Sarin in Iraq

Collin Levey:

WE felt a little like we'd fallen down a rabbit hole last week on hearing that an artillery shell that tested positive for sarin had been discovered in a roadside bomb in Baghdad. It wasn't the nasty stuff itself that was curious - as Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld intimated, some stray chemical munitions could signify any number of things, or not much at all. The extraordinary part was the tizzy the media and various noteworthies were in to discount it .

Just a few hours after the news broke, former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix grabbed a microphone somewhere to huff that the discovery meant nothing. Others briskly offered that the shell was more likely the bounty of a scavenger hunt by yahoos who didn't even know what they had.

Fair enough.But even forgetting the potency of one drop of liquid sarin, when did the prospect of the accidental use of loose WMDs become reassuring? Fingers have been chewed to the quick around the world at this same prospect for years. Given that Saddam once listed 800 tons of sarin in his possession, a twinge of concern wouldn't be inappropriate.


The brass-tacks danger here is significant: The desire of Democrats to tag President Bush's re-election with going to war based on phantom weapons encourages us to ignore or minimize what we do find.

A few weeks back, Democrats raised their hackles about a Bush campaign ad that incorporated scenes from 9/11. Those images remain powerful enough to call us back from creeping apathy even today. Remembering the nature of what we're fighting doesn't leave adequate room for the "subtlety" that John Kerry is claiming to offer in his did-I-or-didn't-I positions on issues related to war and terrorism.

Like it or not, this country made a democratic political decision to seek to steal a march on Islamic terrorism by overthrowing Saddam and using Iraq to prod the Middle East toward reform and the greater stability that comes from democracy and economic development.


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