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October 25, 2004

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» Entrance of the Newspapers from uBlog
The New York Times has released its Monday-morning front-page story for the final full week before Election Day. Headline, "Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq." It's not news, mercifully killed by the article's second-to-last sentence:... [Read More]

» Hold On To Your HMX from fmonkey.net
Here is a good analysis of today's "new" HMX stories. Needless to say, this looks like yet another attempt to take an old story, brush off the dust, and make it "news".... [Read More]

» No Excuse from Balloon Juice
*** Update *** I got the vapors because I actually believed the assholes at the NY Times. I don't believe... [Read More]

» 380 tons of oops from QandO
UPDATE: John Cole, Tom Maguire and various commenters here point out this potentially exculpatory line:

...A senior Bush administration official said that during the initial race to Baghdad, American forces [Read More]

» Explosives Vanish Into Thin Air from Wizbang
The New York Times leads with a story about 380 tons of explosives missing in Iraq. Given the initial wildly inaccurate reports about looting, some level of suspicion should be given to these initial reports. If the material has gone... [Read More]

» POLITICS: Explosive Charge from Baseball Crank
The NY Times - with the assistance, predictably, of 60 Minutes - is pushing a story about explosive stockpiles in Iraq that have been unaccounted for since the invasion. Why now? I'll leave that to the reader. But the relevant... [Read More]

» Joe Lockhart personally emailed me from Pajama Pundits
I'm so flattered, this is the first he's ever emailed me without asking for money. That means, of course, that Kerry is pinning his comeback hope on this one. How damaging is this to Bush? We'll see, though it's likely [Read More]

» Missing Explosives from Say Anything
The big story today is the missing explosives in Iraq. BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Iraqi interim government believes that more than 380 tons of dangerous explosives are missing from a military installation south of Baghdad, FOX News confirmed Monday. Internati... [Read More]

» There is a Forest from Truth, Lies & Common Sense
The Dems and the NY Times have both a September 10th mentality and an unusual ability to not see the forest through the trees. [Read More]

Comments

Mickerville

I'm not worried because, of course, there weren't any WMD's in Iraq.

Ron LaCanne

Let me see! Bush is a liar - No WMD's. Now we're to worry because these explosives can be used to detonate nuclear weapons. 500 tons of enriched and yellow cake uranium was air lifted to the US from Iraq.

Am I missing something?

Jor

Ron, they are conventional explosives, are you a freaking idiot? Wait, yes, yes you are.

TM, right -- nothing to see here, mvoe along. Of course, you forgot to mention that several people think this is the stuff blowing up our troops. If we were so concerned about terrorists acquiring WMD, you'd think we would have worried about them acquiring conventional stuff like HMX also, and secured the depots.

Of course the fact that this was actively covered up for 18 months, and Rice wasn't even aware of it till 1 month ago (event hough, high likely hood this is the shit killing our troops) further indicates there is nothing to see here.

When do you plan on getting appologist fatigue? Is it ever gonna occur?

TM

When do you plan on getting appologist fatigue?

I'd like to think I have as much energy as the typical hysteric - how are you feeling?

Any chance at all of your providing evidence for this:

Of course the fact that this was actively covered up for 18 months...

Who was asking about it, and who was covering it up?

As to whether explosives are being used in Iraq, yes, they are. Any chance of your responding to the point that this was not the only HMX in Iraq, and that this article provides no evidence whatsoever that it was actually at that storage area when the war started?

Keep screaming, you don't seem to be getting tired either.

max

"reality-based community is pretending"

Is that a typo or subtle sarcasm that I have missed? The nyt seems the opposite of reality-based to me.

Jor

TM, The Nelson report apparently claims their is a coverup. Josh has snips from it.. Who would cover up their own incompetence? This is a damn tough question. You're right, what was I thinking question an administrationw ith such a marvelous record of transparency.

The screaming is apparently working. Or well, apparently reality has gotten shrill. Very few hold-outs with brains left.

Just Passing Through

Wrong stuff to be using for IEDs. Think of this stuff as plastique. Designed so that the portion of material exploding first confines and directs the remaining blast away from the initial fusing. Loading a truck with it and the detonating the truck with a grenade makes for a fine car bomb, but an IED - the device responsible for most casualiies right now - is best served by using military not conventional munitions that already have fusing that can be wired into a remote actuator.

Not all explosives were accounted for in the advance or afterwards. How could they be? Also, saying that HMX has military applications is correct as far as it goes, but not until it was processed into a munition payload. Good stuff for dropping a building, but not for directed warfare.

As an October surprise, it won't buy Kerry any votes because it is not a strategic blunder. It won't stick to Bush nor is the fact that it appeared in a briefing given to Rice a month ago germane as far as culpability goes. It's a resurrected non-story about a tactical blunder in Iraq of which there have been and will be as many as there are in any war.

The coverup reaction will be as immediate and as unfounded as the claims of a coverup at Abu Gharaib.

TM

Ahh, Josh Marshall! All questions are answered, then. Nothing from Paul Begala?

I'll try again - how did the NY Times miss evidence of this cover-up? One would have thought they would lead with that. Instead, I see this:

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."

perfectsense

The NYT does not establish that the materials were even on site at the beginning of the war. Until the NYT proves the materials were not moved or consumed by Iraqi forces, I will categorize this story as a follow up to the much hyped "250,000 Artifacts stolen from the Iraqi Antiquities Museum” baloney.

TM

Thank you, I welcome any support on this one.

reality-based community has become a left-wing laugh line based on a recent quoye from, IIRC, the Suskind piece in the Times. I have a devastating post planned on this point, which will send my buddies on the left slinking off in shame, as my list of "good intentions unfulfilled" grows.

Just Passing Through

In reply to update - Bush will not respond in anything more than an aside. This is not a strategic blunder and can't be painted that way any more than Abu Gharaib could. The story could only get legs if Bush acknowledges it openly.

As far as the 'reality based' community, they aren't. A firm grasp on reality first requires that common sense be applied. Someone with a grasp on reality makes the distinction between tactical and strategic culpability. The 'reality based' community as represented by Kos and Atrios et al is anything but.

Slartibartfast

I'd go with waiting and seeing. I'd want to know when the last time IAEA actually had made eye contact with the materials in question, and how anyone at all could be sure the materials were sitting where they were supposed to be when we inspected the site.

Or, alternatively, I could confidently conclude something based on nearly zero evidence, but that'd be insane.

Ripper

He had a huge amount of compressor explosives and, as far as we know, a tiny amount of Plutonium avaliable. The ratio of stock on hand doesn't match standard U.S. designs. Why? This is out of left field, but look at Ted Taylor's most efficient designs for a clue.

Jor

TM, its amusing how whenever the facts turn against you, you just reflexively attack the source. You might not have realized this as you were choking on your appologies, but this administration is pretty dysfunctional. Do you really want a list of things Condi has been out of the loop on? Just cause Condi didn't know doesn't mean Bremer and the DOD didn't know.

BTW Do you really want to compare records with Josh? Especially given Iraq? I don't know if you were, but Glenn got so desperate he started concotting plans about how the weapons moved to syria. Seriously you guys are hilarious. No shame, none whatsoever.

I mean Drezner just went shrill, and you think a high-preist going nuts, would cause pause in the order. Looking back on him slamming Gore, a year ago, and what he said about Bush today makes an absolutely hilarious read. He's more shrill than Gore. He went from telling us to "spare him the outrage on Abu Ghraib" to Rummsfeld should be fired. Of course I'm sure Abu Ghraib, along with WMD, Iraq/Al Queda, and a host of other things have disappeared down a black-hole in your mind.

35 papers that endorsed Bush in 2000 have endorsed Kerry for '04. Five papers that endorsed Bush in '00, have decided to sit it out. Only 2 papers that endorsed Gore '00 have switched. Apparently reality has gone shrill. The paleos, the libertarians, all gone shrill. Some senate republicans shirll.

But TM, is a fortress of certiude.
Don't worry, the fewer nut-cases around, the more kool-aid for you to drink.

Jor

I mean, just freaking yesterday, we find out Condi has no fucking idea what was going on with prisoners in the war on terror, and was intentionally kept out of the loop. Along with lame-duck Powell. I can't believe you quoted that Condi thing seriously. Like my god man, have some freaking shame, have some shame.

ed

Hmmm.

This whole thing is a non-story. As described before the NYT can't even create a viable timeline for the storage or distribution of the explosives. It's entirely possible that the explosives were distributed to the militia's during the invasion.

