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October 27, 2004



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Geek, Esq.

So the Russians snuck in there and moved 40 trucks worth of stuff to Syria without the US knowing?

Must have been Dr. Strangelove's idea.

Why don't we ask these guys, who were actually there?


Eric Anondson

If I recall correctly, the US knew that the Russian special forces were there in Iraq somewhere. The US intelligence knew that Russia was giving Saddam specialized instruction and training on many things. We didn't know exactly what it was because, obviously, we didn't have assets among the Ba'athists or the Russian Special Forces in Iraq. Bringing us full circle back to the Clintonian/Democratic neutering of clandestine intelligence gathering.

Eric Anondson

Geek, was that article supposed to support some statement? Because the article has this to say about those 4 men...

The accounts do not directly address the question of when 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives vanished from the site sometime after early March, the last time international inspectors checked the seals on the bunkers where the material was stored

JM Hanes

I guess we can cross Paul Bremer off the Democrats' Darling of the Week list. Appearing with Brit Hume, he said he was familiar with the area in question and repeatedly asserted that the idea of large quantities of munitions being removed subsequent to American occupation was more than a little implausible.


What a remarkable articled! Many thanks.

jack risko

I think this is a remake of The Sting


Eric Anondson

I guess there's no good answer for Bush here.

Right, because Presidents micromanage every military unit in every theater of war themselves?

You seem to be under some confusion about how remote sensing works. Just because the US military has spy satellites looking in Iraq, doesn't mean there is constant recording all the time. Nearly all spy satellites take still shots, not video, and at that they only take photos of where they are directed to look. We know Saddam had countless munitions dumps, hundreds of palaces, etc. ... Only recently has the US had satellites that could be look at angles, otherwise the satellite had to be planted directly above the target when the still shot was taken as it orbited the globe. The next time a satellite returned to take a picture could be 6 hours (rarely), 1 day, 1 week, 15 days, etc. away.

It is borderline Hollywood-think to think that the US had enough spare satellites to spy over every square mile of Iraq through out the entire Hussain era, every minute of every hour of every day of every month...

So, yeah, we had satellites spying down on Iraq, but you overestimate their capabilities, and extent.


"Has anyone figured out how much HMX or RDX was in Iraq but not at Al QaQaa, where it was singled out as a dual use item? Has anyone figured out how much RDX floats around the world, available in Chechnya or Afghanistan, or wherever bad guys operate?"

Questions like these are simply in bad taste. Next thing you know you'll be asking critical questions about to what extent our difficulties in Iraq stem from "poor planning and mistakes and Bushian incompetence" and to what extent they don't, instead of just accepting the received wisdom of your fellow pundits as fact.

Eric Anondson

Forgot these points:

Why so much focus on the roads? It's the desert--pick up trucks can travel off-road fairly easily, from what I gather.

Sure is, but taking high-explosives on an off-road drive in a pick-up? A bit dangerous perhaps? Pick-ups traveling through a desert also leave a dust-cloud for all to see for a great distance... attracting potential attention.

How about the Iraqis who worked at the facility who said unequivocally that those explosives disappeared AFTER the invasion?

The fellows should be asked about their routine before the invasion. Pity the NY times didn't ask them. Maybe we will get an update soon now that Gertz has broken Shaw's claim.

Geek, Esq.

If the US was going to invade a country out of fears of its WMD program, one would think that it would monitor one of the main WMD sites which also served as a major munitions depo with its reconaissance. Call it a hunch.

The major point is that the failure to secure locations like this lies in strategic, rather than tactical failures. The Bushies failed to account for future insurgencies. Gross negligence.

Those explosives were stable. Perfectly capable of being born away by pick-up trucks.

The AFP DID interview those guys:

"It is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall," said Mohammed al-Sharaa, who heads the science ministry's site monitoring department and previously worked with UN weapons inspectors under Saddam.

"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."


I find it remarkable that people are willing to swallow the swill from the Moonie Times without hesitation. Here's something you probably don't know: The Financial Times, an actual news organization, did the first run of the story. However, unlike the Moonie Times flunkies, it included a few trenchant facts, such as:

"Mr Shaw, who heads the Pentagon’s international armament and technology trade directorate, has not provided evidence for his claims and the Pentagon distanced itself from his remarks."

"“I am unaware of any particular information on that point,” said Larry Di Rita, Pentagon spokesman."

"The Russian embassy in Washington rejected the claims as “nonsense”, saying there were no Russian military in the country at the time."

The Gertz story is a pile of crap. No evidence, just a loose cannon speculating.

People interested in the truth should not rely upon the Moonie Times for their news.


This attempts to be a highly-documented, comprehensive, and up-to-date summary of the Al Qaqaa explosives matter.


In the months and weeks leading up to the war, UN inspectors visited Al Qaqaa frequently. On 1/15/03, they specifically checked on HE (the now-AWOL high explosives) stored there. In March, right before we invaded, the UN was on-site particularly often (3/1/03, 3/3/03, 3/4/03, 3/6/03, 3/8/03, 3/9/03, and 3/15/03), monitoring various materials and projects. On one or more of these March visits, the UN checked the seals on the bunkers where the HE were stored. In particular, the seals were checked on 3/15/03.

On 3/17/03, the UN announced the withdrawal of all inspectors. (Our impending invasion forced them to leave, in other words, even though they wanted to stay and continue their work.) On 3/20/03, we invaded.


On 3/22, Tommy Franks said "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 ... Our plan introduces these forces across the breadth and depth of Iraq, in some cases simultaneously and in some cases sequentially."

He also said that one of his top seven objectives (second only to regime change) was "to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." He forgot to mention that he didn't have enough troops to properly (i.e., on a timely basis) search and secure what the AP has called "Iraq's largest military industrial complex," which comprises 1,100 buildings spread over several square miles. This would obviously be a likely location to find WMD, if they existed anywhere. (Incidentally, the way we neglected this location is a pretty solid indication we never truly believed we would find WMD, there or anywhere.)

Note that this site was not out of our way. It's located on the way to Baghdad. Also, it's not hidden. On the contrary. Given its size, it's just about impossible to miss. But we did, nevertheless (with regard to properly searching and securing it).

Also, it's not as if we didn't know exactly where to look when we got there. The UN had been crawling all over the joint with dozens of inspectors, for weeks and months, sometimes on a daily basis. Yet there are ample indications we paid not the slightest attention to the information they had, or to the warnings they tried to give us. After all, why should we? It's just the UN, after all.

A brief history of the conquest can come in handy. On 3/24 we were told "our forces are operating throughout Iraq, on the ground and in the air." On 4/1 we were told "the ground attack actually started before the air war, with thousands of Special Forces pouring into all regions of the country." By 4/2, we were "within 30 miles of Baghdad" (roughly in the vicinity of Al Qaqaa, in other words). By 4/4, we were at the airport. By 4/7, we had secured the airport as well as "most of the major roads into and out of Baghdad" (that was nice, while it lasted). We had also "visited two of Saddam's presidential palaces." On 4/9, we toppled the statue. On 4/11 we were told "pockets of resistance remain" (nice to see all the progress we've made since then). On 4/12 we were the told the regime was "no longer in control of Iraq" (too bad we weren't, either). On 4/14 we were told "the regime is at its end ... gradually, the indications of every-day life are returning in Iraq, and the Iraqis are adjusting to the freedom from the tyranny of the regime" (I guess there's still a certain amount of "adjusting" left to be done). On 4/15 we were told "only a few Iraqi cities remain contested" (that was nice, while it lasted). We were told about "remaining pockets of resistance." (These statements can be found here.)

On 5/1 Bush did his "mission accomplished" stunt.


While all this cool stuff was happening, what about Al Qaqaa?

Apparently the first time we stepped foot there was 4/4. Troops sniffed around and found various signs of "chemical preparedness." However, there is no indication anything resembling a comprehensive search was attempted. There was also no mention of any signs of looting. There is no mention that anyone paid any attention to HE material, checking to see if the material was present or not present, or if IAEA seals were intact or breached. There's also no indication troops stayed there to secure the site. By the way, this report is highly useful because it was written at the time, long before this controversy arose.

A more recent report corroborates all of that (except with regard to the question of looting): "As the rest of Perkins’ brigade moved on, the 3rd Battalion spent two days in the area, sweeping for other Iraqi forces, Perkins said. The troops didn’t specifically search for any high explosives, although they were aware that Al-Qaqaa was an important site for what was believed to be Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs ... They didn’t specifically search for the 377 tons of high explosives, HMX and RDX, that are missing ... some looting at the site had taken place"

Fox said it this way: "The 3rd Infantry soldiers stayed long enough to battle the Iraqis and to give the facility a brief inspection before heading out to continue on their prime objective — reaching the Iraqi capital."

Note that the UN had warned us about this place, before and after the invasion. We knew the site contained (or was supposed to contain), among other things, vast amounts of dual-use (i.e., nuke-related) HE, under IAEA seal. But apparently the troops who arrived on 4/4 had been given no instructions regarding these HE, and indeed there's no indication they paid the slightest attention to the subject of HE.

The question of looting is interesting. The account written at the time makes not the slightest mention of looting. However, the recent account (of the same events) indicates that there was some evidence of looting. Interesting. What's more interesting is that the commander who showed up a few days later (see below) indicates he saw no signs of looting.

Other troops made a short visit there on 4/10. But like the earlier group, they apparently had no awareness of the HE at this site. The commanding officer (Anderson) said "We happened to stumble on it ... I didn't know what the place was supposed to be. We did not get involved in any of the bunkers. It was not our mission. It was not our focus. We were just stopping there on our way to Baghdad. The plan was to leave that very same day. The plan was not to go in there and start searching. It looked like all the other ammunition supply points we had seen already ... There was no sign of looting here ... Looting was going on in Baghdad, and we were rushing on to Baghdad ... I thought we would be there for a few hours and move on. We ended up staying overnight."

