More Qa Qaa Hitting the Fan
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Even more Qa Qaa is hitting the fan now.
In an absolute bombshell appearnce on CNN tonight with Aaron Brown,
chief UN weapons inspector David Kay was asked to view the local
affiliate in Minneapolis's video that showed troops from the 101st
Airborne opening sealed weapons bunkers at Al Qa Qaa on April 18,
one month AFTER the start of the war, and it couldn't possibly have
been more devastating.
I'm paraphrasing here, but this is the absolute gist of what was said:
Aaron Brown: "Now, help us out here. What are we looking at?
an IAEA seal on this bunker?"
David Kay: "That's exactly what it is. In all my years in Iraq,
never seen a site padlocked like this, except by the IAEA."
(With a wirecutter a young man cuts through the wire that seals
the entrance to this weapons bunker. Inside, everywhere you look
tons and tons of boxes and packages----and drums of stuff, many clearly
AB: "Okay, we're inside the bunker now, and there are all these
drums of something---presumably explosives all over the place here,
DK: "Three countries supplied HMX to Iraq, and one of those
put it in
round drums, like what you see here."
(The camera peers inside one of these cylindrical drums and the
viewer sees curious looking round cylinders of cellophane (or something)
AB: "Okay, what is that?
DK: "That's HMX."
AB: "Without a doubt?"
DK: "Without a doubt."
[BuzzFlash Note: The actual transcripts were posted here.]
Later, Mr. Kay went on to say that his team had
discovered this site way
back in 1991, and that it was well known, becauase this was the site
where Gerald Bull, the American über-engineer was working on his
supergun project for the Iraqis. Bull was later assassinated by the
Mossad, precisely because of the threat to Israel posed by this
Mr. Kay also said he was alarmed by the video, because it showed that
they opened up this weapons site, and then never did anything to secure
it. He said when you're an occupying power and you open up weapons
storage sites, "When you break into it -- you own it. It's your
responsibility to secure it."
So in spite of all the lame excuses from the Pentagon, the weak
posturing from the Bush administration, and all lthe rest, it is now
crystal clear -- 380 TONS of deadly explosives were allowed to be looted
by god knows who, and they're not man enough to accept responsibility
for their actions.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Mr. Kay said at one point that a sphere of
was used as a lens to focus the explosive force needed to trigger a
nuclear weapon. That's WHY the IAEA was so concerned with this material.
He said ONLY bunkers containing HMX were padlocked by the IAEA. He
was careful to point out that, although deadly, HMX is NOT a WMD. It's
just so reassuring to know that hundreds of nukes could be fashioned
with the material from this one bunker alone. And it's gone. All
But, unfortunately, that's not all. No, the news just gets worse,
Turns out that the 380 tons of explosives looted at Al Qa Qaa are
the tip of the iceberg.
Few things in life are unalloyed good or bad -- case in point, the
journalists embedded with U.S. forces in the Iraq war. I railed against
this practice at the time, but now some journalists who were embedded
are starting to come forward with some good information.
David J. Morris, writing in the Oct. 26, 2004 issue of Salon.com,
However disturbing this story, what the New York Times and
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
fraction of the illicit explosive material currently circulating
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
redistribution of conventional explosives and weapons represent
the largest long-term threat to American troops in Iraq.
In mid-May, halfway through my brief tenure as an embedded reporter
Iraq, I found myself stuck in what was generally considered to be a
dismal backwater of the war, a logistics base far from the action known
as Camp Taqaddum, or "TQ" as the Marines call it. Like
a fool, I was
anxious to get to Fallujah, where I was scheduled to link up with
a Marine infantry battalion, and I pressed the media liaison officer
whom I was assigned, a spry female captain named Kristen Lasica,
hook me up with a convoy bound for the fray. Somewhere, anywhere
Sensing an opportunity for some free advertising, Capt. Lasica
suggested that I head out to this really bizarre Iraqi weapons stockpile
that some of the military engineers were sorting through on the
outskirts of the camp. One of her corporals, a Marine combat
correspondent, was already heading out that way, so why didn't I just
tag along? (I later learned she had been pitching the story to passing
journalists for months, but they always seemed preoccupied with the
Fallujah problem or Abu Ghraib.)