Additionally these explosives, as outline before, are very common and aren't hard to get on the open market. Many of these types of explosives are used in mining as well as military uses.

Then there's the hundreds of acres of weapons and munitions still yet to be catalogued and either stored, for future use by the Iraqi Army, or for disposal.

For all the ridiculous fear-mongering of the NYT and Kerry, terrorists have never had to face a dearth of explosives.

Slartibartfast
we find out Condi has no fucking idea what was going on with prisoners in the war on terror

Wow. Huge surprise that the National Security Advisor's not well informed about what another Cabinet member's bailiwick. Knock me over with a feather.

Jor

BTW, Josh isn't the source for the cover-up, he copied and pasted straight from the Nelson report. So if you are oging to do a smear job, at least hit the right targets. Or

ed

Hmmm.

"But TM, is a fortress of certiude.
Don't worry, the fewer nut-cases around, the more kool-aid for you to drink."

Another bat-shit loony.

Drezner? Who cares. Condi Rice is National Security Advisor, not National Prisoner Register.

"35 papers that endorsed Bush in 2000 have endorsed Kerry for '04. Five papers that endorsed Bush in '00, have decided to sit it out. Only 2 papers that endorsed Gore '00 have switched."

Should I care?

"BTW Do you really want to compare records with Josh?"

Josh Marshall? The "just wait for this really big freaking breaking story that will just utterly smash Bush.... blah .. blah .. blah"?

Yeah. That impresses.

Jor

Slartibartfast, Why do you idiots refuse to read? WHY? For crying out loud, READ, stop being such f'n idiots. Condi was INTENTIONALLY kept out. It wasn't her god damn choice. Along with State, they were kicked out. BTW, I think terrorism and prisoners in the WoT might have a little something to do with Condi's position.

Jor

Ed, you should only care because conservatives with brains are abondoning Bush by the truck-load. From weekly publications, to institutes, to newspapers. Do you really want to be the last idiot of the train to disasterville? It's not all just a "vast liberal media conspiracy" against the president like many of you suckers have fooled yourself into believing.

Slartibartfast

Oh, that's different. Damn. INTENTIONALLY.

Well, I'm wrong. Not wrong WRT not letting Rice know, but wrong that Condi Rice sits on the Cabinet. She doesn't.

I didn't read anything on the topic because you didn't link anything. I'm not going to take your word for it largely because you're given to hysterics. And your horrible spelling pretty much obliterates whatever you're trying to say.

InsultComicDog

The incompetence of the Bush administration is staggering, and Americans are dying because of it.

Jor

condi outa the loop AGAIN. (yesterday's nytimes)

damn liberal

What will it take for a supporter of this administration to change their mind?
How far will you allow your want for them to be honest good people take you?
Honestly, what would it take for you to be convinced that Bush and his people have failed your country?

Slartibartfast

Again, I ask: where did the expectation that Condi Rice ought to have been in on this come from?

Oh, I know.

Slartibartfast
Honestly, what would it take for you to be convinced that Bush and his people have failed your country?

A teeny bit more than your word on it. Sorry, but I kind of prefer make informed decisions.

Mantis

For all the ridiculous fear-mongering of the NYT and Kerry, terrorists have never had to face a dearth of explosives.

Actually the problem is them using those explosives against coalition and Iraqi forces in Iraq. Call it fearmongering if you wish, but I think we would like to actively move to keep mass quantities of explosives out of enemy hands, however I am not in the military, so maybe I'm wrong on this.

Byron

Suppose we accept the premise, which seems likely, that this was a tactical error, miscommunication between IAEA and our military, or some other form of screw-up. I still don't know how you get from there to the conclusion that it would therefore be a good idea to put John Kerry in charge. That seems to me to be the mother of all non-sequiters.

Geek, Esq.

The administration's coverup failed at a most inopportune time.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6326367

"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 were intact. Thereafter the site was not secured by U.S. forces, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity."

There is no rational argument that the administration has been anything other than grossly and criminally negligent in this regard.

Ironically, they appear even more incompetent if one accepts Condi's fairy tale that she didn't know about this until September of this year.

Eric Anondson

The scope of micro-management that Jor believes that selective members in the administration is required to engage in is revealing in its ignorance of the daily operations of the military. This isn't an episode of Stargate SG-1 where the president can be consulted with a phone call. *shrug*

Yeah, the lack of certainty for the fate of these explosives is unsettling, just as unsettling as the lack of certainty for the fate of the WMD program of Saddam. Do we know for certain these explosives were ever where the IAEA says they were when the war was re-started? Do we know they even existed anymore?

But still, now that we know that Saddam was an angel who gave up WMD a decade ago, the IAEA was clearly wrong to have sequestered these potential-nuke-triggers.

Eric Anondson

BTW, for the sarcasm-impaired, that last paragraph in my last post was full-bore sarcasm.

Slartibartfast

Ah, the obligatory anonymous source.

I'm still waiting for something credible, before I say much else about this.

IceCold

Just Passing Through has an excellent practical explanation of the (limited) significance of the unaccounted for explosives.

He didn't even note that Iraq was/is awash in ordnance in a way not seen since WWII in Europe, quite apart from any exotic explosives such as those under discussion. Even before dispersal of much of it, taking into account the country's post-totalitarian authority vacuum and robust criminal networks, Iraq's ordnance supply would have exceeded the ability of even a much larger occupation force than that actually used to secure. With dispersal of much of it pre-war, that already insuperable problem was made even more difficult.

A friend who works the IED problem for US intel confirms that, to his knowledge, the explosives pattern remains ordnance for IEDs, and exotic explosives (sometimes supplemented with ordnance) for VBIEDs and man-carried bombs. A large number of IEDs are discovered and disabled for every one that detonates, and so far (he says) everything confirms what Just Passing Through suggested. The 155mm artillery shells are the staple of IED-makers; I believe the larger VBIEDs such as the one that destroyed the UN HQ used large ordnance like 500-lb aerial bombs.

Bottom line: exotic explosives on the loose is a bad thing, but it doesn't appear to be playing any role in Iraq. The mundane ordnance that is strewn/hidden/forgotten across Iraq in unbelievable quantities is THE problem.

But that's just the practical side. As for "strategic blunders" and the like, it's not clear to me that the facts are is even close to being clear. There's one vague reference by an admin. official to things disappearing post-invasion, but that doesn't sound very credible. There's also a reference to US troops quickly checking and seeing no IAEA-sealed materials in March '03. There's also the apparent leakage prior to the war, and the two blasted bunkers. Hats off to those who can find in this jumble the basis on which to pronounce about "strategic blunders".

It must be the cool-aid that keeps me from being able to apply the standards and expectations of other planets and species to our military operations. Based on human history on Earth, Iraq has been an exceptionally well-conducted campaign, errors and all.

Paul Zrimsek

Incidentally, Jor's "Nelson report" is not, as his typography might lead you to assume, the findings of some sort of official investigative panel, but rather The Nelson Report: a private foreign-policy newsletter which Josh Marshall regards as widely influential, but which seems to get cited mainly by the alternative reality-based community.

Anyway: going by Marshall's excerpts, the "cover-up" seems to have consisted of various organizations who knew all about the disappearances holding back from making any sort of official representation to any of the other organizations who knew all about the disappearances-- the sordid plot finally collapsing when the IAEA finally told the Bush Administration about the missing explosives that the Bush Administration had been covering up all along.

TM

Honestly, what would it take for you to be convinced that Bush and his people have failed your country?

Times a' wastin', but if I ever get around to penning my endorsement of Bush, I have already picked the title, which will be "Bush Has Failed (But I'm Voting For Him Anyway).

I happen to think Kerry could be much more dangerous, although I'll admit to the possibility that, under certain scenarios, he may not prove to be a total disaster. I'm just afraid to find out.

TM

Let's get some links on IEDs.

From the must-read Billings Gazette, this AP story:

At the Pentagon, one senior Army officer who monitors progress against the insurgency said the 155mm artillery shells and other explosives used to arm the improvised bombs are so easily available that the supply cannot be stopped, even though ammunition dumps are under surveillance. The officer discussed the problem only on condition that he not be identified.

They also note that about 40% of IEDs are found before they are detonated, so if there was a huge amount of HMX being used, it has been a well-kept secret.

Here is more from Global Security, but with the same conclusion:

Enemy forces in Iraq have used the following TTPs when employing IEDs:

Using command-detonated devices, both hardwired and radio controlled.
Using mortar rounds, artillery projectiles, and other explosive-filled ordnance as the explosive device....

