You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

June 22, 2006

Today Is The Day My Head Finally Explodes

Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Coma) sez:

Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons...Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.


The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq. It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.

You know, at this point any American who scoffs at Iran for electing a Holocaust-denying president has no basis for being smug. Because this is exactly the same level of nuts. It's one thing for weirdos with websites to talk like this, but it's really something else when prominent politicians jump into the pool of crazy.

For anyone who's confused by this, here's an explanation:

• Between 1981 and 1991, Iraq produced almost 4,000 tons of chemical weapons agent, which they used to fill perhaps 130,000 munitions. This is obviously a gigantic amount, much of which they expended in their war with Iran as well as against Iraqis. (For more details, see here.)
• After the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq was required to turn over all remaining chemical weapons to U.N. inspectors for destruction. UNSCOM received and destroyed 690 tons worth, as well as 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals.
• UNSCOM determined Iraq hadn't turned over everything it has produced during the eighties. Iraq claimed it had secretly destroyed everything unaccounted for in 1991.
• Essentially everything Iraq produced during the eighties was of low quality and decayed within a few years to near-harmlessness

That's where things stood when we invaded Iraq. I bet someone $1000 that Iraq hadn't intentionally kept anything. However, I assumed there would still be shells scattered all over Iraq that the Saddam regime had lost track of, so that was built into the terms of the bet.

Why did I assume this? BECAUSE IT WAS SO FREAKING OBVIOUS. Governments, as you may have noticed, don't do everything perfectly. According to its inspector general, the Defense Department can't account for $1 trillion in spending. The Army can't find 56 airplanes and 32 tanks.

But not just that: we're still finding misplaced chemical munitions in America from WORLD WAR I. In fact, some were discovered in a fancy Washington, D.C. subdivision in 1993. And these were never even USED in the U.S.—imagine how frequently we'd find them if we'd actually fought battles with them on American soil.

Was this evidence America was secretly hiding a chemical weapons arsenal? The answer is no.

Likewise, I assume people will still be finding decayed chemical weapons in Iraq fifty years from now. The question was whether the Saddam regime actually had an arsenal it was aware of. The CIA's Duelfer report spent $1 billion to confirm that Iraq had been telling the truth when it said it had nothing from 1991 onwards. So, the answer is no.

But that doesn't matter. Rick Santorum, like all Holocaust deniers, Will. Never. Give. Up.

Posted at June 22, 2006 08:30 AM | TrackBack

And, as you say, even if Saddam had known where they were, so what? There wasn't any functional chemical agent in there, so it could hardly be termed a chemical munition.

Posted by: saurabh at June 22, 2006 09:23 AM

And since when do ancient artillery shells containing mostly inert substances qualify as weapons of MASS DESTRUCTION?

Heckuva mushroom cloud you've got there, Ricky.

Posted by: Sid The Fish at June 22, 2006 09:54 AM

even if Saddam had known where they were, so what?

That's what I particularly like about this -- the idea that Saddam was willing to risk war for his secret stash of formaldahyde. As one of the old UNSCOM inspectors said somewhere, "it couldn't kill anyone by this point, although I still wouldn't recommend that you drink it."

Heckuva mushroom cloud you've got there, Ricky.

It truly makes me want to send money to Bob Casey.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 22, 2006 10:01 AM

WAIT! You mean Sanatorum DIDN'T find "over 25,000 liters of anthrax, more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas, and VX nerve agents, about 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical weapons and several mobile biological weapons laboratories designed to produce germ warfare agents" that the White House claimed was in Iraq in a DoD Memo?

Posted by: WMD Fairy at June 22, 2006 10:26 AM

Come on now and just settle down. STUTTS(!) taught ya better. This is just a speed bump on the political highway. Do you expect Santorum to always be right? I think not.

Just calm down and relax. I recommend Valium®. Works for me. I just hate head explosions.

Posted by: spiiderweb at June 22, 2006 10:54 AM

How can someone like Santorum be elected to office? Have any of you been watching the roll of stupid and/or just plain crazy U.S. Congressmen who have been appearing lately on the The Daily Show?

Is our country off its rocker?

Posted by: blondie at June 22, 2006 03:06 PM

What will be the next big Santorum announcement?

