Conservative take on the al Qaqaa story

Conservatives are claiming that the US is safer anyway because had Iraq not been invaded Saddam Hussein might still be in posession of those explosives. As the explosives were under lock and key by the IAEA, it's difficult to see how having looters take posession of them has made the US safer.

So the Democrats, with help from the New York Times, have produced their October Surprise. What a dud!

Uh, actually, the new Iraqi government teamed up with the IAEA to spill the beans. The New York Times didn't do anthing more strenuous than read it's mail. Nice try though! The Left usually gets blamed for trying to make everything look like a conspiracy.
The piece then reviews, accurately, what the dispute is all about.

The Times breathlessly reported that nearly 400 tons of explosives, part of Saddam Hussein's old weapons program, had disappeared from an installation south of Baghdad. The implication was that the Bush Administration was at fault for not securing the cache. Because the president skimped on troops, goes this reasoning, there were not enough U.S. soldiers to guard hundreds of weapons stockpiles. Those weapons could now be used against Americans here at home.

But then it then engages in a bit of selective quotation:

Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News reported Monday night that his network was right there, on the spot, when the 101st Airborne got to the installation south of Iraq's capital on April 10, 2003. "But these troops never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives called HMX and RDX" said Miklaszewski.

Here's the rest of the story as reproduced by Talking Points Memo.

Just a pit stop.

This morning (Oct 26) MSNBC interviewed one of the producers from their news crew that visited al Qaqaa as embeds with the 101st Airborne, Second brigade on April 10th, 2003.

This is the 'search' that the White House and CNN are hanging their hats on (empahsis added)...

Amy Robach: And it's still unclear exactly when those explosives disappeared. Here to help shed some light on that question is Lai Ling. She was part of an NBC news crew that traveled to that facility with the 101st Airborne Division back in April of 2003. Lai Ling, can you set the stage for us? What was the situation like when you went into the area?

Lai Ling Jew: When we went into the area, we were actually leaving Karbala and we were initially heading to Baghdad with the 101st Airborne, Second Brigade. The situation in Baghdad, the Third Infantry Division had taken over Baghdad and so they were trying to carve up the area that the 101st Airborne Division would be in charge of. Um, as a result, they had trouble figuring out who was going to take up what piece of Baghdad. They sent us over to this area in Iskanderia. We didn't know it as the Qaqaa facility at that point but when they did bring us over there we stayed there for quite a while. Almost, we stayed overnight, almost 24 hours. And we walked around, we saw the bunkers that had been bombed, and that exposed all of the ordinances that just lied dormant on the desert.

AR: Was there a search at all underway or was, did a search ensue for explosives once you got there during that 24-hour period?

LLJ: No. There wasn't a search. 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 head 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. But there was – at that point the roads were shut off. So it would have been very difficult, I believe, for the looters to get there.

AR: And there was no talk of securing the area after you left. There was no discussion of that?

LLJ: Not for the 101st Airborne, Second Brigade. They were -- once they were in Baghdad, it was all about Baghdad, you know, and then they ended up moving north to Mosul. Once we left the area, that was the last that the brigade had anything to do with the area.

AR: Well, Lai Ling Jew, thank you so much for shedding some light into that situation. We appreciate it.

So the fact that the 101st Airborne visited the site without finding the explosives isn't terribly meaningful, is it? The heart of the conservative case is this:

Kerry and Edwards say that Bush didn't do enough to prevent the disappearance of the explosives, which could be used against Americans here at home. But the very existence of such explosives -- whether defined as weapons of mass destruction or not -- was the reason Bush led the nation into Iraq in the first place.

Why did we invade Iraq? Specifically, so dangerous weapons would not be used against us here at home -- either by Saddam Hussein's forces or by his terrorist friends. Did we miss some of these weapons? Of course. But we got a lot more than we would have gotten if we had not gone into Iraq in the first place.

If we had followed Kerry's strategy, Iraq today would have far more than 380 tons of explosives to use against us.

My reaction on reading this was "Oh, mannnn. If that's the best you guys can do...Hee, hee, hee!"
The problem with using this line of reasoning is that the IAEA inspected the al Qaqaa site 30 times from 30 Nov 2002 until 15 March 2003. Meaning the US Government knew all about it and 1. I don't remember a single speech about these explosives 2. The IAEA had plenty of chances to destroy them and 3. Yet, these dangerous materials which were components of the greatly-feared Weapons of Mass Desctruction were not secured upon US conquest of the country.
As the Chief of the Iraq Survey Group, Charlie Duelfer pointed out, the US didn't have enough troops to both seize Baghdad and secure weapons sites.

The commander of the first unit into the area told CBS he did not search it for explosives or secure it from looters. "We were still in a fight," he said. "our focus was killing bad guys." He added he would have needed four times more troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps he came across.

In other words, the Bush Administration got America into a fight it wasn't prepared to win. Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz failed to see to it that the US armed forces were up to the strength necessary to complete the task assigned to them.
Were the WMD-like materials a threat to the US as they were stored in 2002? Doesn't look that way to me as the Iraqis are quite clear that the explosives didn't dissappear until after the US invasion of Iraq and again, the fault is with the lack of troops.

IAEA received the attached letter dated 10 October 2004 from the General Director of the Planning and Following Up Directorate of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology. In that letter, the Iraqi authorities informed IAEA of the loss “after 9 April 2003, through the theft and looting of the governmental installations due to lack of security”,

Other Iraqis have since spoken up about this:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A top Iraqi science official said it was impossible that 350 tonnes of high explosives could have been smuggled out of a military site south of Baghdad before the regime fell last year.
"The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall and I spoke to them about it and they even issued certified statements to this effect which the US-led coalition was aware of."

And finally, we have a bit of what sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking:

To: yoe

I was a bit angry that Bush hasn't responded. However, I am starting to think he's just letting it work itself out in his favor.


2 posted on 10/27/2004 6:40:40 AM PDT by RockinRight (Bush's rallies look like World Series games. Kerry's rallies look like Little League games.)

Well, let's see how Bush's grand, masterful, master plan has worked out (with the most rancid or ridiculous passages emphasized courtesy of the TPM editorial staff) ...

A President must be consistent. After repeatedly calling Iraq the wrong war and a diversion, Senator Kerry this week seemed shocked to learn that Iraq was a dangerous place full of dangerous weapons. (Laughter.) The Senator used to know that, even though he seems to have forgotten it over the course of this campaign. But, after all, that's why we went into Iraq. Iraq was a dangerous place, run by a dangerous tyrant who hated America and who had a lot of weapons. We've seized or destroyed more than 400,000 tons of munitions, including explosives, at more than thousands of sites. And we're continuing to round up the weapons almost every day.

I want to remind the American people, if Senator Kerry had his way, we would still be taking our global test.


THE PRESIDENT: Saddam Hussein would still be in power.


THE PRESIDENT: He would control all those weapons and explosives and could have shared them with our terrorist enemies.


THE PRESIDENT: Now the Senator is making wild charges about missing explosives, when his top foreign policy advisor admits "we don't know the facts." End quote. Think about that. The Senator is denigrating the actions of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts. Unfortunately, that's part of the pattern of saying anything it takes to get elected. Like when he charged that our military failed to get Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, even though our top military commander, General Tommy Franks, said, "The Senator's understanding of events does not square with reality," and intelligence reports place bin Laden in any of several different countries at the time.

See, our military is now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including this one -- that explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived, even arrived at the site. The investigation is important and ongoing. And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not the person you want as the Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)

Very hard not to start getting overconfident about this. These guys obviously don't have it together.

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