Sunday, June 25, 2006

Curt's Excellent Adventure

It's aftermath time on Rick Santorum's WMD claims regarding Iraq and also time to introduce a new player in the drama -- Curt Weldon.

For starters, though the Santorum claims are being poo-pooed by defense experts, etc., Pennsylvania's U.S. Senator is sticking by his guns. Or, rather, his shells.

As my colleague Chris Mondics reported today. An excerpt:

Santorum insisted that a just-released intelligence report proves that Saddam Hussein had weapons that in the hands of terrorists could have become weapons of mass destruction.

The partially declassified report, put together by a Defense Department agency, revealed that American forces have recovered about 500 rounds of chemical-weapons shells containing "degraded" mustard or sarin nerve gas in Iraq.

"Is 500 rounds a serious threat?" Santorum asked. "I would make the argument that we had reached the threshold. The concern with chemical and biological weapons was not so much that he would use them against us but that they would secrete out to terrorist organizations for them to use."

What does "degraded" mean? Apparently it means inert. The 500 rounds have been sitting around for so long -- perhaps as long as 25 years -- they don't pack any pop.

Santorum aside, there are folks who believe there are still uncovered WMD's in Iraq. The New York Times Times had a piece on one such guy the other day.

His name is Dave Gaubatz, a former Air Force investigator and civilian employee who spent several months in Iraq during the recent (and continuing) war.

Gaubatz has been searching out sites of possible WMD's and offering his information to various elected officials, in the hope of getting a hearing. One of them was our own U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.)

I found Gaubatz's web site and, sure enough, he tells his story there -- though it is clear that he currently is no fan of Weldon's, whom he came to suspect was interested in the the guy's WMD info only for political reasons.

He also says that, at one point, Weldon wanted to travel to Iraq with Gaubatz to personally uncover the sites (and, presumably, bask in the attendant publicity -- if he didn't get killed or beheaded first.)

As Gaubatz relates the tale:

On 16 Mar 2006, I had a meeting with Congressman Weldon and his Chief of Staff (Russ Caso) in Wshington DC.
Congressman Weldon did not want anyone in DOD or the NRO to be notifed, because in his words he did not trust them and they would attempt to take credit for locating WMD in Iraq.

Congressman Weldon advised he would go through private corporations to confirm the grid coordinates of the sites.

Toward the end of Mar 2006, I was contacted by a private imaging company (arranged by Congressman Weldon) and we discussed the site locations.

Several telephone conferences and emails between Congressman Wedlon, Hoekstra, and their staff were exchanged during the period Mar - May 5, 2006, pertaining to the WMD sites.

I had been requested by Congressman Weldon (who had telephoned me at home and work) to arrange a meeting with 3 Iraqi citizens who were aware of one of the WMD sites in Basra, Iraq.

On 4 May 2006, Congressman Weldon, Congressman Hoekstra, members of their staff, the three Iraqi citizens, and myself discussed the suspected sites in detail.

Congressman Weldon asked me several times during the meeting if I would go with them (to include the 3 Iraqis) to the four sites near Basrah and Nasiriyah, Iraq.

During the meeting it was discussed that no member of their respective committees would be informed, specifically no member of the Democratic party.

Congressman Weldon whom I had respected very much then advised no member of the "Military" was to be informed because they could not be trusted with this intelligence information.

Congressman Hoekstra did not like this statement, nor did I.

I now did not feel comfortable going with Congressman Weldon because this was going to be a 'political personal venture" more so than for national security concerns.

It would also not be safe for two Congressmen to go to isolated locations in southern Iraq.

So, let's add it up:

Don't tell the Democrats.
Don't tell anyone in the intelligence community.
Don't tell the Department of Defense.
Don't tell the military on the ground in Iraq.
Just go and look for the WMD's Gaubatz believes he has located, dig 'em up and do a photo op.

Sounds like shameless grandstanding to me, in a war zone no less.
Sounds like it's kinda whacky, too.
Sounds like typical Weldon. Posted by Picasa


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This needs to be published as a column. Weldon gets a free ride in the Delco Times and the other Journal Register newspapers in the 7th District, and it appears that his barking after your columns earlier this spring has scared off the Inquirer, too.

It's time to remind readers in the 7th that Curt is completely off his rocker.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous mikel said...

Maybe, if we're lucky, Weldon and Santorum can go off hand in hand to Iraq next January, after they're out of office. Then they can play in the sand all they want and maybe find a shell marked "property of the British Empire, 1917." Then they can blame English terrorists for the mid-East problems.

3:49 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

How is it that this guy gets re-elected all the time? I don't live in his district, but if I did I wouldn't vote for him for anything.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I moved out of Delco to Chester county because of whack jobs like him and the sheep that continually vote him into office. The republican party have lost their collective minds.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Fran said...

Sort of a different take here.

While it's probably true that there was some element of prospective grandstanding here, I want to add two things:

a.) I think this guy really, really wants to be the subject of a Grisham novel;

b.) Part of me likes the f- them, we're doing this no questions asked style. There's a lot of opportunity to be had in not getting lost in the details of permission and such. 'Tis easier to ask for forgivness than permission.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two comments:

-- First to Fran: not getting lost in permission is one thing. Grandstanding for votes is another, and that's what this was, plain and simple.

-- And to Tom: This is a much better column than the watered-down version that ran in today's paper. And it just confirms my hunch that the editors at the Inquirer are scared shitless of Weldon.

7:52 AM  
Blogger rasphila said...

Anonymous is being a little unfair here. The column covered slightly different ground than the blog posting, for one thing—it included material on Rep. Hoekstra's role and did not quote directly from the Gaubatz web site. The column is slightly shorter but actually covers more ground than the blog posting. I think it is a better piece of writing, which should be no surprise because blog postings aren't usually as tightly-edited as columns written for print.

As to the suggestion that the Inquirer editors are frightened of Weldon: It's entirely possible that this is so, but I don't think today's print column proves it. Weldon doesn't exactly come out looking sensible in the column, especially since Rep. Hoekstra makes it very clear that he never considered joining Weldon on the trip.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy Weldon is out of his mind. I saw him interviewed the other night (I'm from NJ and just don't know much about him) where he was barking at a guy from the NY Times about the recent disclosure of the banking system surveillance. If it was up to guys like Weldon they would withdraw the 1st amendment. The press is the only thing that has kept this country from being taken over by lunatics like this guy for the last 200 years. This guy and all of his bullying neocon friends should be run out of the country for treason. The America that we all grew up with is being destroyed under their watch, much faster than a few crazy terrorists could ever destroy it.

12:15 AM  

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