The Washington Post injects some context and not a little sanity into the hyperventilation coming from the Kerry campaign and the left on Al Qaqaa. In fact, Bradley Graham and Thomas Ricks point out what I posted last Tuesday about the amount of explosives in question, and the fact that HMX and RDX pose little increased risk over the other explosives left over in Iraq:
U.S. military commanders estimated last fall that Iraqi military sites contained 650,000 to 1 million tons of explosives, artillery shells, aviation bombs and other ammunition. The Bush administration cited official figures this week showing about 400,000 tons destroyed or in the process of being eliminated. That leaves the whereabouts of more than 250,000 tons unknown.
Against that background, this week’s assertions by Sen. John F. Kerry’s campaign about the few hundred tons said to have vanished from Iraq’s Qaqaa facility have struck some defense experts as exaggerated.
“There is something truly absurd about focusing on 377 tons of rather ordinary explosives, regardless of what actually happened at al Qaqaa,” Anthony H. Cordesman, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in an assessment yesterday. “The munitions at al Qaqaa were at most around 0.06 percent of the total.”
Not only does the amount in question (the total remains in serious doubt) at Al Qaqaa pale into insignificance against the amounts confiscated and destroyed already by the US, it turns out that the explosives themselves were not uncommon in the massive munitions hoarded by Saddam during the arms embargo that John Kerry believes kept Hussein in his box:
Whatever the case, the military significance of the loss, in a country awash with far larger amounts of munitions, is open to question.
The most powerful of the three explosives — HMX — can be used in a trigger for nuclear devices, which is why it was placed under IAEA seal. But HMX is obtainable elsewhere, and the chief U.S. weapons investigator in Iraq, Charles A. Duelfer, has acknowledged that the Iraqi stockpile posed no particular concern in this regard.
In short, this is a non-story. No one wants to see weapons and munitions disappear, regardless of who was in charge at the time. However, the notion that having 0.06% of the total amount of explosive ordinance in Iraq outside of our control somehow represents a larger danger than having 100% of the bombs and explosives under Saddam Hussein’s control is not only ludicrous on its face, it shows why those who insist on that interpretation cannot be trusted with safeguarding our national security. One web site, which I cannot remember, said the missing 380 tons equated to 700,000 Lockerbies. The same web site didn’t bother to mention that had we not acted, we would have left Saddam with the capability of 1,166,900,000 Lockerbies.
The reaction from John Kerry and the hysterics on the Left has been educational. Either they believe that the 3ID and 101st Airborne were incompetent and did not search Al Qaqaa despite the 3ID’s insistence that they did and contemporaneous reporting showing the discovery of suspicious materials during their search, or they have cynically seized upon the shoddy and screechy reporting by the NY Times and CBS as a lever to grab power. In both cases, they want us to believe that America was better off leaving all of this material in Saddam’s hands, material that they’ve said for over a year didn’t warrant military action, and now claim that Western civilization hangs in the balance because 0.06% of it may have gone missing.
Either they are complete fools or rank opportunists. Take your pick. Neither promises to keep us safe from the people who want nothing more than to kill large numbers of us at the first opportunity.