I have written several times about the issue of the mobile laboratories in Iraq and the subsequent conventional wisdom that they served as hydrogen generators for weather balloons instead of WMD production facilities. In April, I pointed out that the hydrogen theory came as a minority opinion within the CIA/DIA teams that reviewed the two labs captured by the Coalition. One month later, Joseph Shahda translated a key memo showing that the Iraqis spent $33 million on the mobile labs in September 2002, while America decided to take military action against the Iraqis, and that the same agency that controlled Iraq’s WMD programs (the Military Industrialization Committee) arranged to purchase these facilities.
One key point (besides the memo) that undermines the argument for a civil hydrogen production facility is the ease in which the Iraqis could already produce and store hydrogen. Oil refining creates hydrogen in fairly large quantities as a normal byproduct. If the Iraqis wanted hydrogen for weather balloons, they could have simply pumped it into tanks and used normal trucks to transport it where needed. Now we have another argument against the hydrogen production explanation.
A CQ reader with a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Minnesota and with over sixteen years of experience in weapons and materiel laboratory work in the military has written a paper on why the hydrogen lab explanation cannot possibly explain the existence and the engineering of these mobile laboratories. Preferring anonymity for professional reasons, “ChemicalConsultant” has allowed me access to a condensed version of an analysis that he has sent to Joby Warrick at the Washington Post, Reps. Curt Weldon and Jane Harman, and former CIA director John Deutsch, now at MIT — none of whom have responded to ChemicalConsultant or addressed these concerns.An additional installment in this series will be posted at Captain’s Quarters tomorrow.