Imagination meltdown

The folly and indifference of empire.

By Gary Scarrabelotti

Dear Reader, if you understand what is happening in Iraq today, then, please help me. I certainly don’t.

Take this which flummoxed me.

The Wall Street Journal carried a story on June 19: Sunni Extremists in Iraq Occupy Hussein’s Chemical Weapons Facility. It reported that Sunni insurgents had seized Saddam Hussein’s old chemical weapons facility at Al Muthana about 70 kilometres northwest of Baghdad:

According to the US officials interviewed by WSJ’s Julian Barnes, the weapons are old, have been decommissioned and are stored in sealed underground bunkers.

Allegedly, Saddam’s old chemical weapons are today militarily useless and would be a danger more to those who tried to move them than to any potential target. 

Junkyard treasure 

What we have here is a chemical weapons junkyard complete with obsolete, and supposedly unworkable, weapons plus the broken down wherewithal to manufacture them. 

Now, for an outfit like the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which is presently leading the Sunni uprising in Iraq, Al Muthana is not a place one stumbles upon. ISIS knew where it was – its location has been no secret – and they went for it. 

These ISIS fighters, and their like, have proven inventive warriors of Allah.  The war in Syria has honed their skills as manufacturers of makeshift weaponry. There is reason to believe, moreover – though this is denied in Western capitals – that some units of the anti-Assad forces have used, or have attempted to use, chemical weapons.  So it would not be surprising if within ISIS there were a cadre of people experienced in tinkering with homemade “WMD”.

Once again, our (distant) American cousins have drawn an imaginative blank.

Now consider this.  Given that the Assad régime is denying the insurgent armies a potential supply of such weapons within Syria, by handing them over, bit by bit, to be destroyed, why wouldn’t ISIS want to combine an uprising in Iraq with a visit to Saddam’s dismantled WMD stockpiles? 

I am speculating, clearly. But scenarios like this are the stuff out of which powers great and small make plans to protect their interests against possible future threats.  Or they ought to. 

Scenario empty

If strategists and planners don’t employ their imaginations, then the result is, well, September 11. And yet it appears that, once again, our (distant) American cousins have drawn an imaginative blank.  What they couldn’t dream up has actually happened one more time. 

And so, stunningly, WSJ was obliged to report the following: 

“One defense official said that if the U.S. had known the Iraqi government would lose control so soon, it might not have left the old chemical weapons in place.” 

Not only were US agencies taken by surprise by the ISIS invasion but also, it appears, they did not appreciate just how fragile the Iraq government and army really are. Nor, moreover, did they contemplate what might happen in the event of a general Sunni uprising and a collapse of the Iraq armed forces. 

File and forget

It is just possible, of course, that some conscientious group of American military planners has gamed a scenario like that which has now unfolded. They might even have imagined Al Muthanna falling into Sunni hands. But, if they did, their farsighted labours seem to have gone for nothing.

Interesting. File it away.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do not pretend to have foreseen these things myself. And, I’m sorry, I had completely forgotten about Al Muthanna.  But that the USA, which invaded Iraq to get rid of Saddam’s WMD, should also have forgotten it, reduces me to headshaking stupefaction.  

What about those young Americans who died or have been maimed for life? 

The folly and cruel indifference of empire!

*This article has also been published on the Henry Thornton blog.

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