After some searching, we eventually
arrived at the copiously sandbagged headquarters of the U.S. Army's
120th Engineer Battalion, a National Guard unit from Oklahoma that
responsible for the Taqaddum weapons cache, or CEA (captured enemy
ammunition) site for short. As I would later learn, the 120th had,
all intents and purposes, become the caretaker of Saddam Hussein's
grotesque legacy in western Iraq: a vast, murky labyrinth of bunkers,
tunnels and sandpits that contain a staggering menagerie of exotic
bombs, bullets, shells, mines, missiles and torpedoes. All told,
there are 103 known sites in the 120th's sector,
100,000 of the estimated 600,000 tons of high-density explosives
strewn across Iraq.
The soldiers of the 120th have inspected 64 of
far and have, as of the last reporting, destroyed 12,000 tons of
Iraqi ordnance. Capt. Elmer Bruner Jr., 41, of Bixby, Okla., one
officers in charge of the disposal effort, described the undertaking
as "a multiyear project that I expect to turn over to our replacements
a year's time having only completed a fraction of the work." Later,
learned more about the scope of the task they faced and considered
similar endeavors I had read about in Afghanistan and Bosnia, I blurted
out, "This looks more like a multigenerational job." Bruner
nodded his head.
Indeed, the breadth and depth of the problem of
captured weapons in Iraq are difficult to definitively assess, let
describe, and whenever I pressed Bruner for clearer answers, he would
simply shrug and say, "There's so many things that we just don't
know. About the only thing he could tell me for sure was that the 120th
just taking the first steps in what will be an extremely long process
disarming the Iraqi countryside.
To visit a captured weapons site
the likes of which I saw at Taqaddum is to witness the byproducts
unfathomable delusion and malfeasance and to parse the chilling dreams
of a lost regime with an unquenchable desire for ever-larger and
more grandiose weaponry and death-dealing machinery. Surveying the
kaleidoscope of munitions at Taqaddum, I could discern no real rhyme
reason to it at all. There were scores of 6,000-pound anti-ship bombs
Chinese manufacture, for which the Iraqis never possessed aircraft
capable of lifting. Strewn throughout the maze of bunkers and sandpits
were hundreds of bombs of South African, Chilean, Soviet, West German,
Yugoslav, Czech and U.S. origin, almost all of them sitting on wooden
pallets, left to the mercy of the elements and the wild dogs that
Much of this ammunition was decades old. Many of the bullets
and bombs found at Taqaddum corresponded to weapon systems that have
been obsolete for decades. It was as if someone had given their crazy
uncle $10 billion and said, "Buy whatever you want, so long
explodes." The tour guide for this potpourri of death, Capt.
Bruner, mentioned that the Russians had probably been dumping untold
obsolete ordnance on the Iraqis for years, exploiting Saddam's
compulsive desire for power to obtain cold, hard cash.
Morris goes on to say that of the 103 weapon sites that we know of
in Western Iraq, only a handful are guarded at any one
time . . . because, of course, we simply don't have enough manpower
it, no matter how badly it needs to be done.
The plight of the 120th is emblematic of the U.S. military's
larger problem: There simply aren't enough American soldiers in Iraq
guard and dispose of all of the weapons stockpiles we know of, and even if
there were they would have to be in place for decades to ensure
country was picked clean of weapons.
Pan Am 103 was brought down
with less than a pound of HMX. So with just the amount of explosives
looted from Al
Qa Qaa alone, 760,000
jets could be blown out of the sky. That number has to be larger
than the total number passenger jets in the whole world. Three hundred
thirty-six Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs could be built with that
expolosive. (The plutonium or uranium 235 would have to be acquired
elsewhere.) That much explosive is enough to ensure that the
could go on for years and years.
And that's just with the stuff from Al Qa Qaa. As this article makes
plain, there is literally billions of dollars of bombs and conventional
ordnance just lying there, free for the
taking -- and they have been
taking it all over the country.
A BUZZFLASH READER