Also, the Pentagon has directly admitted that with regard to this group, "Orders were not given from higher to search or to secure the facility." The reason for this negligence? "They [high-explosive weapons] were everywhere in Iraq." But no one has claimed that anywhere in Iraq was there ever a known stockpile of this kind of material, on nearly this scale.

Note that Bush has not even attempted to explain why these troops (or the earlier group that stopped by on 4/4) apparently received no guidance to check for the safety of the HE materials that the UN had repeatedly warned us about.

Note that this visit (4/10) has been touted by countless sources on the right, from the administration all the way down to Drudge, as proof-positive that the stuff was gone before we arrived that day. This specious idea appears in a great deal of the current news coverage and commentary, which is intensely misleading, as a result. Here's how it goes:

It is often said that the troops who visited on 4/4 and/or 4/10 did not find HE. True. This is taken as proof that the HE was already gone. Nonsense. What we're not told is that these troops didn't find HE because they didn't lift a finger to look for HE, beccause they hadn't been instructed to do so. Most reports also obscure the reality that this is a massive installation with 1,100 buildings. It's asinine to suggest that in a place this vast they would have accidentally stumbled on a stockpile they weren't aware of, and weren't trying to find. The sad reality is that they should have known about the stockpile, and they should have and could have checked on it. But none of that happened.

Anderson, quoted above, has set the record straight on all this.

So after our guys left the joint on or about 4/10, when did Americans next step foot in the place? Quite possibly, not until May. Apparently the Iraq Survey group "did not give the area a thorough search until May, when they visited on three occasions, starting May 8. They did not find any material or explosives that had been marked by the IAEA."

4/10 (when our troops made a quick visit) to 5/8 (when ISG finally made the first of series of search visits) is four weeks. During this period, what measures were in place to secure Al Qaqaa, reportedly Iraq's largest military industrial complex?

Apparently none. So far, at least, not a shred of information has emerged to indicate that even a single American soldier (or Iraqi soldier, for that matter) was stationed at Al Qaqaa to secure it, or for any other purpose, in the period between 4/10 and 5/8.

So what went on at Al-Qaqaa in the period between 4/10 and 5/8? We have little or no indication that any coalition forces paid any attention whatsoever during that interval. But we do know quite a bit about what about happening elsewhere in Iraq, at that time. Rampant looting. And that's what was happening at Al Qaqaa, also. Eyewitness reports now confirm that: "what set off much if not all of the looting was the arrival and swift departure of American troops, who did not secure the site after inducing the Iraqi forces to abandon it."

(By the way, I'm being conservative by using the 5/8 date in this analysis. There is reason to believe that ISG didn't fully search the place until 5/27: "Lt. Gen. William Boykin, the Pentagon's deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said that on May 27, 2003, a U.S. military team specifically looking for weapons went to the site but did not find anything with IAEA stickers on it.")


On 4/8, the CNN headline was "Rampant looting across Iraq." The report said: "Thieves armed with AK-47 assault rifles are breaking into homes, shops and ministries, walking away with everything from furniture to kerosene, residents say ... Reuters correspondents traveling with U.S. forces report similar scenes from across the country, including on the outskirts of the capital Baghdad ... Gen. Ali Shukri of the Middle East Center at Britain's Oxford University, said U.S. and British forces had to act quickly or risk losing fledgling goodwill for the invasion ... 'People are not going to believe the statement that says we're out to build Iraq. Iraq is being destroyed under the eyes of the coalition forces,' Shukri told the BBC ... correspondents say looting appears indiscriminate ... Small-time looters roam Basra and other cities with wheelbarrows full of stolen goods. Some use donkeys to haul heavy goods across cities as shells land and gunfire crackles ... Looters have cleaned out bombed factories, houses and buildings, taking away industrial equipment, household appliances, and even pillows, mattresses and live chickens ... Reuters correspondent Matthew Green, with U.S. Marines on the outskirts of Baghdad, watched scores of young men make off with home generators and other booty from a factory on Monday ... 'They were literally emptying the premises,' he said ... Reuters correspondent Sean Maguire, traveling with a unit of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Baghdad, saw residents scurrying through the dusty back streets carrying furniture and other items apparently from deserted official buildings."

On 4/8, the WaPo headline was "Rampant Looting Sweeps Iraq." The report said: "The apparent success of the U.S. military campaign was undercut by scenes of unchecked lawlessness and looting across the country, including in Baghdad ... Garner ... predicted the mayhem and looting would soon be calmed ... Mosul ... descended into anarchy this morning with widespread looting ... looters pulling furniture from nearby government buildings ... Looters ransacked offices of the Baath Party, the army and security services and carted off furniture and air conditioners ... A mob stormed the central bank offices and tossed newly minted currency around like confetti. Men and boys grasped whole stacks of the bills, which bear Hussein's portraits. There appeared to be no hard currency remaining in the vaults ... Mosul's regional government building was stripped bare of furniture. A lone man pushed a gilt sofa from the governor's office three stories down the stairs. A boy who looked no older than eight cradled fluorescent lighting."

USAToday, on 4/10: "The Republican Guard troops might be gone, but they left behind millions of hungry, desperate Iraqis who now are engaged in a binge of looting at government installations and in residential neighborhoods. The situation is apparent in Saddam City, an impoverished enclave of more than 2 million mostly Shiite Muslims. Cars, trucks, even donkey carts there were filled with loot. Stolen goods range from brand-new Mercedes Benzes to plastic chairs stolen off patios. U.S. soldiers tried to restore a vestige of law and order. But mostly, they did little to check the rampant looting around the city. Looters carted off bottles of wine and whiskey, guns, and paintings of half-naked women from the luxury home Saddam's playboy son Uday. They also picked clean Uday's yacht and made off with some of the white Arabian horses he kept. What they could not carry, they trashed. Thousands of looters who at first had confined themselves to government sites began cleaning out factories and stores around Baghdad. They piled goods from bathtubs to mattresses to TVs to orange juice on carts."

Notice the explicit reference to "factories around Baghdad."

Houston Chronicle, on 4/9 (from the NYT): "Humanitarian workers in Iraq say the military push to Baghdad has left behind cities empty of police officers and filled with chaos, casualties and the rampant looting of everything from medicine to ceiling fans. Baghdad itself has hospitals overflowing with so many dead and wounded that the Red Cross has lost count. The situation, they say, is close to anarchy."

On 4/12, even Fox News admitted that Baghdad was "chaos-laden." The report mentions "widespread" and "rampant looting, vandalism and arson in government offices."

More: "Much of the looting in Baghdad and other cities has targeted government ministries and the homes of former regime leaders, but looters also have ransacked foreign embassies, stolen ambulances from hospitals and robbed some private businesses ... Aid organizations, as well as many Baghdad residents, have pleaded with U.S. officials to crack down on the looting ... 'The humanitarian situation is worsening as a consequence of widespread lawlessness,' said InterAction, a Washington-based coalition of more than 160 U.S. aid groups. Iraq-based relief workers with CARE reported that hospitals are 'in absolutely dire straits,' with some looted and others closed to prevent looting ... Abbas Reta, 51, a Baghdad engineer with five children, was distraught at the looting of schools and hospitals ... 'If one of my family is injured where will I take them now? When the schools reopen, my children will have no desks to sit on ... The Americans are responsible. One round from their guns and all the looting would have stopped.'

With all this going on, it's easy to understand why a site with only "a level II priority on a list of 500 sites to be searched and secured" would merit little or no attention from us. Even though this meant that Iraq's largest military-industrial installation was rapidly turning into probably the largest terrorist-arming bonanza in the history of the world.

The news wasn't all bad, though. While Al Qaqaa (not to mention countless schools and hospitals in Baghdad and elsewhere) was apparently left to be picked over by any number of industrious, hungry, and/or nefarious locals, we did manage to protect the Oil Ministry, with "24-hour guard by troops and about 50 tanks that block every entrance, and sharpshooters ... stationed on its roof and in windows." As far I know this building contains not even a single oil well, and also probably not a single barrel of oil. But it sure is comforting to know we properly secured all those file cabinets and desks.

("The oil ministry remained untouched. Other government buildings were ransacked and the irrigation ministry, just next door to the oil ministry was burned.")

What seemed to irritate Rummy at the time was not the looting but the idea that people objected to the looting. On 4/11, Rummy said "freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." He also said the looting was not bad as some said, and the looting was "part of the price" for what we were doing. CNN also said "Rumsfeld appeared irritated by questions about the looting, asserting that repeated images of Iraqi citizens ransacking buildings represented 'a fundamental misunderstanding' of what was happening in Iraq."

Incidentally, it's been suggested (by sociologist JR Brown) that the tolerance of looting was an explicit business strategy (courtesy of our MBA president): "By allowing uncontrolled public looting, Bush has ensured that every stick of furniture, light fixture, and every other item that could be stolen will have to be replaced by the approved contractors ... Using bombing to achieve this level of destruction to generate work for the contractors would have taken months. Allowing the Iraqi criminal element uncontrolled looting rights accomplished the job much more efficiently."


In an effort to explain all this, our government has made a serious of statements that are painfully lame.

Comsider these statements that are diametrically opposed. A Pentagon PR guy says on 4/9 there were already looters all over the place: "When troops from the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade arrived at the Al-Qaqaa base a day or so after other coalition troops seized Baghdad on April 9, 2003, there were already looters throughout the facility, Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, deputy public affairs officer for the unit, told The Associated Press."

This is directly at odds with the officer in command, on the scene at that time, who recently said "there was no sign of looting here."

But let's give Wellman the benefit of the doubt, just for a moment. If looting was already underway, as Wellman asserts, why, apparently, was no unit ordered to stay and secure the joint? No answer to this question is forthcoming from Wellman, or anyone else, as far as I can tell. According to Wellman, we saw looters, yawned and turned our back. (Apparently consistent with our attitude about looters elsewhere.)

