In this case, the surprise isn’t the data but the source. Wikileaks’ new release from purloined files of the Department of Defense may help remind people that, contrary to popular opinion and media memes, the US did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and in significant quantities. While the invasion of Iraq didn’t find huge stockpiles of new WMDs, it did uncover stockpiles that the UN had demanded destroyed as a condition of the 1991 truce that Saddam Hussein abrogated for twelve years (via Instapundit):
An initial glance at the WikiLeaks war logs doesn’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime — the Bush administration’s most (in)famous rationale for invading Iraq. But chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.
In August 2004, for instance, American forces surreptitiously purchased what they believed to be containers of liquid sulfur mustard, a toxic “blister agent” used as a chemical weapon since World War I. The troops tested the liquid, and “reported two positive results for blister.” The chemical was then “triple-sealed and transported to a secure site” outside their base. …
Nearly three years later, American troops were still finding WMD in the region. An armored Buffalo vehicle unearthed a cache of artillery shells “that was covered by sacks and leaves under an Iraqi Community Watch checkpoint. “The 155mm rounds are filled with an unknown liquid, and several of which are leaking a black tar-like substance.” Initial tests were inconclusive. But later, “the rounds tested positive for mustard.”
Some of these discoveries have been known for years. To the extent that the media covered these at all, these finds were generally treated as long-forgotten leftovers that somehow never got addressed by the Iraqi military in twelve years of UN inspections. That, however, disregards completely the kind of totalitarian state that Hussein had imposed on Iraq, up to the minute that circumstances forced him into his spider hole in 2003. Had Saddam Hussein wanted those weapons destroyed, no lower-ranking military officer would have dared defy him by keeping them hidden. It would have taken dozens of officers to conspire to move and hide those weapons, as well as a like number of enlisted men, any and all of whom could have been a spy for the Hussein clique.
That would have had to have happened a number of times, not just once, organically arising in the ranks. And why create a vast conspiracy of defiance to save the weapons that Saddam Hussein liked the most while Hussein himself complied with the UN? Why not a conspiracy to just remove Hussein and his sons and let the military run the country instead? Obviously, Hussein wanted to keep enough WMDs to use as terror weapons, not against the US, but against Iran in the event of an invasion from the east.
This isn’t exactly vindication of one of the arguments the Bush administration gave for invading Iraq, which was that Hussein had already begun stockpiling new WMDs and was working on nuclear weapons, but it is another vindication of the primary reason for restarting the war: Hussein and Iraq had violated the truce and refused to comply even after 17 UN resolutions demanding compliance. Hussein never had any intention of abiding by the truce, for whatever motivations one wants to assign to him. After the invasion, the US proved (through an armed-version of Wikileaks in Iraq’s diplomatic files) that the UN had allowed Hussein to grab billions in personal wealth by perverting the embargo in the Oil-for-Food Program, which would have given Hussein the means to fuel another WMD program as soon as the West withdrew from Iraq, and to restart Hussein’s dreams of pan-Arab dominance through military adventurism. In the end, there were no good options.