Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Did I say that?

Yes indeed, last night, trolling the web and just before I go to bed, the story of the 377/380/400 tons of missing explosives came to light, and by all indications at that point, it sounded as if it had happened under the guard of the US Army. Then, this morning, I wake up to find out that an embedded NBC reporter says that the more powerful among the explosives reported missing were not there upon the arrival of the US Army. Now, as tempting as it might be, in light of the administration's own precedent, to now re-define my terms, and thus justify last night's post, I'm gonna say it plain and clear: I was misinformed, and I acted, insofar as a blog post makes any difference at all in this world of course, under a set of assumptions that simply were not correct. For all 3 of my regular readers, I apologize now.

Having done that, I urge everyone to read the reports on this story carefully. Look closely at the timing of these events. Find out, to the extent that you can, when this happened.

As far as I can tell, from the media I'm able to access (and unlike Tammy, my friend who is an extremely capable poet but whose politics are in diametrical opposition to my own (ABB on my side, I'm willing to vote for the wax Shreck pulls out of his ear before I vote for the current president, ABK on Tammy's) I have to wash my hands immediately after I am, for whatever reason, compelled to type the word "Drudge" ('scuse me...okay, back...)), these explosives were last verified in place in January 2003 by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iraq's director of planning, Mohammed Abbas, said the material disappeared sometime after Saddam's regime fell in April 2003. US Troops began bombing on March 19th, and Baghdad fell on April 9th. US troops went into Al Qaqaa on April 10th, at which point, according to the NBC crew that was embedded with those troops, the explosives were gone.

Understand that 377 tons works out to 754,000 pounds. Understand that this would have required SEVERAL semis. Understand that the US Army knew these explosives were there. This means someone has the timeline wrong, or that there was a massively coordinated effort to move these explosives in a relatively narrow window of time (between January 2003 and April 10th of the same year, or even less, between March 19th and April 10th, if we take Abbas' word as truth. I'm going with NBC having the timeline right, but still reserve the right to personally suggest that these weapons would not have disappeared if the current administration hadn't been so bull-headed about diplomatic efforts.

Understand (please understand, anyone who doesn't) that these were not WMDs, but conventional weapons--but "conventionally" strong enough to take out 754,000 jumbo jets.

In any case, obviously not the cause for alarm it was last night, though that hardly negates the many, many other problems this "policy decision" has unleashed upon us.

Comes right down to it, I don't understand why humans find it so bloody worthwhile to kill each other. I'm not entirely naive to the political workings of this world, but I'm finding it harder, each day, to understand why so many Americans still believe this war was in any way a good thing.

I'm sure those that do continue to shake their heads in wonder that I can think the way that I do, as well. But hey, I promise not to lob any bombs if you don't.

Shee-it. More poetry, 'swhat I say. That, and vote, god-damn it.

Erm...apparently, I may have to re-retract...the story was at one point on CNN's website, but it's been yanked. Also, apparently, Drudge (shudder...I'll be right back...) knows something that NBC doesn't know about NBC's crews--because the story isn't over at NBC.

Get ready for a bumpy ride, folks. I'm already starting to feel more than a little bit of motion sickness...
Nope--back up there, just not as prominent. Anyone know where this might show up on NBC's website--or better, a link to the video for the claim that NBC crews were present?

Help an old political junkie get his fix?
Hmm. You may find this link useful: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6323933 . It contains some video; not sure if that's the video you're after, but worth checking.

In any event, it doesn't matter at what point exactly the explosives were looted. The fact is that they were looted because the IAEA lost control of the bunker and all of its internal inspection duties when Bush started shooting the place. *When* the explosives were looted is a detail. Bush's complicity is the important fact. It's just another line item in a long list of dire new risks that have been created since we barged into Iraq like a pack of frat boys looking for a rumble. Iraq's borders are far more perforate than they ever were under Sadaam, and jihadist-wannabes are pouring in to get in on the fun. Meanwhile we're busy radicalising generations of new fundamentalists and laying the foundations of what will likely become a nasty war between the West and Muslim world. It's going to be a miserable, bloody, lethal mess, and it's going to continue for years and years to come.

On the other hand, I finally found a good recipe for red curry, so that's alright.
Just for the record - you're awesome...

As far as I'm concerned no apology necessary - I know you didn't intentionally mislead anyone - you were acting on information given to you by a 'reliable' source - and your reaction was an honest reaction. No need to apologize for that.

I wouldn't say that you lied to or mislead your readers.

But, then again - I'm not running for President.

BTW - just something to keep an eye on...


