O'Reilly falsely claimed Iraq had ricin

When a caller to FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly's October 19 radio show suggested that alleged weapons of mass destruction were not the Bush administration's true motivation for the invasion of Iraq, O'Reilly defended the Iraq war by claiming: “They did have ricin up there in the north -- so why are you discounting that so much?”

In fact, the recently released Duelfer Report (the final report of the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG), led by Charles A. Duelfer, which conducted the search for weapons in Iraq following the invasion) indicates that Iraq did not have ricin. In a section on ricin, the complete report (long pdf) stated: “ISG developed no definitive information with which to confirm reports of post-war [first Gulf War] production.”

The ISG found only that Iraqi scientists conducted research “until the mid-1990s” whose “aim was probably the development of poisons, including ricin,” according to the report's "Key Findings." That document explained that Iraqi intelligence had maintained laboratories used for research into “assassination instruments” designed “to eliminate or debilitate the Regime's opponents.” But the document noted: “There is no evidence to link these tests with the development of BW [biological warfare] agents for military use.”

O'Reilly's claim that Iraq had ricin “up there in the north” indicates that he is probably conflating the above finding by the ISG with Vice President Dick Cheney's claim in the vice presidential debate that, before the invasion, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Khurmal [in northern Iraq], where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.”

But as Media Matters for America has previously explained, Zarqawi allegedly worked with Ansar al-Islam, which operated in a Kurdish-dominated region of northern Iraq that was outside Hussein's control. Khurmal is located in this region (this map from GlobalSecurity.org shows the boundaries of Hussein's control prior to the war, and this detailed map of Kurdistan shows that Khurmal, spelled “Xurmal”, falls within the formerly Kurdish-controlled region).