Friday, May 23, 2003

Fun with chemistry

An interesting piece in the NYTimes about those mobile labs.

While we have not been able to definitively determine whether they had actually ever been used to produce chemicals (the mobile labs had been decontaminated with an "unknown caustic agent" prior to their discovery by the Americans), I think the tiniest bit of Socratic reasoning allows us conclude:

1) Hussein used chemical weapons (against the Kurds, during the Iran-Iraq war).

2) These labs have very little utility beside the production of biological agents. (One of the competing theories is that they are used to make hydrogen for weather balloons, and of course, the usual pesticide dodge. Apparently, Iraq has more "pesticide" plants per person than any other nation on the planet.)

3) The U.S. has transcripts of Iraqi military officials that seem to point toward a concerted effort to hide the existence of chemical weapons: "We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left." On the second, one Republican Guard commander told another, "Write this down: Remove the expression 'nerve agent' whenever it comes up in wireless instructions."

4) why would someone clean to the point of microbacterial decontamination equipment for producing hydrogen for weather balloons?

To sum: he had 'em, he used 'em, he had to make 'em, these labs don't look like they could've made anything else, ergo: these mobile labs are the chemical weapon smoking gun.

So why did it take so long to find anything, when apparently, according to Colin Powell, Iraq was so cluttered from chemical and biological weapons that Hussein had to bring in "Merry Maids" every Thursday to tidy up? Slate notes that General Tommy Franks admits that US Special Forces bribed a number of Iraqi military officials to sit on their hands during the conflict. He has defended this as essentially a cost-benefit decision: one Tomahawk costs $1 million, we can demobilize an entire unit with one $1 million bribe. Looks like a good deal.

A natural conspiracy theory that could run off of that news is that, perhaps, some of our bought and paid for Iraqi generals know a little more than they're saying about the location of chemical goodies, and, just maybe, the US govt., figuring that they'd be able to find good evidence elsewhere, have "excused" them from divulging everything they know. The reasoning being that there is no way the US Govt could "harbor" military folks they know had possession of / had been ordered to use chemical weapons, buuut, if we never asked, then bribing these guys and bringing them over is okay. Sort of a don't ask, don't tell, chemical weapons version.

Your theory?

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