An AP correspondent who was embedded in the vicinity offers this succcint and utterly logical explanation for why our troops did what they did: "The enormous size of the bases, the rapid pace of the advance on Baghdad and the limited number of troops involved, made it impossible for U.S. commanders to allocate any soldiers to guard any of the facilities after making a check"

More contradictory statements. Consider this from Fox: "Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said coalition forces were present in the vicinity of the site both during and after major combat operations, which ended May 1, 2003 — and searched the facility but found none of the explosives material in question."

Then why is our government acting like it just found out about all this? The State Dept has said "We first learned about this particular -- the absence of these particular explosives on October 15th" [2004]. This is a stunning statement, since the ISG learned of the missing materials on 5/27/03. I think a truer statement would have been "it was on 10/15/04 that we first determined that continuing this coverup was untenable."

McClellan recently said "President Bush ordered an investigation of the disappearance shortly after being notified by the IAEA on Oct. 15." ISG knew of the missing materials 18 months ago. Why was there no investigation then? Why did it take the IAEA and the NYT to wake us from our slumber?

The Pentagon said "Coalition forces were present in the vicinity at various times during and after major combat operations. The forces searched 32 bunkers and 87 other buildings at the facility, but found no indicators of WMD ... While some explosive material was discovered, none of it carried IAEA seals." It's nice that forces were "present," but did they search the joint promptly and thoroughly? No. The first sign of a thorough search, and the first awareness we had that critical items were missing, was in May, well after Baghdad fell.

As far as "32 bunkers and 87 other buildings," this statement is artfully vague with regard to when this search happened. There is no reason to believe this search was done prior to May. It certainly did not take place on 4/10, and it's highly unlikely that this statement describes the activities of the group who visited on 4/4. This statement appears to describe the work done by ISG in May.

By the way, since this site has 1,100 buildings, the White House is suggesting that roughly 90% of the site was never searched, perhaps even to this date.

The Pentagon says this site was "a level II priority on a list of 500 sites to be searched and secured." No one has explained why Iraq's largest military industrial complex was assigned such a low priority.

We're told the site "was visited dozens of times by U.S. troops in the months following the invasion." It's nice to know that there were "visits." Did our troops happen to "stumble on it," as the 4/10 commander indicated? There's certainly no indication that we ever sent anyone there specifically to check on the HE, until May.

As far as "dozens" of visits, not a shred of evidence has appeared that there were any visits whatsoever between 4/10 and 5/8. There are accounts of two visits (4/4 and 4/10), and no others (prior to ISG arriving in May). Also, given that we classified Al Qaqaa as such a low priority ("a level II priority on a list of 500 sites to be searched and secured"), it's hard to understand how we managed to have time for "dozens" of visits.

The Pentagon has said it's "very highly improbable" that the stuff could have been stolen "once U.S. forces arrived in the area," because "two major roads" that pass nearby "were filled with U.S. military traffic in the weeks after April 3, 2003, when U.S. troops first reached the area ... a large-scale operation to remove the explosives using multi-ton trucks would have almost certainly have been detected ... The movement of 377 tons of heavy ordnance would have required dozens of heavy trucks and equipment moving along the same roadways as U.S. combat divisions occupied continually for weeks prior to and subsequent to the 3rd I.D.’s arrival at the facility."

("3rd I.D" is a reference to the troops who stopped by on 4/4.)

How about a grass-roots operation using lots of little trucks? How about an operation involving smugglers who had half-a-brain and were clever enough to stay away from the major traffic on the major roads? How about smugglers who were clever enough to make their vehicles look ordinary? "Dozens of heavy trucks and equipment?" Given that they had a month or more in which to accomplish their work, all they needed was one pickup truck working around the clock and achieving one trip per hour. Not rocket science, especially given the mind-boggling profit opportunity (as I detail below).

Anyway, what's stunning about that Pentagon statement is that it's tantamount to admitting that we had no security posted at Al Qaqaa itself. Rather, we were relying on the idea that smugglers would get stuck in traffic, or naively drive directly toward checkpoints. After all, if we had indeed directly secured Al Qaqaa, that would be the appropriate statement to make now, not some lame hope about nearby traffic. But then again, as one official said, "you can't just leave a guard at every place." Not even at the largest weapons site in Iraq. In other words, our government has virtually admitted that Al Qaqaa was unguarded.

We've been told "it was impossible to provide 100 percent security for 100 percent of the sites." We already knew that. What we haven't been told is why there was apparently no security whatsoever at the single most important site.

The administration is quick to point out that we've found and destroyed lots of other weapons. True. But that's no excuse for looking the other way while the largest weapons sites in iraq is thoroughly looted. Unlike most of the other stuff we're finding, we knew exactly where this material was located. And this stuff is far more dangerous than most of the other stuff we're finding.

The administration has been quick to characterize these materials as "conventional" (i.e., not posing a nuclear proliferation risk). An official even described it as "stuff you can buy anywhere." (Anywhere in the Middle East, maybe, at this point, thanks to our collosal negligence.)

Yet 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.

Another comment on how dangerous this stuff is. David Kay is the CIA's former chief weapons hunter in Iraq. According to the LA Times Kay said "HMX and RDX were 'superb explosives for terrorists' because they were stable compounds that could be transported safely and used for large-scale attacks." Far more valuable to terrorists than ordinary shells, in other words.

Some have claimed "there is no evidence HMX or RDX have been used against coalition forces in Iraq." That's nonsense. On the contrary: "Insurgents targeting coalition forces in Iraq have made widespread use of plastic explosives in a bloody spate of car bomb attacks."

It's true that roadside IEDs targeting our forces are often based on artillery shells and the like. But the explosive of choice for car-bombings seems to be RDX and similar materials. And obviously many industrious bombers are finding clever ways to combine these methods.

(In an artful act of hair-splitting, the administration has claimed there is no evidence that the "_missing_" RDX has been used against us. They haven't bothered to explain whether it's possible or practical to ID this particular batch, compared with some other batch, especially after it's been detonated.)

So I don't buy the idea that this stuff is no more dangerous than the zillions of artillery shells that litter the countryside. For example, I somehow I don't picture plane hijackers smuggling artillery shells in their carry-on luggage.

This attempted "drop-in-the-bucket" defense is another attempt to trivialize something that's far from trivial. This is like Rummy telling us that widespread looting was unavoidable "untidiness." Or Limbaugh comparing Abu Ghraib to fraternity pranks.


Some are speculating that the stuff got moved before we invaded. But UN inspectors were crawling around the country until just days before we invaded. We undoubtedly had constant satellite surveillance. This was a known major weapons site. Hard to understand how we managed to not notice 40 large trucks leaving a major known weapons site, at this critical time. If our birds are that blind someone needs to explain why we bother having them. And if we had suddenly seen suspicious activity at this site, we surely would have asked the UN to send some inspectors to take a look. Surely it would have been a great opportunity to prove to the world that Saddam was trying to cheat. We would have been happy to have one more reason to pull the trigger.

Incidentally, those who claim that our pressure on Saddam induced him to move all his good stuff to Syria, and also claim we were deaf dumb and blind with regard to detecting this or stopping this, are also providing a good reason to believe we made a terrible mistake by pursuing this course.

Some are claiming that Saddam moved the stuff in the early days of the invasion (this would mean the period roughly from 3/20 to 4/2; by the end of that period, we were in the vicinity of Al Qaqaa). But we were flying roughly 1,000 sorties a day. We had complete air supremacy. How could we not notice 40 large trucks leaving the largest weapons site in the country? Also, he didn't have much time to get this done. What indicates that he had the resources to pull this off? Also, this theory is directly contradicted by eyewitnesses.

Some are arguing that moving this stuff would have been too hard for looters. Really? Iraq is now crawling with people who are industrious, hungry, unemployed and angry. Many of them are ex-troops who suddenly have time on their hands and an empty wallet. The epidemic of looting during the relevant period is well-documented. There's no indication we provided an iota of security at this site, during the period 4/10 to 5/8. This location is just 30 miles from Baghdad, a city of over 5 million people. Easy access to lots of labor, lots of vehicles, lots of potential customers. This site was packed with modern industrial equipment of every variety. It would have been an irresistible magnet for looters. If looters didn't have a heyday at Al Qaqaa in the period of 4/10 to 5/8 (if not longer), it's awfully hard to explain why this site gained a magical immunity that seemed to be unique in the entire country. Indeed, eyewitness reports now confirm the looting at Al Qaqaa, after our guys pulled out and headed to Baghdad.

Someone, arguing that the job could not have been done by looters, helpfully calculated that the job would have required 90 men working for 14 days. Given that we apparently left the site wide-open for four weeks or more, and given the abundant local labor, this challenge seems highly surmountable. The economics are also compelling, if not staggering. If I assume that laborers are available for $10/hour, and if I assume I can sell the stuff for just $1 a pound, that still leaves me with a profit opportunity of about $600,000. Not bad for a two-week business venture. Makes a Halliburton no-bid contract look like a shoestring charity venture. And I have a feeling I might be understating the sales potential by one or two orders of magnitude.

Former weapons inspector Kay has some thoughts about all this: "I must say, I find it hard to believe that a convoy of 40 to 60 trucks left that facility prior to or during the war, and we didn't spot it on satellite or UAV. That is, because it is the main road to Baghdad from the south, was a road that was constantly under surveillance. I also don't find it hard to believe that looters could carry it off in the dead of night or during the day and not use the road network. "

Some are arguing that Saddam could have done something wicked with this stuff, eventually. In other words we've gone from a situation where Saddam may have, potentially, hypothetically, in the future, given the stuff to terrorists, to a situation where we can be pretty certain the stuff is now in the hands of terrorists. That was a good result for 1,000 lives and $200 billion, wouldn't you say?

