National Security

The Islamic State's Chemical Weapons

Missteps and half-measures — the continuing story of Obama foreign policy.

Michael Swartz · Sep. 23, 2016

While the Leftmedia quit keeping a body count when Barack Obama became commander in chief, there’s still a war going on in Iraq between the ragtag dead-enders of the Islamic State and the Iraqi military, with American troops there supposedly in a supporting role that stays “one terrain feature” behind the front.

Yet that isn’t stopping the Islamic State from trying to put our troops in harm’s way, as they regularly lob shells at American and Iraqi outposts. This isn’t surprising by itself, but the discovery of “a sulfur-mustard blister agent” within the explosive device certainly is. Regardless of the assurance that this device was “ineffective” and of “low purity,” it reminds us that the weapons of mass destruction we were told didn’t exist are still out there.

One of the multiple reasons why the U.S. removed Saddam Hussein from power was the knowledge that he had weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, he had used WMD in 1988 to kill 5,000 in the Kurdish city of Halabja. But the lack of reporting on the issue as the military operation progressed gave rise to the leftist mantra “Bush lied, people died” and other morale-busting bromides designed to dispirit the American people and remove Republicans from power. All the while, we in our humble shop were among the few who contended that the reason WMD weren’t found in Iraq was that they were spirited across the desert frontier that loosely divides Syria and Iraq — the same area that the Islamic State now occupies.

It was conceded in 2013 that Syria indeed had stockpiled chemical weapons — leading to the “red line” Barack Obama painted before saying he wasn’t serious about it. One of those line-crossers was Vladimir Putin, who assured us Syria’s chemical arsenal would be destroyed after being transferred to the UN. But less than a year later, we learned that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad may have pulled a fast one regarding those WMDs. And now we have reason to conclude that the rump Islamic State has acquired some amount of them to use in its effort to create a caliphate.

One shell does not a chemical warfare campaign make, but it adds another factor of risk for the thousands of American “boots on the ground” Obama promised wouldn’t need to be involved. And if military strategists have their way, another 500 troops will be sent in the next few weeks to assist in liberating the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, a battle that Iraqi leaders vowed would be fought before the end of the year. (By the way, why is it that we so often telegraph our military strategy to the enemy?) Naturally, the staging area for the Mosul attack, the Qayyarah airbase, is a convenient distance from a chemical factory that some worry may be intentionally destroyed by the Islamic State to kill anyone unfortunate enough to be downwind — in particular, American troops. (And remember, they weren’t supposed to be in Iraq anyway because the threat from radical Islam ended when U.S. Navy Seals dispatched Osama bin Laden — at least that’s what Obama would have us believe. Why else would Hillary Clinton have promised, “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops into Syria”?)

So with the belief that the threat from radical Islam has been magically minimized by those troops that aren’t supposed to be there, the Obama administration is now free in its waning days to deploy our military against an even graver threat: climate change.

Indeed, the idea to “prioritize climate threats” will now be a greater part of our overarching military strategy — because killing people and breaking things is so 1980s, we must instead use our military for social experimentation and fixing the climate.

In a nutshell, we have a commander in chief who cavalierly sends soldiers to the battlefield without a clear definition of victory or realistic rules of engagement, regards military strategy as an unnecessary evil, and doesn’t mind leaving erstwhile allies in the lurch because Mother Earth may or may not be one degree Celsius hotter at some unspecified time in the future. We’ve come a long way from the days of peace through strength.

Update, Sept. 28: USA Today now reports that the round fired at U.S. troops did not contain mustard gas, contrary to military reports at the time our story was written. Still, our larger points remain valid.

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