|The New York Times
Sarin? What Sarin?
By WILLIAM SAFIRE May 19, 2004
You probably missed the news because it didn't get much play, but a small, crude weapon of mass destruction may have been used by Saddam's terrorists in Iraq this week.
The apparent weapon was sarin gas, a highly toxic nerve agent that causes victims to choke to death. Developed by the Nazis, it has been used in the past by terrorists in Japan to kill a dozen subway riders and panic thousands, and by Saddam Hussein, who produced tons of it to kill Iraqi Kurds.
Rigged as an "improvised explosive device," or roadside bomb, the
155-millimeter howitzer shell was accidentally detonated by a U.S.
ordnance team. Two men were treated for what an Army spokesman
"minor exposure" to the nerve gas.
You never saw such a rush to dismiss this as not news. U.N. weapons inspectors whose reputations rest on denial of Saddam's W.M.D. pooh-poohed the report. "It doesn't strike me as a big deal," said David Kay.
"Sarin Bomb Is Likely a Leftover From the 80's" was USA Today's Page 10
brushoff; maybe the terrorists didn't know their shell was loaded with
sarin. Besides, say our
lionized apostles of defeat, a poison-gas bomb
does not a "stockpile" make. Even the Defense Department,
defensive, strained not to appear alarmist, saying confirmation was
needed for the field tests.
In this rush to misjudgment, we can see an example of the "Four Noes"
that have become the defeatists' platform.
The first "no" is no stockpiles of W.M.D., used to justify the war, were found. With the qualifier "so far" left out, the absence of evidence is taken to be evidence of absence. In weeks or years to come — when the pendulum has swung, and it becomes newsworthy to show how cut-and-runners in 2004 were mistaken — logic suggests we will see a rash of articles and blockbuster books to that end.
These may well reveal the successful concealment of W.M.D., as well as prewar shipments thereof to Syria and plans for production and missile delivery, by Saddam's Special Republican Guard and fedayeen, as part of his planned guerrilla war — the grandmother of all battles. The present story line of "Saddam was stupid, fooled by his generals" would then be replaced by "Saddam was shrewder than we thought."
This will be especially true for bacteriological weapons, which are
small and easier to hide. In a sovereign and free Iraq, when
germ-warfare scientists are fearful of being tried as prewar criminals,
their impetus will be to sing — and point to caches of anthrax and
other mass killers.
Defeatism's second "no" is no connection was made between Saddam and Al Qaeda or any of its terrorist affiliates. This is asserted as revealed truth with great fervor, despite an extensive listing of communications and meetings between Iraqi officials and terrorists submitted to Congress months ago.
Most damning is the rise to terror's top rank of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,
who escaped Afghanistan to receive medical treatment in Baghdad.
joined Ansar al-Islam, a Qaeda offshoot whose presence in Iraq to
murder Kurds at Saddam's behest was noted in this space in the weeks
after 9/11. His activity in Iraq was cited by
The third "no" is no human-rights high ground can be claimed by us regarding Saddam's torture chambers because we mistreated Iraqi prisoners. This equates sleep deprivation with life deprivation, illegal individual humiliation with official mass murder. We flagellate ourselves for mistreatment by a few of our guards, who will be punished; he delightedly oversaw the shoveling of 300,000 innocent Iraqis into unmarked graves. Iraqis know the difference.
The fourth "no" is no Arab nation is culturally ready for political
freedom and our attempt to impose democracy in Iraq is arrogant
In coming years, this will be blasted by revisionist reportage as an ignoble ethnic-racist slur. Iraqis will gain the power, with our help, to put down the terrorists and find their own brand of political equilibrium.
Will today's defeatists then admit they were wrong? That's a fifth "no."