The Weapons No One Looked For

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 Department claims 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 fell.

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 in Iraq."