*An aged Pancho Villa has draped a giant Mexican flag over Mount Rushmore

*Cindy Sheehan reveals that she is carrying Hugo Chavez’s love child

*Pentagon discovers method for weaponizing Pat Buchanan’s drink-powered legs

*Ted Steven’s bridge to nowhere actually a portal to John Malkovich

Vote here

Posted by: urthwalker at June 22, 2006 03:22 PM

"Is our country off its rocker?"


Posted by: Susan at June 22, 2006 06:19 PM

Oh crap: in two weeks I'm staying at a farm/guesthouse in Belgium where they still regularly find WWI artifacts. If Santorum/Hoekstra find out about these weapons of mass destruction, the US will invade and ruin my vacation.

Posted by: Whistler Blue at June 22, 2006 06:43 PM

Wait, you made it this far without you head exploding? I'm impressed.

Posted by: The Jaded Dog at June 22, 2006 07:28 PM

Jon -

Given your former nickname, I'm curious to know just what exploded. If, in fact, just your head, you won't miss it.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at June 22, 2006 07:59 PM

This is more of the up is down syndrome that has held sway ever since Bush became president.

In a speech today Bush said "Green Martians landed in Baghdad today after kidnapping the Loch Ness monster that was in an arm wrestling match with Bigfoot, this is clearly a threat to our national security."

Shortly there after the republican Senate concurred and are now writing legislation to change the constitution to prevent any Loch Ness monsters from marrying Big Foots.

This is the little game that has led to so much trouble. George Bush makes an extraordinary claim requiring immediate action unless we want a mushroom cloud over the Land of Oz which is quickly followed by his rubber stamping pals in the republican held congress.

This is the republican way. It always has been and always will be. The theory behind this type of government is never questioning your leader even if he tells you green Martians have landed in Baghdad. Always follow the leader and keep that rubber stamp well inked.

Here is a very good post by Paul Begala, check it out it is worth a read.

The fact is the American people want a new direction in Iraq, and the Democrats offer several. The Republicans, on the other hand, offer nothing more than a four-word strategy: more of the same.

Democrats should seize this moment to attack the rubber-stamp Republicans for their lemming-like devotion to a failed strategy and a set of incompetent and dishonest leaders. Republicans have a faith-based Iraq policy. They have faith in Donald Rumsfeld, they have faith in Dick Cheney, they have faith in George W. Bush. We don't. They are liars and nincompoops - “ and the lives of tens of thousands of our best are in their hands.

Every time the GOP says "cut and run," Democrats should say, "rubber stamp." Every time they say we're weak, we should say real strength is standing up to your president and your party when American lives are on the line. When they attack our patriotism, we should challenge them to sign their kids up for the military: "Since when did the sons and daughters of working people corner the market on patriotism, Senator? If this war is so wonderful, so noble, so vital, why the hell is your son throwing up on his date at Ivy League frat parties?"

Posted by: rob payne at June 22, 2006 08:10 PM

i've always wondered... lets assume for the sake of argument, hussein had a huge aresenal of usable, dangerous weapons of mass destruction. (i don't believe this, but humor me.) if he doesn't use them to defend himself whilst being attacked in a campaign of "shock and awe," just how much of a threat could they possibly be to americans or anyone else? what- was he saving them for a rainy day?

Posted by: em at June 22, 2006 10:32 PM

Nicely done, Jon.

Did your associate ever pay up, or is the bet still in limbo until Syria is thorougly searched?

Posted by: oyster at June 22, 2006 11:28 PM

Contrary to your suggestion, no decayed chemical weapons will be uncovered in 50 years because it will all be corroded by the radioactive waste the US military has been using in Iraq since 1991 under the pseudonym "depleted uranium." Just a matter of semantics, I guess.

Posted by: americanintifada at June 23, 2006 12:09 AM


Santorum was elected because he serves suburban Philadelphian interests. Pennsylvania essentially consists of two metropolitan areas and the suburban corridors that serve them. The Philadelphia area has been historically tied into the NE trade corridor and its left leaning cities. Pittsburg is more tied into neighboring Ohio and the corrupt political institutions there of.

Not to say that Philadelphia politics at the local level is not extremely corrupt. The tensions between the Philly suburbs and the city proper have been legend. Santorum's election represents the attempt of suburban Philly elites to seize control from the local urbanites and create an emergent republican power base that could potentially seize back control of the city from its legacy democratic leadership. They look to the Bloomberg/Rudy model and weave happy fantasies. The Philadelphia mayor took the governor's seat, while the republican suburbanites got the senate seat.

