The Al Qaqaa Explosives

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To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Perils of Going It Alone

In my Wednesday memo saying I would vote for Senator Kerry, I said
I believed President Bush had made the world a more dangerous place
as a result of his decision to war against Iraq. I also mentioned
the missing 380 tons of explosives at the Al Qaqaa munitions site
30 miles from Baghdad as further evidence of the Bush administration's
u201Cincompetenceu201D in its management of a war that was unnecessary to
begin with. I use the word u201Cincompetenceu201D because it was used by
Senator Richard Lugar, Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee, to describe the administration's planning for the war
and its aftermath. I'm afraid it is still not being made clear to
the American people, by the administration, by Senator Kerry, or
by the news media, why this particular 380 tons are so important.
The controversy also continues to be confused by the Pentagon's
changing stories about the explosives.

First came the story given to the Washington Times and the
Financial Times by John Shaw, a Pentagon official responsible
for technology security, that the HMX and RDX explosives were carted
off by the Russians before the fall of Saddam's Regime. That wildly
improbable story only lasted one news cycle before it was blown
to bits by U.S. troops on the ground. Because the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had inspected the site three weeks before
the brief war and found the seal secure, they could not have been
trucked out by Russians to Syria, as alleged, or the convoy would
have had to pass the American troops rushing to Baghdad. Then we
have the story that American troops did stop at the site, cut through
both the locks and the IAEA seals, and found the bunkers crammed
with boxes of explosives, which they left unguarded as they moved
on to Baghdad. There is today the new story that an American commander
in charge of destroying Iraqi munitions dumps has recalled going
into Al Qaqaa and blowing up 250 tons of explosives, although he
does not recall seeing any seals and does not know what it was that
he destroyed. On the campaign trail today, Friday, Vice President
Cheney has been citing this latest story as evidence that the U.S.
was doing its job all along and the Kerry charges have now been
proven wrong.

What's behind all this is the pure, unadulterated fact that the
neo-cons who successfully promoted the war through their chief convert,
the Vice President, have for the last two years viewed the IAEA
and its director, Mohammed al-Baradei, as obstacles in their determination
to push the President to war. They would like nothing more than
have him disappear. At several critical points, Baradei upset the
Pentagon intellectuals by insisting Iraq had no nuclear weapons
and no nuke programs, when Cheney was continuing to speak out as
if Saddam was on the brink of acquiring nukes. Remember the u201Cyellowcakeu201D
story and how the IAEA took 24 hours to find the documents the CIA
was relying upon were faked? Their problem now with Baradei is that
he singled out the Al Qaqaa site as the single most important munitions
sites of the thousands in Iraq, because it contained HMX and RDX
explosives. The reason the Al Qaqaa compound was sealed and none
of the dumps containing the 400,000 tons of conventional munitions
were sealed is because they alone could be used to detonate a nuke,
should a terrorist acquire one. Baradei was so open in his concern
for the security of Al Qaqaa that he brought it up at a UN Security
Council meeting before the war, with Secretary of State Colin Powell
in attendance.

The point being that as soon as the Baghdad regime fell to U.S.
forces 18 months ago, Baradei asked permission to send his inspectors
back, to secure the most sensitive sites, Al Qaqaa first and foremost.
His request was peremptorily rejected by the Bush administration.
The folks making the decision are those who loathe and despise Baradei.
What other possible reason would they have to keep IAEA out?

Okay, they kept the IAEA out, and they remain out. But how is it
that nobody at the Pentagon or in the planning process at the National
Security Council had a string around their finger to remind them
about Al Qaqaa? Why is it that nobody in administration remembered
to have a squad of soldiers directed to stop at Al Qaqaa on the
way to Baghdad and to stick around, to secure these most sensitive
materials? Those who did told the Iraqis who were guarding the site
to take a hike, then broke the seals, left the doors open, and went
on their way. Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani says the President
was not responsible, that the troops should have looked more carefully
than they did!!

There is no way we can now know how this material disappeared, and
where it is now, and to what uses it is being put. All we know is
that it is gone and we have no idea where it is, but will have to
concede that it may have been moving to the wrong hands.

This would not have happened if President Bush had not accepted
the idea that the United States does not need the advice of the
United Nations or any of its agencies, that we could go it alone.
If there were an indication from Mr. Bush that this would change
in a second term, I would have seriously considered sticking with
him. On the contrary, he has given every indication that if re-elected,
he will follow his divine inspirations and straighten out the unruly
world, on our own, and under his dictates, with pre-emptive war
if he gets that guidance. I note that Mohammed al-Baradei's term
as IAEA director is up in another month and there is some question
if he will be reappointed. The Bush administration has indicated
it will oppose him.

30, 2004

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