Incidentally, even if you take the most extreme view, that the material was never there at all (i.e., the UN and Saddam were completely in cahoots), there is no reasonable explanation for the fact that our troops on 4/4 and 4/10 apparently made no effort whatsoever to check for the presence of this material, and that apparently no such effort was made until May. This despite the fact that the UN had cautioned us repeatedly, both before and after the invasion, that this material needed to be secured. It appears that until May we couldn't be bothered to check for it properly, or to secure it properly.

The bottom line is that we became responsible for this stuff on 3/17, when we forced the UN to leave (until then, they were responsible). Yet we apparently didn't even begin to make an effort to find and secure this stuff until 5/7, at the earliest. That's an interval of over seven weeks.

By the way, Al Qaqaa is not the only example of our failure to secure important sites. It's been known since more than a year ago that a uranium site was looted while left unguarded for a couple of weeks. Locals dumped the uranium and used the barrels for drinking water.

Speaking of other important sites, a top Iraqi science official has said there are other sites that might be getting looted right now, but we can't stop it: "It may be already too late to salvage many of these sites, which are controlled by bandits and beyond the control of Iraqi forces." He also said "it was impossible" that the missing material could have been removed before Saddam fell (i.e., 4/9, give or take), and he referred to witnesses who provided certified statements. He also said "officials at Al-Qaqaa, including its general director... made contact with US troops before the fall in an effort to get them to provide security for the site." Needless to say, that effort was fruitless.

By the way, we're also hearing now about the mysterious disappearance of nuke-related equipment.


We were told that one of the main reasons for the war was to keep scary stuff from falling into the wrong hands. We were supposedly approaching this problem with "overwhelming force." Yet the result of our decisions was that the largest weapons site in Iraq was left unprotected for seven weeks or more. This seems to have happened both because we didn't have enough troops, and also because there just didn't seem to be any interest in protecting this site.

Before the invasion, we knew where this stuff was, and it wasn't an immediate, direct threat to us. Then we told the UN to go to hell, and we took over. Now no one knows where it is, but it's most likely headed in our direction, one way or another. We didn't manage to find it but it will probably manage to find us. But it's nice to know that we're all safer as a result.

As the Times has said, "the invasion of Iraq has now achieved what Saddam Hussein did not: putting dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists."

These 754,000 pounds of missing explosives are the equivalent of one Lockerbie every hour for the next 86 years, or 128 million deaths, or 600 Hiroshimas.

Bush says he's trying to create a "responsibility society," a society where "each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life."

Bush and Rummy were repeatedly warned, before and after the invasion, that more troops were needed. They ignored this advice. The UN tried to warn them about these weapons, at this site. They ignored this advice. The results of this bad judgment are devastating. Needless to say, this is the president who still insists he sent enough troops, and still insists the word "mistake" is hardly part of his vocabulary.

This "responsibility" president is also now trying to shift the blame to the military: "One of the lessons we've learned of history is that it's important to listen to the commanders on the ground and our military leaders when it comes to troop levels ... And that's what this president has always done. And they've said that we have the troop levels we need to complete the mission and succeed in Iraq."

In practically the same breath, Bush has the audacity to claim that Kerry is now "denigrating the actions'' of our troops. Yet another attempt to shift blame off himself and onto the military. Kerry knows, and everyone knows, that the troops didn't cause this mess, Bush did.

Here's how this point was expressed by General Merrill McPeak, former chief of staff of the Air Force: "The President seems to think Senator Kerry could not possibly be criticizing him since the President thinks he has never made a mistake. Let’s be perfectly clear: it is the President who dropped the ball. Senator Kerry is being critical of George Bush, not the troops. By embarking on the line of attack, George Bush is deflecting blame from him over to the military. This is beneath contempt."

In a few days the electorate will, perhaps, finally hold Bush responsible. If we don't, maybe it means we deserve the shafting we're getting.

Cecil Turner

"Why so much focus on the roads? It's the desert--pick up trucks can travel off-road fairly easily, from what I gather."

What's more likely, 40 truckloads departed while nobody was watching? Or 500 pickup loads (closer to 800 for 1/2-ton pickups) threaded their way through Coalition forces (all undetected, of course)?

"The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall . . ."

Pardon my skepticism, but how could they possibly know that? Surely thy didn't personally monitor a site that large. Did they check the HMX/RDX stocks some time after March 8th? And not to put too fine a point on it, if they weren't in a position of authority at Al-QaQaa under Saddam, their testimony wouldn't be expert. If they were, their motivations would be questionable.


I couldn't find that FT story when I went looking for it - I knew they had interviewed someone, but couldn't remember if it was Shaw.

But here it is:

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Shaw said: “For nearly nine months my office has been aware of an elaborate scheme set up by Saddam Hussein to finance and disguise his weapons purchases through his international suppliers, principally the Russians and French. That network included. . . employing various Russian units on the eve of hostilities to orchestrate the collection of munitions and assure their transport out of Iraq via Syria.”

The Russian embassy in Washington rejected the claims as “nonsense”, saying there were no Russian military in the country at the time.

Mr Shaw, who heads the Pentagon’s international armament and technology trade directorate, has not provided evidence for his claims and the Pentagon distanced itself from his remarks.

“I am unaware of any particular information on that point,” said Larry Di Rita, Pentagon spokesman.

Pretty light distancing. Of course the Russians denied it. And "I am unaware" may well be true - let's see what the morrow brings on this, as the Pentagon rehearses its spin.

And yes, we know all about the Moonie Times. But you guys take the NY Times seriously, so sometimes you have to indulge us.


Good job by the JukeBoxGrad.

However, the entire post is based on the premise that there was a unique, large number of explosives at Al QaQaa for us to secure, or fail to secure. That is still in deep dispute (both as to presence and to novelty, in a country "awash" in munitions).

In an update I posted the rationale for the quick blitz.

Cecil Turner

"In the months and weeks leading up to the war, UN inspectors visited Al Qaqaa frequently. "

But the last time anyone documented looking at Al QaQaa's HMX was on January 14 2003:

A team of five International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors went to the Al-Qa'qa State Company, some 50 kilometers south of Baghdad to weigh, sample, inspect, and seal warehouses containing HMX.
They checked RDX the next day, and then checked a different site:
A team of two IAEA inspectors went to the Hitten State Company to weigh and check RDX and HMX explosives.

"In March, right before we invaded, the UN was on-site particularly often . . .On one or more of these March visits, the UN checked the seals on the bunkers where the HE were stored. In particular, the seals were checked on 3/15/03."

But it's funny . . . the detailed records don't show much evidence of that. The closest thing I can find in the March inspection records is from 5 March:

A UNMOVIC chemical inspection team went to the Al-Qa'qa State Company to check sealed equipment at the Al-Khalid Factory, the Foreign Ministry stated. UNMOVIC stated that the team inspected two factories at Al-Qa'qa but did not elaborate.
The 15 March entry has nothing about inspecting HMX seals, only:
A second missile-inspection team went to the Al-Qa'qa State Company to place thermal covers on the tags on the Al-Sumud 2 missile warheads, the Foreign Ministry noted. UNMOVIC reported that inspectors tagged five Al-Fatah warheads at the Al-Qa'id Warhead Filling Plant at Al-Qa'qa.
The suggestion that these visits by 2-5 man teams was rigorous monitoring is not convincing.

"we did manage to protect the Oil Ministry, with "24-hour guard by troops . . . As far I know this building contains not even a single oil well, and also probably not a single barrel of oil. But it sure is comforting to know we properly secured all those file cabinets and desks."

Yeah, why guard the records of every financial dealing Iraq has had in the last several years, when you could guard a tenth of one percent of its high explosive stocks in the desert? Do you really think an argument like this makes me want to put you (or people who think like you) in charge of our military?


It's nice to see Geek has found his way to other adult sites. Did we scare you from Beldar's site. We're sorry. We do play rough.

BTW, nice job on insulting the Wash Times. Now, what will you do about ABC?

I know--call them a name.

Cecil Turner

Hey TM,

Superb update.

"The concept of the rapid liberation (as contrasted with advancing mile by mile and securing everything discovered) was that we would minimize civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure."

That's an important consideration. But more importantly (at least from the troops' perspective) it minimizes friendly forces' casualties, as the enemy never knows where to mass troops and materiel and is forced to react ineffectively.

"So far, not so good."

Here, you fall off the wagon. (Possibly the impact of reading all the relentlessly negative coverage.) Every casualty is a tragedy . . . but sanctions were reportedly killing 5,000 Iraqi kids a month, and a single terrorist attack killed more than double the military deaths suffered in this entire campaign. And for all the talk of civilian casualties, Coalition operations have been relatively bloodless--especially compared to a slow advance with conventional sieges of cities--each of which could kill hundreds of thousands. We could minimize our casualties further by heavy-handed tactics (e.g., blocking off access to Fallujah). Contrast that to Vietnam where 50 times as many soldiers, and millions of civilians, died to no purpose.

If the elections are held in January as planned, and Iraq continues down the road to democratic government, this will have been a significant success story. And the naysayers will have been profoundly wrong.

Geek, Esq.

Here's a smoking gun for ya:


Hot, hot hot!

Btw, why is Rudy Giuliani denigrating our troops? Disgusting. There is nothing this administration won't do or say to get elected.

Good update, TM. Though, I have to say that comparing the NY Times, even with all of its flaws, to the Moonie Times will only be a valid comparison when the times is bought by an insane cult leader who thinks he's the literal Messiah.

The Kid

Lot’s of research to be done, and them Rooskies was all over, as this 4/6/03 report shows:

FALLUJAH, Iraq (CNN) -- A convoy of vehicles carrying Russian diplomats and journalists came under fire Sunday as it headed out of Baghdad, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Alexander Minakov, who works with Rossiya TV (formerly RTR), said in a telephone report that he was in one of eight cars that set off from Baghdad at 11:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. ET), bound for the Syrian border. The vehicles carried 25 Russian diplomats, including Russia's ambassador to Iraq, and journalists who were trying to flee the country.
According to Minakov, after the shooting the convoy proceeded to the town of Fallujah, 40 km west of Baghdad. There, doctors attended to two people who had head and neck injuries and operated on the person with the stomach wound, Minakov said.

