Friday, July 02, 2004

There's Gas, and Then There's Gas 

Why aren't you hearing more about the sarin shells that were discovered in Iraq not long ago, prompting widespread speculation that maybe Saddam had been sitting on a big fat cache of WMD's after all? The Rev. Moon's news organ explains:
The Polish military has said shells containing a chemical weapons agent found in Iraq date back to the Iran-Iraq war, Polish radio reported Friday.

Polish radio said 17 rocket shells and two mortar shells had been found by Polish forces in late June. Some are said to contain a chemical agent called cyclosarin, a substance several times more potent than sarin.

The report said the shells dated back to the 1980-88 period and were of a type that had been used against both Kurdish separatists and the Iranians.
Laura Rozen of War & Piece has the bad taste to mention that the sarin shells are best not discussed because they appear to date from a period when Donald Rumsfeld was a welcome guest in Baghdad . . .
. . . despite US knowledge that Hussein was using chemical weapons on the Iranians. The National Security Archive has put together a useful summary of the US tilt towards Saddam from 1980 to 1984, based on recently declassified US documents, here:
By the summer of 1983 Iran had been reporting Iraqi use of using chemical weapons for some time. The Geneva protocol requires that the international community respond to chemical warfare, but a diplomatically isolated Iran received only a muted response to its complaints...It intensified its accusations in October 1983, however, and in November asked for a United Nations Security Council investigation.

The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran's accusations, and describing Iraq's "almost daily" use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war [Document 24]. The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against "Kurdish insurgents" as well [Document 25] . . . .

During the spring of 1984 the U.S. reconsidered policy for the sale of dual-use equipment to Iraq's nuclear program, and its "preliminary results favor[ed] expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities" [Document 57].
UPDATE (via Digby):The AFP wire has further details on the latest embarrassingly-discredited casus belli:
Multinational forces in Iraq said that more than a dozen missile warheads said to contain mustard gas or sarin have tested negative for chemical agents.

Washington had announced the find by Polish troops on Thursday, which was later confirmed by Warsaw . . . .

But the 122mm warheads, found in late June, have been found not to contain the deadly chemicals, a statement from multinational forces here said.

"Those 16 rounds were all empty and tested negative for any type of chemicals," it said.

Two other warheads found in mid-June were found to contain an insignificant amount of sarin gas. The armaments were left over from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the statement said.

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