared concern.   Instead, undeterred by the Bush Administrations threat to invade, confident that popular support would compel any response to mere airstrikes, the Iraqis refused to explain what had happened to the WMD they once possessed.

Forget what the Americans claimed, here’s a short, partial list of what WMD the U.N. claimed Iraq still had just before the invasion:

  • Chemical weapons
  • VX nerve agent
  • Sarin nerve agent
  • Mustard gas
  • Major chemical processing equipment
  • Biological weapons
  • anthrax
  • botulinum toxin
  • ricin
  • bacterial agent production equipment
  • Ballistic missiles
  • SCUD ballistic missiles
  • FROG missiles (like the ones that were involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis)
  • new ballistic missile technology
  • certain munitions and other delivery means
  • warheads designed to mount chemical, biological, nuclear, or cluster bombs on ballistic missiles
  • bombs dropped from planes capable of carrying chemical or biological weapons
  • major (really big) aerial bombs
  • UAV, unmanned aerial vehicles
  • artillery rockets or artillery designed to carry chemical or biological weapons
  • spray devices for spraying chemical or biological agents from the air

There was a lot more, but these were the big ones.  No one of them was worth invading Iraq and occupying it for 14 years, but combined they were a large WMD threat, and the threat of terrorists like Al Queda or ISIS using those was very real (According to the November 1998 Indictment of Osama Bin Laden by the Clinton Administration, Iraq and Al Queda had reached an agreement to do just that.  This threat was further explained by ABC News in early 1999 reporting as well as Newsweek in late 1998/early 1999).

When Saddam’s Iraqi government fell, a statue fell.  There were cheering Iraqis in many places, not in all.  The world watched TV and the image of success was looting.   The American people, and the world, had come to expect some sort of footage of WMD; some sort of ‘ah-ha!’ moment.  Lacking that, the debate continues to the day.  Many political pundits still claim NO WMD was found, but that’s not entirely true.  Not all the U.N. or Bush Administration WMD claims were true, but neither is it true they were all false.   

In 2011, when opposition to the invasion of Iraq was no longer a political crutch for political opponents, it was revealed that thousands of soldiers and civilians in Iraq were in fact casualties from Iraqi/WMD that was found (it’s hard to be wounded by WMD that doesn’t exist or isn’t potent).   Instead of a big photo op ah-ha(!) moment, reports of what had happened to Iraqi/WMD trickle out through the years.   Huge investigations were done, and U.N. experts largely determined that Iraq was a “WMD threat,” but without stockpiles of nuclear bombs to show on cable news, many can’t grasp the concept of that threat any more than they can the full concept of what Iraqi/WMD means in detail.   Tens of thousands of pages of have been written on Iraqi/WMD, and it’s pathetic that the issue has to be reduced to a few paragraphs for many to come close to grasping, but in an age of tweets and bumper-sticker politics…that’s the language modern man understands best.

Here’s what was found in regard to the United Nations’ Iraqi/WMD threat accusations:

  • VX nerve agent
  • Chemical weapons

Much remains unclear about pre-invasion stocks of VX.  One report from people who were in charge of it under Saddam claims that most of it was carried in a single tanker truck that could be moved to avoid Coalition airstrikes.  One day in the 1990’s the truck was in a traffic accident, spilled all the VX, and the people responsible were afraid to tell Saddam they’d lost his valuable weapon.   Fear of Saddam was reasonable, and this seems to be the story most accept, but there was clearly no way of knowing it before the invasion.

  • Sarin nerve agent (some found, some missing)

At the time of the invasion Iraq was not making sarin, but inspectors found that the Iraqi regime was planning and capable of resuming production within days or even hours of the decision being made.

thousands of artillery shells designed to be filled with sarin were found by coalition forces at the high security Al Muthanna chemical weapons storage facility (described by Iraq as a shampoo bottling facility to the U.N.  Pictures can be found in the Iraq Survey Group report showing the “shampoo bottling facility” mountains of empty artillery shells, and “perfume atomizers” ordered in 2001.   Among the post-invasion casualties many are believed to have been injured by sarin-filled artillery shells hidden in ammunition dumps that were being destroyed by coalition forces.  During the 1990’s it was common for the Iraqis to hide chemical artillery shells in with regular artillery shells.

The use of sarin and other chemical weapons in SYRIA over the past 6 years has included sarin, and since much of the pre-invasion sarin that Iraq claimed it possessed could have been moved to SYRIA where it is being used on civilians today.

  • Mustard gas (some found, some missing)

Before the invasion Iraq had about 500 missile artillery shells filled with mustard gas.  Most were found.  Some were accidentally destroyed by coalition forces and resulted in very real casualties from very real WMD.  Some of these were used by insurgents during the occupation.  Some remain missing, and some were allegedly moved out of Iraq during the 6+ months of diplomacy before the invasion; possibly to SYRIA.

