The Bush Administration and the U.S. military have been as good in protecting the looted weapons cache at Al Qaqa’a and tracking down its whereabouts as they’ve been in tracking down Osama bin Laden–which is to say, not good at all. When little Georgie explains to his teacher why he doesn’t have his homework, his response undoubtedly will be: “Sadaam ate it.”
John Kerry correctly has taken on Bush for this failure:
“Mr. President, you don’t honor our troops or protect them better by putting them in greater danger than they ought to be. The bottom line is your administration was warned, you were put on notice, but you didn’t put these explosives on a priority list.”
Bush’s response has been more of the same: it’s not our fault; Hussein removed them before we got there; the Russians removed them before we got there (Washington Times), etc. Bush feebly defends against the charges by saying:”Our military is now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including that the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site.” Note carefully the language, “possible scenarios” and “may have been moved.” Pretty tenuous grasping at straws I’d say. Besides, if you recollect the number of times this president and his minions have told us that their fantasies and theories about Sadaam and Al Qaeda have been a “slam dunk” or “indisputable” then you’ll join me in being entirely dubious of this cock and bull story from him now.
To which, Kerry responds:
“What we’re seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving in their usual efforts to avoid responsibility – just as they’ve done every step of the way in our involvement in Iraq. Three hundred and eighty tons of explosives that could be in the hands of terrorists and he’d do everything exactly the same way? On Iraq, the president doesn’t see it, he doesn’t see it, so he can’t fix it. I do see it, and I will fix it.”
Bush responds by attacking Kerry for making “wild charges” about the looting of the site. Tell me, Mr. President, what precisely is “wild” about these charges? After all, John Kerry didn’t dream this story up, the IAEA did. This is an international arms inspection agency not especially known for spouting wild accusations about anything. The IAEA learned about the story from an Iraqi ministry, part of a government with which we’re supposed to be allied. So I repeat, where’s the wildness in these charges?
The Pentagon has dredged up the U.S. commanding officer whose troops briefly occupied Al Qaqa’a during the war. His interview with the Times only deepens the questions and concern I have about our government’s lack of action regarding the site:
The Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division arrived outside the site on April 10, under the command of Col. Joseph Anderson. The brigade had been ordered to move quickly to Baghdad because of civil disorder there after Mr. Hussein’s government fell on April 9.
They gathered at Al Qaqaa, about 30 miles south, simply as a matter of convenience, Colonel Anderson said…When he arrived at the site – unaware of its significance – he saw no signs of looting, but was not paying close attention.
Because he thought the brigade would be moving on to Baghdad within hours, Al Qaqaa was of no importance to his mission, he said, and he was unaware of the explosives that international inspectors said were hidden inside.
“No importance to his mission” and “unaware of the explosives inspectors said were inside;” interesting admissions–did no one in the Pentagon possess a list of the major Hussein weapons caches inspected and secured by the inspectors? If so (and how can we believe they did not?), why weren’t these potential future weapons bazaars secured by our military? Bush claims this wasn’t incompetence? Then what was it? Brilliant, forward-thinking strategy?
The New York Times has apparently been doing its homework on this story, as they produced four former Hussein-era employees at the site who personally claim to have witnessed the looting AFTER American troops swept through on their way to Bagdhad (4 Iraqis Tell of Looting at Munitions Site in ’03):
Looters stormed the weapons site at Al Qaqaa in the days after American troops swept through the area in early April 2003 on their way to Baghdad, gutting office buildings, carrying off munitions and even dismantling heavy machinery, three Iraqi witnesses and a regional security chief said Wednesday.
The Iraqis described an orgy of theft so extensive that enterprising residents rented their trucks to looters.
The ball’s back in your court, Mr. Bush. Please tell us how Martians visited earth just before the U.S. invasion to haul off Sadaam’s death ray to outer space. I’d really like to hear it.