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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Santorum's "Discovery"

By Anonymous Liberal - On Wednesday afternoon, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum--along with Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra--held a press conference where they breathlessly announced that WMD had in fact been found in Iraq. Santorum's office billed this as a "major announcement." The press release quotes Santorum as saying: "This is critically important information that the world community needs to know." At the press conference, Santorum said:

This is an incredibly -- in my mind -- significant
finding. The idea that, as my colleagues have
repeatedly said in this debate on the other side of
the aisle, that there are no weapons of mass
destruction, is in fact false.

We have found over 500 weapons of mass
destruction. And in fact have found that there are
additional weapons of mass -- chemical weapons,
still in the country, that need to be recovered.

So what exactly was found? According to the document Santorum cites:

Since 2003 Coalition forces have recovered
approximately 500 weapons munitions which
contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.

Since 2003? Degraded? These hardly seem like the long lost, mythical WMD. And if they are, why have several independent commissions and the White House itself subsequently acknowledged that there were no WMD?

If you're guessing that the answer to this riddle is that Santorum is a clown, you're right. According to Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post (page A10):

The lawmakers [Santorum and Hoekstra] pointed
to an unclassified summary from a report by the
National Ground Intelligence Center regarding
500 chemical munitions shells that had been
buried near the Iranian border, and then long
forgotten, by Iraqi troops during their eight-year
war with Iran, which ended in 1988.

The U.S. military announced in 2004 in Iraq that
several crates of the old shells had been uncovered
and that they contained a blister agent that was no
longer active. Neither the military nor the White
House nor the CIA considered the shells to be
evidence of what was alleged by the Bush
administration to be a current Iraqi program to
make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Last night, intelligence officials reaffirmed that the
shells were old and were not the suspected
weapons of mass destruction sought in Iraq after
the 2003 invasion.

Of course, that didn't stop Santorum and Hoekstra from pretending like this was earth-shattering news and thereby intentionally misinforming a lot of people. Santorum went on Hannity & Colmes last night to hype the story. Various right wing pundits and blogs quickly picked up the story and ran with it (though, to be fair, some of the more intelligent ones saw right through the stunt). Sadly, even my local news picked up on the story, reporting in somewhat confused fashion that weapons of mass destruction had at long last been discovered in Iraq. Sigh.

This is how GOP political propaganda works. You hype a completely trivial fact in an entirely misleading way in order to make a point that is the opposite of the truth. The claim is then repeated by the unscrupulous and the confused, and a significant percentage of the public ends up hearing it. The next day the claim is debunked in a story on page A10 of the paper, but by then the damage has already been done. Wash, rinse, repeat.

UPDATE (by Glenn): Even the Defense Department is so embarrassed by Santorum's claims that they have repudiated them, and the DoD isn't exactly known for excessive caution when it comes to making claims designed to bolster the administraion's pro-war case. But A.L. is absolutely right that despite the self-evident absurdity of Santorum's claims, the Powerlines and Instapundits of the world will spend the next six months insisting that we really, really did find WMDs in Iraq. They've already begun.

And one last point: It seems that Santorum and Hoekstra took it upon themselves to disclose this information because the administration kept it classified and did not want it disclosed. Shouldn't a Justice Department investigation be opened immediately to deteremine whether Santorum should be criminally prosecuted for violations of the Espionage Act? Maybe he can share a cell with Jim Risen and Dana Priest.
source here...
Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Santorum's "Discovery"


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