Tuesday, October 26, 2004

More On the Missing

Josh Marshall does a good job of wrapping up the spin on the missing 377 tons of explosives. (The amount varies depending on which news report you read. Let’s just say that it’s a shitload.) The latest excuse seems to be that “It was gone before we got here.”

That doesn’t hold a lot of water.

Some cast doubt on the Pentagon’s claim. Given the size of the missing cache, it would have been difficult to relocate undetected before the invasion, when U.S. spy satellites were monitoring activity at sites suspected of concealing nuclear and biological weapons.

“You don’t just move this stuff in the middle of the night,” said a former U.S. intelligence official who worked in Baghdad.

Iraqi officials told the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. monitoring group — earlier this month that the explosives were looted after April 9, 2003, when U.S. forces entered Baghdad. IAEA officials verified that the explosives were still at the site and under seal in January 2003, the last time the inspectors were there.


Pentagon officials said that although U.S. troops searched the facility on several occasions during and after the invasion, the facility was not high on U.S. commanders’ list of sites to guard because survey teams found no nuclear or biological materials at Al Qaqaa, a collection of 87 buildings and underground bunkers less than 30 miles south of Baghdad.

Asked if U.S. troops were ever ordered to guard the facility, where Hussein built conventional warheads and the IAEA dismantled parts of his nuclear program after the Gulf War, a Defense official responded, “Not that I’m aware of.”

David Kay, the CIA’s former chief weapons hunter in Iraq, believes that the material was looted in the immediate aftermath of the war.

He said he saw the facility in May 2003, “and it was heavily looted at that time. Sometime between April and May, most of the stuff was carried off. The site was in total disarray, just like a lot of the Iraqi sites.” [Los Angeles Times]

At this point, there are so many explanations being floated for this clusterfuck by the White House, the Bush-Cheney campaign, and sympathetic cable channels that you get the feeling that their approach is sort of like that of Indiana Jones: just making it up as they go along.