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October 30, 2004


John Anderson

Where's the RDX? Well, it's known where it WAS, which is not where everyone is looking.
. I first started posting this 10.27 with little or no response, probably because I did not include links and noone could find the story - I stumbled across it by accident and had trouble finding it again, so I've added the links and how to find it on Google. Is that better?
10.25.2004 [10.24 US?] ?RDX never at alQQ? And never sealed?
. text http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1227830.htm
. audio Real player http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200410/r34182_85029.ram
. audio WIndows player http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/200410/r34182_85034.asx
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming interview on ABC (Australia) - "IAEA inspectors visited Al-Mahaweel on Jan. 15, 2003, and verified the RDX inventory by weighing sampling," Fleming said. She said the RDX at Al-Mahaweel was NOT UNDER SEAL [emphasis added - JSA] but was subject to IAEA monitoring."
"The bulk of the RDX was stored at ANOTHER SITE that was under Al Qaqaa's jurisdiction," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
She says that the report seen by ABC only covers the Al Qaqaa site itself.
The second site, Al Mahaweel, is roughly 45 kilometres from Al Qaqaa.
Well, so much for about 140 of the 372 tons? Or what?
10.29.2004 3ID says "I did not see any IAEA seals at any of the locations we went into," Maj. Austin Pearson said.
Search google for "Mahaweel" - http://www.dailyherald.com/news_story.asp?intid=38289156 is the only one in the US to have this?
. But search "Melissa Fleming" and you find the Australian ABC entry.
. What KSTP video? pics of a seal on the ABC/KSTP are of a "sample" seal, not from the video! http://instapundit.com/archives/018748.php
. and from "r-dubya" comment at the Captain's place "The close up picture from KSTP is a cropped photo that is available at the IAEA site. http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2002/31012002_news01.shtml It is not a close up of the seal that the news crew may have viewed at whatever bunker they had filmed.
. Another paper has done the story! http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD/MGArticle/RTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031778817576 but thinks it was the 28th: guys, it was the 25th!
. OK, the video is available, my bad - http://kstp.dayport.com/viewer/viewerpage.php?Art_ID=159669 but at least one thing said raises a warning flag, the claim that the 3ID did not search alQQ between the 3rd and the 13th: funny, at the time (the 4th for CBS, the 6th for NYT), it was reported that the 3ID did search, finding explosives and documents.


Thanks, Tom, for pulling this information together.


Hey, I was in Iraq for the end of last year almost until the turnover in June, and Al-Qaqaa is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unguarded explosives.

There were huge ammo dumps all over the country. There were several south of Baghdad, in the Multinational CS sector, that were completely unguarded, or "guarded" by an inadequate Iraqi Facilities Protection Service force, for months.

These dumps were huge and had thousands of 122 mm artillery shells, rockets, anti-aircraft missiles with large warheads and aerial bombs.

A bridge on the main highway (Rt. 1) between Basra and Baghdad was destroyed by two 500 lb bombs tied under it.



Good work (as usual), though I would take issue with this part:

"Why didn't the international energy agency blow this material up in the 1990's?

[They didn't. Who cares?]"

I care. The Bush Administration pushed for these explosives to be destroyed, but the IAEA refused. The reason offered by the IAEA was that the regime claimed the explosives could be used for civilian purposes, like mining. That the IAEA accepted this rationale tells us one of two things.

It may suggest that the IAEA were either dumb or willing dupes of the regime. If so, it is highly relevant in deciding whether to vote for a Presidential candidate who says we should have left the job to international inspectors. Had the IAEA listened to the Administration, there would be no story here at all.

It also may suggest that the IAEA did not view these explosives as much more dangerous than ordinary explosives and put them under seal solely due to their location. If so, the NYT acted with even greater malice or stupidity in hyping the story than would be the case otherwise.

Moreover, these points are not mutually exclusive; both may be true.

Someone reading this analysis may think that we must take the world as we find it, which leaves the U.S. with the responsibilty for securing the site. We certainly must take the world as we find it, but we need not accept the IAEA/NYT frame as the only one through which this story can be viewed.

If the NYT were not so thoroughly biased, the story could have been equally reported as one example of the daunting task of trying to secure a country awash in arms and explosives -- a task made more daunting by the IAEA's own inaction. It could have reported that the IAEA's idea of security was to "seal" a bunker that was still completely accessible through the ventilation shafts.

A less biased NYT might have paired that story with a review of the crumbling U.N. sanctions, or the corruption of the Oil-For-Food program, which allowed Saddam to collect $11 Billion for rearmament.

Of course, had they done that, the casual reader might have surmised that the international inspection regime was inadequate. It might have led a reader to view The Administration's policy in a more favorable light. And we can't have that, can we?


Where ARE the satellite photos of the explosives being removed prior to invasion of Iraq? We were all over Iraq search every square inch for dozens of different things? But we missed the large 30 or 50 trucks (whatever) hauling the stff to (Syria?), not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away.

The ABC news affiliate which has been in the news all week, embedded with the 101st Airborne, eventually found the photos they needed (some of the earlier ones were just plain stupid and exposed the fact they didn't have a clue what to search through). They promised early on (Monday or Tuesday) they were going to retain some explosives experts. Fast forward to Thursday. Their photos show what virtually everyone agrees (I''m still looking for a credible authority that doesn't) that they had indeed filmed the explosives. Badgdad had fallen. Neither the 3rd Army or 101st Airborne had any instructions what to do with the stuff. It had the UN seals on it. It was the "missing explosives."

