Monday, October 25, 2004

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

Oh, no! Senator Kerry reads the NY Times (registration required) and blasts President Bush for "letting" 380 tons of explosives disappear. Yet it's unclear if the cache was intact even before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. The presumption is that they were looted at some point:

By late 2003, diplomats said, arms agency experts had obtained commercial satellite photos of Al Qaqaa showing that two of roughly 10 bunkers that contained HMX appeared to have been leveled by titanic blasts, apparently during the war. They presumed some of the HMX had exploded, but that is unclear.

Other HMX bunkers were untouched. Some were damaged but not devastated. I.A.E.A. experts say they assume that just before the invasion the Iraqis followed their standard practice of moving crucial explosives out of buildings, so they would not be tempting targets. If so, the experts say, the Iraqi must have broken seals from the arms agency on bunker doors and moved most of the HMX to nearby fields, where it would have been lightly camouflaged - and ripe for looting.

Ergo, it's highly probable that when the Marines found no I.A.E.A seals in the facility, they kept on moving to other high-priority sites. [Update 10/26 05:50 am. Also see CNN story.]

It's perhaps worthwhile to dig into the NY Times article to find out why this information has come to light. Well, the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A) asked for it:

Early this month, Dr. ElBaradei put public pressure on the interim Iraqi government to start the process of accounting for nuclear-related materials still ostensibly under I.A.E.A. supervision, including the Qaqaa stockpile.

"Iraq is obliged," he wrote to the president of the Security Council on Oct. 1, "to declare semiannually changes that have occurred or are foreseen."

The agency, Dr. ElBaradei added pointedly, "has received no such notifications or declarations from any state since the agency's inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in March 2003."

Two weeks ago, on Oct. 10, Dr. Mohammed J. Abbas of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology wrote a letter to the I.A.E.A. to say the Qaqaa stockpile had been lost. He added that his ministry had judged that an "urgent updating of the registered materials is required."

A chart in his letter listed 341.7 metric tons, about 377 American tons, of HMX, RDX and PETN as missing.

Yes, that's a lot of bang. It's also a very small fraction of what's already been discovered and destroyed. Captain Ed does an excellent job of providing context:
So let's keep in mind that when we're talking about 380 tons of ammunition, it represents 0.019% of the estimated amount of explosives and munitions that confronted the US at the beginning of the invasion. As Mike* makes clear, it will take years to find, secure, and destroy all of these caches, and the Coalition had to prioritize the sites very quickly on their arrival. Absent any IAEA seals, they did what common sense dictated: the US moved its troops into positions where they could fight the enemy and secure communications.

Most egregiously, the failure to protect less than 0.02% of the total estimated munitions in Iraq has been seized upon by Kerry's campaign as an example of "incompetence":

Reacting to the IAEA announcement on Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry said the "incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country at greater risk than we ought to be."

These hysterical ravings from the Democrats should convince voters that anyone this panicky cannot possibly be trusted with any kind of command authority over our military, let alone guide us in an asymmetrical war with Islamic terrorists and the countries that sponsor them.

*Mike is the author of a series of pictorial emails explaining to his kids "Why We Fight". Part III covers his work with the discovery and disposal of cached ordnance, and Capt. Ed quotes from it in his post today.

And this is today's email from Ken Mehlman, Campaign Manager for Bush-Cheney '04:
Subject: John Kerry's Attacks: Ripped from the Headlines!
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 14:11:45 -0400
From: Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman
To: Kate Adell

Dear Kate,

Kerry's campaign is becoming desperate.

Everyday brings a new charge against the President and every charge is pulled right from the headlines of the New York Times. If you want to know how John Kerry will attack the President in the afternoon, just read the Times in the morning.

John Kerry will say anything he believes will help him politically, and today he is grasping at headlines to obscure his record of weakness and indecision in the War on Terror. These are the tactics of a candidate who has no message for the future and no positive record to run on.

The entire country of Iraq was a weapons stockpile. So far, 243,000 tons of weapons and explosives have been secured and destroyed. In addition, 163,000 tons of weapons and explosives have been secured and are awaiting destruction. All the Monday morning-quarterbacking and armchair-generaling in the world by John Kerry won't make up for the fact that he does not have a vision, a strategy or a plan to fight and win the War on Terror. [Ed. Underlined in original.]

Saddam Hussein's government stored weapons in mosques, schools, hospitals and countless other locations throughout Iraq. Yet, John Kerry showed today that he still cannot decide whether Saddam Hussein was a threat or not. He claims the weapons our troops have secured and destroyed were not a threat, but any other weapons were.

You should prepare for more baseless attacks torn from the headlines in the coming days by John Kerry. You should also expect more desperate flailing by his campaign as more polls show President Bush on his way to re-election.

John Kerry is attempting to distract voters from the clear choice they face between President Bush's strong leadership to protect America and John Kerry's weak record of proposing reckless cuts to our defense and intelligence budgets.

They will not succeed.

Sincerely,

Ken Mehlman
For a self-proclaimed realist, who has sworn that "you will always get the truth from me, in good times and in bad times. And I will never mislead the American people," Senator Kerry has a remarkable facility to be selective in his use of "facts".

[Update 10/26 05:50 am] Michelle Malkin digs into misleading "Kerryisms" about 95% uninspected cargo, his UN chats, and Senator Lugar's implied support of Kerry's positions.