The Russian diplomatic personnel remained in the town, while the journalists continued to the Jordanian border, he said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was preparing to send a plane carrying doctors and medical equipment to Syria to evacuate those remaining.

The Kid

Bad news, Geek, Esq. The NY Times is run by insane cult leaders who think they are the
Cherubim and Seraphim; Krugman literally thinks that he’s the Messiah and thus hates the owner of the Washington Times.


"But the CIA had a problem: Once-a-day snapshots from the KH-11 spy satellite didn't show where the convoys were going..."

The Keyhole has a very low orbit thus making it difficult to task. But since it's photos are real-time, other intel assets can be mobilized for coverage.

What this points to more than anything is our (still?) lack of humint in Iraq and the ME.


comparing the NY Times, even with all of its flaws, to the Moonie Times will only be a valid comparison when the times is bought by an insane cult leader who thinks he's the literal Messiah.

OK, I guess Paul Krugman does not actually own the place yet.

As to "so far, not so good", I'm wifty on this. I suspect that if we had known an insurgency was being planned, and *if* we invaded anyway, the approach we took would have been similar to what we actually did, and it would have been better than an "inch by inch, mile by mile" approach.

However, we might have planed for a much larger follow-on force to maintain order.

OTOH, we did expect more help than actually arrived, and we did think the Iraqis would be more helpful than they have been.

Somewhere in the Pentagon folks are doing (or will do) a great after-action assessment. We were brilliant at defeating Saddam's conventional army and toppling his state. However, I think we have been surprised by the aftermath.

Geek, Esq.

Between Krugman the Savior and Safire, the Seer, the NYTimes does have its metaphysical element.

Btw, for those viewing the KSTP story, note carefully that they found a whole bunch of detonation cord there. That is most likely the PETN that went missing.

Also note that it is used to detonate RDX and HMX.

That report is incredibly damning. I don't see how the administration spins around it. Especially with the boxes labeled "Al QaQaa" on them.


Gee, jukeboxgrad, you've come up with IAEA cites to show when they inspected prior to March, but you need a CBS news article to tell you that they inspected the seals on March 8? Why don't the IAEA references supply that information?

Because, you know, they don't. Not at all. You can visit IAEA's own reports and not one mention of inspection of the seals on the HMX store can be found in the month of March. I want to stress this, because evidently the HMX stores were so important that some people feel like they've got to make a great deal of noise about it right now, but not so important that IAEA felt they had to properly inspect and record the seals on their way out. And the fact that they're now saying they inspected the seals when their own documentation doesn't even mention it...that puts them in a bad light either way. Either they're telling the truth now and they were negligent then, or they're lying now. Is there another choice that suggests itself?


Interestingly, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita is not supporting the "Russians ate my homework" theory. Says DiRita: “I am unaware of any particular information on that point.”

Why is that, do you think?

Possibility 1: the Administration knows the Russians did not take the explosives.

Possibility 2: The Russians took the explosives, which the administration knows, but it would be embarrassing or impolitic to admit that.

Possibility 3: The administration does not know whether the Russians took the explosives.

Which of these reflects credit on the Administration's postwar planning?

Geek, Esq.


Check out the KSTP video. PETN detonation cord and huge stockpiles of high explosives. On April 18, 2003. Labeled "Al-QaQaa."

We just sank your battleship.

nascar dad jimbo

What happened to my comment?

Geek, Esq.


I'm guessing your poor taste attempt to stereotype nascar fans violated a number of rules.


Guess you missed the part at the end where they say that those materials may or may not be what's missing, Geek. Be a little more careful before you claim victory next time.

Detcord? Jesus, there's hundreds of thousands of tons of HE still left unaccounted for in Iraq, and you're worried about some detcord?

The indistinct "huge" amout of HE shown in the video isn't anywhere near the amount missing. In compressed, solid form, that much HMX would occupy about 195 cubic meters. In powdered form, substantially more: over 400 cubic meters. If it was stored in drums, the packing density goes down again so that the stuff takes up over 500 cubic meters.


Thank you, Geek.

nascar car jimbo


My post came off harsher than necessary, sorry about that. I don't hate homosexuals, i just think it's wrong when they push the sodomy lifestyle in schools and TV.

BTW why do you assume I'm a parody, is it because only watered down semi-eliteist Republicans like New Jersey Tom know how to post comments and write blogs? Better think again.

Geek, Esq.


500 Cubic meters is 100 meters by 50 meters by 1 meter. Not exactly epic in proportion. Given that they didn't show the everything in that warehouse, it's more than plausible that such an amount was present. Geometry --it's your friend.

You can stick with an unsubstantiated claim that the Russkies did it. I'll stick with video of huge stockpiles of high explosives being discovered and subsequently neglected by the US.

And there's hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition, not HE, floating around Iraq.

NDJ: Either you have a weak sense of humor (even when speaking code), or you're a repulsive bigot. Color me deeply unimpressed either way.

Geek, Esq.

I need a proof reader.

500 Cubic meters is 10 meters (not 100) by 50 meters by 1.

That's the size of a football end zone, for reference.

Rob W

Check the http://kstp.com/article/stories/S3723.html?cat=1 story by Geek. It is a smoking gun. 101st Airborne soldiers shown on tape at what the reporters are pretty sure was the Al Qa Qaa facility, going through "bunker after bunker" filled with explosives. They then left, as their orders took them to Baghdad. Whether the video is of the RDX or not, it shows that tons of explosives were left unguarded. If we had enough troops, maybe it would have been. If you're going to go in, go in strong.

Paul Zrimsek

This TV crew actually managed to find explosives in a munitions dump? Zounds.

Geek, Esq.

Here's more on the KSTP video:

Check out these two pictures:



Note the "1.1D" classification. What does that mean?


"For example, 1.1D decodes as Hazard Class 1 (explosive), Division 1 (mass explosion hazard), and Compatibility Group D (secondary blasting explosive)."

You get one guess regarding the classification number for RDX and HMX.


What was shown was, again, a small fraction of that, and so it's kind of hard to claim that we lost 350 tons of material based on the video. Furthermore, it was unidentified. Lastly, you have absolutely no idea what happened to it. For all you know, we carted it all away and destroyed it.

You can stick with an unsubstantiated claim that the Russkies did it.

Tell me where I said anything at all about that. Do try and keep your counterarguments constrained to arguments I actually made, ok?

And there's hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition, not HE, floating around Iraq.

It probably helps to only pay attention to the media reports that support your position. Too bad there's the other kind.


And do learn how to link, please. It's not as if it's difficult.

You get one guess regarding the classification number for RDX and HMX.

Same classification as dynamite, TNT and ANFO. No one's arguing that they're not explosives, Geek.

Geek, Esq.


From your own article:

"The military has categorized the explosives into two categories: Captured Enemy Ammunition, which refers to weapons amassed by Saddam Hussein’s regime that have since been seized by coalition troops; and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), which includes ordnance that was scattered randomly across the countryside after bombings, artillery misfires, and failed demolition attempts."


"Ammunition" in this context means bombs, missiles, RPGs, etc. UXO is bombs, etc that have been delivered but didn't explode for one reason or another.

Geek, Esq.

And both are distinct from the raw high explosives.


Certainly. How much of it is HE depends on what the nature of the weapon is. We've seen quite a bit of footage of bombs, and those are 40-50% HE. There's a great deal that we don't know. In light of that, trumpeting victory is somewhat premature, no?

Cecil Turner

"I suspect that if we had known an insurgency was being planned, and *if* we invaded anyway, the approach we took would have been similar to what we actually did,"

I expect we had a plan for a much more energetic insurgency, as well as an "open arms" one. But at some point planning for every eventuality is the same as not planning . . . energy frittered away on countless possibilities.

"However, we might have planed for a much larger follow-on force to maintain order."

I'm still waiting for someone to make a convincing case for more troops. The Combatant Commanders have consistently opposed it (though there may be pressure from above). And there are issues with a larger occupation force (e.g., perception of conquest, more negative incidents with civilians, more vulnerabilities, logistics burden, etc). The key seems to be Iraqi acceptance, which would be best served by turning more over to Iraqi forces. Abizaid put it best:

Abizaid said it was a "false argument" to say more American troops were needed. "Is there a military threat there that I have to defeat with more force? The answer is no. There's not a company of infantry of the United States Army that can be defeated by any threat that I've seen there since May 1."

"OTOH, we did expect more help than actually arrived, and we did think the Iraqis would be more helpful than they have been."


Cecil Turner

That report is incredibly damning. I don't see how the administration spins around it. Especially with the boxes labeled "Al QaQaa" on them.

If you say so. I'd think most of the boxes at the Al QaQaa facility would have "Al QaQaa" on them.

"And there's hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition, not HE, floating around Iraq."

The most common type of ammunition is alternately known as GP (for "general purpose," especially in bombs) or "HE" (for "high explosive"). They're all about 50% HE inside a steel casing (designed for optimal shrapnel--which makes up the other 50% of the weight). And those are, if anything, more useful for most military applications.

"If we had enough troops, maybe it would have been. If you're going to go in, go in strong."

Explain that to Guderian, Rommel, Patton . . . or Franks.

And those are, if anything, more useful for most military applications.

But not, to be sure, for insurgency. Insurgents would have to remove the HE (Octol, for most of our bombs) from the casing. Lacking airplanes, it's hard to stage a stealthy delivery of a one-ton bomb, unless you make it into a car bomb. Which would be convenient if less efficient than simply packing a ton of HE into a vehicle.

Geek, Esq.