And let's see what the always interesting Dr. Marshall is passing along from the Nelson report:

As we noted earlier this evening, government officials who spoke to the Nelson Report seemed to think that's very likely. One US government official told Nelson, "this is the most likely primary source of the explosives which have been used to blow up Humvees and in all the deadly car bomb attacks since the Occupation began." Another official told him, "this is the stuff the bad guys have been using to kill our troops."

But surely we can get a more specific sense. If for no other reason, given Iraqi record keeping and the quantity of explosives in question, it seems unlikely that specific attacks could be forensically demonstrated to have used these specific explosives from this stash. But, again, certainly we could narrow down the possibilities....

Calm and judicious as always.

As to car bombs, I don't know (the BBC says HMX derivatives have been used in Iraq). But the IED questions seems quite clear, and the Nelson Report is quite clearly wrong.

And, since we capture many IEDs before detonation, it would be easy enough to check.

Forbes

"The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon"

This is like the line about "how to become a millionaire." First, get a million dollars...

First, assemble a nuclear weapon, next, use HMX as triggering explosive.

Three hundred tons--that would take care of a lot of nuclear weapons, no? But it's not a problem because Saddam didn't have any WMDs, right?

I haven't kept up on this, so correct me if I'm wrong. First, the anti-war rationale was that Saddam would use the WMDs, that everyone agreed he had, on US troops, so don't ivade. Then the anti-war crowd said there was no reason to topple Saddam when no stockpiles were discovered--although both the Kay and Deulfer Reports indicated greater WMD production capability than anyone thought. Now there's a big concern because a large quantity of conventional explosives are unaccounted for...because the explosive is used as a triggering device for nuclear weapons.

Have you anti-war folks settled yet on a reason for being anti-war? He's got WMDs, he doesn't have 'em, he's a danger--he'll use them, he's no danger--he doesn't have 'em, no stockpiles no problem, dangerous capabilities, loaed for bear, he's in his box, corrupt UN sanctions are starving the children...

My head's gonna explode!

"officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after..." the invasion--in other words sometime after the last time the IAEA tagged them, or after Saddam moved them, or after the satellite photos seemed to indicate where they were...or some other explanation we haven't openly speculated about because it might defeat the purpose of this article.

I forget, either Saddam had, or didn't have, WMDs, so these explosives were either part of that WMD program, or they weren't. We already know Saddam had the country armed to the teeth, using hospitals and schools as weapons and ammo depots. So this is a story about a sizable quantity of explosive gone missing in a country armed to the teeth. Probably want to put those car bomb factories in Falujah out of business.

And what is all this out of the loop stuff, as if the operational and tactical decisions of a Colonel (securing a location) are being made in the White House. And then all these secret plans and deliberations reported in the NYTimes article. Not very secret if it's reported in the Times. It's not like the executive branch holds public hearing when developing policy--that would be the Congress, when enacting laws and performing their oversight function.

And then there's some kind of troll. Conservatives by the truckload are abandoning Bush? And vote for Kerry? I think you've been smoking too much of the crack the Dems were passing out on that voter registration drive, 'cause you're halucinating something wicked.

sym

we did a poor job of securing munitions dumps.

How dare John Kerry attack an opponent on such a trivial mistake?

And hey Tom ,where's the obligatory "Holiday in the UN Security Coucil" post? I feel like yelling at some conservatives about this "scandal".

Just Passing Through

I would put the whole culpability question in the following way.

Any war, or indeed any long term undertaking, requires both a strategic and a tactical plan. Strategy determines the goal. Tactics determines methodology. There are graduations of strategic thinking that at the lower end merge into tactical thinking. The POTUS acts as the Comander in Chief and is responsible for strategy. Graduations of strategic thinking filter up from the tactical doctrines the military currently follows and specific to the theater in the form of capabilities and logistics and these affect the formulation of strategy. The strategic thinking filters back down through the military echelon to the people responsible for executing the tactics required to meet the stategic goal. There is an interval where the distinction between strategic and tactical thinking blurs in transition, but it is at a relatively high level in the military echelon.

A good example of a commander in chief that violated the graduation of strategy to tactics was Carter in the Iran hostage rescue attempt. Tactical control was held at a high level - in the actual WH situatiom room if I recall - and contributed directly to the fiasco. A good example of a commander in chief who did not violate the graduation of strategy to tactics was Reagan when we hit Libya. His order was essentailly 'Come up with a plan to get it done within these parameters and execute it'.

Assuming Bush is responsible for the explosives is an ignorant and unreal take on the situation. If he had dictated a strategy over the best advice of the military that areas of Iraq be vacated despite containing known quantities of munitions, he would be strategically culpable for the results. Not what happened here by a long shot, (though Kerry seems to want to vacate all of Iraq with vastly more serious results). If there has been a blunder of significance to the warfighter, and I do not concede that for a moment, it was a tactical error, not a strategic one.

The buck, responsibility, stops at the commander in chiefs desk. True statement. It is the form of that responsibility that either escapes the 'reality based' community or is deliberately ignored. Bush is responsible for the competance of his immediate subordinates and they for theirs on down the line. Bush is not responsible for tactical errors committed by a battalion commander any more than that commander is responsible for errors in Bush's strategy. This true understanding of what constitutes responsibility in any large organizational undertaking is why Abu Ghraib could not be made to stick to Bush, or Rumsfield for that matter. Despite the cries of the left - the self promoted 'reality based' community - no one in the actual reality based community made any real attempt to stick Abu Gharaib unto Bush.

The left 'reality based' community is in full hue and cry about Bush's 'responsibiity' for the missing explosives. Kerry himself is using it and will do so for another 24 hours in speeches to audiences of people either willing to believe anything he says about Bush or who won't know what the hell Kerry is on about. His campaign spokesmen will make their sage soundbite pronouncements to see if the issue can possibly be given legs. The Times will get egg on it's face as the story is examined closely and respond by relegating it to page 21. And Kerry will lose another precious day in his attempt to wrest control of the discourse back from Bush to an issue that will gain him no votes and the approval of only the 'reality based' community that is in his pocket anyway.

The story in the last 24 hours that SHOULD be touted as a strategic blunder and evidence of incompetance in a propective commander in chief is the Kerry claim that he met with the UN security council representatives while a very complex strategy sensitive to the cooperation or non-cooperation of the security council was being formulated. That story won't get legs and should.

TexasToast

Hmmmm -- seems to me the story is not the " ...tactical blunder of a brigade commander..." but is instead the lack of enough troops to provide adequate security in the period immediately following our "catastrophic victory" that has been a mainstay of the critics of the administration. This story seems to confirm that view as it is hard to argue that securing munitions caches like this one wouldn't be very high on anyone's priority list. The insurgency we are facing uses car bombs - not WMDs - and this material is perfect for the creation of this insurgency's weapon of choice. Hard to argue it not FUBAR - but I'll give you credit for the effort.

Appalled Moderate

Toast:

Is there anything in the Times story that directly ties to too few troops?

TM

Hard to argue it not FUBAR - but I'll give you credit for the effort.

Thank you, Tex, it is nice to feel appreciated. The election is in eight days -if I can keep a straight face for that long, I am home free... maybe some of Kerry's botox could help.

But let's not have everybody switch sides at this late date. Subject to my reservations about the timing of the disappearance, I think this does tie in to the "too few troops" theme. Or, we could tie it back to the original over-optimistic view that we would be reducing our force levels significantly within a few months of the end of major combat operations.

However, if the Appalled Moderate can stiffen my spine on this one, I would be delighted.

And since we aim to please, what is the "Holiday in the UN" story? Is that Kerry's many representations about his meeting with the Security Council prior to his reckless vote in favor of death and casual destruction, or is it some other scandal?

TexasToast

AM

Go read Phil Carter's post on this

http://www.intel-dump.com/archives/archive_2004_10_21.shtml#1098716907

ps - I need to get unlazy and figure out enough HTML to do links. ---sorry.

sym

That's the one, yes.

sym

According to just passing thru up there, it's far more significant than these trivial munition dumps. As if anything of import could ever happen at a UN Security Council meeting.

Just Passing Through

"The insurgency we are facing uses car bombs - not WMDs..."