Presumably they had some experts with them who knew how to look for chemical weapons, explosives etc. which might be of special danger to the American army. Destroying explosives may not have been a priority, but the organization you denigrate has been verified by the Pentagon as providing a warning well in advance of the invasion.

Slam dunk. Game over. The explosives were clearly identified as being present after the fall of Baghdad. Your best point is that was it realistically possible to destroy those munisitions? (1) the Pentagon had notice, especially the nature (suitable for use in atomic weapon to ignite it (2) the ABC affiliate camera crew had nice tour guides to show them around. Too bad, given the knowledge of what they were looking at, they didnt toss a grenade in each one as they departed.

(Figre of speech with the grenade. The point is they saw them, should have known what they were, and if the inspectors were so worried maybe they should have done something. Or maybe the Pentagon never told them. They didn't care.)

All your misc sidebars about election of the president of the agency and a good many more are interesting, but useful speculation. Look at the hard facts.

(1) no satellite photos of all those trucke? OK, didn't get any. Little strange, but let's say that didn't work out.

(2) but what about those photos of Thursday (big surprise, the NYT had a story then which is glossed over here and/or ignored.

All this talk of subtle meanings, all the speculations of hundreds of kinds last week, don't add up to anything in the face of physical evidence.

Slam dunk. Game over. (oops, already said that)


All this talk of slam dunk, game over is stupid, childish and ignorant. Grow up. The truth is, we don't know the facts, and we won't know them for some time to come. You talk about "physical evidence", SteveoBrien, where is your physical evidence? Everybody is speculating about photos and paper reports, and no one who is doing the speculating has been there and investigated. (Not even David Kay, so don't even bring up his name.)

This whole "story" is stupid.

Stephen Stewart

As a 22 year vet let me tell you that RDX- HMX were the least to be worried about. It is like going to a gun store and being concerned about the gun powder in the reloading section. This stuff is too much work, especially when you have 155 and 80mm rounds laying all over the place and various and sundry other types of HE Ammo. Add to that you are spending all of your time in MOPP3 or MOPP 4 ( Military Oriented Protective Posture) NBC suit. You are briefed and have a mission. So what do we do? Without giving it all away. The coalition forces had specifics units looking for WMD. Othe MI units Guarded these large Ammo storage areas with UAV's. When anyone came near and started looting or nosing around, they were greeted by a team of Apache gunships.

My only wish would be to see John Kerry and John Edwards in MOPP4 in the desert for 72 hours.

1SG Stephen W. Stewart


Thanks, good roundup/recap.

Reading this made me realize that this was an awful lot of explosives that were removed in a very short period of time. I hadn’t realized that the time period for the removal was less than two months. Doing a back of the envelope calculation, that’s something on the order of a pickup truck every hour and a half, all day every day.

To get that number I had to make some rough assumptions (that’s why it’s “back of the envelope”).
If the explosives were removed using vehicles similar to those ubiquitous white pickup trucks that we see on the news, and about they can each haul about half a ton (this is a guess on my part, I’ve no idea how bulky this stuff is, but it’s not an unreasonable guess for the capacity of a 10 year old small pickup), then that’s 760 trucks for 380 tons.
If the explosives were removed between the time the troops left in April, and the time the Iraq Survey Group got to the site in May there wasn’t much time. I’m guessing that it’s probably more than 30 days, but less than 60, split the difference and call it 45 days to move it all (if anyone has more exact time, let me know).
So divide 760 trucks by 45 days and you get 16.9 trucks per day which converts to 0.704 trucks per hour, or 1.42 hours per truck. That’s a pickup truck, on average, every hour and a half, 24/7.

Like I said, back of the envelope, but still, no matter how you look at it, a lot of trucks and not much time.

M. Simon


Are you saying that Saddam had an atomic weapons program in the waiting (at minimum)?

A real WMD program that the explosives were a part of?

Slam dunk game over.


The correct talking point is "Game. Set. Match". And if repeating something makes it true, then lots of other things are true as well.

The Thursday story was covered on Thursday, and ties in quite nicely to the "Where's My RDX". On Monday, we had 380 tons of Fear. By Thursday, some of the HMX was visibly there, and almost all of the RDX was elsewhere (the rest was not under seal). And that "proved" the Times story was accurate? Actually, it proved the opposite.

Re the IAEA and my "who cares". Karl has a good point. I was not caring only in a very literal and unimaginative sense - somebody made a mistake in 1995, but that does not in itself explain what happened in 2003.

However, it does impugn the IAEA a bit, and they are a part of the current story.

Cecil Turner

"The correct talking point is "Game. Set. Match"."

Well, I don't disagree, but there might be some nuance here. BruceR's original use of the phrase was to dispute allegations the explosives had been moved prior to US forces' arrival--and it seems correct. Probably ought to've said "game"--because "set and match" would be the larger picture of what happened to the explosives and the political effect of the issue, respectively--which is still in dispute, but seems likely to go the other way.

"However, it does impugn the IAEA a bit, and they are a part of the current story."

I think it's more than a bit. It's deeply hypocritical of the IAEA to claim this is a major issue now, but wasn't important enough to destroy in 1995 (or 2002 after several tons had gone missing).

Max B. Sawicky

Take a rest, Tom. Iraq is worse and getting worser. You've done more than anyone could ask.

G. Bush


Tom - Disregard previous message - that Colin Powell is such a kidder!

Remember, sometimes things have to get worserer before they get betterer.


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