Monday, October 25, 2004

ali baba

I remember reading an account of the insurgency in Iraq (can't remember which article; think it was in Harpers) that told of how Iraqi insurgents were raiding weapons dumps, walking right by the American soldiers who cheerfully called the Iraqis "Ali Baba" and the insurgents cheerfully pretended to be the ignorant sub-humans that the occupiers took them for. Then they went home to make weapons.

The arrogance, ignorance, and racism of the Americans runs all the way up to the top of the chain of command (and no I am not indicting each American soldier, simply pointing out that the whole war has been conducted as if the enemy was uncivilized and stupid). Now comes this report from the New York Times: Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24 - The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.


The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.


After the invasion, when widespread looting began in Iraq, the international weapons experts grew concerned that the Qaqaa stockpile could fall into unfriendly hands. In May, an internal I.A.E.A. memorandum warned that terrorists might be helping "themselves to the greatest explosives bonanza in history."

Earlier this month, in a letter to the I.A.E.A. in Vienna, a senior official from Iraq's Ministry of Science and Technology wrote that the stockpile disappeared after early April 2003 because of "the theft and looting of the governmental installations due to lack of security."


But the Bush administration would not allow the agency back into the country to verify the status of the stockpile. In May 2004, Iraqi officials say in interviews, they warned L. Paul Bremer III, the American head of the occupation authority, that Al Qaqaa had probably been looted. It is unclear if that warning was passed anywhere. Efforts to reach Mr. Bremer by telephone were unsuccessful.


A special property of HMX and RDX lends them to smuggling and terrorism, experts said. While violently energetic when detonated, they are insensitive to shock and physical abuse during handling and transport because of their chemical stability. A hammer blow does nothing. It takes a detonator, like a blasting cap, to release the stored energy.

Experts said the insensitivity made them safer to transport than the millions of unexploded shells, mines and pieces of live ammunition that litter Iraq. And its benign appearance makes it easy to disguise as harmless goods, easily slipped across borders.

"The immediate danger" of the lost stockpile, said an expert who recently led a team that searched Iraq for deadly arms, "is its potential use with insurgents in very small and powerful explosive devices. The other danger is that it can easily move into the terrorist web across the Middle East."

More worrisome to the I.A.E.A. - and to some in Washington - is that HMX and RDX are used in standard nuclear weapons design. In a nuclear implosion weapon, the explosives crush a hollow sphere of uranium or plutonium into a critical mass, initiating the nuclear explosion.

A crude implosion device - like the one that the United States tested in 1945 in the New Mexican desert and then dropped on Nagasaki, Japan - needs about a ton of high explosive to crush the core and start the chain reaction.
Getting safer every day! Freedom is on the march!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

About the missing explosives. First this is old news repackaged for the election; once again we see CBS and IAEA with an agenda trying to pass this off. Second imbedded reporters with the 101st Airborne Division claimed the explosives were missing when they captured the base during OIF. This site has a nice clip of Kerry putting his foot in his mouth.
It’s nice to see what the standard of evidence is and I can’t wait to use it in my career.

Stephen Powers