No. It is not car bombs that are the primary risk to our troops or the Iraqis, but IEDS. Believe it or not, making and deploying an IED is far easier and more effective in directed warfare than car bombs. For one, you don't have the certainty of losing the human trigger. For another, car bombs are indiscriminate. They tend to piss off the very population that you want to impress with your resistance. Finally, the material in question in not particularly apt even to car bombs. It is more in the nature of plastique. Unconfined plastique blows apart, not up. Using it in a car bomb would actually tend to scatter a good portion of your explosive harmlessly in it's own blast unless it were packed very tightly in a container strong enough to contain the blast for the milliseconds required for overpressure to set off all the explosive. Plastique works well when it's against a static surface with the fusing opposite and the initial explosion of the fuse itself directs all the blast overpressure against the rigid mass of remaining explosive. Set it off in the middle of your yard with a central fuse and you end up with plastique all over your yard. There is a reason this stuff is used for shaped charges and not in munitions. Better option for car bombs are the nitrate based explosives used in munitions designed to go off in one concusive blast or even TNT, not explosives formulated and designed to take advantage of overpressure in shaped charges.

"...- and this material is perfect for the creation of this insurgency's weapon of choice."

The material is NOT perfect for creation of IEDs. You are behind the curve by at least 8 hours with this statement or getting your info from the 'reality based' sites.

Just Passing Through

No sym, it's far more significant than a rap against Bush claiming he is personally culpable for a failure to secure munitions dumps when the dump in question may well have been emptied while we danced with the UN.

sym

JPT, there's no reason he had to micromanage securing Al Aqaa. But he should have set securing munition sites as more than a "medium priority." And if he's not personally culpable, perhaps he should ask for the resignation of those that are (cough *rumsfeld* cough). It's called accountability. The President should try it.
BTW, a low point of this debacle is McClellan blaming the failure on the new Iraqi govt, that was definitely not in power when the stuff was plundered. Can I hold Bush responsible for that idiotic response?

Eric Anondson

Whose resignation should Bill Clinton have asked for when China's Embassy in Serbia was bombed by the US? Gen. Wesley Clark?

Whose did you ask for back then?

sym

Yeah, that was a mistake that lead to many more US casualties. Um, not.

Just Passing Through

Went through the issue of accountibility. Securing munitions sites was medium priority in the advance. What puzzles you about that? Would you have had that a higher priority than force cohesion and maintaining the speed of the advance itself? What gives you the idea that the WH established the tactical priorities during the advance? Or Rumsfeld? The initial report from the NYT gave the impression that the plundering occurred after the advance. It has since come out that the dump was likly emptied before the advance. Something about the significance of that fact and it's effect your central premise that escapes you?

This is the sort of crap that the 'reality based' community marries itself to so readily. Either utter ignorance or utter disdain for common sense drives them to assign every story of every sparrow falling to Bush's ledger, even after the sparrow can be viewed still flying.

"McClellan blaming the failure on the new Iraqi govt.."

Really? How so? Don't answer actually. He didn't. He said the Iraqi government informed the IAEA. An obtuse questioner took that to mean McClellan was saying the Iraqi Interim Govt had responsibility. McClellan helped the questioner comprehend what was said.

Sorry buddy, you either didn't hear the press briefing, suffer from the same comprehension problem the questioner had, didn't bother confirming what you heard on some site by quickly reading through the briefing (I just did), or wouldn't bother confirming whatever fits your worldview no matter how wild the information in the first place.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004
/10/20041025-1.html

if you're interested. Good source of what is actually said at briefings is the record of the briefing.

Bill Arnold

Just Passing Through,
perhaps the emphasis on "force cohesion and maintaining the speed of the advance itself" was based in part on wishful thinking about the welcome we would receive in the occupation and post-occupation? Our troops *are* dying in part due to IEDs.

This whole story simply doesn't spin well. 350 missing tons (metric) of very high explosives is quite a bit when used in targetted ways. If we have good reason to believe that IED makers weren't using any of this stuff, OK. If they are, then it's a massive screw up. (Hint: saying that 350 tons of high explosive is nothing compared to all the other unsecured munitions is not the way to spin this.)

Apply the "what would you say if this happened on the Democrat's watch" test.

Bill Arnold

Eric Anondson,
the rumours (primarily on the left) about the Chinese embassy bombing were that the chinese were knowingly acting as a communications relay for Serbian forces, and that the U.S. smart bombed it deliberately and then claimed imcompetence. Sorry, the guardian is the best link I could find to the original story. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Kosovo/Story/0,2763,203214,00.html

This frankly made more sense to me than incompetence, though we'll probably never know for sure. And I generally believe in the principle of least conspiracy.

Mantis

Good source of what is actually said at briefings is the record of the briefing.

Yes, let's look at that record:

"and that's why I pointed out the more than 243,000 munitions that have already been destroyed, and nearly 163,000 munitions that are in the process or are awaiting to be destroyed now."

A bit later:

"And as I pointed out, that's why we've already destroyed more than 243,000 munitions and have another nearly 363,000 on line to be destroyed."

Oops.

Dr. Weevil

Texas Toast asks whether more troops could have prevented this. It doesn't seem likely if you do the arithmetic. If, as our host writes, "the Army Corp of Engineers estimated that there were 600,000 tons of munitions in Iraq, of which 238,000 has been destroyed or captured", that means that there were three or four tons of munitions for every U.S. soldier to begin with. Even if we had sent 450,000 troops, which is the highest recommendation I have heard, and even if (fat chance!) the French and Germans had thrown in a few more, there still would have been roughly a ton of munitions to guard per Allied soldier.

Some of these were stored in gigantic ammunitions dumps, which are hard enough to guard. I read somewhere that the largest dumps in Iraq were over 10 miles square, i.e. larger than the District of Columbia. Even with dogs and helicopters and motion sensors, I would think it would take something like 1000 soldiers to guard a 40-mile fence effectively. And of course a lot of the munitions were stored in mosques, where our troops are not generally allowed to go, and God knows where else. With the invention of GPS it is possible to bury stuff in an open expanse of sand with no landmarks at all to identify the burial place, and still find it later. Even the laborers who buried the stuff would not be able to find it again without the coordinates. (And that's assuming you don't have Uday or Qusay kill all the laborers as soon as they finish the job.)

Here's another point:

Suppose Bush had sent in 450,000 troops, stopping at every known or suspected ammunition dump along the way to Bagdhad. How many months would that have taken? And how many more troops would have been killed on the way to Bagdhad? No one can say, but 'many thousands' is a likely guess. Remember that 'suspected ammunition dump' would include every garage, basement, warehouse, cave, and septic tank in the country. Munitions are heavy. I could easily fit two tons of them in my (one-car) garage, and another four tons in the adjoining basement, and the only way a hypothetical army occupying Baltimore would ever find them (barring informants) would be to search every single garage and basement in the city. Before trashing Bush, think about how long that would take.

Paul Zrimsek:

I LOVE the phrase "alternative reality-based community". Did you invent it?

Whoever

OK, so this was not a tactical error. And this stuff really isn't all that useful, uh, or something. And plus, there's so much other loose armament that a mere 380 tons here or there is meaningless.

You guys are HYSTERICAL! Why don't you just come out and say it: George Bush isn't responsible for anything that goes wrong under his command and THAT'S what makes him such a great leader!

Hell, yeah, this is going to influence people. Should it not? Should the American public just swallow Bush Koolaid about Iraq and NOT question why these kind of gigantic fuckups happen and get covered up? Should they NOT wonder what kind of dimwits he's got running his government - or not running it, as the case may be, since his national security advisor and homeland security toady are currently campaigning for him on the TAXPAYER'S bill.

It must hurt to keep pretending this guy is competent to be leading the greatest nation in the free world. Really, really hurt. I know it's kind of like the flu vaccine thing. How shocking the American people might make any connection to his empty promises about protecting us from bioterrorism! And that bad John Kerry, using actual FACTUAL current events to draw attention to the President's failures! He should do like Bushie, and just make shit up. That's how we run political campaigns here in America.

Just stop your pretzel twisting for one minute, and ask yourselves (TRY to be honest) - if this same news item came to light and it was a Democratic president, how hard would you all be crucifying him? With or without a campaign going on. Hell, you wanted to kill a guy for getting a blow job. But recklessly killing our soldiers and innocent Iraqi civilians due to negligence and incompetence? Ah, let it slide.

Paul Zrimsek

All I did, Dr. W, is tack one word onto the front of it; see TM's 9:10 AM entry for the rest of the story.

Cecil Turner

"If we have good reason to believe that IED makers weren't using any of this stuff, OK."

Why bother? It's far easier to pick up a ready-made HE round, which requires less creative workmanship, and already has a casing optimized for producing shrapnel. Iraq has literally millions of leftover artillery rounds, and an estimated ten million mines. So why build one-offs out of esoteric explosives?

