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May 18, 2004
Defense Confirms Sarin Find

Fox News reports that the Defense Department has confirmed that the shell that partially exploded by the roadside yesterday contained four liters of sarin -- enough to kill thousands of people under the right conditions. The discovery indicates that more such shells will come to light (via Instapundit):

Tests on an artillery shell that blew up in Iraq on Saturday confirm that it did contain an estimated three or four liters of the deadly nerve agent sarin, Defense Dept. officials told Fox News Tuesday. The artillery shell was being used as an improvised roadside bomb, the U.S. military said Monday. The 155-mm shell exploded before it could be rendered inoperable, and two U.S. soldiers were treated for minor exposure to the nerve agent. ...

New weapons caches are being found every day, experts said, including "hundreds of thousands" of rocket-propelled grenades and portable anti-aircraft weapons.

"Clearly, if we're gonna find one or two of these every so often used as an IED or some other way the threat is not all that high, but it does confirm suspicion that he [Saddam] did have this stuff," said Ret. U.S. Army Col. Robert Maginnis.

"It is a bazaar of weapons that are available on every marketplace throughout that country," Maginnis added. "We're doing everything we can to aggressively disarm these people, but there were so many things that were stored away by Saddam Hussein in that country ... it's a huge job that we're tackling."

With new weapons caches being found on a regular basis, and now with the discovery of WMD in two artillery shells, obviously more WMD awaits whomever finds it first -- meaning that we need to ramp up our efforts to find and secure all munitions storage points in Iraq. Meanwhile in the same report, Kurdish representatives claim to have evidence of Saddam's WMDs, saying that the UN and WHO have turned a deaf ear to their testimony:

An Iraqi Kurdish official had no doubt similar substances will be found as the weapons hunt continues.

"We don't know where they are, but we suspect they are hidden in many locations in Iraq," Howar Ziad, the Kurdish representative to the United Nations, told Fox News on Tuesday. "It's quite possible that even the neighboring states who are against the reform of Iraq ... are helping the Saddamites in hiding." ...

"We have evidence we have victims of the use of those agents, and we're still waiting for WHO and the U.N. to come investigate," Ziad said.

Perhaps the US and the UK should do their own investigating in Kurdish territory. While it's unlikely that Saddam would have stored any WMD in that area after 1991, it's possible that older stores may still exist, dating back to the massacre of the Halabja Kurds. If so, Saddam could have banked on the elimination of sanctions allowing him to recover those stores and immediately restocking his WMD inventory until fresh programs for manufacture could be ramped up.

UPDATE: Friends of Saddam takes us down memory lane to March 2003, when the Marines discovered a cache of atropine injectors and 3,000 chemical suits near An Nasiriya. In December 2002, with the UN debating military action for Iraqi non-compliance with disarmament agreements, Saddam bought a large amount of atropine, claiming a medical use for the drug outside of military use. New Scientist magazine noted at the time:

Many arms experts believe Iraq possesses nerve agents such as sarin and VX. These work by increasing levels of the neuromuscular transmitter acetylcholine, sending muscles into spasm. Atropine blocks acetylcholine.

At the time, this discovery indicated Iraqi preparation for chemical warfare; naysayers scoffed at the notion, suggesting that Saddam feared chemical attack from the US and UK. Yesterday's discovery tells a different story.

UPDATE II: Hugh Hewitt links to Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost, who wants us to know why one shell of sarin would be all al-Qaeda needs to cause a whole slew of 9/11s:

For all those who would downplay this finding, I offer the following lesson in terror math:

It takes 1 drop (100 mg) of sarin to kill an average person.

The artillery shell that was found contained 3 to 4 liters of sarin.

1 drop (mg) equals 0.0001 liters (1/10000 of a liter).

3-4 liters equates to roughly 50,000 drops.

Obviously, it would be impossible to distribute 50,000 drops of sarin in an effective enough manner to kill tens of thousands of people. But consider this:

The artillery shell that was found contained enough sarin that it could be divided up into 1000 300mg doses.

Each 300mg dose could kill 3000 Americans, the number that died on 9/11.

From that single artillery shell, 16 "new 9/11s could be attempted.

Many, if not most, would likely fail. But how many would succeed? How many American deaths lay waiting in that one WMD? One shell, 16 9/11s. Now ask yourself how many more deaths are waiting in shells that were overlooked or misplaced?

Everyone get the picture now? (Updated as Joe refined the math)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 18, 2004 9:33 PM

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