Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

SARIN SHELL....Was that sarin shell we discovered a few days ago part of a secret WMD stash, or was it just a miscellaneous dud that was fired years ago and then left to rust in the desert? Scott Ritter says it's pretty easy to find out:

If the 155-mm shell was a "dud" fired long ago which is highly likely then it would not be evidence of the secret stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that the Bush administration used as justification to invade Iraq.

[Detailed technical explanation follows of how sarin shells work and how to tell if one has been previously fired.]

Given what's known about sarin shells, the US could be expected to offer a careful recital of the data with news of the shell. But facts that should have accompanied the story the type of shell, its condition, whether it had been fired previously, and the age and viability of the sarin and precursor chemicals were absent. And that's opened the door to irresponsible speculation that the shell was part of a live WMD stockpile. The data available to the ISG would put this development in proper perspective allowing responsible discussion of the event and its possible ramifications.

Note that there's nothing here that depends on whether you consider Ritter a reliable source. If you read the whole piece, all he's saying is that there's some simple objective data that could determine the nature of the sarin shell, but the Army hasn't provided any of it. Until they do, there's no way to guess whether this discovery is meaningful or not.

Kevin Drum 9:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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