Is this fear-mongering at the NY Times? A long expose about the chemical weapons Saddam produced back during his war with Iran includes this bit of contemporary terror:
As Iraq has been shaken anew by violence, and past security gains have collapsed amid Sunni-Shiite bloodletting and the rise of the Islamic State, this long-hidden chronicle illuminates the persistent risks of the country’s abandoned chemical weapons.
Many chemical weapons incidents clustered around the ruins of the Muthanna State Establishment, the center of Iraqi chemical agent production in the 1980s.
Since June, the compound has been held by the Islamic State, the world’s most radical and violent jihadist group. In a letter sent to the United Nations this summer, the Iraqi government said that about 2,500 corroded chemical rockets remained on the grounds, and that Iraqi officials had witnessed intruders looting equipment before militants shut down the surveillance cameras.
The United States government says the abandoned weapons no longer pose a threat. But nearly a decade of wartime experience showed that old Iraqi chemical munitions often remained dangerous when repurposed for local attacks in makeshift bombs, as insurgents did starting in 2004.
OMG - ISIS has sarin, mustard gas and other chemical weapons? Where is Judy Miller's byline?
Will Obama announce that we need to send ground troops back into Iraq to secure WMDs? There are days when I am not ready for tomorrow.
ERRATA: The article is prog-friendly in that, yes, Bush Lied!
The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.
Then, during the long occupation, American troops began encountering old chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs. Typically 155-millimeter artillery shells or 122-millimeter rockets, they were remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.
All had been manufactured before 1991, participants said. Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin.
Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them.
In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.
So Obama can blame this on Bush, which will be critical in any decision he makes that is forced upon him.
The article also notes that the Duelfer report mentioned these legacy weapons.
WHY WE FIGHT: Gabriel Mallor at Ace of Spades pushes back against the Times declaration that
The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program.
But here is Dick Cheney talking with Tim Russert about the rationale for war in March of 2003:
VICE PRES. CHENEY: ... We have, Tim, been down this effort now for six months at the U.N. with the enactment of 1441. We asked for a declaration of all of his WMD come clean. He refused to do that. He’s, again, continued to do everything he could to thwart the inspectors.
I’m hard-put to specify what it is he could do with credibility at this stage that would alter the outcome.
He’s always had the option of coming clean, of complying with the resolution, of giving up all of his weapons of mass destruction, of making his scientists available without fear of retribution, turning over the anthrax, and the VX nerve agent, and the sarin, and of the other capabilities he has developed, and he has consistently refused. And if he were to sit here today and say, “OK, now I’ll do it,” I’m not sure anybody would think that had credibility.
MR. RUSSERT: If he did come forward and say, you know, “The British laid out six benchmarks. I have decided to turn a new leaf. Here’s the VX, here’s the mustard gas, here’s the anthrax, here’s all the records. I will go on television, denounce weapons of mass destruction, you can take any scientists you want out of Iraq, all I ask is that I can stay here in power.”
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think we are at the point where—it’s hard for me to conceive of him doing that. And pure speculation that he might do such a thing. And, of course, the problem we have is what we have seen in the past is that even on those occasions after the ’91 Gulf War when we did strip him of certain capabilities, when the inspectors were able to go in through the work of defectors, for example, and destroy significant capabilities that he had acquired, and that as soon as they were gone, he was right back in business again.
And I think that would be the fear here, that even if he were tomorrow to give everything up, if he stays in power, we have to assume that as soon as the world is looking the other way and preoccupied with other issues, he will be back again rebuilding his BW and CW capabilities, and once again reconstituting his nuclear program. He has pursued nuclear weapons for over 20 years. Done absolutely everything he could to try to acquire that capability and if he were to cough up whatever he has in that regard now, even if it was complete and total, we have to assume tomorrow he would be right back in business again.
MR. RUSSERT: So bottom line, he would have to disarm completely and leave the country?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think that would be the only acceptable outcome I can think of at this point, but obviously, we can continue to try to work through the United Nations and work diplomacy to try to arrive at an acceptable outcome. To date, we haven’t been successful.
So was Cheney talking about active BW and nuclear programs, or just an active ambition on Saddam's part? Later Cheney linked Saddam to keeping WMDs away from terrorists (my emphasis):
But we also have to address the question of where might these terrorists acquire weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons? And Saddam Hussein becomes a prime suspect in that regard because of his past track record and because we know he has, in fact, developed these kinds of capabilities, chemical and biological weapons. We know he’s used chemical weapons. We know he’s reconstituted these programs since the Gulf War. We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization.
That sounds like active programs.
And if you are having trouble getting worried about ISIS, here is Cheney from eleven years ago (same interview):
And at the front of our concerns as we try the deal with these issues is the proposition that the al-Qaeda organization is absolutely determined to do everything they can to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. We found ample evidence of that in the camps and the tunnels and the caves in Afghanistan. We see evidence of it in the interrogations that we have been able to do now on many of the al-Qaeda members that have been captured. We know that they have done everything they could to acquire those capabilities over the years, and we also are confident that if they ever do acquire that kind of capability, there’s no doubt they’ll use it. There’s absolutely nothing to restrain them from doing that.
If you look back at our strategies that we used in the 20th century, specifically, say vis-a-vis the Soviet Union during the Cold War, we had a policy of containment, alliances, NATO in particular very successful at containing the Soviet Union, a policy of deterrence we could hold at risk, those things that they valued with our ballistic missiles and we were able to forestall a conflict throughout that whole period of time; enormously successful policy.
Then you look at the proposition of a handful of terrorists operating in a part of the world where they find sanctuary and safe haven in a rogue state or in an area that’s not even really governed by anybody, developing these capabilities to use against the United States. And how do you apply containment to that situation? How do you deter a terrorist when there’s nothing they value that they’re prepared to defend, when they’re prepared even to sacrifice their own lives in the effort to kill Americans and there’s no piece of real estate that they value highly enough so that a concept of deterrence works.
So they have Saddam's old chemical weapons (and easy access to the Ebola virus), a safe haven, and no worries about Obama attempting to dislodge them. But do they still want to go after the US, or might they figure that a major attack on the US might prompt even Obama to overthrow their caliphate? Maybe Cheney is wrong and they are deterred by the possession of their haven.