Troubling News

I was planning my next post to concern the world of sports, but I’ll have to put that off until later this week. This is because I just read this very disturbing report from the New York Times. The headline alone is frightening enough: Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq.

The report goes on to explain that at some point soon after the invasion, a large weapons depot loaded with over 300 tons of explosives of the type HMX and RDX (which, according to the article, “could produce bombs strong enough to shatter airplanes or tear apart buildings”) was looted. This was due in part to the fact that “the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a ‘medium priority’ site on the Central Intelligence Agency’s list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion,” even though “The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured.” The paper says that Condoleezza Rice– our national security adviser— has only recently been informed of this. Terrorists have had almost a year to acquire, study, and plan attacks with tons of powerful explosives, and the person charged with advising the President on national security issues heard about this only a month ago?!?

How could things have gone so badly? Why do they continue to go badly? And why haven’t heads rolled?

Troubling news, indeed…



  1. Is not this proof that a bombastic, single-focused War on Terror ™, is not actually making us any safer?
    No-one has argued in this forum that there should be no effort to eradicate these fanatics, but is The Bush Way the only way? Is there a better way, and is that The Kerry Way (win in Iraq, confront Korea, tighten the borders, do something about old Soviet nuclear material)?


  2. Well, I think it’s proof of a lot of things. First and foremost, it shows (again!) how utterly bad the planning was. Actually, it shows that no one did any real post-war planning at all. It also shows (again!) that Rumsfeld was wrong about doing the war “on the cheap.” I agreed with him when he argued in the early months of the administration for a faster, more mobile military. That sort of thing works well at repelling invasions, or even at invading countries. It does not work well at occupying countries.

    This should be clear to everyone, but alas our highest-ranking officials– from the President on down– refuse to accept this.


  3. Look at you two in here wringing your hands together.

    Might it also point to the possibility that if the UN was controlled by parties with vindictive anti-American interests, and hadn’t run away at the first sign of difficulty, that the burden of occupation might have been equitably distributed?

    I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to measure the full costs of the adolescent intransigence of the Franco-German axis.


  4. Oh, and if anyone inside of this post missed the separate one above–THE REPORT IS AN ABSOLUTE FRAUD.

    The explosives were not there–as confirmed by NBC who had an embedded reporter with the division that first entered the site on April 11, 2003. Even if there were 500,000 US soldiers in the vicinity, they never had a chance to secure the site, the weapons were gone before they ever got there.


  5. “Absolute fraud”? That’s a bit of a stretch, no? (Even if you put it in all-caps!)

    According to NBC’s website, this is the story from the reporter who was there:

    “Reporter Lai Ling Jew, who was embedded with the Army’s 101st Airborne, Second Brigade, said Tuesday on MSNBC TV that the news team stayed at the Al-Qaqaa base for about 24 hours.

    “‘There wasn’t a search,’ she told MSNBC, an NBC cable news channel. ‘The mission that the brigade had was to get to Baghdad. That was more of a pit stop there for us. And, you know, the searching, I mean certainly some of the soldiers headed off on their own, looked through the bunkers just to look at the vast amount of ordnance lying around.

    “‘But as far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away.'”

    Later on, NBC news (these are the people you’re citing as proof of fraudulent reporting, by the way) says “At the Pentagon, an official who monitors developments in Iraq said U.S.-led coalition troops had searched Al-Qaqaa in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives, which had been under IAEA seal since 1991, were intact. The site was not secured by U.S. forces, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

    Again, it’s pretty clear that things were secure before the war, and only went missing either during or after it. If this stuff is a big deal (and every indication is that this is the case), then why not try harder to either secure it or at least monitor it from a distance?

    As to your other point, yes– the UN has been pretty crappy when it comes to Iraq. After Hussein kicked out the inspectors in 1998 (do I have my dates right?), Clinton should have pushed hard to have them do something to get them back.

    Again, while I think this adminstration is utterly rotten, I certainly didn’t much mind their going into Iraq. What I find amazing (as I’ve stressed on this blog and elsewhere) is how poorly these people planned for the occupation– the list of foreseeable but unadressed problems is long.

    Moreover, why has no one in this administration taken any heat from Bush for these screw-ups? The closest we’ve seen is Wolfowitz telling Gen. Shinseki that his (correct) ideas for ocuppying Iraq were wrong. (And yes, Kerry is wrong to say that the Bush administration fired Shinseki for his remarks; he retired right as planned.) Shouldn’t someone at least admit that the planning has been, well, horrible?


  6. Stuart – I never really realised how conservative you are. Don’t you think you’re slightly blindly defending the government who hasn’t always made the best choices. As I’ve said before I think going into Iraq was a good idea, but the timing wasn’t. They have satellites to monitor areas like this and should have prioritised a little better what they defended. The fact that there were no weapons left when they arrived isn’t a get out for them, it just shows major lack of planning and foresight, and unpreparedness for what they did.


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