  • Major chemical processing equipment (some found, some missing)

Much of this was found by inspectors after the invasion, and pictures can be seen in the Iraq Survey Report, but pictures of machinery that can make chemicals or chemical weapons (while a concern of the U.N.’s and of the Bush Administration) are not much of an ah-ha(!) photo opportunity; certainly not one that would make average people feel the war was justified.  This is a case of “WMD” that was found, was a threat, but wasn’t politically or culturally satisfying.

  • Biological weapons 
  • Anthrax (not found)

After the invasion of Iraq the head of their anthrax program (nicknamed Dr. Anthrax) told inspectors that one day she had been ordered to destroy their weaponized anthrax.  She ordered it dumped in a lake.  Immediately afterwards she was informed that Saddam (who slept in a different palace every night) had spent the night at his palace on that lake the night it was dumped.  She feared for her life, and told inspectors that as long as Saddam had lived she would never have told anyone what happened to the anthrax.  This issue could only have been resolved through regime change.

  • Botulinum toxin (some found)

Some of this was found hidden in an Iraqi scientist’s home.  He had been ordered by Saddam’s regime to hide it.  It was not a lot, but it was the seed stock needed to restart production when ordered.

  • Ricin (some found)

Some of this was found in Iraq, but not a lot.  The ricin production facilities destroyed in 1998 were only rebuilt to the point where they could be seen from space.  However, pre-war stocks were not found.  Allegedly some of this was found by U.S. Special Forces near an Al Queda camp on the Iranian border.

  • Bacterial agent production equipment (found)

Much of this equipment was found, but as is the case with chemical production equipment, pictures of this do little to convince mothers that their sons’ lives were worth the invasion.  For that, people need to look elsewhere.

  • Ballistic missiles
  • SCUD ballistic missiles (not found, but sort of found)

Roughly two dozen modified SCUD missiles were never accounted for by Iraq.  Parts to make almost that same number were found, however.  In the days before the invasion a ship from North Korea was boarded and seized as it carried SCUD missiles to Yemen, and if they were actually the Iraqi SCUDs, no one has said.  

  • FROG missiles (found).  

Some of these were fired at Qatar in the first few days of the invasion of Iraq.  Some were found.

  • New ballistic missile technology (found)

Inspectors found that Iraq had still been working on rocket technology.

  • Certain munitions and other delivery means (many found)
  • Warheads designed to mount chemical, biological, nuclear, or cluster bombs on ballistic missiles

Many of these WMD warheads were found, and pictures can be seen in the Iraq Survey Group.  These include SCUD missile warheads (Begging the question, why would Iraq make SCUD warheads if it had no more SCUD missiles?), cluster munitions bought as late as 2002, artillery rockets prepared to be filled with chemical or biological weapons, and a 2002 shipment of special, illegal aluminum tubes to be made into chemical or biological artillery rockets.

  • R-400 and R-400A bombs (some found)

Some of these were found in abandoned Iraqi ammunition dumps, and at least one was handed over to Coalition forces during the invasion.

  • Major (really big) aerial bombs (some found)

Some of these were found in Iraqi ammunition dumps, and pictures of some can be seen in the Iraq Survey Group report.

  • UAV, unmanned aerial vehicles (found)

Many of these were found by invading Coalition forces, and pictures of them can be seen in the Iraq Survey Group report

  • Artillery rockets or artillery designed to carry chemical or biological weapons (found)

Many of these were found by invading Coalition forces, and pictures of them can be seen in the Iraq Survey Group report

  • Spray devices for spraying chemical or biological agents from the air

Many of these were found by invading Coalition forces, and pictures of them can be seen in the Iraq Survey Group report

What’s listed above is the Iraqi/WMD issue.   People feared/hoped/expected to see American forces standing in a warehouse filled with stockpiles of boxes that said, “WMD” on them.  Even in 1998 the last U.N. inspectors explained that such a thing would not exist because the Iraqis had learned from 12 years of American airstrikes that stockpiles of WMD were foolish.  Stockpiles were vulnerable to attack and diplomatic embarrassment (as well as internal security threats).   Instead, according the U.N. in 1998, 2002, 2003, and even in their last reports, Iraq had learned its lessons and switched its WMD focus to a “rapid restart” capability where they could make fresh chemical and biological weapons in short time rather than let them sit in a warehouse to decay over time, and/or be bombed.

Was the invasion of Iraq “worth it?”  That’s another discussion.

Is Iraqi/WMD being used in Syria now?  That’s very likely as ISIS was reported to have taken over the ammunition dumps where Iraqi/WMD had been stored after the invasion.

Was WMD found in Iraq?  Yes, but Iraq was a WMD threat through that “rapid restart” capability the U.N. inspectors described, not in photogenic stockpiles.

It’s been 14 years, maybe it’s time to admit two of the hardest truths about the war in Iraq:

Iraq was a WMD threat contrary to political talking points

Opposition to the invasion of Iraq destroyed any chance at deterrence or resolving the WMD issue through diplomacy.  Put another way, people marched in support of Saddam’s desire to avoid invasion rather than in support of the threat to invade; people protested the liberators instead of the dictator.

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