Arthur M. Borden’s “Iraq war’s valid origins” (Commentary, Monday) is correct except that he gets one very important fact incorrect. Mr. Borden, like many, incorrectly reports that the Duelfer report concludes that weapons of mass destruction were not found. This is false.
My own background is that of a former naval aviator and a “special” weapons expert. The Charles Duelfer report of 2004 (Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD) concluded that the WMD “program” ended in 1991, leading many to construe incorrectly that no weapons of mass destruction had been found.
Certainly the intelligence was wrong as to the existence of an “on-going WMD program,” but WMDs made before 1991 have been found in Iraq, and some are still functional and viable. At the writing of the Duelfer report, limited amounts of sarin gas as well as mustard gas shells were discovered that were listed in Appendix J of the report.
The first sarin gas shell was found on March 17, 2004, when it had been mistakenly used as an IED (improvised explosive device) that partially contaminated two of our service members. Both mustard and sarin gas are chemical weapons and are defined by every weapons manual as weapons of mass destruction.
The latest count of sarin gas artillery shells found was more than 500 as of November 2006. This is significant because unlike mustard gas shells, sarin gas shells have an extensive shelf life.
Sarin gas is created by the artillery shell in flight by storing two separate chemical components and mixing them after the shell is launched by using a binary-chambered centrifugal warhead. Storing the two chemicals separately allows for the shell to remain viable much longer.
This is important because Saddam Hussein had been required to destroy his remaining WMD, and he obviously violated this requirement of the armistice agreement as well as many others. So the conventional wisdom that WMD were not found in Iraq is wrong.
The White House addressed this point by claiming that no “significant” WMD had been found, an attempt to minimize disclosure. The administration is in a difficult place because it must work to ensure the safety of the deployed troops and hope that we find the remaining stores of sarin gas instead of al Qaeda, which would gladly use these artillery shells against us. The use of the term “significant” is interesting, because by definition any WMD is significant.