Was Stephen Colbert Santorum’s source? That’s the only explanation I can think of as to why the right-wing lapdog media we keep hearing so much about would bury a story about chemical shells in Iraq.

Moran, god bless ‘im, considers another theory:

To be sure, the MSM at least gives the appearance that it is taking no chances that this story will change anyone’s mind on the war or on the President. One would think that a Senator reading from a declassified report on the Senate floor that our forces found 500 artillery shells containing deadly chemicals might be considered in some quarters to be news. The New York Times doesn’t even mention it. And even more curiously, the Washington Post buried the story by their national security correspondent Dafna Linzer on Page 10 (I wonder when the last time Linzer had his byline buried that deep in the paper?).

Patterico reports that the blackout stretches from coast to coast. Quite a power outage.

Moran and Patterico both fall into the good-but-not-earthshaking-news camp, as does Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee, who does the math and argues that this accounts for the last of the weapons we knew about. Any further new discoveries, says Bob, would constitute undeclared armaments. I’m in their camp too, for reasons best expressed by Crank:

George W. Bush has lost the public debate over the pre-war state of Saddam’s arsenal of non-conventional weapons. He lost that debate partly because, yes, the nature of the threat was not as Bush and others depicted it – some of the intelligence (even intelligence on which there was a broad international consensus) was faulty, and some of the specific cases in which the Administration made judgment calls to assume the worst turned out not to be as bad as all that. And he lost the debate partly because Bush has always taken the view that the most important thing since 2003 has been to move forward rather than wallow in the original decision, which after all can no longer be changed. I would argue that that has been a huge mistake – Bush’s opponents have understood far better than he that controlling the past gives you power over the future.

Without minimizing the importance of taking lethal weapons (if in fact they are still lethal) out of the hands of jihadis, the excitement over Santorum’s announcement is, of course, all about justifying the war. But the impact there, as Moran says, is negligible. Righties support the war because of its potential for grand-scale social reform of the Middle East; lefties oppose it because it’s a projection of American power the success of which would bolster conservative prestige and foreign-policy hawkishness. WMDs are just a gotcha at this point; take away their gotcha and they’ll shift to a moral calculus of “how many American soldiers’ lives are worth 500 shells?” Or 5,000 shells, or pick a number.

Geraghty anticipates that and tries to pin them down to a number:

How much has to be found before a war opponent will say, “Okay, this clearly was a potential threat to the United States and its allies, and we did have to take some action”? I can see how some would say that 500 shells isn’t enough. But some amount is enough, and I’d like the anti-war folks to give us a sense of how much is enough by their criteria. If they say that no amount of WMDs could justify the invasion, then we know where they stand.

Of course that’s what they’ll say. Because even if you found nuclear weapons, the moral calculus would just shift again to “How much goodwill have we lost to find those nukes? How many people will die in a nuclear attack perpetrated by terrorists we helped create by invading Iraq?” You can play this game forever. And they will.

I shouldn’t say WMDs are “just a gotcha” to them. They’re the gotcha, the piece of cheese upon which grew the nutroots mold. Says Captain Ed:

Despite the lack of interest at most of the major media centers, this story is not over. We know more than we have already stated, and when the entire story comes out, those who built their war policy on the sands of “no-WMD, Bush-lied” may find themselves sinking quickly.

Finding WMDs won’t change their anti-war disposition but it might make them scream and cry like a three-year-old whose favorite blanket was taken away. Reason enough to feel a little excitement, I suppose.