The Al Qaqaa Explosives
Jude Wanniski
October 29, 2004


Memo 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 “incompetence” in its management of a war that was unnecessary to begin with. I use the word “incompetence” 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 “yellowcake” 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.