Ammunition may or may not be more useful for insurgents. HE's are more stable and safer to use, and can be shaped and can be used in things like car bombs and suicide vests more easily.

How many troops were in the divisions that followed Pattons' advances?

The strategy was brilliant for military vs. military. It was abhorrent in terms of occupation and dealing with an insurgency.

Eric Anondson

We've already known that non-IAEA-sealed munitions were found there in mass quantities. Dana Lewis said as much when he toured the facility after the unit he was embedded with stayed there the night. He and his camaraman walked for miles and found bunkers, locked and unlocked, with ammunition all over the place. None of the bunkers had IAEA seals on them, that he saw. None.

This was a 5-6 days after the 3rdID fought a 3 day running battle in the complex with the Fedayeen Saddam in the facility.

Cecil Turner

"Ammunition may or may not be more useful for insurgents."

Apparently they are, since most Iraqi IEDs are reportedly made from HE rounds.

"The strategy was brilliant for military vs. military. It was abhorrent in terms of occupation and dealing with an insurgency."

Which gets us back to the "add more troops" mantra. Tell it to Abizaid.

Rob W


Guderian, Rommel, Patton. Holding aside the argument that the analogy is a false one, Guderian went in strong in France as the chief of XIX Panzer Corps. They had overwhelming superiority at the Meuse and rolled. Patton was a part of one of the largest land armies ever. He hit hard and fast, but the infantry secured the rear. Rommel did things on a shoestring and lost. As Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt said: "A man suitable for minor operations."

But the analogy is false. Iraq is not 1940's France or Germany. The entire plan relied on winning the peace to demonstrate how democracy was superior to the systems in place there. We had to do it right and did not.

Rob W

Not only that but I fail to see how the occupation is somehow in the clear if the non RDX stuff was laying around unsecured. In fact, the NY Times missed the real scoop: Huge quantities of military hardware went unsecured. Nobody is telling that story. Instead they are hoping against hope that the stuff in the video isn't the RDX.

The fact that the insurgency is using 155mm shells as IEDs and not RDX is beside the point. THEY ARE BUILDING BOMBS WITH ORDINANCE THAT WAS LEFT UNSECURED. I could care less what the stuff was made up. I'm sure our troops in harm's way could care less either. This was a major FUBAR which has left us in a bad spot.


Let's just sum up anyway and say that, for an attack supposedly aimed at securing weapons of mass destruction, it seems that conventional weapons were considered an insignificant afterthought. I think the reason neocons have no problem with any of this, and prefer to turn it into yet another way to attack the always culpable John Kerry, is that the point of this exercise was never weapons, mass destruction or any other kind. It was a feel good, kick ass, tough guy USA maneuver intended to buy Georgie a free pass for all his legislation designed to sell out the American people.

He explains it in his own words here .

One Repub spin on this is how this is John Kerry abusing our troops again - you know by criticizing their boss, which is how the boss explains it, in his usual self serving way. So another interesting highlight today was Rudy Giuliani's take on this: The president was cautious the president was prudent the president did what a commander in chief should do. No matter how you try to blame it on the president the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?

Hey, Rudy, political opportunism has worked out real well for ya. The Repubs don't condemn you for your pro abortion, pro gay rights, wife abusing record because you lick their butts. And the Bishops don't even try to get you excommunicated like they do to Kerry. So I guess when you denigrate the troops, that will be A-OK with them, too. In fact, you can bet on it. Anything that gets the frat boy from having to take responsibility for anything he does as "commander in chief" (laughter) is pure gold, whatever the source, and whoever you insult.

Cecil Turner

Hey Rob,

This is logistics 101. There's a limit to how much traffic you can transport over one road (ask the people in LA), and that limits supply. It decreases as the road lengthens (each convoy spends more time on the road, uses up more fuel, wears out faster, and delivers fewer supplies at the other end per unit time). The OIF forces were near or at the limit--we couldn't simply add more troops. Remember all the talking heads saying they were going to need an "operational pause" before pressing on to Baghdad, because that number of forces couldn't be supplied over that distance? They based those estimates on the length of the supply lines and the numbers of troops . . . and they were right. (Though the pause was short and masked by a sandstorm.)

We could have taken Basra (or Umm Qasr), cleaned up the port facilities, and established a parallel supply line . . . or paved new lanes on the existing roads from Kuwait. But it'd be slow. (Which was the point of referencing generals famous for maneuver.) And that'd cause a lot more casualties, on both sides.

Cecil Turner


Rob, there are ten million mines in Iraq, and six hundred thousand tons of ordnance in over ten thousand weapons caches. Work up a quick op order on how to secure it all, and present it to CentCom.

(BTW, that's the ones we know about. I suspect the regime, while planning for a guerrila insurgency, salted a few tons of ordnance away in hidden caches . . . I sure would have.)

Cecil Turner

"One Repub spin on this is how this is John Kerry abusing our troops again - you know by criticizing their boss, which is how the boss explains it, in his usual self serving way."

Yeah, that's right, when Kerry was talking about war crimes committed by troops on a day to day basis with the full knowledge of officers at all levels of command, he was really just criticizing the Nixon Administration. (I mean, those guys can't be held responsible for raping, cutting heads off, or emulating Gen-jis Khan--and of course he never saw any such thing.)

And now, when he suggests not enough troops were left at each ammo dump, he's not criticizing the operational leadership or war planners, or the guys who kept a detailed target list and priorities, he's just saying the President didn't give IAEA advice enough weight. Nice nuance.

Geek, Esq.

Cecil: Do you really think that any US general could make a public comment contradicting Rumsfeld, and that if they disagreed they would simply say so to the press? That's very, um, touching.

Geek, Esq.


Heaven forbid we hold the president and Rumsfeld responsible for inept planning in Iraq.

Planning for post-war Iraq was the responsiblity of the civilian leadership. And part of that planning involved providing security for the entire country--especially preventing nuclear materials and high explosives out of the hands of potential insurgents.

The Orwellian rhetoric from the Bushies is really quite appalling. Bush falsely that Kerry's criticisms of Bush are denigrating the troops, while his stooge Giuliani blames the grunts in the field in order to shield his mater from any accountability.

Cecil Turner

"Do you really think that any US general could make a public comment contradicting Rumsfeld . . ."

So he's lying because: "of course he would say that"? Nicely circular, that. And his logic was believable: "There's not a company of infantry of the US Army . . ." Perhaps just a bit of supporting evidence is in order.


It's tiresome to continuously explain this to you, Cecil, but one of the most precious principles upon which our republic was founded was the freedom to SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER. In other words, criticize the leadership. That IS what Kerry did as a young man, exactly. I have three sons, and know dozens of young men. An unfortunate fact of young men is that a certain small number can indeed be made to do unspeakable things given the motivation and encouragement. That's what happened in Vietnam and it's ridiculous to be debating it so late in the game. Go back and argue against Copernicus if you're in the mood. History is what it is. Suck it up.

As for this debacle in Iraq, your argument that Kerry is criticizing the troops here is especially specious. He did no such thing. He,like the vast majority of intelligent Americans, holds George Friggin BUSH accountable. I know it's an odd concept to you, but the idea of being the COMMANDER in CHIEF kind of implies to most people that he's - I don't know why - responsible when things go wrong. So he is responsible for the debacle in which our troops find themselves, the thousands of dead, amputees, brain damaged American soldiers, the tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians. George Bush is RESPONSIBLE, even if he's too much of a coward to accept it.

I also gave you textual evidence of Rudy Ghouliani BLAMING the troops outright. You ignored it. Didn't fit the paradigm. I understand. The modern REpub mentality, that used to shock and awe me, isn't a mystery any longer. The only way to perpetuate the insanity you defend is to cherry pick facts and close your ears to everything you don't like. It's weird you don't attack Giuliani though. I understand you guys are just using him, and secretly hate what he really stands for. He just doesn't get that yet, amazingly.

Cecil Turner

"Heaven forbid we hold the president and Rumsfeld responsible for inept planning in Iraq."

Why don't you prove the case before calling for the execution? Preferably with some proposed plan of action you think would've made it better.


Breathe, Whoever. Breathe. Let's not let spittle fly all over everyone, ok?

Rob W

Cecil: Al Qaa Qa was the single largest ammo dump in all of Iraq. Its a one-stop-shopping stop for all your insurgent needs. I'm aware there are many ammo dumps out there. But you'd think the war plan would have included securing the largest ammo dump and ordinance manufacturing site in the entire country, one which was allegedly connected with Saddams former WMD program.

As for the roads, I'd have to see evidence on that. As far as I remember the "operational pause" was spin for: "We got caught with our pants down by the Fedayeen, who are going after our unescorted convoys." For more on this, see the excellent commentary by Cdn Reserve Army Officer Mark R, whose blog Flit provided the best coverage of the early part of the war

And Bruce is at it again. Today he brings his expertise to bear on the photos. According to his post:

That single photo of the soldier leaning over the crates shows roughly 60 stacked crates, each shown in another photo as "40 kg net weight." If that's how the missing explosives were packed (you can see the explosives stickers on them, so they're certainly something), that would be 2.5 tonnes of HE in that one photo alone... and that's not even getting into the other "barrels as far as the eye can see" photo. By the way, the "1.1D" on those dangerous goods placards on both the crates and barrels stands for "secondary (non-volatile) high explosive." PETN, RDX, or HMX would all normally be labelled with a 1.1D placard. (However, so would gunpowder, and some makes of artillery proximity fuzs, so that's not definitive by itself.)

Bush was attacking Kerry for attacking the troops. Today, his man Guliani blames it on the troops on the Today show.

How much does it take to see through this, to break the veil? These people are blowhard incompetents who shouldn't be running the country.
As Bruce puts it: "Game, Set, Match."

Cecil Turner

"one of the most precious principles upon which our republic was founded was the freedom to SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER."