BOMB-GATE [Cliff May]
Sent to me by a source in the government: “The Iraqi explosives story is a fraud. These weapons were not there when US troops went to this site in 2003. The IAEA and its head, the anti-American Mohammed El Baradei, leaked a false letter on this issue to the media to embarrass the Bush administration. The US is trying to deny El Baradei a second term and we have been on his case for missing the Libyan nuclear weapons program and for weakness on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

And keeping in mind the following from

As with other WMD areas, Saddam’s ambitions in the nuclear area were secondary to his prime objective
of ending UN sanctions.
• Iraq, especially after the defection of Husayn Kamil in 1995, sought to persuade the IAEA that Iraq had met
the UN’s disarmament requirements so sanctions would be lifted.

ISG found a limited number of post-1995 activities that would have aided the reconstitution of the
nuclear weapons program once sanctions were lifted.
• The activities of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission sustained some talent and limited research with potential
relevance to a reconstituted nuclear program.

and to continue on that path....

Thanks, kids.

I'm beginning to think that this whole story is one of those cases where I'd like to have more knowledge and certainty than I do, but I'm not going to get it. Obviously, with my own leanings, I'm more likely to agree with Paul here...they did know about these explosives, and I think the signs, including recent statements from the NBC crew, all suggest a certain level of negligence. 380 tons isn't that much, in the context of Saddam's arsenals, but that these were under the survellance they were before the war, and that they went missing at some point between January and April, is more than a little disheartening, and doesn't speak well of pre-war planning, which is really where I am and always have been on this war. There is a principled stand that I take, which says any taking of human life for the sake of ideas is wrong, but there is also that more pragmatic side that looks to logistics, and this one looked wrong from the onset--with the lack of any clear exit strategy (and anyone who is fully honest about the sitch has to admit that claimed exit strategies were more than dodgy at the time...and haven't born themselves out...) being the first big alarm bell. Those hours immediately surrounding the fall of Baghdad were no doubt chaotic ones, but the idea that we somehow missed catching the transport of 380 tons of material from a known arsenal at any time between January and April of 2003 strikes me as fundamentally absurd. Hard to say. Perhaps my understanding of surveillance capacity is a little too informed by Hollywood. I'll make no excuses for that--I'm a word-head, after all, not an engineer.

Facts are, the rumors on this sucker are so thick as to look like the fog that rolls into New Orleans on an early spring morning...you can't see 2 feet ahead of you. One of those posts, Tammy, right-wing communities, I note, suggests that there were in fact 3 tons, not 380. That would make the logistics of removal a bit easier to work out, but in the long run, it's just words on the screen. Also one is making much of a Russian convoy that was caught in a crossfire on April 6 of that year--8 vehicles. A semi-truck faces structural failure at 30 tons, but can manage, under optimal conditions. That still leaves 140 tons unaccounted for, assuming the 8 vehicles were semi's, and loaded to max capacity. Pick up trucks and small loads have also been suggested...but I recently read someone working out the maths on this one, and it calculates to 90 workers, working 24/7 for 2 weeks, assuming the secure site the stuff was transported to was but 30 minutes away.

And of course, the timing is not at all nailed down on this, with the NBC crew saying that no, they didn't quite say the explosives weren't there--they said they didn't see them...different because they probably wouldn't have known them if they'd bitten them, and also because from all indications, the troops that went through weren't looking for them. AND the IAEA has suggested that they re-inspected immediately prior to the invasion...though how thoroughly is anyone's guess.

The talk about El Baradei's political motivations strikes me as smokescreen...the munitions are either there or they aren't, and the indications are that they were, that the US knew about them, and that they disappeared sometime in 2003. That isn't a good outcome--and all of this is totally ignoring a lot of other objections I have to this action.

I'm beginning to think that one of the MAIN issues, which plays there, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, is the level of trust one should give to any global governing body. Some, like myself, think there needs to be a functioning international body of governance, with some god-damned teeth, to deal with issues that are increasingly defying the old political unit of the nation-state...others think that the US has the military and economic might, and more importantly, the moral rectitude, to pull the job off where an international body is fundamentally corrupt. It is a matter, finally, of where one puts more of their trust.

Simply put, I don't trust an administration that would employ the tactics that the Bush administration DID employ against Senator John McCain in 2000--and I certainly am not sold on the moral rectitude of such an administration. I'll accept that politics is a dirty business...but somehow, we all find the dirt of one side or the other more acceptable.

In any case, I'm going to stop trying to guess on this story...it is, for me, but the latest in a chain of failures stretching back very nearly to Bush's announcement that he was running for the office in the first place. It just happens to have a little more sticking power than some of the others.
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