The latest October surprise

First we had the flu vaccine, and now we learn that the US Defense Department has been aggressively trying to cover up the embarrassing fact that under its watch some 380 tons of incredibly powerful explosives have been stolen in Iraq and are most likely in the hands of insurgents, to whom it can provide a near-limitless cache of destruction and murder.

It took just one pound of this material to bring down Flight 103 over Lacherbie. And the enemy has 380 tons. The political bloggers will almost certainly be out in force tonight and tomorrow discussing the ramifications of this calamity.

The real story, of course, is our government’s battle to stop us from learning about this colossal fuck-up. As you read the Times story, you realize just how arrogant we were in ignoring warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, and how cowardly we were in working overtime to keep the people from learning what happened.

Josh Marshall has been all over the story before it broke, and makes it clear the government’s motives for the coverup are purely political.

There are a number of reasons why you can imagine the White House and the civilians at the Pentagon wouldn’t want to inform the IAEA. But one pretty clear one is that letting the IAEA find out would pretty clearly mean that the American public would find out what a major league screw-up the president and his advisors had allowed to happen.

Only a couple weeks ago did the Iraqis finally report the theft to the IAEA. And from there it was only a matter of time till the yearlong cover-up started to unravel.

But it didn’t even stop there.

As I’ve noted, the White House and the Pentagon have known for more than a year that this stuff had gone missing. But the White House, according to TPM sources, has known that this story was coming for at least ten days. Again, not just the underlying facts — that the stuff had been stolen and was being used against American troops (they’ve known that for more than a year) — but the fact that this story was going to break in the not too distant future. And they’ve been going to great lengths to try to push it back until after the election.

What can you say? I guess we have to deal with the fact that we botched just about everything we touched in Iraq, and that there’s no length to which bush won’t go to make you and me believe otherwise. This is incredibly damning in light of the public warnings we were given and our inexplicable and inexcusable carelessness. At least it got out before the election; it really could be the October surprise we’ve been waiting for.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

Ther really scary part is not the exlosives, but that somebody has been running off with whole factories in Iraq and not just looters, sights that were monitered by the UN have vanished since the invasion, they haven’t been blown up or crushed, somebody has gone in with lorries and heavy lifting equippment and shoplifted entire buildings. And what is worse is that these buildings were part of the Iraqi Nuclear, Chemical and Biological program that America was meant to be killing.

Somebody has legged it with plants capable of making nasty substances right under the US’s snout.

October 25, 2004 @ 2:30 am | Comment

Just to put it into perspective, 380 tons of anything is 95 well packed container trucks full of explosives driving (carefully, I hope!) along the smooth roads from Baghdad to wherever. [Cue Chris Franke and the music from Sorceror/Wages of Fear!] That’s a continuous line of container trucks one and a half kilometres long, if they were parked nose to tail. Enough explosive to repeat the Lockerbie bombing 760,000 times over.


October 25, 2004 @ 10:12 am | Comment

the White House and the Pentagon have known for more than a year that this stuff had gone missing.

So there really were WMDs, and we let known terrorists get them. Even worse than invading without finding WMDs. Way to go, Bush!

October 25, 2004 @ 10:23 am | Comment

Urk, just realized that my calculations were wrong: that’s 9.5 full container trucks at 40 tons per truck, and 150 meters end to end. Sorry. Still, 760,000 Lockerbies is correct.

Of course, if all this materiél was being carted away in pickup trucks…

However, Devi:

No, high explosives weren’t WMDs, and these were known about before the invasion and sealed and locked up by the UN inspectors. Hgh exploseives are required fom mining and road-building and other contruction works, so it’s not a sign of a weapons program for a country to have high-explosives.

The WMDs that Bush threatened the world with were Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons, none of which have been found in any significant quantities in Iraq.

October 25, 2004 @ 10:46 am | Comment

But tonight, NBCNEWS reported, once: The 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives were already missing back in April 10, 2003 — when U.S. troops arrived at the installation south of Baghdad!

An NBCNEWS crew embedded with troops moved in to secure the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003, one day after the liberation of Iraq.

According to NBCNEWS, the HMX and RDX explosives were already missing when the American troops arrived.

It is not clear why the NYTIMES failed to report the cache had been missing for 18 months — and was reportedly missing before troops even arrived.

October 25, 2004 @ 11:28 pm | Comment

Not to worry, Sam, the NBC story you mention doesn’t hold water. Nice try, though!

October 26, 2004 @ 7:20 am | Comment

Oh, and if NBC is now gospel, I’m sure you’ll enjoy their report last night on how bush intentionally rejected an opportunity to get Zarqawi.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill [Abu Musab] Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

“Here we had targets, we had opportunities, we had a country willing to support casualties, or risk casualties after 9/11 and we still didn’t do it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it. By then the administration had set its course for war with Iraq.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey. …

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

October 26, 2004 @ 7:27 am | Comment

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

So you’re saying that al-Qaeda was in Iraq producing weapons of mass destruction in 2002? That’s sure what it sounds like you’re saying.

October 26, 2004 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

N. Iraq — not Iraq. Saddam did not have control of Northern Iraq. More embarassing though is, didn’t we (US/UN) have control of it?!

October 26, 2004 @ 4:29 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.