Thursday, November 04, 2004

Meanwhile, on "Explosives Gate"


In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material away from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers with one unit — the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany — said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site but received no reply.

The witnesses' accounts of the looting, the first provided by U.S. soldiers, support claims that the American military failed to safeguard the munitions. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — and the interim Iraqi government reported that about 380 tons of high-grade explosives had been taken from the Al Qaqaa facility after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003. The explosives are powerful enough to detonate a nuclear weapon.

During the last week, when revelations of the missing explosives became an issue in the presidential campaign, the Bush administration suggested that the munitions could have been carted off by Saddam Hussein's forces before the war began. Pentagon officials later said that U.S. troops systematically destroyed hundreds of tons of explosives at Al Qaqaa after Baghdad fell...

The soldiers, who belong to two different units, described how Iraqis plundered explosives from unsecured bunkers before driving off in Toyota trucks.

The U.S. troops said there was little they could do to prevent looting of the ammunition site, 30 miles south of Baghdad.

"We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out," said one senior noncommissioned officer who was at the site in late April 2003.

"On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave" so looters could come in and take munitions.

"It was complete chaos. It was looting like L.A. during the Rodney King riots," another officer said...

The soldiers interviewed by The Times could not confirm that powerful explosives known as HMX and RDX were among the munitions looted.

One soldier said U.S. forces watched the looters' trucks loaded with bags marked "hexamine" — a key ingredient for HMX — being driven away from the facility. Unsure what hexamine was, the troops later did an Internet search and learned of its explosive power.

"We found out this was stuff you don't smoke around," the soldier said.

Let me be the first to request George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld to resign. And, yeah, let De Lay take Bush's place- he'll only get impeached.

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