Hey how about some more 'real news'?
VIENNA, Austria - Several hundred tons of conventional explosives were looted from a former Iraqi military facility that once played a key role in Saddam Hussein’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb, the U.N. nuclear agency told the Security Council on Monday.
A “lack of security” resulted in the loss of 377 tons of high explosives from the sprawling Al-Qaqaa military installation about 30 miles south of Baghdad, said Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.
The IAEA fears “that these explosives could have fallen into the wrong hands,” said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Whereabouts a mystery
ElBaradei told the council the IAEA had been trying to give the U.S.-led multinational force and Iraq’s interim government “an opportunity to attempt to recover the explosives before this matter was put into the public domain.”
But since the disappearance was reported in the media, he said he wanted the Security Council to have the letter dated, Oct. 10, that he received from Mohammed J. Abbas, a senior official at Iraq’s Ministry of Science and Technology, reporting the theft of the explosives.
The materials were lost through “the theft and looting of the governmental installations due to lack of security,” the letter said.
The letter informed the IAEA that since Sept. 4, 2003, looting at the Al-Qaqaa installation south of Baghdad had resulted in the loss of 214.67 tons of HMX, 155.68 tons of RDX and 6.39 tons of PETN explosives.
HMX and RDX can be used to demolish buildings, down jetliners, produce warheads for missiles and detonate nuclear weapons. HMX and RDX are key ingredients in plastic explosives, such as C-4 and Semtex — substances so powerful that Libyan terrorists needed just 1 pound to blow up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 170 people.
ElBaradei’s cover letter to the council said that the HMX had been under IAEA seal and that the RDX and PETN were “both subject to regular monitoring of stock levels.”
“The presence of these amounts was verified by the IAEA in January 2003,” he said.
At the Pentagon, an official who monitors developments in Iraq said U.S.-led coalition troops had searched Al-Qaqaa in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives, which had been under IAEA seal since 1991, were intact. The site was not secured by U.S. forces, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Bush, Kerry quarrel over report
The disappearance of the explosives quickly became an issue in the presidential race, with the Democratic candidate, Sen. John Kerry, accusing President Bush of committing “one of the greatest blunders” of his administration in failing to secure the materials.
“George W. Bush, who talks tough ... and brags about making America safer, has once again failed to deliver,” Kerry told supporters in Dover, N.H. “After being warned about the danger of major stockpiles of explosives in Iraq, this president failed to guard those stockpiles.”
“This is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the greatest blunders of this administration, and the incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and this country at greater risk.”
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the administration’s first concern was whether the material was a nuclear proliferation threat and had determined that it was not.
“Remember, at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom there was some looting, and some of it was organized,” McClellan said. “There were munitions caches spread throughout the country, and so these are all issues that are being looked into by the multinational forces and the Iraqi Survey Group.”
The probe will include finding out what happened to the weapons and whether they are being used against U.S. forces, he said.
Warning from the Iraqi government
Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was informed of the missing explosives in the past month, the report said.
Fleming, the IAEA spokeswoman, said the agency learned of the disappearance on Oct. 10.
“We first took measures to authenticate it,” Fleming said. “Then, on October 15, we informed the multinational forces through the U.S. government with the request for it to take any appropriate action in cooperation with Iraq’s interim government.”
Before the war, inspectors with the Vienna-based IAEA had kept tabs on the so-called “dual use” explosives because they could have been used to detonate a nuclear weapon.
IAEA inspectors pulled out of Iraq just before the 2003 invasion and have not yet been able to return despite ElBaradei’s repeated urging that the experts be let back in to finish their work.
ElBaradei told the Security Council before the war that Iraq’s nuclear program was in disarray and that there was no evidence to suggest it had revived efforts to build atomic weaponry.
Plastic explosives' components
Al Qaqaa, a sprawling former military installation about 30 miles south of Baghdad, was placed under U.S. military control but repeatedly has been looted, raising troubling questions about whether the missing explosives have fallen into the hands of insurgents battling coalition forces.
Saddam was known to have used the site to make conventional warheads, and IAEA inspectors dismantled parts of his nuclear program there before the 1991 Gulf War. The experts also oversaw the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons.
Discuss...Is this a failure of the Bush administration ?