Chemical Arms Rekindle Debate
Republicans say Iraqi shells justify 2003 invasion; Democrats argue otherwise Lois Ember
Republicans on Capitol Hill are citing a classified Army intelligence report as evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and, therefore, that the U.S. was justified in invading Iraq in 2003.
The Army's National Ground Intelligence Center reported in April that since the 2003 invasion, coalition forces have found about 500 pre-1991 rockets and artillery shells containing degraded mustard agent and sarin nerve agent. On June 21, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.) went public with this finding.
Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on Hoekstra's committee, said the April study contained "nothing new." In fact, the Iraq Survey Group's 2004 report concluded that Iraq had no significant stocks of WMD at the time of the invasion.
Still, the issue of Hussein's WMD surfaced again at a June 29 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. Panel Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said, "The verified existence of such chemical weapons" proves that Hussein did not destroy his stocks of WMD as mandated by several United Nations resolutions.
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, pointed out that the Army's report only addressed "the force protection concerns of our service members in Iraq." Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that the study was done to permit commanders in Iraq to prepare their troops for possible hazards.
Maples also noted that the munitions found were produced in the 1980s for the Iran-Iraq war but were never used. Under questioning, he admitted that the weapons were "a potential risk" to troops in Iraq but not to the U.S. homeland.
David A. Kay, who led the first Iraq Survey Group in 2003 and who testified at Hunter's hearing, tells C&EN that he "expected that weapons produced in the 1980s would continue to be found for decades." But, he stresses, "these are no longer weapons in the classical military sense; they're hazardous waste."
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