Explosives Vanish Into Thin Air

The New York Times leads with a story about 380 tons of explosives missing in Iraq. Given the initial wildly inaccurate reports about looting, some level of suspicion should be given to these initial reports. If the material has gone missing, of course that’s bad news.

It’s not until page 3 of the report that the circumstances of the disappearance are discussed.

A senior Bush administration official said that during the initial race to Baghdad, American forces “went through the bunkers, but saw no materials bearing the I.A.E.A. seal.” It is unclear whether troops ever returned.

By late 2003, diplomats said, arms agency experts had obtained commercial satellite photos of Al Qaqaa showing that two of roughly 10 bunkers that contained HMX appeared to have been leveled by titanic blasts, apparently during the war. They presumed some of the HMX had exploded, but that is unclear.

Other HMX bunkers were untouched. Some were damaged but not devastated. I.A.E.A. experts say they assume that just before the invasion the Iraqis followed their standard practice of moving crucial explosives out of buildings, so they would not be tempting targets. If so, the experts say, the Iraqi must have broken seals from the arms agency on bunker doors and moved most of the HMX to nearby fields, where it would have been lightly camouflaged – and ripe for looting.The possibility that the material was shipped out of the country before or after the war to either Syria or Iran is not examined.

Final thought – Terrorist organizations weren’t exactly having a hard time getting a hold of C-4 to make explosive devices before this incident, but finding stocks of it out in the open desert was probably a bonanza for someone.

Interesting: The ingredients in HMX and RDX look like cheese, caviar, Pepperridge Farm cheddar goldfish, and Dippin’ Dots.

Update: Tom Maguire explores the possibilities that there is more to the story than the Times ins reporting. You can add this May 25, 2004 report on a pipeline of shipments to Syria that the Pentagon is investigating to the list of things that make you wonder if this is not new news, but a rehash of existing news made to sound most ominous by… 60 Minutes.

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