In an announcement that appeared almost to be an afterthought, U.S. State Department and other U.S. government officials reported Thursday that ISIS terrorists in Iraq have now taken over what once was Saddam Hussein’s top chemical-weapons manufacturing plant, which “still contains a stockpile of old weapons,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The revelation sheds new light on what the U.S. government has known about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction program, which was the reason cited for the initial military action there more than a decade ago.
It also casts in new light on comments made by former Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly this week.
Kelly broached the subject of Iraq with Cheney in the light of an op-ed he and his daughter, Liz, had written that condemned the current administration and its actions.
Obama’s defenders, including Paul Waldron, immediately responded to Cheney: “There is not a single person in America … who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault.”
Kelly challenged Cheney, charging, “Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong. You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction …”
Cheney didn’t respond directly to her statement, but he explained, “You’ve got to go back and look at the track record. We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about the extent of Saddam’s involvement in weapons of mass destruction.”
He noted support for the American move at that point was “overwhelming.”
But nuclear weapons of mass destruction weren’t found in Iraq, and critics of President Bush and Cheney said their foundation for the move into Iraq was therefore false.
The statement from the State Department confirmed that those weapons of mass destruction, although not nuclear, did exist and apparently still do.
“The rise of ISIS has reignited the debate about the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration and the 2011 decision by the Obama administration to withdraw remaining military forces from the country. The takeover of a chemical weapons stockpile – even if the weapons are useless – seems likely to further intensify those debates,” quoted columnist Pat Dollard.
The Journal report quoted Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for State, saying, “We do not believe that the complex contains CW materials of military value and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials.”
The report said during the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam used the Muthanna complex “to make chemical weapons, including sarin, mustard gas and VX (a nerve agent), according to the Iraq Study Group, which conducted the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in the aftermath of the war.”
That group reported the stockpiles were “dismantled” and “sealed in bunkers.”
Military officials told the Journal U.S. officials knew all about the stockpiles and “wouldn’t have left it there if it posed a military threat.”
Cheney said the instability in the Middle East, centered in Iraq, actually is Obama’s fault.
“Instead of negotiating a stay behind agreement, he basically walked away from it. Not only did the combat forces leave, but all of the other forces left as well. Our generals recommended a level of 20,000 to stay behind,” he said.
But he said the White House insisted that there be no more than 3,000, and, ultimately, no agreement ever was reached with Iraq.
Cheney said the White House has been, in recent years, refusing to “recognize there is a war on terror.” And that America needs to deal with it, he said.