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Sarin wrap-up

Blogging has been light recently, due in equal parts to my increasingly busy schedule and my increasingly slow server. The chemicals in the IED attack have been confirmed as sarin, although you wouldn't know that unless you read Fox News. The reaction of the major media (or lack thereof) to this story is stunning, but I won't belabor the points and observations that have already been made by others in the blogosphere. I will, however, add a few postscripts.

This dismissal from the Left I find the most fascinating goes like this: It was a very old shell, most likely left over from when Saddam gassed the Shiites. That could well be, but so what? That would imply it originated from the known stockpile that Saddam claimed to have destroyed, but could not satisfactorily substantiate their destruction. That was a major, oft-cited reason for the war, and one that now seems to have been at least partially validated. Granted, one shell does not a stockpile make, but the things are mass produced, and to me it's like cockroaches: if you see one, it's safe to assume there are plenty more where that one came from.

As I recall, another major justification for action was fear that these chemical weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists. This too, it would seem, has come to pass. So why only now, if the weapons have been there all along? Perhaps the enemy just now discovered them. God knows their whereabouts
couldn't have been obvious.

Finally, just in case you missed it, I'd like to share with you what I thought was the greatest exchange on this subject yet, between two readers on Tim Blair's site. Enjoy.

Reader IXLNXS writes:

Invading Iraq for one shell of outdated sarin gas equates to the local police kicking in your door and shooting your family because your supposedly have a huge weapons cache, and they end up finding a pistol.

Lets wait and see what else develops of this before the "Mission Accomplished" banner unveils shall we.

And reader CurrencyLad responds:

Your analogy should run like this:

Three of that family's neighbours had been shot at by the householder concerned. The Kurdish neighbours down the street had been poisoned to death. The police issued operational commands for the household to be lawfully raded by SWAT unless the madman came out peacefully. Affadavits had been signed by most of the local citizens attesting to the relevant crimes.

The miscreant householder didn't come out with his hands up. A few of the neighbours were being bribed to look the other way, as were a few police officers. Fearful for their well being, some of the neighbours facilitated the rading of the house by a coalition of security firms. The madman was removed.

Doesn't even really matter whether or not they found weapons in the manhole or the basement. As it happens, they found a few. Kurdish neighbours will not be slaughtered again, others will not be burgled again. Madman's children will not be abused again.

Mission goddam accomplished.


Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute!

So our worst-case scenario did come true-- an Iraqi chemical weapon falls into the hands of terrorists? If I read the story properly, the US troops didn't know it was a chemical weapon until it accidentally detonated before they could disarm it... subjecting a handful of soldiers to a day in outpatient care. By the time we knew about it, they'd been already released from the hospital.

I think it's pretty clear that though it was a "chemical weapon" that they found, it was not a "WMD"-- a weapon of mass destruction. If it was, when it detonated, it would have destroyed something.

There's been a lot of complaints about the "unbalanced" news coverage all around. According to their ombudsman, NPR has been getting letters calling for, in essense, "less torture and more beheadings". Some folks on the right just can't get enough of that decapitation thing, and they think we need more.

To at least an extent, the perceived disparity in the coverage emerges from very practical considerations-- e.g., we only have one beheading to report, while new facts about prisoner abuse, and allegations of prisoner abuse keep piling up. In order to provide "balance", you'd have to repeat the beheading story over and over. Or maybe provide daily "beheading updates" (Remember the old Saturday Night Live Routine? This just in: "Nick Berg is still dead".)

The same with the Sarin Gas story. Perhaps we should have frequent updates on the condition of the troops who were treated for exposure? ("Doing fine... satisfactory.... no change.") Of course, there are other ways of making a story out of no story. Most of what I saw on Fox News about this were reporters and pundits and commentators taking up a lot of space talking around the fact that we don't know anything about the origin of the sarin gas, or what it might mean. Hourly medical bulletins on the uninjured troops would at least be more informative.

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