I respect that, Whoever. But when you speak bullsh** to power, it's considerably less praiseworthy. Kerry was lying--he should have known he was lying--and I suspect he did.

"That's what happened in Vietnam and it's ridiculous to be debating it so late in the game."

The reason it's an issue is because the Senator is making it one. And the topic is current is because he continues to lie about it.

"It's weird you don't attack Giuliani though."

Giuliani spoke the plain truth. It was the troops' responsibility (and their operational leadership's) to make decisions at that level. That's precisely why any criticism falls on them, and Kerry's pretense to be criticizing the Administration falls flat.

Cecil Turner

"Cecil: Al Qaa Qa was the single largest ammo dump in all of Iraq. Its a one-stop-shopping stop for all your insurgent needs."

So what's more valuable to an insurgency, one large dump, or lots of little ones?

"As for the roads, I'd have to see evidence on that . . . see the excellent commentary by Cdn Reserve Army Officer Mark R, whose blog Flit provided the best coverage of the early part of the war"

BruceR and I are well acquainted (though IMHO his vehement opposition to the war colors his commentary--we agree to disagree). But I don't think he'd argue such a basic logistics point. Why don't you put the road question to him via e-mail and see?

Geek, Esq.

So you're denigrating the troops for the administration's failure of leadership, Cecil?

It wasn't up to the grunts on the ground to determine that their mission was to get to Baghdad ASAP. That decision was made in Washington.

The missing explosives and arms from this and other unguarded facilities were not relevant to the immediate military conflict. They were relevant and extremely harmful to the post-war reconstruction of Iraqi society.

Whose responsibility was it to plan for the post-war reconstruction of Iraqi society--a 19 year old private from Nebraska?

No. You know and I know that responsibility for planning the future of post-war Iraq rests with one man: George W. Bush.

You're going to sit there and say that the civilian leadership had no responsibility for failing to plan against weapons finding their way into the hands of insurgents?

Cecil Turner

"It wasn't up to the grunts on the ground to determine that their mission was to get to Baghdad ASAP. That decision was made in Washington."

Oh horse-puckey. The operational movement of ground troops, depending on unit size, is either a Division, Corps, or Land Force Commander decision. In really strange cases, it might get up to the Combatant Commander (this one almost certainly did not). If you're saying it was a mistake, you're blaming it on the troops. (And no, I'm not, because I'm not convinced it was a mistake.)

If that's how the missing explosives were packed (you can see the explosives stickers on them, so they're certainly something), that would be 2.5 tonnes of HE in that one photo alone

Wrong. Those crates were full of fuses, which one can find out just from reading the captions under the pictures. Oh, the glory and wonder of the Internets. The drums, now, could very well be bulk explosives. Note some of them are opened; there's no clue whether they were opened by the soldiers or if that's the way they found them. Unfortunately, though, there's no indication of how big the drums are, or how many of them there were.

It's a pity this wasn't newsworthy back then; perhaps in that case the embeds would have noticed and recorded a bit more thoroughly.

Rob W


E-mail to Bruce off. Hopefully he will reply.


Holy crap, it was the troop's responsibility to search the site, when their commanders hadn't been informed the site contained explosives and their commanders hadn't ordered them to search the site????

I can see now why you've never been able to forgive Kerry for 1971. He was indicting the LEADERS but you guys don't believe in holding leaders accountable for anything. Find the lowest guy on the totem pole and pin it on him. Support the troops! That and a yellow ribbon on your car will make you a genuine American tinhorn patriot. Kerry was speaking bullshit because, even though he was describing the reality of US behavior in Vietnam, he made the mistake of expecting the leaders to be accountable for it. I get it now.

Unbelievable. But clearer by the minute how you support this incompetent fool. In your mind, being a great leader means never having to be responsible for anything. Not as long as there's a teenage grunt around to blame it on. Disgraceful.

BTW, there's a new AP story that effectively debunks all the GOP talking points of the moment.(I'm sure Drudge, Cheney & Rove are working hard to drum up new ones though.) Your spin doctors aren't going to be able to bail Georgie's ass out this time. Though, they ARE still pressuring ABC to release the bogus terrorist tape that the CIA doesn't deem important...y'know nothing like an unethical freak out by the US government against its own people. It's not as if our security is more important than Bush being elected, at least once.


Busted link, whoever.

Cecil Turner

"He was indicting the LEADERS but you guys don't believe in holding leaders accountable for anything."

Sorry, Whoever, but the "I was just following orders" defense went out with Nuremberg. Leaders can certainly be responsible as well, but that doesn't excuse the troops.

In this case, though, it was just a pack of lies:

when the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) attempted to interview those who allegedly had witnessed atrocities, most refused to cooperate, even after assurances that they would not be questioned about atrocities they might have committed personally. Those that did cooperate never provided details of actual crimes to investigators. The NIS also discovered that some of the most grisly testimony was given by fake witnesses who had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans.
The rest of your rather silly case was built on that faulty premise.


Isn't anyone else outraged at the latest display of incompetence by the administration? I think Brad DeLong puts it best:

The fact that the Bush administration does not have a clue about when or where the 380 tons of explosives were moved demonstrates that the administration "did not adequately secure the country and was unprepared for the war's aftermath."

Rob W


(1) Read closely: "Soldiers who took a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew into bunkers on April 18 said some of the boxes uncovered contained proximity fuses." That does not mean that those particular boxes contain proximity fuses. (2) I'm not going to beleive a caption writer for a small-market TV station over Bruce R., a Canadian Army Reserve Officer. The guy is for real and knows what he is talking about. Cecil T. can vouch for that. If you can find other documentary evidence that what the boxes say is not what he represents them to be, I'll give it to you. But not until then.

Cecil Turner

"I think Brad DeLong puts it best: The fact that the Bush administration does not have a clue about when or where the 380 tons of explosives were moved demonstrates . . ."

I prefer this quote:
"Because Rumsfeld wanted to scare Iran by demonstrating that we could conquer Iraq with three divisions."

The Prof's inability to count the number of divisions used in OIF makes his subsequent pronouncements about numbers of troops a bit suspect, I think.

Cecil Turner

"The guy is for real and knows what he is talking about. Cecil T. can vouch for that."

Ah, but the same applies to me, and that doesn't stop you from challenging (nor should it). It's an appeal to authority, and faulty. Besides, the markings on the boxes are inconclusive (1D just means bulk explosive), and BruceR didn't claim any different.

Rob W

Cecil: It is an appeal to authority, but the caption does not say that those are definitely proximity fuses. It merely says some of the boxes contained proximity fuses. Bruce says it could be, Slatibart fast assumes it is. All I did was repost what Bruce said.

The guy is for real and knows what he is talking about.

I agree, for the most part. What he doesn't know, though, is anything more about what's in those crates than you or I do.

Cecil Turner

Rob, I'm with ya. Just pointing out the obvious problem with the authority thing. You're doing pretty good . . . certainly keeping me on my toes. (And we've been needing an intelligent dissenting viewpoint around here for ages.)


Oooh, it's like Hallowe'en already! I've been summoned.

Okay, first off on Mr. 'Bast's point... maybe it's just those years on the city desk, but I don't trust the caption writers on a local news station's website unquestioningly for some reason. But if the photo of the open crate, which does seem to have wrapped FUZES (please spell it right) in it is the same as the crate with the "net weight" on the side, then sure... the point is there's an awful lot of something there. For instance, there's at least 150 of those cylindrical containers in the other photo, and who knows how far it goes back... assume each had a quarter-tonne of a 1.1D substance in it as they're labelled, and that's nearly 40 tonnes of HE right there.

What the new footage clearly establishes is that there were almost certainly large amounts of unsecured explosives basically for the taking at Al QaQaa after the Americans rolled through. You can't watch the rather cavalier use of a bolt cutter so a couple NCOs could crack a locked bunker far out of their way, find it filled with munitions, and then drive away leaving it unguarded and unlocked, without concluding that the opportunity to steal munitions in large quantities from Al QaQaa postwar was certainly there. Which does make the Iraqi government claim that some specific material disappeared after the fall of Baghdad more plausible.

The Patrick Graham article in the June Harper's also documents how in some cases American soldiers encouraged the contemporaneous looting of bases and armouries of RPGs, SAMs, etc., under the impression they were thereby defanging the Iraqi army. It was post-war euphoria, plain and simple. No one thought it would end like this. No one probably did much about securing the V2 sites in the week after VE-Day, either.

Re Cecil's point, I'm personally not convinced the logistical roadnet would have supported a larger offensive thrust from Kuwait, but it's important to remember that Rumsfeld's specific denial of requests for more logistics troops were probably the larger factor in the 3 ID "operational pause" mid-war... the COSCOM (the Army's central logistics organization) was only allowed to bring 150 heavy trucks out of its complement of 700, etc., according to COSCOM head BGEN Fletcher. A reduced complement of maintainers also meant those remaining 150 had started falling apart faster.

I'm not sure that it matters, though, because with 10,000 sites to secure, one more division (the 4th ID or whomever) wouldn't have made much difference in the total amount of unsecured ordnance (another word people are misspelling a lot, btw).

I think the stronger argument here is that the specific nature of the materials, because they were WMD-related and because they were specifically locked down by the international community, demanded a higher level of due diligence than has been demonstrated so far. If it was x tons of mortar shells in a bunker no one outside the Iraqi army knew about, well that's clearly not the Americans' fault. But the HMX in particular was specifically secured against use, by the international community, for the protection of all humanity. It was a much larger than average weapons cache, whose location was precisely known. The Americans couldn't have secured every weapons site... but there were at least a few, like this one, that appear to have deserved earlier attention than they got. An extra division of troops could likely have helped out in this regard.


Bruce, the caption says they're proximity fuses, but the text around the pictures says they found detcord in crates, too.

HMX to be blended would be stored in bulk. In bulk, the density is too low to account for 40 kg of mass in a box that size. Plus, you wouldn't ship bulk powder in a small box like that. So it's pretty unlikely that whatever is in those boxes is part of the main store of HMX.

