Monday, October 25, 2004

CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS FLASHBACK It was a bad idea to leave 380 tons of RDX and HMX high explosives vulnerable to looting by jihadists.

It's easy to say that in hindsight.

But was the threat of high explosives widely understood during the period when U.S. action could still have made a difference?

Here's the Los Angeles Times on April 27, 2003:

By failing to secure suspect sites, Kay and others warned, the Pentagon could not guarantee that critical blueprints, weapons parts, precursor chemicals and other valuable material have not been spirited out of the country for sale to other nations or to terrorist groups.


Terence Taylor, who heads the Washington office of the nonpartisan International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he fears there is a "real risk that certain materials could leak out" of Iraq.

He said U.S. teams have yet to recover crucial nonnuclear components from Iraq's former nuclear bomb program, including HMX high explosives and sophisticated circuitry.

"They haven't got the right people on the ground yet," said Taylor.
Even more to the point is this July 5, 2003 piece from The Washington Times:
Some of the [Iraqi insurgent] bombs are simple devices set off with a nine-volt battery, the former Iraqi military officer said. But he--and coalition analysts--fear that the more powerful weapons now being deployed have been put together from munitions left behind when Iraqi soldiers abandoned their ubiquitous storage facilities during the recent war.

Sometimes, these weapons could be obtained simply by breaking locks on storage facilities and, at other times, by removing arms and grenades stored in schools and hospitals by Iraqi irregulars under Saddam.

"They're using high explosives, each comprising either a quarter--or half--kilogram of TNT or RDX," also known as cyclonite or hexogen and considered the most powerful and shattering of those high explosives. "Tie them together and attach a long wire, and they can make one heck of a bang," said the former Iraqi officer.
(Emphasis added.)

UPDATE: Josh Marshall explains why the argument being made by Matt Drudge and Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita--that the weapons were gone by the time U.S. forces arrived--doesn't hold up. Marshall's analysis continues here.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.