The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Those Missing Explosives

Ed Morrisey (aka Captain Ed) writes a long and detailed post which suggests that the high explosives that have gone missing may well have been missing since BEFORE the war. Kerry was very quick to jump on this as an American failure, and more specifically a failure of President Bush. But the facts show that this “Blame America First” knee-jerk response is a gross oversimplification of the problem:

The Administration acknowledged that it disappeared after the last IAEA inspection, which occurred before the invasion. After the US invaded Iraq and visited Al-Qaqaa, they checked for but saw no IAEA seals and bypassed the bunker for more critical missions. That difference is critical, as it directly impacts on who moved the munitions, when, and to where. Many have speculated that the WMD Saddam supposedly retained made its way to Syria in a series of truck convoys spotted just before the invasion began, and Syria has not allowed weapons inspectors to determine whether they have Saddam's WMD. If the WMD did not exist, the trucks could have hauled the contents of Al-Qaqaa just as easily, and far less traceably.

No one doubts that 380 tons of high-tech explosive is a big, big problem. But the Times article fails to put the issue into its proper perspective; the US and its coalition partners have been securing and destroying loose munitions ever since the invasion, as fast as they can. My friend Mike, a Navy SEAL and a contractor in Iraq, worked on this mission during his time there, and described the process in his letters home to his son:

When Daddy first came to Iraq it was estimated that there was more than 2 million tons of ammunition stored in hundreds of storage places called ‘caches’. We may not have that much ammunition in our own country.
Most of this ammunition could not even be used by the Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein and most has no use to the new military of Free Iraq. Saddam’s corrupt government sold or gave lots of it away to terrorists. Today terrorists try to steal the ammunition, so they can use it to kill innocent people.

Some of it is used to make bombs that they plant in places where there are a lot of people. Other ammunition, like this rocket, is ready to launch right out of the container. These kinds of rockets are launched on our bases and convoys by bad people every day.

So Daddy’s team goes to where the ammunition is and we keep it safe until big trucks come. Then we go out to the desert far away from people and stack the ammo close together, we ‘prime’ it with special explosives ... and then we blow it up.

So let's keep in mind that when we're talking about 380 tons of ammunition, it represents 0.019% of the estimated amount of explosives and munitions that confronted the US at the beginning of the invasion. As Mike makes clear, it will take years to find, secure, and destroy all of these caches, and the Coalition had to prioritize the sites very quickly on their arrival. Absent any IAEA seals, they did what common sense dictated: the US moved its troops into positions where they could fight the enemy and secure communications.

Most egregiously, the failure to protect less than 0.02% of the total estimated munitions in Iraq has been seized upon by Kerry's campaign as an example of "incompetence":

Reacting to the IAEA announcement on Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry said the "incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country at greater risk than we ought to be."

These hysterical ravings from the Democrats should convince voters that anyone this panicky cannot possibly be trusted with any kind of command authority over our military, let alone guide us in an asymmetrical war with Islamic terrorists and the countries that sponsor them.

Further down, the Captain updates us with this:

Putting aside the fact that no one knows when these munitions disappeared, the fact that they were still there after 12 years of UN inspections and sanctions establishes the futility of the entire UNSCOM process. (They left them piled up in these bunkers because Saddam told them he would use them in civilian construction projects. Really.) And if we hadn't invaded Iraq, we wouldn't be faced with 380 tons of missing munitions -- we'd be facing the entire stockpile of 2 million tons, distributed to whomever Saddam pleased.

If we capture, control, and destroy 99.98% of all the munitions in Iraq, I'd say we'd done a pretty good job. I'd like it to be perfect, and I'd like to hear specifically how the Pandagon gang would guarantee that.

As would I…

UPDATE: The Associated Press reported this morning that the weapons were gone when our troops got there last year:

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. That raised the possibility that the explosives had disappeared before U.S. soldiers could secure the site in the immediate invasion aftermath.
DiscerningTexan, 10/26/2004 08:15:00 AM |