Who was searching for the vast
cache of explosives recently revealed to be missing from al-Qaqaa? Not
the U.S. military:
"The first U.S. military unit to reach the Al-Qaqaa military installation
after the invasion of Iraq did not have orders to search for the nearly 400
tons of explosives that Iraqi officials say were stolen from the site sometime
following the fall of Baghdad, the unit spokesman said Tuesday.
"When the troops from the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade arrived
at the Al-Qaqaa base a day or so after Baghdad's fall on April 9, 2003, there
were already looters throughout the facility, Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, deputy
public affairs officer for the unit, told The Associated Press.
"The soldiers 'secured the area they were in and looked in a limited
amount of bunkers to ensure chemical weapons were not present in their area,'
Wellman wrote in an e-mail message. 'Bombs were found but not chemical weapons
in that immediate area.'
"'Orders were not given from higher to search or to secure the facility
or to search for HE type munitions, as they [high-explosive weapons] were everywhere
in Iraq,' he wrote.
"His remarks appeared to confirm the
observations of an NBC reporter embedded with the army unit who said Tuesday
that she saw no signs that the Americans searched for the powerful explosives
during their 24 hours at the facility en route to Baghdad, 30 miles to the north."
CIA weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, who recently released his findings
on Iraq's missing WMD, says
he was never told to look for the weapons, either. Meanwhile, the State
that securing all weapons facilities in Iraq was "impossible."
"'We, from the very beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, did everything
we could to secure arms caches throughout the country. But given the number
of arms and the number of caches and the extent of militarization of Iraq it
was impossible to provide 100 percent security for 100 percent of the sites,'
[State Department spokesman Adam] Ereli said."
But according to a top Iraqi science official, the
weapons could not have been removed from the site before the Hussein regime
Either way, according to reporter David J. Morris, al-Qaqaa
is only the beginning:
"However disturbing this story, what the New York Times and
CBS News have overlooked so far is that the missing munitions at Al Qaqaa are
only the tip of the iceberg and in all likelihood represent a mere fraction
of the illicit explosive material currently circulating in Iraq. Having personally
toured weapons caches comparable in scale to Al Qaqaa and seen similar ordnance
in the process of being converted into roadside bombs at an insurgent hideout,
I believe that the theft and redistribution of conventional explosives and weapons
represent the largest long-term threat to American troops in Iraq. Strangely
enough, it is likely that dealing with this conventional weapons threat, rather
than eradicating the mythical unconventional WMD threat, will be the U.S. legacy