More on WMD

We linked to an interview with Richard Lugar a couple of days ago, in which Lugar noted that “Dual use technology, if it is sophisticated, means that you can whip up a batch of anthrax one day and do shampoo the next and get rid of what you did the first day. Americans looking for big facilities and cars and tanks and so forth will be disappointed. That is not the nature of the beast.” Thus, Lugar said, the fact that it is difficult to find whatever remains of Saddam’s illicit weapons is not surprising.
We got a rather hostile response from a reader who wrote, “EXACTLY HOW SMALL? CAN YOU FIND OUT? I’D LIKE TO KNOW HOW MANY CUBIC FEET (OR HOW MANY BARRELS OR MILK CONTAINERS) IT WOULD TAKE TO STORE 5OO METRIC TONS OF VX, AND 8500 TONS OF ANTHRAX? (THESE WERE THE QUANTITIES THAT BLIX LAST GAVE.)”
Well, 8,500 tons of anthrax would indeed be hard to miss. That’s 17 million pounds. But what Blix actually reported was that as of 1998 Iraq had 8,500 liters of anthrax, an amount that would fit into 45 50-gallon drums, and “a few tons” of VX. Such quantities are enough to kill tens of thousands if not millions of people.
Michael Novak has a good discussion of the difficulties involved in the hunt for Saddam’s chemical and biological agents: “[O]ur troops in the field are not expecting to find huge warehouses or enormous storage spaces. They are looking for materials that may be hidden in somebody’s basement, behind a false wall, in a space the size of a clothes closet.”
I still think that we will find some of Saddam’s weapons eventually, but only because Iraqis will lead us to them. If it were merely a question of ransacking the country, it is highly unlikely that they would ever turn up. Which shows once again how futile it would have been to rely on U.N. inspectors. Not only were the U.N. inspectors unable to gaurantee safety to Iraqi informants, when Iraqis tried to give them information, the inspectors turned them over to Saddam’s police.

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