This handy IED study guide shows four examples from OIF. They're labelled: "projectile hidden in bag," "projectile encased in concrete," "projectile hidden under rocks," and "improvised grenade." Here's another that shows Iraqi IEDs using mines and projectiles.

Birkel

Nice to see Geek, Esq. will travel from Beldar's blog where he normally trolls to this one.

Here's what NBC says about the NYT reportage: (via Kerry Spot)
"The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX..."

Huh, so that bastion of conservative thought, NBC News, is just doing more shilling for the Bushitler.

/sarcasm

Eric Anondson

Just stop your pretzel twisting for one minute, and ask yourselves (TRY to be honest) - if this same news item came to light and it was a Democratic president, how hard would you all be crucifying him?

Huh, I just asked this same thing to someone and I got a lefty "pretzel twisting" dodge. (Excepting Bill Arnold's honest interpretation of the history surrounding the event) Something about it doesn't count when the bodybags aren't filled with Americans. So, back atcha, babe!

Because there are easily defensible reasons to not blame a president for every colonel's decisions does not mean we think's Bush's shit doesn't stink. But your criticism isn't honest to begin with. There is nothing Bush has done while president you would re-elect him for. You would vote for a cow if it were the Democrat nominee running against Bush.

Deconstructionism is live and well with the political left.

sym

JPT, you said this:
Bush is responsible for the competance of his immediate subordinates and they for theirs on down the line. Bush is not responsible for tactical errors committed by a battalion commander any more than that commander is responsible for errors in Bush's strategy.

So who should Bush/Rumsfeld fire for this mistake (and for Abu Ghraib)? Why haven't they fired anyone? Where should the buck stop?

sym

Q Scott, did we just have enough troops in Iraq to guard and protect these kind of caches?

MR. McCLELLAN: See, that's -- now you just hit on what I just said a second ago, that the sites now are really -- my understanding, they're the responsibility of the Iraqi forces.

Fine, maybe he's using the word 'now' to not quite blame the Iraquis. But he's certainly using them to put up a smokescreen and avoid answering this critical question. What's the relevance of his answer?

Just Passing Through

Sym,

First post - Neither Bush nor Rumsfeld should fire anyone UNLESS THE CULPABLE PARTIES ARE THEIR DIRECT SUBORDINATES. I don't know why this is not getting through, but the most they should do is tell their subordinates to make sure on down the line that the persons directly responsible and the people directly responsible for their competence - their superiors - answer to the problem. This is what happened with Abu Gharaib. The soldiers responsible are paying for what they did, and their superiors up to the level of culpability the military determined appropriate are paying appropriately also.

Second post - One quote out of context does not an argument make. You're reaching and the briefing is available in it's entirety for anyone interested in the answer to your question.

TM

I have to admit, thr White House seems totally flat-footed here. The Times said they were talking to Admin officials - how come no one rehearsed a response?

Anyway, here is more from the Kerry Spot:

NBC News: Miklaszewski: “April 10, 2003, only three weeks into the war, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne as they temporarily take over the Al Qakaa weapons installation south of Baghdad. But these troops never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives, called HMX and RDX, which is now missing. The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX..

I listened to the tape and Jim M adds that Pentagon officials tell him there is no evidence that these explosives have been used in Iraq. I can believe that they might know - my understanding is that they do a pretty detailed study of the explosive devices they find as part of the intel operation.

Jor

JPT, you realize Rummy's own appointed comission faulted Rummy for Abu Ghraib right? The republican party in 2004 is the No Accountability party.

This Explosives issue is a mess, my take from the admins changing story is (1) Definite coverup, they've known for a while (2) Its not certain whether these weaponsn are being used against us, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure it out.

Brian

You know, I started to wonder if The New York Times had made a mistake myself. Then someone pointed out that Drudge has no links to other sites besides The Times article, and thus, his storycannot be taken as solid proof of anything, particularly knowing his track record of throwing whatever he hears on to his site.

That leaves us with the NRO piece. (It, too, has a shady record, as many publications like it do.) What, exactly, do people think that proves?

jukeboxgrad

Maybe someone can explain this to me. Drudge, NRO and others are making a big fuss about NBC News saying this: "4/10/03 ... troops ... temporarily take over ... Al Qakaa... But these troops never found the ... HMX and RDX." The claim is being made that this utterly discredits the NYT report.

But the original NYT report had already said this: "A senior Bush administration official said that during the initial race to Baghdad, American forces 'went through the bunkers, but saw no materials bearing the I.A.E.A. seal.' It is unclear whether troops ever returned."

Those two passages look reasonably identical to me. Someone please explain to me what Drudge et al are gloating about. If the stuff was gone by 4/10, it still indicates it was stolen from under our noses. We had forces operating through Iraq for more than two weeks, by then. Also, this is a huge facility with more than 80 buildings. Both of the above accounts suggest a quick look that could easily have missed things. Both accounts also indicate we looked, and then we left. Nice. Too bad we didn't show up with enough troops to properly secure this major weapons site. Since that (disarming the enemy) was supposedly a major reason for the invasion in the first place.

Also, we're hearing a lot of the "drop-in-the-bucket" defense. This is the idea that we've captured so much other stuff, what's the big deal about this particular quarter-of-a-million pound batch.

But this stuff is in a very different category than all the ammo hidden all over the country, for two very simple and powerful reasons. First, these explosives are highly dangerous, much more dangerous and valuable than regular ammo. That's why they were being tracked by the IAEA. McCellan was promulgating misinformation when he said "these are conventional high explosives." Nonsense.

Second, we knew exactly where it was (unlike other stuff in numerous secret locations). The IAEA repeatedly warned us about this stuff, both before and after the invasion. We just didn't pay attention. Pure criminal negligence. Why did it get lost? Because we sent 50 tanks to surround the oil ministry.

Anyway, the misinformation now flying around is staggering. Instapundit, citing the NBC report that mentions the 4/10/03 date, is claiming the stuff "went missing before U.S. troops entered the country."

Our troops didn't enter the country until 4/10? Really? This is from a press briefing dated 3/24: "our forces are operating through Iraq, on the ground and in the air ... we are now more than 200 miles into Iraqi territory." On 3/25, we were told "on the ground, our forces are nearing Baghdad." On 4/4 we were told "the coalition has a substantial number of forces on the ground at Baghdad International Airport."

So a week or two after our troops were in the vicinity, we finally took the time to "temporarily" take over this place? A huge weapons facility that the UN had repeatedly warned us about? After we had invaded the country specifically for the purpose of securing its weapons and keeping them out of unfriendly hands?

Let's also remember what Tommy Franks told us on 3/22: "this will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force." He forgot to tell us we didn't have enough troops to make sure that 40 truckloads of hi-tech explosives didn't slip away under our noses.

Anyway, if the stuff disappeared before 4/10, and we discovered it was missing on 4/10, why is the White House acting like it just found out? Here's McClennan: "It's something that's being looked into now ... it's something that the Pentagon, upon being informed about it, immediately directed the multinational forces and Iraq Survey Group to look into this matter, and that's what they're doing."

More misinformation. NRO (Kerry Spot, Jim Geraghty) is suggesting the stuff disappeared not just before 4/10, but before the invasion began. He said "This IAEA report, conducted in January 2003, appears to be the last time any outsider could confirm the stuff was there." Not so: "IAEA inspectors last saw the explosives in January 2003 when they took an inventory and placed fresh seals on the bunkers, Fleming said. Inspectors visited the site again in March 2003, but didn't view the explosives because the seals were not broken, she said."

In other words, inspectors were there not just in January, but also as late as March. Geragty either doesn't know this is or is trying to obscure this. He also is seemingly trying to obscure the fact the UN didn't pull out of Iraq until just a day or two before we invaded. Until they left, inspectors could have revisited the facility at any time (which was a deterrent, I think, to anyone inclined to move this material). We also presumably had ongoing satellite surveillance. Hard to understand how we managed to not notice 40 large trucks leaving a major known weapons site.

Before the invasion, we knew where this stuff was. Then we told the UN to go to hell, and we took over. Now no one knows where it is. But it's nice to know that we're all safer as a result.

Something tells me I shouldn't hold my breath waiting for corrections from Glen Reynolds and Jim Geraghty. Not to mention McClennan, Franks and Bush.

jukeboxgrad

Oops, I just said "quarter-of-a-million pound." That should be "three-quarters-of-a-million pound."

Whoever

Before Drudge's Army gets too worked up, please take note that none other than Fox News places US troops at Al Qaqaa on April 4, 2003.

