Iraqi Chemical Weapons Found…at the UN? Don’t Panic!

Hey, we found the Iraqi WMD’s. They were being stored at the UN! I am sure it will be all over the news by tonight, but it is astonishing how fast the press was all over what really amounts to an act of stupidity, and most certainly not a large public hazard. Sure, one can’t even begin to fathom how disorganized the UN must be to actually lose track of vials that contain chemical weapons (even small amounts), but do a few handful of containers with dangerous chemicals that have been stored in a cabinet for over a decade deserve to be a headline story?

The details are not completely clear yet, but it appears as if there were only a few containers of which, at least one contained liquid phosgene. The UN staff learned of the vials on Friday while they were cleaning out storage cabinets, but it took them until Wednesday to figure out what they were, report them and get them out of the building. These containers have been around since 1996 and are not an imminent threat to public safety because of the small amount of agent reported to be in question.

So we are left with the bizarre fact that someone thought it would be OK to store them in a cabinet at the UN and then somehow they lost track of them. It’s embarrassing to the UN, for sure. Fodder for the Tonight Show monologue? Absolutely. The point should be made that chemicals far more dangerous than a few vials of phosgene (or whatever other chemical weapon they contained) are trucked in and out of cities and stored in large quantities every day. It is the aura of their previous purpose that the press finds sexy, not the true threat. Perhaps it is the culture of fear and panic that we have cultivated in the US that I abhor, but I would much rather spend my time avoiding stories about Lindsey and Paris than another over-hyped story about terrorism or media-perceived danger to the citizenry.

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No Responses to “Iraqi Chemical Weapons Found…at the UN? Don’t Panic!”

  1. Page September 1, 2007 at 6:31 pm #

    Savage and savory statement on the state of the media in the US! Great post.

    I’m an American expat living in Amsterdam, so I don’t see any of the US news channels unless I visit the US.

    We were in the US for all of August, so we had a chance to watch some CNN, MSNBC, and FOX (that last one is just for sheer entertainment and humor value), plus the major national networks.

    What was absolutely stunning was how similar all three are now. I couldn’t get over it. They’re all terrible, with some exceptions (CNN specials can be decent).

    Dutch media definitely has its problems, but it almost never goes overboard like the US media when it comes to The War on Terrah(tm), etc.

    I’m a chemist, so I do understand and agree with:

    The point should be made that chemicals far more dangerous than a few vials of phosgene (or whatever other chemical weapon they contained) are trucked in and out of cities and stored in large quantities every day.

    Chlorine, anyone?

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