Jeffrey Goldberg Is an Idiot (No, ISIS Hasn’t Captured Saddam’s Hidden WMD)
Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, one of the biggest promoters of the Iraq war in American journalism, was anxious to share this news today:
ISIS seizes Saddam’s formerly nonexistent chemical weapons: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/iraq-says-terrorists-seize-chemical-weapons-site …
The link goes to an AP story with this news:
Iraq has informed the United Nations that the Islamic State extremist group has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility northwest of Baghdad where 2,500 chemical rockets filled with the deadly nerve agent sarin or their remnants were stored along with other chemical warfare agents.Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim… singled out the capture of bunkers 13 and 41 in the sprawling complex, which according to a 2004 U.N. report also contained the toxic agent sodium cyanide, which is a precursor for the chemical warfare agent tabun, and artillery shells contaminated with mustard gas.
It was unclear from Goldberg’s tweet alone whether this was simply a stupid joke — or whether Goldberg genuinely believed this shows we’ve discovered Saddam’s hidden stockpile of chemical weapons, thus proving George W. Bush (and Jeffrey Goldberg) right at long last.
However, Goldberg then retweeted three other people (this, this and this) who seem to believe it was the latter; i.e., that we’ve now learned Iraq did have WMD. So apparently Goldberg believes this as well.
Here’s what’s actually going on:
Al Muthanna was a large Iraqi production facility for chemical weapons in the 1980s, and was heavily bombed during the 1991 Gulf War. After the Gulf War Iraq was required to declare all its chemical weapons to the UN and hand them over for destruction, and al Muthanna became the main collection and destruction site. According to the CIA’s 2004 Iraq Survey Group report, “30,000 pieces of ordnance, 480,000 liters of chemical agents, and more than 2 million liters of chemical precursors” were incinerated or neutralized there.
So why were there any materials left in bunkers 13 and 41 (the ones mentioned today by Iraq)? First, because bunker 13 was damaged by the Gulf War bombing, making it too dangerous to remove the chemical weapons inside; and second, because the UN needed a place to put various kinds of contaminated materials (drained shells, equipment from the incinerator, etc.) that was difficult to destroy, and bunker 41 had not been bombed, so they stuck it all in there.
Then the UN did this:
Bunker #13 and # 41 were closed by sealing all entrances before the end of CDG [Chemical Destruction Group] mission. Each seal consisted of two brick walls with a 5cm layer of tar between them. Then a third brick wall at a distance of one metre from the second wall was built and the space between them was filled with reinforced concrete. Altogether, such a seal was over 1.5 m thick. The hole in the roof of the bunker #13 was also sealed with reinforced concrete.
So yes, there were still chemical weapons in Iraq when we invaded in 2003. But no, today’s news doesn’t prove “Iraq had WMD.” Everyone on earth had known what was in these bunkers for 20 years, and Saddam had no way of accessing it.
Moreover, even if Saddam had gotten his hands on it everything had likely decayed so quickly that by the mid-nineties or earlier it would have been useless. By now it’s certainly more of a danger to ISIS than anyone else, and then probably only if they drink it.
All of this information is available to anyone with an internet connection and the slightest interest in this subject. That apparently does not include Jeffrey “I’ve Had My Entire Cerebrum Removed” Goldberg.