And considering the Army had to have knowledge of this site, why wasn't it a priority to seize it in the runup to Baghdad?

Also, why is the administration lying about this and saying they just found out 10 days ago? Either troops went to a known ammo storage dump on 4/10/04 and found nothing, meaning the admin knew then, or they didn't. Why does this administration LIE so much?

It's the Bart Simpson Presidency...whatever goes wrong, I didn't do it!

Can you Repubs explain Accountability and Leadership again?

Cecil Turner

"Maybe someone can explain this to me. Drudge, NRO and others are making a big fuss about . . ."

The whole story is idiotic, why should this bit be any different?

"Both of the above accounts suggest a quick look that could easily have missed things. Both accounts also indicate we looked, and then we left. Nice."

And then someone clandestinely "looted" a couple hundred tons of explosive? They might have "missed" the bunkers full of HE . . . it seems a bit less likely they'd have missed the loaders, large trucks, etc. moving the ""three-quarters-of-a-million pound[s]" of stuff. Occam's razor suggests it was already gone.

"McCellan was promulgating misinformation when he said "these are conventional high explosives." Nonsense."

The word "conventional" has a specific meaning when describing weapons: "A weapon which is neither nuclear, biological, nor chemical." Mr McClellan was of course correct.

TM

Also, why is the administration lying about this and saying they just found out 10 days ago? Either troops went to a known ammo storage dump on 4/10/04 and found nothing, meaning the admin knew then, or they didn't.

I wonder how familiar you are with the flow of information in a large organization. And there wer lots of ammo dumps in Iraq (although not all of them made the news, as this one did).

OK, good job on the Fox News piece. If everyone could agree on a spelling for "QaQaa" it would be easier for everyone.

Obviously, the Fox story changes the April 10th date a bit, but the basic point remains the same - Sadddam's side was in control of that area until early April.

This Fox story says the last UN trip to Al Qa Qaa was on March 8.

This AP story from Sept 30 2004 cuts both ways - Latifiyah (the town near Al Qa Qaa) is the IED capital of Iraq, but the IEDs are mostly conventional weapons:

Away from the spotlight of insurgent uprisings in Fallujah, Ramadi and Baghdad, Latifiyah has quietly become a lawless, lethal thorn in the side of U.S. troops. Local police have fled or been killed, leaving the town in the hands of Islamic insurgents, kidnappers and common thugs, military officials said. To emphasize that point, insurgents blew up the police station two weeks ago.

The streets around Latifiyah have become so laced with roadside bombs, known in military parlance as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that military officials here call it the "IED capital of Iraq."

...Their weapon of choice: IEDs. The homemade devices incorporate 81 mm mortar shells, 130 mm or 155 mm artillery rounds or 100-pound aerial bombs, many times daisy-chained together and wired to a stand by the side of the road, where a triggerman waits for passing convoys, officials said.

On Saturday night, a Marine Mobile Strike Team discovered an IED made of 15 130 mm artillery shells daisy-chained by the side of Highway 8, officials said.

...The insurgents probably are using weapons and ammunition looted from the nearby Qa-Qaa complex, a 3-mile by 3-mile weapons-storage site about 25 miles southwest of Baghdad, said Maj. Brian Neil, operations officer for the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, which initially patrolled the area.

The site was bombed during last year's invasion and then left unguarded, Neil said.

"There's definitely no shortage of weapons around here," he said.

Now, my rebuttal to that is provided by the Times itself, from Oct 20:

In a major misreading of Iraq's strategy, the C.I.A. failed to predict the role played by Saddam Hussein's paramilitary forces, which mounted the main attacks on American troops in southern Iraq and surprised them in bloody battles. The agency was aware that Iraq was awash in arms but failed to identify the huge caches of weapons that were hidden in mosques and schools to supply enemy fighters.

So, Sadaam's paramilitary planned to ooperate against Allied forces in southern Iraq. Did they really leave the munitions at Al QaQaa alone during the period while they were fighting us *and* Saddam still controlled the area? Can someone explain to me why they would not have taken what they wanted during that time frame?

At this point, it is far from clear that we ever found the HMX ourselves.

Here is a timeline for the Iraqi invasion, BTW. We invaded on March 19 and did not secure the entire country instantly.

Oh, I watched the NBC video myself at their website (although I lost the link). The theory that Drudge and NRO are simply fabricating an NBC transcript is a bit of a stretch, and, in this case, false.

Whoever

Drudge isn't fabrication. NBC was embedded with troops that arrived 4/10. That does not mean they were the first troops to arrive. In fact, they were not.

Here's the bare fact: US military planning should have accounted for the existence of this KNOWN weapons cache. Simple. Securing it should have been a priority. Instead, troops perused it and abandoned it. This at a time when it was still assumed that WMDs were in existence in the country.

Thank God this guy didn't actually have any nuclear, biological or chemical agents. It boggles the mind to think of the devastation that would have been unleashed by our incompetence.

I've heard a lot of foul arguments iin favor of this war, such as We haven't lost that many men, or Massive, uncounted civilian casualties don't matter because Saddam also killed civilians, or Compared to other wars, we aren't wasting that much money. It's an amazing argument to explain a nonstop parade of incompetence, wastefulness and negligence.

To think that such a record of abysmal failure on virtually EVERY front is actually used as one of Bush's strong points in this election season! This is what passes for a strong leader in Conservative circles? Incredible.

Cecil Turner

"Here's the bare fact: US military planning should have accounted for the existence of this KNOWN weapons cache. Simple. Securing it should have been a priority. Instead, troops perused it and abandoned it. This at a time when it was still assumed that WMDs were in existence in the country."

Why don't you call up Tommy Franks and explain it to him? Might want to have your credentials ready, because he's likely to question them. You might also want to have a plan for the thousands of other weapons caches . . . maybe put a squad of soldiers on each? It's worth noting that the ISG couldn't even look at each site:

The scale of the Iraqi conventional munitions stockpile, among other factors, precluded an examination of the entire stockpile; however, ISG inspected sites judged most likely associated with possible storage or deployment of chemical weapons.

Cecil Turner

Well, since our resident amateur armchair ops expert doesn't appear to want to talk substance, let's address the tone.

CentCom, led by Tommy Franks, took a two-axis war plan and, due to political constraints, converted at the last minute to a single-axis assault. The timing was shuffled to allow for a decapitation strike (that didn't work), which forced them to reorganize the air assault/ground assault on the fly, and conducted one of the swiftest military victories in history from a standing start. All this with severe political and logistics constraints, bad weather, and typical half-a**ed intelligence information. The only appropriate descriptor for the campaign is: "brilliant."

Instead, we hear constant carping about peripheral issues, stupid pronouncements of doom, and constant displays of ignorance from those who still seem to feel they are qualified to critique a war plan they clearly don't understand. Do you have a great idea? Hey, share it with the rest of us! But if all you can do is talk sh** about "a nonstop parade of incompetence, wastefulness and negligence," here's some good advice.

Appalled Moderate

The more I read, the more this seems like a tactical foul up -- provided the weaponry was really there in early april. (It's not like the war wasn't telegraphed reasonably far in advance, y'know... There was probably time to move and hide the stuff)

If you're opposed to Bush already, "all in all, it's another brick in the wall." If you are inclined to support him -- this story does not tie directly enough to much of anything to be convincing. This doesn't illustrate a new and different strategic failure. It's just the type of tactical mistake that is going to happen in a large complex enterprise. (You know -- did the leaders of the invading army know that lots of HMX were at this site-- just because IAEA knew doesnt mean the info was passed along with sufficient urgency-- was this information communicated to the field commanders -- etc etc)

There are many episodes of strategic blindness leading to tactical error in this Iraq enterprise. I'm not inclined to believe this is one of them. But Kerry is not one to let a potential criticism go unnoted, so we'll probably be hearing about this for a few days.

Appalled Moderate

Reading my comment, I still think I am being too hard on the military here. Our forces were rather busy fighting an enemy at the time thy went through the camp. the leadership may have had more pressing things on their mind than getting the most careful accounting of the stores at this particular piece of turf.

It really is time to move on. Nothing to see here. if Kerry concentrates on this, it makes me think that he does not truly recognize incompetence when he sees it.

Bill Arnold

Cecil, I can't claim any military background (WW2 frontline infantry dad is it), but agree that the war plan was very well done, maybe brilliant. The problem is that it didn't take seriously take into account the post-war. "Freedom is messy" is crass when looters with decades of pent-up-looting loot hospitals and government buildings. "Messy" is beyond crass when looters loot weapons dumps and use the material to fight the occupation. That's basically what the critics here (including me) are saying.

