Monday, November 01, 2004

WWJKDA380TOME: What Would John Kerry Do About 380 Tons Of Missing Explosives?

I got this forwarded to me:

October 31, 2004


As the political firestorm ignited by the revelation
of almost 380 tons of missing high explosives in Iraq
raged last week, experts warned that the missing cache
– which includes the most powerful and sophisticated
conventional weapons in existence – could provide
insurgents with tactical advantages in their violent
rebellion against the American occupation.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Iraq's
Ministry of Science and Technology last month notified
the International Atomic Energy Agency that the
explosives disappeared from the Al Qaqaa weapons base
sometime after early April 2003 because of "the theft
and looting of the governmental installations due to
lack of security."

One week before the U.S. presidential election, the
disclosure immediately became a campaign issue and the
Kerry and Bush campaigns bickered relentlessly over
when the explosives might have been taken from the
site, and under whose watch.

But experts say that regardless of the timing of the
disappearance, the failure of occupation authorities
to respond to an I.A.E.A. warning in April of 2003
about the missing cache was emblematic of the lack of
planning that has become a hallmark of the occupation
and threatens to scuttle the entire American
enterprise in Iraq.

“This is a symbol that underscores how badly we’ve
messed up in the post-war era,” says Larry Diamond, a
Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution who served as
a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional
Authority from January to April 2004 in Baghdad. “We
failed to secure the post-war order and this is a very
graphic illustration of that.”

In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Diamond
accuses the Bush administration of allowing “hubris
and ideology” to undermine its Iraq war plan. In “What
went Wrong in Iraq” Diamond concludes: “As a result of
a long chain of U.S. miscalculations, the coalition
occupation has left Iraq in far worse shape than it
need have and has diminished the long-term prospects
of democracy there.”

Diamond joins a growing chorus of experts, formerly
sympathetic to the administration, who believe that
the U.S. should have deployed more troops to provide
security for Iraq’s critical cultural, economic and
military resources. What galls many about the missing
explosives is the idea that insurgents may be using
weapons that the U.S. military failed to adequately
protect in deadly attacks against U.S. soldiers.

Experts fear that the explosives, mainly highly
powerful HMX and RDX, could produce bombs strong
enough to cripple airplanes or blow up buildings, or
worse, detonate nuclear weapons.

Despite their violent explosive power, HMX and RDX are
quite rugged materials and can be easily transported
without fear of accidental detonation. But when
properly triggered, the materials’ explosive power is
grave. Just one pound of HMX was enough to bring down
Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988 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,
according to the New York Times.

“Pound for pound, this stuff is much more powerful
than normal explosives,” says Jon Wolfsthal, Deputy
Director for Non-Proliferation at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace. “Compared to TNT it
has a lot higher kinetic capabilities and properties.”

Wolfsthal fears that if the rebels possess even a
small portion of the missing weapons cache, “it could
allow them to use smaller devices or more innocuous
delivery vehicles,” in their campaign against the
American occupation.

Lee Seigal, a non-proliferation expert at the Council
on Foreign Relations agrees that the missing
explosives could provide tactical benefits to the
rebels. “They are the kind of explosives that are
particularly suitable to be transported and used by
terrorists – portable and hard to detect,” he says.
Seigal added that if the threat posed by "weapons of
mass destruction" was strong enough to justify
invading Iraq, then the Al Qaqaa weapons cache – which
the administration knew about prior to the invasion –
should have been worthy of protection.

There is also concern that the missing weapons might
be used as a nuclear detonator by the rebels, or
perhaps a rogue state or international criminal group.
Charles Ferguson, a physicist at the Council on
Foreign Relations says that both HMX and RDX could be
“useful materials to compress plutonium and uranium”
thus triggering the chain reaction needed for a
nuclear explosion. He said that it is widely believed
that scientists at the Manhattan Project combined RDX
with TNT to form a new explosive, “Composite B,” that
was used in the Nagasaki bomb.

“These materials are much more sophisticated than
TNT,” Ferguson said. “It is the kind of stuff that a
terrorist group would have a hard time gaining access
to, so if they got them, it would be like ‘whoo-hoo!’”

Indeed, for rebels waging a guerilla campaign against
an occupying power, the tactical advantages afforded
by the durability and potency of the missing
explosives could be significant. To a movement that
seems to have a steady supply of suicide bombers, the
ability to conceal more explosive power in smaller
bombs could increase the efficacy of what has already
proved to be a deadly tactic.

And given the sheer volume of the missing weapons
cache, by one account enough bomb-making material to
fill 40 large trucks, if the rebels are in possession
of even a small portion of it, they have enough
explosives to continue their attacks for many months,
if not years. But if the rebels are in possession of
the entire cache, they may be sitting on what one
I.A.E.A official last May called the "greatest
explosives bonanza in history."

Get out the vote everybody...


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