Thursday, October 28, 2004

Kerry's Yiping at the Missing Munitions is Bogus - The Man Must be Desperate

From a superb post in yesterday's WSJ on the missing munitions from the Qaqaa depot near Baghdad.

In the late 1980s, Saddam Hussein's regime purchased large stocks of the explosives HMX, RDX and PETN from suppliers in China, Yugoslavia and--deep breath now--France. Ostensibly, these explosives have their civilian applications, such as mining and demolition. But because they are both chemically stable (they detonate only when properly fused) and highly explosive, they also have extensive military uses. They are common in conventional military ordnance, such as mines and artillery shells. They are uniquely well-suited for terrorist attacks; less than a pound of these explosives brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. And they can be used as triggers to set off a nuclear chain reaction.

Following the first Gulf War, the International Atomic Energy Agency put the Qaqaa cache under seal, where it remained until U.N. inspectors were kicked out in 1998. Upon the inspectors' return in late 2002, some 35 tons of HMX were found to be missing; the Iraqis claimed some of it had been removed for civilian use.

That's the last we know of their whereabouts. According to a Times source, U.S. troops "went through the bunkers, but saw no items bearing the IAEA seal." NBC News, which was embedded with the 101st Airborne when it arrived at Al-Qaqaa on April 10, 2003--the day after the fall of Baghdad--also reports this week that back then it found no sign of the explosives either. Stands to reason: Of course Saddam would remove his precious HMX from its last known location before U.S. cruise missiles could find it.

So much, then, for Mr. Kerry's suggestion that Bush Administration negligence is to blame for the missing stockpile. The larger question is: Just what sort of story do we have here?

Read the possible outcomes here.

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