FUZES (please spell it right)

Check. And I ought to know better.

for the protection of all humanity.

Oh, for pete's sake. These are not WMDs, they're explosives. Yes, you can use HMX as part of an atomic bomb. No, you're not any closer to building an atomic bomb if you have HMX and nothing else, than if you're completely devoid of raw materials. HMX is far, far easier to make than, say, weapons-grade uranium.


I can't disagree with you, Slarti: in retrospect fuzes IS the more likely explanation for what's in the crates in the photo. If I had the post to do over, I'd probably have gone with the "barrel math" in my post above, instead. I was just trying to illustrate that you wouldn't need too many more bunkers like that one to hide 200+ tonnes of HE in.

There is a LOT of dangerous stuff in that footage... if the news crew is accurate about the 101st soldiers driving away and leaving it completely unsecured, I would hope there was at least a military investigation, irrespective of any election-related effects. If you read back to my previous post at Flit on this, and the Marine OpsO in the next town who said his guys were getting blown up with HE looted out of Al QaQaa, well, I think he and his men deserve that much, at least.


I agree these are valid concerns. It'll be interesting to hear what the explanation is. I'd guess that securing munitions was rather far down on the list of priorities, behind defeating the Iraqi Army and locating and securing actual WMD. As for what the actual set of priorities were, I'd be the last guy you'd ask.

I'd also like to point out that a number of the barrels that are visible (substantially fewer than 150 are in view, IMO) are open an at least partially empty. These look like 30-gallon fiber drums, and one of those full of bulk HMX would mass about 128kg at most, filled to the top.


Having never made either HMX or weapons-grade uranium, I'll have to bow to your expertise on that. :-)

Oh, there's a whole other issue here on where an international inspections regime can draw the line of "dual use" materials without completely hobbling an industrial economy. Surely you'd agree that people like Lou Dobbs who've I've seen on TV asking why Iraq was allowed to have any modern explosives AT ALL are not "reality-based." I've even read somewhere they shouldn't have been allowed fertilizer, because that can be used in bombs too, etc. It's going to be even worse with bio.

I'm not saying I personally felt threatened by Iraqi's HMX stockpile pre-war. I'm just saying the world's nations endowed the IAEA with authority and stewardship on these matters, and to fail to acknowledge their dictates, in the form of sealed buildings or what have you, on HMX or anything else, should always be done with some caution.

Robert Wright argues, and I would agree, that the future will have to see more and more intrusive transnational inspections to combat WMD proliferation, not less, and I don't think actions that undermine the current (still-mostly successful) nuclear nonproliferation regime can help in that regard.

Rob W

Well Bruce, I bow to your logistics expertise. To be honest, I thought and still think the whole exercise was strategic folly because it didn't advance our political goals in the region--isolating radical islamic terrorists from thier everyday supporters and funders. I think we had a real opportunity there--remember the Islamic world had problems grasping that Muslims would engage in such activity and engaged in mental gyrations of the most excrutiating kind to avoid the obvious answer (see Mossad theories).

I think we might have had a chance to help in a democratic transformation of the Middle East. That chance might be utterly lost now. Given the depth of Muslim hatred for Bush, it is clear that the President will not be able to do it. Kerry probably won't be able to either, but at least he won't engage in sheer madness.

In the end, I think the Bush people were really the victims of the "Pre 9/11 mindset." They just slapped their original plan for dealing with Iraq on top of the War on Terror. They kept thinking in terms of '80's-'90's state-sponsored terror, instead of the new, transnational terrorists who use the communications and mobility advances of the last 15 years to carry out attacks that states cannot.

The problem now is how to prevent Islamic terror from replacing Afghanistan with Iraq. If a fundamentalist state were to take hold in Iraq, it might use the country as a base to export terror. Irony of ironies. I think that having Bush in there is a non-starter in terms of making this happen.

Rob W

P.S. I'm hearing rumors now that some of the other camera footage shows the IAEA seals on the doors of that bunker. It could be wrong, or it could be concievable that even if those are fuses that the IAEA marked them because they may have some sort of dual use in setting of the implosion explosives in a nuclear weapon. I'm assuming they have other footage other than in the bunker.

Either way, it looks bad for Bush. They haven't handled the spin on this story very well at all.

Cecil Turner

"What the new footage clearly establishes is that there were almost certainly large amounts of unsecured explosives basically for the taking at Al QaQaa after the Americans rolled through."

Good Lord. I pop off to make dinner for the youngsters, and we have a frickin' Northern Invasion. Fetch off, interloper! (Just kidding, eh?) On point, it matches the several hundred tons of similar ordnance (spell that one right too, it grates) scattered across the landscape. As I reminisced earlier (sorry, it's an occupational hazard), there were literally hundreds of these things around the Kuwait airport, "and they didn't even own the place." You couldn't walk around in the dark without risking falling into the damn things.

"P.S. I'm hearing rumors now that some of the other camera footage shows the IAEA seals on the doors of that bunker."

That would be a lot more dispositive. Still not sure how big a deal a few more tons of HE would be, but at least we'd know when it disappeared.

ISTM the only way this is news is if there's some contention it represents a proliferation (WMD, not conventional) concern. That seems more than a bit far-fetched. If not, 380 tons out of an estimated 600,000 just isn't very exciting.

Rob W

They did see bunkers with the IAEA seals here.
To copy Bruce R., Game, Set, Match.

Cecil Turner

In fact, I think the Dem talking points work better if you take BruceR's (vast amounts of unsecured HE) and don't concentrate on the HMX. Several thousand tons (or whatever was stored in the whole compex) is a much bigger threat to Coalition forces, and a much better case militarily.

Rob W

Well it is a concern politically for Bush. The damage control was terrible. He came up with so many different stories, some of which were along the lines of "space aliens" took them, that now to be shown wrong is very bad, espcially in the last week of the campaign.

The other thing is that it is a symbol of everything that has gone in Iraq. Its something people can clearly point to--they didn't guard these bunkers. Here's the pictures. The inability of the Bush camp to acknowledge what everyone else can see with their own eyes, that Iraq was a strategic blunder writ large, really looks bad.


Amazing Rob W. I just finished reading that the DoD was saying the Russians took them!

Don't any of you guys propping up Bush ever get sick of being lied to. I mean you can still vote for the guy in good conscience if you think Kerry sucks, but you don't have to completely whore yourself out.

Rob W


You are absolutely right. The failure to secure the HE is the real problem. This was their main complex. They should have secured it, no doubt. I think the Times went with the HMX and RDX because it looks good in print. Has the letter X at the end (always scary, see DMX and MX and BMX), and the explosives are extremely powerful.

Eric Anondson

They did see bunkers with the IAEA seals here.

Which clears up one uncertainty, so this is good to see.

However, we still know that the bunkers at Al QaQaa had removable ventilation walls, which were found to have been removed, making bypassing the IAEA seals a simple thing. We also know that Iraq had duplicate IAEA seals of their own.


Like I said

Eric Anondson

And you have no problem swallowing without question what the Kerry campaign, NYTimes and UN shovels at you martin?

That you can do it without choking is a remarkable thing about you. Hats off to you. :)

Geek, Esq.

Experts, including former weapons inspectors who actually saw the stuff, confirm that the stuff in the drums is HMX.


Combine that with the seals, and . . .

Cecil Turner

"This was their main complex. They should have secured it, no doubt.

I think I'm back to having a hard time getting excited about it. There's little military value in securing 1% (or 10%) of the available HE in a country, if you can't secure the rest. But politically it's definitely an issue. Interesting the seals were still there on April 18th (assuming it's the same bunkers). That ought to narrow it down some.


The ABC article is a little unclear. The former inspectors only confirmed that if there is an intact seal, then HMX was stored in that building (the RDX and PETN bunkers weren't sealed.) Since the Americans with the TV crew didn't break a seal to get in as far as we can tell, that actually indicates the news footage is of the other types of explosive. More here, but the most likely explanation at the moment is that the barrels are full of 3 tonnes of RDX, the bunker is QaQaa #47, and it's next to the HMX bunkers, which were also photographed with their seals intact.


From Kerry:

"This is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration.

This is far from over, gents - I believe in defense in depth.

Some of my earliest questions remain unanswered:

- how much HMX / RDX was in Iraq at other facilities? This stuff got special IAEA treatment because Al QaQaa was considered a nuclear research facility. From the first Times story, one might infer that HMX elsewhere would not be viewed with alarm.

- How readily available is this stuff in the Middle East, or the terror community, or whatever? For example, this article tells me that as Sept 2000, Iran was manufacturing it.

- If we believe that Saddam had a plan to disperse munitions in preparation for an insurgency, why do we think that all of this stuff was left behind?

I'll admit that the appearance is not of crisp competence. But, as Cecil says, what is the *military*, rather than sound-bite, significance?

If we believe the ABC story about the RDC discrepancy, most of that was gone. If we believe their comments about ventilation slats being used to evade the seals, we have new photographic evidence that not all of the HMX was previously moved. Interesting, but it hardly proves that none of it was moved.

So, no one has established the military significance of securing this specific dumo.

I had linked to the Latifayah story mentioned by Bruce back on the 26th. My comment (and also down in the comments) then was that it cut both ways:

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.

...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.

So, he is not emphasizing HMX or RDX, but wishes Al QaQaa had been secured.

To which one might say, Saddam had set up ammo dumps everywhere, and this guy admits he is only guessing that the stuff being used was looted.

My guess - I am gloomily resigned to the likelihood that some of it the conventional stuff being used was looted. But it defies the Times own reporting (Oct 20 story) about Saddam's pre-planned dispersal of munitions to imagine that securing Al QaQaa would have prevented this problem completely.

Would it have reduced it noticeably? Unknown.

OK, I want all lefties to skip right past the next comment.

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