The complete lack of interest of the Bush administration
in actually securing dangerous materials connected to the old, abandoned Iraqi
nuclear program has long belied Bush's stated concern with Iraq's alleged weapons
as a pretext for the war.
Glanz, William J. Broad, and David E. Sanger with Khalid al-Ansary reveal in
the New York Times today that the Bush administration allowed 380
tons of super-powerful explosives to disappear from al-Qaqaa, one of Iraq's
sensitive military installations, after the war in the spring of 2003. These
are not ordinary bombs. This explosive material, HMX and RDX, can be used to
detonate atomic bombs, collapse buildings, and form warheads for missiles. A
pound of it brought down a passenger jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.
A lot of the roadside bombs that have killed hundreds of U.S. troops and maimed
thousands have been made of HMX and RDX, as suggested by how infrequently the
guerrillas have blown themselves up in planting them. HMX and RDX are favored
by terrorists because they are stable and will only explode via a blasting cap.
Incredibly, the International Atomic Energy Commission and European Union
officials warned Bush before the war that these explosives needed to be safeguarded.
Josh Marshall is suspicious
that this major screw-up has been known to the Bush administration for some
time, and that it may have pressured the Iraqi government not to mention it.
If Bush cannot even protect our troops from explosives at a sensitive facility
in a country he had conquered, how is he going to protect the American public
from terrorists who have not even yet been identified?
The disappearance of these explosives is yet one more disaster caused by Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's mania to send a small military force into Iraq.
Rumsfeld overruled the officers in the Pentagon, who wanted hundreds of thousands
of troops and knew that many would be needed to secure the country after the
war. Why hasn't Rumsfeld been fired? He ran Iraq for most of the last 18 months,
and it is beginning to be as cratered as the dark side of the moon.
Only two weeks ago, The
International Atomic Energy Commission reported that not only had dual-use equipment
been stripped from an old Iraq nuclear weapons facility, but even the buildings
had been stripped and dismantled. Mohamed ElBaradei said that some of the nuclear
material stolen from facilities in Iraq has already begun showing up in other
countries. But the dual-use equipment, which has applications in nuclear weapons
construction, has disappeared. (Hmm. I wonder which neighbor of Iraq might be
desperately at work on a nuclear bomb and might be willing to pay top dollar
for such equipment?) How bad a job Bush is doing is clear when we consider that
we might well be relieved to know that this equipment went to Iran, since that
means bin Laden doesn't have it.
So let me ask this again: Bush is making us safer? The American public trusts
him to fight terror more effectively than Kerry? On what record? Bush appears
to have all but just called up Osama and Khamenei and told them where Saddam's
old stuff was in case they needed it for their programs. And he politely made
sure that no pesky U.S. troops would be around to impede their access.
Bush administration spokesmen are being careful to say that the hundreds of
tons of explosives stolen from al-Qaqaa are not themselves useful as fissile
material, i.e., they are not enriched uranium or plutonium.
But the fact
is that one of the first such "missing deadly weapons" scandals to break
in Iraq had to do with the disappearance of radioactive materials from Tuwaitha.
This theft was known already in the summer of 2003, and worries were expressed
that that material could be used to make a dirty bomb.
So Bush not only failed to have al-Qaqaa guarded against theft of HMX and
RDX, not only failed to guard against theft of dual-use equipment from a long-defunct
nuclear program site, but also failed to do the elementary work of ensuring
that the notorious al-Tuwaitha facility was secured against the theft of radioactive
Since Tuwaitha was the great bugaboo impelling the Iraq war in the first place,
you would imagine that Bush would have sent out a unit to secure and search
it immediately. But no, he politely let the looters have a look around first,
waiting in line.
I know someone is going to write me asking whether the existence of all this
equipment and dangerous explosives doesn't prove that Saddam still had an active
weapons program. The answer is a categorical "no." A lot of this stuff was left
over from the 1980s when there had been such active programs, which were abandoned
after the Gulf War. Ironically, the bits and pieces Saddam still had were useless
to a major state. But they could be stolen and cobbled together by a small band
of terrorists to deadly effect.
I just don't feel any safer with Bush in the White House. Maybe it is just
has the main stories of mayhem in Iraq on Sunday. The big one is of the
cold-blooded murder of nearly 50 Iraqi army recruits in Diyala province. They
were killed Mafia-style, a bullet in the back of the head. They were unarmed
and being trucked back from their training. This was obviously an inside job,
since the guerrillas knew where they were and that they were unarmed. Iraqi
al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, which is plausible since Monotheism and Holy
War does hate Shi'ites, and the troops were poor Shi'ites from the south.
Ed Seitz, the State Department security official killed by a mortar shell
on Sunday. The story of his death at the hands of nativist Iraqi guerrillas
is even more complicated and poignant if it is true that he was a crusader against
the anti-globalization movement who tried to keep Canadian anarchists out of
the U.S. and used to ask them where bin Laden is. The contrast of the demand
for open borders for corporate purposes and for closed borders with regard to
ideas is striking. In some ways, Iraq is proving highly resistant to the distinction,
and is if anything turning it on its head. Companies are being chased out of
Iraq, but all sorts of ideas are swirling in from Iraq's neighbors and from
the United States and Europe.