The disaster that is Santorum represents the latest play in the game for local control. Local corrupted dems vs imported corrupted republicans. Sort of seems like a cats for rats solution, problem is that it turns out its just rats of a different color.

Also there were some very Pro-war lobbying backers in the Philadelphia region toward whom Santorum's service in support of President Bush have been very apprecited. These interests are now split due to the reality of the failures of this policy and the immobilization of a key extra-national figure who had unified these interests.

Santorum does not represent the historical tradions of Ben Franklin, rather Spectre for all his flaws is viewed locally as that type of senator. Santorum is sort a new way candidate, where as Arlen is sort of the historical traditional candidate.

However thanks to Atrios and others the progressive popular base of the NE corridor is coming back to life. Santorum is vulnerable because he is the "new way" candidate, sort of the latest test of the waters, where as Spectre is solidly entrenched and will die in office if he so chooses. He unlike Lieberman has real establishment roots which are completely un-uprootable, and for many reasons it is to EVERYONE'S advantage that they never be.

Posted by: patience at June 23, 2006 12:14 AM

I like it! First use "WMD" to conflate chemical weapons with nukes. Then use it to conflate old chemical weapons with usable ones. Soon, Fluffer Nutters will be included as well. Which makes sense. Whipped Toppings of Mass Deliciousness.

Posted by: hedgehog at June 23, 2006 06:42 AM


Yes, my bet opponent paid up, to his great credit. (The clock ran out a year from the date of the invasion.) I need to figure out the best Iraqi charity to give it to, because if I keep it I will surely go to hell.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 23, 2006 06:47 AM

Bush culture politics is founded on the maxim that it doesn't have to be true, it merely has to be spreadable. Which is the maxim of gossip columnists. Santorum's ridiculous claims have succeeded in their one goal -- of being spread.

So it is interesting to check out the diffusers. Slate, for instance, is celebrating its ten years as a 'liberal' webzine this week. It is pretty hilarious that Slate thinks its a liberal webzine in the first place. Slate's cyberchatter person is always up to spreading Instaborg memes, and he's done a manly job of spreading the Santorum crap. See the empty headedness here:

One of the characteristics of the Dems is that they don't understand the elements of spreading. Perhaps this is the result of years of congressional compromises and a culture of process -- a way of turning progressive ideas into complete mush. For example: Suskind's book should, naturally, give the Dem's leaway to do something they have omitted doing for five years: attack Bush on 9/11 itself. 9/11 was not an unforeseeable disaster that happened on Bush's watch, but a foreseeable disaster that Bush was too lazy and out of the loop to care about. This is eminently spreadable stuff.

Yet they will never do it - they are much too afraid of what would come down if they bring Bush down on this issue. The dems as well as the republicans made a conscious effort, post 9/11, to build Bush's response up as 'presidential' - because their loyalty is invested much more in the whole ridiculous insider system in D.C., with its idolatry of the executive, its deals, its system for shuffling mediocraties from politics to lobbying to politics; while Republicans are sustained by business that, ultimately, has an independent social place outside of politics.

It used to be that unions played that role for the Dems, but the unions are disappearing, and politics itself is the only thing Dems know. Hence, they can't attack with the ferocity of the Republicans, being crippled by their desire to preserve a system in which they seek to advance.

Posted by: roger at June 23, 2006 12:50 PM

rob payne,

Instead of relatively limp rhetorical bleating, as you advocate, why don't Democrats stick to making strong statements based on the glaringly obvious? If Kerry hadn't spent the last election searching for the best pithy slogan to wear on his forehead and had instead pointed out how astoundingly wrong Bush was about the war, as Jon has done here and does on a regular basis, then things might have been a little different today. But Democrats seem to have a pathological opposition towards definitive statements. Why is that? I assert it's because they're weak and cowardly, exactly as the Republicans claim. Unfit to lead.

Also, what, exactly, is the new direction(s) offered by Democrats? Other than "Let's leave," I haven't heard much of substance.

