Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Smoking gun indeed

While everyone is focused on the disastrous disappearance of explosives materiel at Al Qaqa, it's important to remember that this is not the only significant material that's been taken away by "looters".

So were massive amounts of Iraqi nuclear materials -- as well as the facilities for building them:
As a direct result of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq without sufficient forces to secure and protect its nuclear research and storage facilities from rampant looting, enough radioactive material to build scores of dirty bombs now is missing and may be on its way to the international black market.

It didn't have to turn out this way. In the weeks before the invasion, the U.S. military repeatedly warned the White House that its war plans did not include sufficient ground forces, air and naval operations and logistical support to guarantee a successful mission. Those warnings were discounted — even mocked — by administration officials who professed to know more about war fighting than the war fighters themselves.

What's so devastating about these thefts of nuclear capacities is that they were not conducted by mere "looters", according to this report last week from the Sydney Morning Herald [registration req'd]:
Nuclear material taken by experts not looters, say diplomats

October 16, 2004

The removal of Iraq's mothballed nuclear facilities took about a year and was carried out by experts with heavy machinery and demolition equipment, diplomats close to the United Nations have said.

The UN nuclear watchdog, which monitored Saddam Hussein's nuclear sites before the US-led invasion last year, told the UN Security Council this week that equipment and materials that could be used to make atomic weapons had been vanishing from Iraq but neither Baghdad nor Washington had noticed.

"This process carried on at least through 2003 ... and probably into 2004, at least in early 2004," a Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

US, British and Iraqi officials have downplayed the disappearance of the equipment, saying it was part of widespread looting after the March 2003 invasion, which the US, Britain and Australia said was to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

However, several diplomats close to the nuclear agency said on Thursday that this was not the result of haphazard looting.

They said the removal of this dual-use equipment - which until the war was tagged and closely monitored by the agency to ensure that it was not being used in a weapons program - was planned and executed by people who knew what they were doing.

"We're talking about dozens of sites being dismantled," one diplomat said. "Large numbers of buildings [were] taken down, warehouses were emptied and removed. This would require heavy machinery, demolition equipment. This is not something that you'd do overnight."

Diplomats in Vienna say the agency fears these facilities, part of a pre-1991 covert nuclear weapons program, could have been sold to a country or militants seeking nuclear weapons.

Keep in mind, of course, that the materiel stolen at Al Qaqa has been specifically identified as the kind used in detonating nuclear bombs.

Also keep in mind: There is simply no question that these removals occurred well after the invasion.

What was that again, the talk that this war was supposed to about removing the "smoking gun" of a mushroom cloud?

"Incompetent" doesn't even begin to describe this administration.

[Thanks to Greg Saunders for the tip.]

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