October 25, 2004

IRAQ'S MISSING EXPLOSIVES: According to an MSNBC TV news report the Pentagon says the hundreds of tons of explosives that disappeared from Iraq went missing before U.S. troops entered the country. The story is not yet posted online. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Saddam is worried.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall points to this AP article in the Jerusalem Post:

At the Pentagon, an official who monitors developments in Iraq said US-led coalition troops had searched Al-Qaqaa in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives, which had been under IAEA seal since 1991, were intact. Thereafter the site was not secured by U.S. forces, the official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
But this is flatly contradicted by NBC. (Hat tip: Robbie Port.)
NBC News: Miklaszewski: “April 10, 2003, only three weeks into the war, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne as they temporarily take over the Al Qakaa weapons installation south of Baghdad. But these troops never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives, called HMX and RDX, which is now missing. The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX, so powerful less than a pound brought down Pan Am 103 in 1988, and can be used to trigger a nuclear weapon. In a letter this month, the Iraqi interim government told the International Atomic Energy Agency the high explosives were lost to theft and looting due to lack of security. Critics claim there were simply not enough U.S. troops to guard hundreds of weapons stockpiles, weapons now being used by insurgents and terrorists to wage a guerrilla war in Iraq.” (NBC’s “Nightly News,” 10/25/04)
If the NBC report is wrong and the unnamed Pentagon official is right, it's still not that big a story. The Belmont Club notes that 600,000 tons of munitions were dispersed by Saddam throughout Iraq and says worrying about a few hundred tons of RDX "is similar to worrying about a toothache after being diagnosed with AIDS and Ebola."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger L. Simon thinks this story might damage the New York Times worse than Jayson Blair.