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Rick Santorum announces "We have found WMD in Iraq"

Reported by Chrish - June 21, 2006

There was a FOX News Alert today 6/21/06 on The Big Story for a news conference being held by Congressmen Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), declaring that WMDs had been found in Iraq. The announcement followed Santorum's naming three Democratic Senators who just today, in the course of debating withdrawal plans from Iraq, had stated that no weapons of mass destruction had been found. He forgot to mention UN Weapons Inspectors who declared in 2004 that there were no WMDs of any significance in Iraq.

Relevant portions of Santorum's statement:

"Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say the we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons. It's document that was developed by our intelligence community which, over the last two-and-a-half months I have been pursuing and thanks to the help of the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was ultimately, he was able to get it in his hands and I was able to look for, and look at. Both of us feel very strongly that this is vitally important information that the American public needs to know. And so I will read portions of the unclassified version and then turn it over to Peter.... The unclassified version of this report states as follows:

"Since 2003 coalition forces have recovered about 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."

He went off-quote to emphasize that in addition to the 500, there are still filled and unfilled munition believed to exist. In case you didn't catch that the first time. He continues back on statement:

"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 of Iraq cannot be ruled out. The most likely munitions remaining are Sarin and mustard-filled ( projectiles."

He pauses to underscore filled. Resuming:

"The purity of the agents inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemicals 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."

He said this is, in his mind, an incredibly significant finding. The idea that his colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to repeat is, in fact, false. We have found 500 WMDs and there are additional chemical weapons.

The camera went back to Gibson in the studio, who had Bill Kristol handy to comment. The chyron below Gibson read "FOX NEWS ALERT Report: US has found some 500 chemical munitions in Iraq". There's no indication that this "find" occurred over two years ago.

Gibson reiterated that Democrats repeat every day that no WMD were found, and asked Kristol why Santorum would have to fight to get this report released? That's Kristol's first question, too. His colleague at the Weekly Standard, Steve Hayes, has been fighting for years to get them released. He and Hoekstra have been fighting, remarkably, the Bush administration, who you'd think would want to strengthen the case for the war in Iraq, and the fact is Saddam Hussein did not account for all his missing weapons. Kristol says they have been timid in releasing it, and Gibson says they appear to be unwilling to get into this fight again. Kristol agrees and deems it a huge mistake - they've allowed to go unchallenged for 2-3 years that the war was based on at best a terrible mistake, and at worst on a lie. He gives Santorum and Hoekstra a lot of credit for forcing the issue. He wraps up by saying that this information confirms that "Saddam remained a big menace."

But according to Scott Ritter, UNSCOM Weapons Inspector in Iraq for 7 years, Sarin has a shelf life of five years and as of the writing of "What Team Bush doesn't want you to know" in 2002, any Sarin that hadn't been found would have been "useless, harmless, goo." (p. 33) And from BBC News,

" Iraq had no stockpiles of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons before last year's US-led invasion, the chief US weapons inspector has concluded.

Iraq Survey Group head Charles Duelfer said Iraq's nuclear capability had decayed not grown since the 1991 war.

Key findings of the report:
* "The ISG has not found evidence that Saddam possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but [there is] the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq, although not of a militarily significant capability."

One has to wonder why Santorum thought this was important for Americans to know and fought the Bush administration to get it released. It appears it will only open old wounds and expose the administration to more charges of exaggerating the danger posed by Iraq. It did, however, give them ample opportunity to infer that Democrats were wrong again and Bush was right. We'll see where this "revelation" goes in the coming days.

Amend 6/22/06: FOXNews.com reports, under the headline "Report: Hundreds of WMDs Found in Iraq"

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.

However, paragraphs 10-11 state

"Offering the official administration response to FOX News, a senior
Defense Department official pointed out that the chemical weapons were
not in useable conditions.

"This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the
official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and
the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this
country went to war."

Rhetorical question: Why is FOX News abetting the spread of misinformation?

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