Bush Takes Defensive

Long post folks, bear with me. The big story this week has obviously been the discovery that about 380 tons of explosives have been found missing at the Al Qaqaa base near Baghdad. Initially the story was "baseless," criticism from the NYTimes, but they did their homework and got some witness to their facts:

White House officials reasserted yesterday that 380 tons of powerful explosives may have disappeared from a vast Iraqi military complex while Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, saying a brigade of American soldiers did not find the explosives when they visited the complex on April 10, 2003, the day after Baghdad fell.

But the unit's commander said in an interview yesterday that his troops had not searched the site and had merely stopped there overnight.

The commander, Col. Joseph Anderson, of the Second Brigade of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said he did not learn until this week that the site, Al Qaqaa, was considered sensitive, or that international inspectors had visited it before the war began in 2003 to inspect explosives that they had tagged during a decade of monitoring.

Colonel Anderson, who is now the chief of staff for the division and who spoke by telephone from Fort Campbell, Ky., said his troops had been driving north toward Baghdad and had paused at Al Qaqaa to make plans for their next push.

The Kerry camp, of course, made the story their main focus, attacking the Bush Campaign and their inability to react to the story:

"What did the president have to say about the missing explosives? Not a word. Complete silence. Despite devastating evidence that his administration's failure here has put our troops and our citizens are in greater danger, George Bush has not offered a single word of explanation. His silence confirms what I have been saying for months: President Bush rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. He didn't have enough troops on the ground to get the job done. He didn't have enough allies to get the job done. He failed to secure Iraq and keep it from becoming what it is today - a haven for terrorists.

Things only got worse. The commander of the very first Army division to roll through the area also backed up the argument that no true inspections had even been performed:

The first U.S. military unit to reach the site in Iraq where U.N. officials say 377 tons of high explosives are missing did not carry out a hunt for such material, the unit's commander said on Wednesday.

Col. Dave Perkins, then the commander of the 2nd Brigade of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, said the immediate concern when his troops reached the Al Qaqaa site on April 3, 2003, was to defeat a couple of hundred Iraqi troops who were firing from the compound as the Americans surged toward Baghdad.

... Perkins said he did not believe that his forces had been informed the IAEA previously had marked and sealed explosives at the site. "This was just another one of those sites that the process was no different. It was no less stringent or more stringent," he told reporters.

Perkins said the key concern at the time was whether there were any weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons, and that a white powdery substance found at the site proved to be a WMD false alarm.

Bush and Pentagon officials said the material might have been moved from the site before U.S. forces arrived.

The best part here? The White House actually brought this guy out to the media; no one found him. Yet he doesn't support their argument in the least. At this point it became clear that the explosives had been stolen, so the ball was dropped somewhere. However, many contend these explosives were there before the US lead invasion. Among the certain, a certain Iraqi science minister:

A top Iraqi science official said Wednesday it was impossible that 350 tonnes of high explosives could have been smuggled out of a military site south of Baghdad before the regime fell last year.

He warned that explosives from nearby sites could have also been looted.

The UN nuclear watchdog this week said the explosives went missing from a weapons dump some time after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in April 2003 by the US-led invasion .

But as the issue took centre stage in the final days of the US presidential campaign, some US officials have suggested the explosives had gone before the US-led forces moved on Baghdad.

The Pentagon has said it did not know when the explosives went missing.

Mohammed al-Sharaa, who heads the science ministry's site monitoring department and worked with UN weapons inspectors under Saddam, said "it is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime's fall."

He said he and other officials had been ordered a month earlier to insure that "not even a shred of paper left the sites."

"The officials that were inside this facility (Al-Qaqaa) beforehand confirm that not even a shred of paper left it before the fall and I spoke to them about it and they even issued certified statements to this effect which the US-led coalition was aware of."

He said officials at Al-Qaqaa, including its general director, whom he refused to name, made contact with US troops before the fall in an effort to get them to provide security for the site.

The regime's fall triggered a wave of looting of government and private property, which US-led troops struggled to contain as they were busy securing their own positions.

Sharaa warned that other sites close to Al-Qaqaa with similar materials could have also been plundered.

Now, working for the Iraqi government, you'd assume this guy would take side with Bush on this sort of thing. Unfortunately, it appears they have something called "decency" in Iraq and he choose to speak truth, rather than the speech prepared for him by Bush's handlers.

