It's Hard Work
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24 - The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, produce missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.Missing, just like the warfloggers on this story. Unfortunately, unlike the disappearance of the warfloggers, this will continue to have consequences.
The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no-man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished after the American invasion last year.
The White House said President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was informed within the past month that the explosives were missing. It is unclear whether President Bush was informed. American officials have never publicly announced the disappearance, but beginning last week they answered questions about it posed by The New York Times and the CBS News program "60 Minutes."
Administration officials said yesterday that the Iraq Survey Group, the C.I.A. task force that searched for unconventional weapons, has been ordered to investigate the disappearance of the explosives.
American weapons experts say their immediate concern is that the explosives could be used in major bombing attacks against American or Iraqi forces: the explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, could be used to produce bombs strong enough to shatter airplanes or tear apart buildings. The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the material of the type stolen from Al Qaqaa, and somewhat larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people.
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, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.
Officials in Washington said they had no answers to that question. One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives HMX and RDX 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. In the chaos that followed the invasion, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.
"Should we have gone there? Definitely," said one senior administration official. "But there are a lot of things we should have done, and didn't."
The Administration not only lacks a plan to win the peace, they don't have a plan to win the war.
Thank God this hasn't distracted Condi from her campaign duties.