Well, some elements of the left side of the blogosphere is crowing this morning. It turns out that the chemical weapons discovered at the United Nations last week well… weren’t.
Turns out they were merely cleaning chemicals.
So Larkin from the Blue Boobies wants to know if I’m going to print a retraction. The answer: no.
A retraction would mean that I was flat-out wrong when I wrote the story. Instead, I’m going to call this a “correction” or an “update.”
Let’s sum up what happened last week: in an office of a UN official (still unnamed) involved in the Iraq disarmament program, eight vials marked “phosgene” was discovered.
Now, what would be the reasonable, sensible, logical action to take? Let’s start by going over some indisutable facts.
- The substance was marked “phosgene.”
- The accompanying documentation said it was recovered from Iraq during the 1990s.
- Iraq had a long-established history of developing and using chemical weapons.
- The official whose office held the vials had been involved in the Iraqi disarmament program.
- People have a history of taking dangerous souvenirs. Every now and then there’s another story of someone getting blown up by a grenade or shell that they brought home from war.
- The United Nations itself has a history of concealing evidence of wrongdoing by nations, especially when the concealing of that evidence will hurt the US or Israel — witness the hiding of counterfeit US currency made by North Korea cited in my original article, or the stonewalling over the release of a videotape of terrorists dressed in UN garb kidnapping three Israeli soldiers.
So, with all that in mind, to treat the vials as anything but legitimate would have been foolish at best, and suicidal at worst.
When faced with a potential danger, the smartest thing to do is to do as the Air Force says and “honor the threat.” Treat it as valid until proven otherwise. Cops, when confronted with someone oointing a gun at them, don’t stop to see if it’s a toy gun, a paintball gun, or unloaded. Every gun is treated as loaded and ready to fire. Firefighters don’t call around when a fire alarm goes off and see if there really is a fire. And no one should look at something marked “poison gas” — even if in liquid or powder form — and just toss it in the trash without a second thought.
In the end, the stuff was harmless. Or, at least, nowhere near as dangerous as first feared. (Some cleaning chemicals are nasty.) Yay.
But anyone who argues that the initial reaction was overblown is a blithering idiot, a partisan hack, or both.
I suspect that if Mr. Larkin had found the vials himself, he would not have been anywhere near so dismissive. Rather, I have a hunch that he would be screaming that it was George W. Bush’s fault for allowing it into the US in the first place (conveniently overlooking the diplomatic status of UN officials prohibits us from giving them the level of security scrutiny they so greatly deserve, as this proves).
We got lucky. We can call this one “practice,” and it appears we passed this test. That makes us a little better prepared for a real threat.
Unless, of course, we listen to ninnies like Larkin.