Bush, for his part, has continued to insist that this is not his fault and that Kerry is wrong for insisting that it is:

"I want to remind you that if Senator Kerry had had his way, we would still be taking our global test. Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and he would control all of those weapons and explosives, and could have shared them with the terrorist enemy," Mr. Bush said.

"Now the senator is making wild charges about missing explosives, when his top foreign policy adviser admits he doesn't know the facts. He said, 'I don't know the truth.' Think about that. The senator is denigrating the actions of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts.

"This investigation is important, and it is ongoing. And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not the person you want as commander-in-chief," the President told 15,000 enthusiastic supporters basking under an afternoon sun.

These "wild charges" seem to be backed up by some fairly believable information Mr. President; something you haven't provided thus far. He made two egregious blunders in this statement, proving that they don't realize the idiocy of their stance. First, he says that if Kerry were in power terrorists would have control of the weapons and explosives. Well, with Bush in power they also have control of the weapons and explosives. Granted, Hussein didn't have the time to hand them out, they just stole them for themselves. Secondly, and this one is good: "...a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not the person you want as commander-in-chief." Heaven knows Bush has never, ever jumped to conclusions about anything, especially regarding the war on Iraq.

Well, now they continue to insist that we don't know the "truth." First came the report that, perhaps, Russia took the explosives. Russia, of course, vehemently denies this and there is apparently no credible evidence to support it. CNN this evening showed a photo from the Pentagon showing a truck driving from the compound in the weeks previous to the invasion with a supply of something, continuing the possibility of timeline discrepancies. The image, however, is anything but clear and doesn't clearly support either side of the argument.

Rudy Giuliani today made an ass of himself on NBC's Today Show by insisting the blame, if there is any, falls squarely on the shoulders of our soldiers:

In a morning television appearance, Giuliani criticized Democrat John Kerry for blaming President Bush for the disappearance of hundreds of tons of explosives in Iraq.

''No matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?'' he said on NBC's ''Today'' show.

This from the party who has been accusing Kerry of "denigrating" our soldiers with his statements, despite the fact that he has never indicated the soldiers are to blame. Indeed, the idea here is that the soldiers were never told about the weapons, thanks to poor communication and planning from the Bush White House. I guess that's what happens when you rush to war, though.

Finally, there appears to be relatively rock-solid evidence that the removal of the explosives came well after the US Invasion. Of course, it came from another "liberal," Bush-hating source, ABC News (story via Yahoo!):

ABC News on Thursday showed video appearing to confirm that explosives that went missing in Iraq (news - web sites) did not disappear until after the United States had taken control of the facility where they were stored.

... ABC said the video it broadcast was shot by an affiliate TV station embedded with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division when the troops passed through the storage facility on April 18, 2003, nine days after the fall of Baghdad.

ABC said experts who have studied the images say the barrels seen in the video contain the high explosive HMX, and U.N. markings on the sealed containers were clear.

"I talked to a former inspector who's a colleague of mine. He confirms that, indeed, these pictures look just like what he remembers seeing inside those bunkers," David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq told the network.

ABC said the barrels seen in the video were found inside locked bunkers that had been sealed by inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency just before the war began.

"The seal's critical. The fact that there's a photo of what looks like an IAEA seal means that what's behind those doors is HMX," Albright said.

The soldiers were not ordered to secure the facility, ABC reported."

The footage is pretty straight-forward and as far as I know no one so far has been able to question it's validity. Oh, and back to those satellite photos:

The Pentagon on Thursday released an aerial photograph taken two days before the Iraq war of two trucks at the site where 377 tons of high explosives went missing, but was unable to say they had anything to do with the disappearance.

The image of a small portion of the sprawling Al Qaqaa arms storage site, taken on March 17, 2003, showed a large tractor-trailer loaded with white containers with a smaller truck parked behind it, the Pentagon said.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita acknowledged that he could not say that the trucks were hauling away the explosives, or had anything to so with the disappearance of the material.

No proof to be found there, unfortunately. The Bush campaign simply wishes this would all just blow away, but it won't. We have here excellent proof of how the President has mishandled the war and how he denies any and all responsibility for any mistakes he has made.

Want another take on all of this? My friend Kevin McCullough has an excellent post with five whole links to completely useless informatoin that doesn't support a bit of his side of the story. It's a shame he's the one who's "syndicated" and I'm stuck working a 9-5...
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