The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material, and larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people.
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."
The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, which was why international nuclear inspectors had kept a watch on the material, and even sealed and locked some of it.
"After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control," Dr. Omar (Rasheed Omar, the Iraqi minister of Science and Technology) said. "So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials."
Officials in Washington said they had no answers to that question. One senior official noted that the Qaqaa complex where the explosives were stored was listed as a "medium priority" site on the Central Intelligence Agency's list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. "Should we have gone there? Definitely," said one senior administration official.
Granted, it might not have been possible to secure every pound of arms and munitions in Iraq, but 380 tons of HDX and RDX? Assuming that the looters used 10-ton trucks to carry the explosives away, they would have needed a convoy of 40 trucks! And no-one noticed? (Perhaps they took it away in smaller chunks at a time - ed.) That's even worse; it implies that they waltzed in and out of the facility on a regular basis! Incompetency doesn't begin to describe this. One can only shrug in wonder at his capacity for self-delusion when President Bush portrays himself as the only candidate capable of winning the 'War on Terror'.
In the second story, Edward Wong reports that fifty freshly trained Iraqi soldiers were ambushed and killed by insurgents dressed as police officers in eastern Iraq. He writes
The executions of the Iraqi soldiers on Saturday evening - and what may also have been three civilian drivers in their convoy - raised disturbing questions about the training process and the recruits: Why were the guardsmen allowed to travel unarmed and without protection, given the frequent attacks on the Iraqi security forces? Why did men trained as soldiers not put up a fight, especially when there were so many of them? How did the insurgents get police uniforms and information on the travel plans of the soldiers?
Iraqi and American officials said they had no immediate answers.
One can't invent this kind of story... and there's no need to comment on it. In other news from Iraq, Edward J. Seitz, a 16-year employee of the State Department was killed this morning in a mortar or rocket attack on Camp Victory, near Baghdad International Airport. Camp Victory is the U.S. military's operations center in Iraq. Mr. Seitz seems to be the first American diplomat to be killed in the war.
After a day filled with bad news, a little thing can sometimes make a huge positive difference. This statement in a Washington Post article on voter rights and harassment moved me nearly to tears.
"I'm excited to cast my first vote," said Heidi Carrillo, 24, a new registrant who was born in the United States to illegal immigrants. "They can ask for ID. They can make me last in the line. I don't care. I'm voting!"
Isn't that what democracy is all about?