Meanwhile, the RDX story refuses to settle down. I trust TM will keep following it in his usual rigorous and honest way.

Rob W

Let me get this straight folks, Inspectors were there last on March 8, according to an AP report of April 5, 2003. They saw the seals unbroken and left. Then U.S. 3 ID arrives on April 4, according to a Washington Post story of April 5, 2003. The stuff is still there at that time. MSNBC and AP reported yesterday that a Pentagon official indicated the stuff was there at the time.

Furthermore, the Iraqi government told the IAEA that the materials were looted after April 9, 2004. Now don't denigrate our allies the Iraqis and tell us that they were wrong on their own weapons dump. That would be sending mixed messages.

However, let's assume for the sake of argument, that your timeline is correct. Somehow, in the month in between, during the leadup and conduct of a major war, Saddam moved some 380 tons of explosives out of there, using what must have been 40 or so trucks, despite the fact that U.S. satellite and areial surveillance on the site must be intense as Iraq had declared it as part of its former nuclear infrastructure in 1995. The premise is laughable and not too flattering to the invasion planners. Even if Saddam carted it away, they let a gigantic movement away from the dump go undetected, despite the fact we are watching for WMD all of the time? Hardly less incompetent than the original story.

However, I find the "Saddam moved all 377 tons before they got there" story to suffer from real laugh test problems. I'd bet the original story is right.

Cecil Turner

"The problem is that it didn't take seriously take into account the post-war."

Bill, I don't agree, but that's a reasonable position. There are certainly two sides to the argument over the size of the occupation force. (Though I think most critics don't really understand the many down sides to a larger footprint.)

But contrast that with arguing that a pile of HE should have been top priority on April 4th 2003 (or April 10th), with the assault still ongoing--at the end of a tenuous supply line with a limited amount of troops--and the near certainty of heavy fighting still ahead. Sorry, but that's not reasonable. And it's not a criticism of political planning, but of a real-time military decision made under considerable stress. As is probably obvious, it p****es me off.

Rob W

Furthermore, its not a tactical mistake. As David Kay said in the same NBC report you guys are touting, this is only one of many weapons caches that was left unsecured. These weapons dumps are the ones which are now feeding the insurgency. Why did all of this happen? Because they made a bigger error in focusing on controlling the Oil Ministry and oil infastructure. However, force protection must come first.

Its all part of the "they'll greet us with flowers" planning for the invasion. There was no worst case scenario planning here--and that's the wrong way to go about it. January 2004's Atlantic article Blind Into Baghdad (Reg. Reqired) indicated, naysayers on the planning were treated as giving ammo to political opponents or shunned all together as being against the war. This overly political view of the war at the White House led to this debacle.

I'm amazed at the ability of Bush backers to float outrageous scenarios to explain away the failures of this administration. What's even more amazing is the inability of the media to apply the laugh test to these whoppers.

Rob W

Cecil, your own words describe the very problem:

at the end of a tenuous supply line with a limited amount of troops

We didn't have enough troops to secure many weapons dumps that could be used by anyone who would choose to oppose us. We also put these dumps on low priority, according to the NBC piece last night. These are large errors. And they just seem to keep on coming.

Cecil Turner

<<"at the end of a tenuous supply line with a limited amount of troops">>

"We didn't have enough troops to secure many weapons dumps"

Rob, the number of troops was limited by the supply line. You can make a reasonable argument about post-war troop levels. The same argument about the assault phase is not reasonable. Also, there was no chance of securing every weapons dump, even if the number of troops had been doubled or trebled.

If you don't mind my asking, do you have any background in military planning? You made some very astute points on the other thread (along with some that IMO weren't). If you do mind, disregard, just curious.

Rob W

Cecil, you state The same argument about the assault phase is not reasonable. This is what we call a conclusory statement. No evidence is provided as to why this is unreasonable.

It is a reasonable statement. U.S. forces during the first Gulf War numbered 325,000. During this war there were only 250,000 U.S. troops. We could have had more. We chose not to. Ah, I smell a 4 ID argument coming on, "if Turkey had agreed to let us come in from the North." Answer: This is a contingency that should have been planned for.

Indeed, even Stanely Kurtz of the NRO thought the U.S. should have had more troops. There was no reason not to. Indeed, one would have thought we needed more because we went in with significantly fewer allies this time.

But we didn't have more. Cecil, when is the Commander-In-Chief supposed to be held responsible? I thought personal responsibility was a conservative value. Your guy won't take the hit. That's why he's losing. If he had admitted to mistakes in April, he'd be winning now. But he's going to lose now because he couldn't accept responsiblity. Americans don't like being lied to.

Cecil Turner

"Cecil, you state The same argument about the assault phase is not reasonable. This is what we call a conclusory statement. No evidence is provided as to why this is unreasonable."

It's conclusory because it's at the end of the train of thought. The reasoning is provided in the preceding part of the paragraph: "the number of troops was limited by the supply line."

"It is a reasonable statement. U.S. forces during the first Gulf War . . ."

The first Gulf War had multi-axis supply lines from several deep water ports (good overview here), only a few miles into enemy territory. OIF had a single-axis line that had to stretch from Kuwait to Baghdad, 300 miles into enemy territory, through multiple choke points, and past hostile population centers. The fact that you'd proffer that as an analogous situation amply answers my question about experience, thanks.

"Indeed, even Stanely Kurtz of the NRO thought the U.S. should have had more troops. There was no reason not to."

More troops use more supplies. We had difficulty supplying the ones we had, which caused a short "operational pause" at what many professionals considered an inopportune moment. More assault troops would just have exacerbated the situation.

Brian

Appalled,

You don't have to think that you were being too hard on the military. You can easily rest with the idea that you are being rightfully hard on the administration, for it has shown breathtaking incompetence at nearly every turn. And then, when you catch 'em, they lie.

jukeboxgrad

Cecil said: "And then someone clandestinely 'looted' a couple hundred tons of explosive? They might have 'missed' the bunkers full of HE . . . it seems a bit less likely they'd have missed the loaders, large trucks, etc. moving the 'three-quarters-of-a-million pound[s]' of stuff. Occam's razor suggests it was already gone."

You think it's implausible the stuff got moved after we showed up. Really? The enemy had weeks or months to do it, in the post-invasion chaos. By all accounts, our troops passed through roughly 4/4 and/or 4/10, but they didn't stay. After all, they had an oil ministry to guard. The country was in utter disorder after Baghdad fell (and of course it still is). Lots of opportunity for enterprising Iragis with trucks to haul this stuff around. Given that the chaos went on for weeks or months, it didn't require heavy equipment to move this stuff. Just lots of trips with little trucks. We weren't paying attention. After all, we had an oil ministry to guard.

We know this: looting was rampant, everywhere. Why shouldn't this site have also been looted? Again, by all accounts, we made no effort to secure it during this period (or at any time, for that matter).

Also, this is a huge complex. According to Fox News, the site includes 1,100 buildings. Given that we apparently didn't even try to secure it, it's easy to imagine the place crawling with hungry locals looking for something to sell. That's apparently what was going on everywhere.

"The word 'conventional' has a specific meaning when describing weapons: 'A weapon which is neither nuclear, biological, nor chemical.' Mr McClellan was of course correct."

The whole reason IAEA was involved to begin with was because of the presence of these materials, which are dual-use (they can be used to help make nukes, in other words). That's exactly why Negroponte mentioned HMX when he spoke to the Senate, trying to beat the WMD drum. So the word "conventional" is just barely on the margin of truth. I think you and McClennan are both being disingenuous.

TM said: "Sadddam's side was in control of that area until early April."

Your speculative assertion is at odds with what our government told us at the time. This is from a press briefing dated 3/24/03: "our forces are operating through Iraq, on the ground and in the air ... we are now more than 200 miles into Iraqi territory." On 3/25, we were told "on the ground, our forces are nearing Baghdad."

Also, we had complete air superiority, flying 1,000 sorties a day. This was a known major weapons site, with high potential for hidden WMD. But somehow we looked the other way while the joint was looted? You haven't explained why this is anything other than criminal negligence.

" You might also want to have a plan for the thousands of other weapons caches"

There weren't "thousands of other weapons caches" on this scale. Please call my attention to at least one other weapons site that was several square miles in area, with 1,100 buildings, and with known nuke-related materials that were under IAEA surveillance.