Posted by: saurabh at June 23, 2006 05:59 PM


Did you even go read the link I provided? Who the hell is advocating weak bleating? What I am suggesting is that the democrats need to be aggressive and stop letting the republicans define them as weak, I have said this many times. I have said the same thing about Kerry as you have. Why are you asking me what is the new direction of the democrats, go to over to the Working for Change website and start reading what David Sirota has to say, he has discussed the new plan which does not even mention Iraq, something I have been very critical of. It seems to me you are making a lot of assumptions or you don't bother to read posts carefully which you really ought to do before you make false accusations.

Posted by: rob payne at June 24, 2006 01:51 AM

Saurabh, are you insinutating Murtha is a coward and unfit to lead? Here is a quote from Mark Twain you might enjoy.

"His ingorance covers the world like a blanket and there is scarcely a hole in it anywhere."

Posted by: rob payne at June 24, 2006 02:59 AM

Or here is one by Groucho Marx you may enjoy as well.

He may look like and idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you, he really is an idiot"

Posted by: rob payne at June 24, 2006 03:02 AM

Thelma and Louise stayed the course also.

Posted by: notokbyme at June 24, 2006 12:36 PM

I read the column. When your opponent says "You're weak," and you respond with "I'm not weak! I'm strong!", that's weak bleating. That's reactive and shows lack of any insight or ability.

I'm not saying Murtha is a coward - no need to bring in his bullet-dodging history to demonstrate me wrong. I'm calling the Democrats institutional cowards. They've elected never to confront Bush directly on what a lying bastard he is, preferring instead, bizarrely, to insist that he makes bad POLICY decisions, while they would make better ones - offering up no evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: saurabh at June 25, 2006 10:36 AM


As intstitutional cowards they have been unfit to lead and you will get no argument from me on that point. But it has always been a choice between the lesser of two evils in elections which is not what I am advocating just observing. I would say I am just as disgusted with their performance as you have been. As I have said many times the republicans have been defining the democrats for years and the news media has been doing the same going along for the ride. What I liked about the column was the jist of it which is the democrats need to fight back. The DLC is advocating that democrats should not discuss or debate a time table for pulling the troops out of Iraq which I view as a real losing strategy by the DLC. There are a few democrats who are breaking away from the DLC whos poilicies have promoted this cowardice. I dislike the DLC who I see as watered down republicans and I also would like to see the democrats fight back in much stronger terms but the main point is they need to shake off the past that has been ruled by the DLC and start standing up for what is right. I am sure we can find points in any column to pick apart but I thought Belaga had the right idea.

Posted by: rob payne at June 25, 2006 12:42 PM


Allow me to quote : "The lesser of two evils — is evil."

Actually, I'm not convinced the Democrats are in fact the lesser evil, or even a different evil. It isn't just Kerry that let down the antiwar Dems — the entire Democratic field in '04 was pro-war, except Dennis Kucinich (I purposely include Howard Dean; pro-occupation = pro-war, logic admits nothing else), and Hillary wants to bomb Iran worse than Bush himself. The reason Democrats don't speak out against the war isn't because they're weak or indecisive; it's because they want the kind of "unitary executive" power that Bush currently enjoys. Their only weakness is the moral and political cowardice which prevents them from saying so outright, trying desperately to lure the antiwar voters into their camp so they can screw them over — again. (LBJ, anyone?)

Posted by: Serving Truth at June 26, 2006 07:17 PM

Serving the truth,

If all that mattered was the propensity of presidents to participate in war making I could agree somewhat but there are many other aspects that come into play. First you have the supreme courts which can have a huge impact on our lives. Democrats tend to appoint people who do far less damage than the republican appointees. Then there are is social security and privatization and deregulation where I think democrats do better than their republican counterparts. And this does not even begin to get into domestic spying and the perversion of the constitution and bill of rights as in the torture now taking place in Gitmo and other places.

Also the corruption that we have seen under this republican held congress far exceeds anything we have seen when the democrats held the majority there is really no comparison on that count. There has always been corruption but think of Abramoff and the rest and none of it has changed the same type of corruption is taking place because lobby reform is a joke.

So I think, yes, it is a matter of degree and under this administration who lied about going to war, left the people of New Orleans swinging in the wind, promoted the corruption in congress, tried to destroy social security, public schools, insulted every country in the world, ignored national security, increased pollution, ignores global warming, is threatening to use nuclear bombs, it is difficult for me to see how you can really say the democrats are as bad as the republicans.

Posted by: rob payne at June 27, 2006 02:23 AM