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October 27, 2004

AL QA QAA THOROUGHLY SEARCHED: On April 4, 2003, CBS (of all places) reported that the al Qa Qaa industrial site was thoroughly searched by the 3rd Infantry Division. Suspicious material was found. (Hat tip: Captains Quarters.)

The senior U.S. official, based in Washington and speaking on condition of anonymity, said the material was under further study. The site is enormous and U.S. troops are still investigating it for potential weapons of mass destruction, the official said.

"Initial reports are that the material is probably just explosives, but we're still going through the place," the official said.

Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare.

Captain Ed notes:
From this description, it sounds as if the material left at Al Qaqaa would have only been samples or starter materials, as storing 380 tons of powdered explosive in vials would have taken most of Baghdad to store…The idea that various Army units showed up at the weapons facility and strolled around a few minutes before moving up the road to Baghdad, leaving the lights on and the front door unlocked, looks more and more ridiculous. The Army knew very well what it had found, and it searched the bunkers carefully looking for the most dangerous and high-priority items.
Indeed.

The CBS piece continues:

The senior U.S. official, based in Washington and speaking on condition of anonymity, said the material was under further study. The site is enormous and U.S. troops are still investigating it for potential weapons of mass destruction, the official said.
There is no mention of 380 tons of HDX and RDX that disappeared at some point. It appears increasingly likely that it went missing not only before the 101st Airborne arrived on April 10, but also before the 3rd ID showed up on April 3.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club makes an excellent point.

The contemporaneous CBS report, written before anyone knew al Qa Qaa would be a big deal, establishes two important things. The first is that 3ID knew it was looking through an IAEA inspection site. The second was that the site had shown unmistakable signs of tampering before the arrival of US troops. "Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare." Now presumably those thousands of boxes were not all packaged and labeled with chemical warfare instructions under IAEA supervision, so the inescapable conclusion is that a fairly large and organized type of activity had been under way in Al Qa Qaa for some time.
Read the whole thing.

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