Anyway, "have a plan" is exactly the point. There should have been a plan, but there was no plan (aside from "they'll greet us with flowers and kisses"). As a result, Iraq is now a stunning bonanza for arms smugglers. Stuff that was locked up by Saddam, and also monitored by the UN, is now being dispersed all over the Middle East and probably beyond. I'm glad this makes you feel safer. I'm not drinking that Kool-Aid.

Cecil Turner

"The whole reason IAEA was involved to begin with was because of the presence of these materials, which are dual-use (they can be used to help make nukes, in other words)."

They can be used as part of a nuclear weapon (the conventional explosives part that compresses the core--a very precisely controlled explosion being necessary). But it's the least difficult part of a nuke, and not normally considered a high non-proliferation priority. The hard part is getting the plutonium or highly enriched uranium . . . which is why we do worry about nuclear power plants, large centrifuges, etc.

"There weren't "thousands of other weapons caches" on this scale."

There are thousands of other weapons caches full of the things that make effective IED's: artillery shells. The little ones are actually more of a concern, since there are dispersed, too many to guard, and the locals usually have a better idea where they are. Apparently you want to guard the big sites, and let the insurgents get their weapons from all the little sites. What's the point?

Rob W

OK Cecil, you're stealing all of my points and arguing my case for me. You're arguing that we only had one port and that we were delayed because of conditions on the ground--how could we have rectified that? Sounds like a very good argument for not invading Iraq, at least not without a complete international coalition.

Also our shipping was less of a problem in this war because the key divisions used prepositioned equipment. They didn't use their own stuff but got the stuff already waiting in Kuwait. Not only that, but the "planning" for this invasion begain in Dec. 2002, more than a year before it happened. Desert Storm was planned and executed in 6 months. Iraqi Freedom was "planned" and executed in 15 months. We had a lot more time to get the big dumps built over there but didn't do it. This was a war of choice, we could have done more but didn't.

Man, I will give you the effort points though. You guys twist and turn and do multiple flips just to try and prove that Bush didn't royally FUBAR this one. Reality says otherwise. All of your arguments are countered with a simple phrase: Scoreboard baby, scoreboard.

Slartibartfast
Let me get this straight folks, Inspectors were there last on March 8, according to an AP report of April 5, 2003. They saw the seals unbroken and left.

Let's see. Al Qaqaa is an enormous site. Weapons inspectors of all kinds were in and out of there in February and March. On March 8, this is what the IAEA reported, as relevant to Al Qaqaa:

A third missile team visited the Al Qa Qaa complex for the verification of emptying and tagging of warheads for Al Samoud 2 missiles.

Missiles. Not stockpiles of HMX, missiles. And that's the only reference to Al Qaqaa on that day.

jukeboxgrad

Cecil said "CentCom, led by Tommy Franks, took a two-axis war plan and, due to political constraints, converted at the last minute to a single-axis assault."

Gosh, all the finger-pointing makes my head spin. Hasn't Bush been telling us that he always listened to Tommy, and gave Tommy everything he asked for? Of course that was Bush's way of blaming the mess on the military (nice to see that he supports our troops). But now you're telling us that Franks did fine, that the real problem was "political constraints." What political contraints? I thought we were blessed with a CinC who operates from moral certitude, and never lets anything get in the way of that, and is ready willing and able to do whatever's required to get the job done. Rah rah.

Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to keep up with these shifting realities.

The bottom line is that if political and/or military contraints existed to prevent getting the job done right, those contraints should have been addressed before we jumped headfirst into the manure pile.

Appalled said, "It's just the type of tactical mistake that is going to happen in a large complex enterprise."

Sorry, no. It's the type of tactical mistake that's going to happen when you ignore good advice and use a fraction of the troops you're supposed to.

Cecil said " But it's the least difficult part of a nuke, and not normally considered a high non-proliferation priority."

It's all relative. Negroponte saw fit to mention HMX to the Senate, and it was part of a long paragraph that strictly discussed numerous nuke-related items. In other words, when it was politically helpful to beat the nuke-scare drum, HMX was treated as scary. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and McClellan tells us "move along here, nothing to see, it's just conventional." This is hypocrisy.

"There are thousands of other weapons caches full of the things that make effective IED's: artillery shells."

Shells are good for certain nefarious purposes, and C4 is good for others. I don't picture plane hijackers smuggling artillery shells in their carry-on luggage.

"Apparently you want to guard the big sites, and let the insurgents get their weapons from all the little sites. What's the point?"

You're offering a false choise. As I said. Either do the job right or don't do it at all. And be big enough to take the blame when you screw up. We're less safe now, and we're tired of being lied to.

Cecil Turner

"We had a lot more time to get the big dumps built over there but didn't do it. This was a war of choice, we could have done more but didn't."

Dumps in Kuwait weren't the problem--moving them 300 miles to Baghdad was. And that couldn't be done before the war, obviously.

"You guys twist and turn and do multiple flips . . ."

Riiight. Gonna explain to us again how we could just have used more troops? The flipping and flopping is predictably on the side of he who is famous for it.

TM

Given that the chaos went on for weeks or months, it didn't require heavy equipment to move this stuff. Just lots of trips with little trucks.

That was Jukeboxgrad, IIRC.

Rob was peddling this, which I also saw at Josh Marshall:

Saddam moved some 380 tons of explosives out of there, using what must have been 40 or so trucks, despite the fact that U.S. satellite and areial surveillance on the site must be intense as Iraq had declared it as part of its former nuclear infrastructure in 1995.

Boy, it's a puzzle. There was a really stupid way for Saddm to try and move it. Hmm, but that would be stupid. Well, that proves he didn't move it, then!

The reality team is running a huge faith-based initiative on this one. Sure, the dump might have been looted afterwards, and your faith that it was is touching (it is always reassuring to see that people can believe in *something).

However, since the Times told us on Oct. 20 that Saddam had a plan for paramilitary operations in southern Iraq, complete with dispersed ammo hidden in caches all over Iraq, one wonders when Team Reality will provide the fact-based argument that Saddam did not disperse what he wanted from this ammo dump.

Oh, I have a new post for Day Two here, and a full blast at the IAEA and the Times here. We are smoking now.

Brian

We now have word that there was no search. Go up and read the comment section of "John Kerry, Candidate of the IAEA."

Rob W

TM,

You guys are the ones saying Saddam pulled it out. The burden of proof is on you. Not on us. We have the facts which say ths stuff was there on April 9. How do we know? The Iraqi government itself told us. Are you saying that Allawi is wrong?

Why don't we see you prove that Saddam took it out? Because its pure speculation.

Please just acknowledge one mistake. You guys would be polling so much better if could have done that. Now its too late. Everyone sees its FUBAR but you won't admit it. It destroys your credibility.

At least you do acknowledge that we are the reality based team.

Rob W

Cecil,

We could have used more troops by deploying more troops. You claim that the supply line was choked off? Why was it choked off? Because there were no troops guarding it. We could have done it, but chose not to. How am I flipping and flopping? I opposed the decision to go into Iraq for strategic/political reasons. Once that decision was made, the U.S. had to fight to win. But we had a terrible plan and did a lot of stuff wrong. We continue these mistakes to this day. These are mistakes we cannot afford to make. The adding up of all of these mistakes shows the current Administration is not capable of getting this job done. A change is needed.

We are committed in Iraq. We must win. Despite how you spin it, Kerry is not for withdrawl. Every public statement has been that we cannot withdraw until conditions are right. He had hoped that if conditions were right it could be done quickly. Nobody believes that now.

We can't pull out. What kind of terrorist heaven would result.

Cecil Turner

"But now you're telling us that Franks did fine, that the real problem was "political constraints." What political contraints?"

The political constraint of not being allowed to bring the 4ID through Turkey. (And if you really need that explained to you, you might want to get a basic overview before holding forth any further.)

"It's all relative. Negroponte saw fit to mention HMX to the Senate, and it was part of a long paragraph that strictly discussed numerous nuke-related items."

That's because it demonstrated Saddam's pursuit of nuclear weapons technology--not because it was dangerous in itself. Which was thought to be a good indicator of his intent to develop other WMDs . . . and it apparently was.

Rob W

Update: NBC correspondents did not search the bunkers:

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.

Sorry no link yet. I think Josh took it from Nexis.

Rob W

It appears from the text above that the 101st did not do so either. Looks like the stuff was looted later.

Rob W

Cecil:
The political constraints are something the President is supposed to handle. He bungled Turkey. Should have just given them a bag of money. To be honest, he should have done that with the French too. If he's going to go, he's got to do it right.

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