Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
The U.S. has located some 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003 with more likely to be found, according to two Republican members of Congress trumpeting a newly declassified portion of a government report.
“We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons,” Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said at an afternoon news conference.
Santorum read from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, which noted: “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.”
The Pennsylvania senator, who appeared with Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, outlined six key points contained in the unclassified overview:
- 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.
- 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 Iraq cannot be ruled out.
- The most likely munitions remaining are sarin and mustard-filled projectiles.
- The purity of the agent inside the munitions depends on many factors, including the manufacturing process, potential additives, and environmental storage conditions. While agents degrade over time, chemical 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.
“I never doubted for a second that this day would come because we knew [Saddam Hussein] had them,” said host Sean Hannity on “Hannity & Colmes.” “It’s funny to watch liberals [who complain], ‘Bush lied! He hyped! He misled!’ … How about liberals now apologize to the country?”
“These are not the weapons that we went to war over,” Democrat strategist Laura Schwartz responded. “It does not tell us that Saddam Husssein had an ongoing, active weapons program.”
One senior Defense Department official told Fox News 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.”
Also appearing on Fox News was former U.N. weapons inspector Tim Trevan, who said some of the weapons could still have posed a danger, even in a deteriorated state.
“Sarin could be a danger,” he said. “The mustard, the problem is when it sits in the munition for a very long time in these high temperatures, it polymerizes. It goes from a liquid to a gooey mass.”
“Probably more important is why has the administration not made this public beforehand,” retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerny said of the report. “I think the fact is that the Russians moved large stocks [of WMDs] out in the fall of 2002. … They went into three locations into Syria, in one location in the Bekaa Valley. If you get in there and if you found those weapons and found the precursors, the fingerprints would go back to Russia, China and France. Now those are the three countries that had the most conventional weapons sales to Saddam Hussein. … I believe they were complicit. So I don’t think the administration wants to trash three of the five members of the [U.N.] Security Council.”
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