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October 28, 2004
Did 'Starving Soviets' Back The Moving Van Up To Al Qaqaa?

The Financial Times follows up on the remark made yesterday by John Shaw, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, suggesting that the Russians took the heavy tonnage of high-tech explosives out of Al Qaqaa and transported them to Syria:

The controversy over Iraqs missing explosives intensified on Wednesday as the Bush administration rejected charges of incompetence and a senior Pentagon official claimed the munitions may have been removed by Russians before the US-led invasion. ...

But in a further development, John Shaw, a deputy under-secretary of defence, suggested that Russian units had transported the explosives out of the country.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Shaw said: For nearly nine months my office has been aware of an elaborate scheme set up by Saddam Hussein to finance and disguise his weapons purchases through his international suppliers, principally the Russians and French. That network included. . . employing various Russian units on the eve of hostilities to orchestrate the collection of munitions and assure their transport out of Iraq via Syria.

The Russian embassy in Washington rejected the claims as nonsense, saying there were no Russian military in the country at the time.

I'm skeptical. I doubt that the cash-strapped Russian military, with its own Islamist problems in Chechnya and elsewhere, would have acted as a hire-out moving service for Saddam Hussein in March 2003, with the US poised to invade. No one really knew how US forces would come into Iraq and running the risk of having a Russian unit captured by the Americans after Russia's opposition to enforcing UNSC Resolution 1441 seems far too big a gamble. Besides, Sadda hardly needed Russian assistance to simply move the materiel into Syria; Iraq had trucks and forklifts and knew how to use them. [UPDATE: Whiskey and I posted on this at the same time, and she draws a different conclusion.]

In light of the new ABC report showing that most of the material supposedly missing disappeared a year or two before the invasion, the question is no longer what happened in March and April 2003. The new question is how the IAEA managed to hoodwink the New York Times, CBS, and the John Kerry campaign into thinking it did its job in securing the weapons from Saddam. Far from providing stable security, they actively fought to keep the HMX and RDX from being destroyed by UNSCOM, and then watched as it disappeared without a trace in 2001 and 2002. They claimed to have "sealed" the materiel in place, but now we find out that the secure containers have vents on their sides that can quickly be dismantled to gain access to the contents, without ever breaking the seal.

These are the people John Kerry entrusts with American national security. The gross incompetence of the IAEA to understand the nature of the materials -- they allowed Saddam to keep them for civilian construction, as if Saddam didn't have enough conventional explosives laying around for that -- and to comprehend the basics of security disqualifies both them and the UN that employed them from any input over our foreign-policy initiatives. It's easy to understand why the Bush adminstration refuses to support Mohammed ElBaradei for another term at the helm of the IAEA; he obviously cannot be trusted in terms of honesty or competence.

John Kerry's insistence that these same people should judge our national-security policies as part of a "global test", as well as his hyperventilating about Al Qaqaa before all the facts were known, should serve as an eminent disqualifier for the position of commander in chief. Rather than acting in a mature and statesmanlike manner, Kerry instead starting denigrating the performance of the two military units for conducting an incompetent search and George Bush for not guarding the sites thoroughly enough -- as if Bush did sentry duty with 3ID. He still hasn't changed his tune, even though contemporaneous reports (by CBS!!) show that 3ID did check the facility, and ABC's revelation that the materials weren't there for months when we showed up.

In short, we cannot afford to elect a hysteric as commander-in-chief. We need calm and mature leadership, not someone who screams and blames everyone around him when bad news comes. Kerry has demonstrated none of the calm and resolute temperament required for the position.

Addendum: Be sure to read Hugh Hewitt's excellent Weekly Standard column today on this same topic.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 28, 2004 6:43 AM

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1300Z THU 28OCT04. Power Line. Hindrocket reviews today's Times article, which is "misleading at best." The Times and CBS seemed to have abandoned any pretense of objectivity in their zeal to get JfK elected. Captain Ed notes: "The new question [Read More]

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