November 05, 2004

Stage Four: Anger

Here at the Carpe Datum News Desk,
We're Still Working Through the Seven Stages.
Please Bear with Us.

(Image from Steve Jackson games.)

James Wolcott, whose book I thought was a little too snarky, sure sounds refreshing these days:

The election was a victory for George Bush and Rovianism, a victory for Grover Norquist. It was also a victory for Osama Bin Laden. I don't believe for a moment Bin Laden was trying to sway voters to Kerry with his taped address. This was the outcome he wanted, a gift from us to him: an unapologetic Christian Crusader in the White House whose reelection giving lie to the notion that Abu Ghraib was an aberration and that the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians weigh upon America's conscience. This morning America could not look more like a grinning aggressor to the Arab world, an aggressor with fresh marching orders.

After the last few days, I figured it would be useful to add a few more handy references to more conservative myths, such as Iraq-Al Qaeda, Saddam and 9/11, 9/11 and the Deficit, etc. I already addressed these myths, though not in the formal way I did the first 20, but any time I see a common (false) meme resurface in comments or in other blogs, I will point to it if I've already debunked it. Today, I'll add a new one to the list, and that has to do with Al Qaqaa. Looks like it was fairly representative of Iraq as a whole:

In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material off 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 of the explosives because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers from one unit -- the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany -- said they had asked commanders in Baghdad for help to secure the site but received no reply.

The witnesses' accounts of the looting are the first provided by U.S. soldiers, and support claims that the American military failed to safeguard the powerful munitions. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the interim Iraqi government reported that approximately 380 tons of high- grade explosives had been taken from Al Qaqaa 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 explosives could have been carted off by Iraqi forces before the war began. Pentagon officials later said that U.S. troops had systematically destroyed hundreds of tons of explosives at Al Qaqaa after Baghdad fell.

Asked about the soldiers' accounts, Pentagon spokeswoman Rose-Anne Lynch said Wednesday, "We take the report of missing munitions very seriously. And we are looking into the facts and circumstances of this incident."

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

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

"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 that they could come in and loot munitions.

"It was complete chaos," another officer said.

He and other soldiers spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they feared retaliation from the Pentagon.

A Minnesota television station last week broadcast an April 18, 2003, video of U.S. troops from the 101st Airborne using tools to cut through wire seals left by the International Atomic Energy Agency at Al Qaqaa, evidence that the high-grade explosives were still inside at least one bunker weeks after the start of the war.

After opening bunkers, including one containing the high-grade explosives, U.S. troops left the bunkers unsecured, the Minnesota station reported.

According to the four soldiers -- members of the 317th Support Center and the 258th Rear Area Operations Center, an Arizona-based Army National Guard unit -- the looting of Al Qaqaa occurred over several weeks in late April and early May.

The two units were stationed near Al Qaqaa at a base known as Logistics Support Area (LSA) Dogwood. Soldiers from the units said they had visited the ammunition facility soon after the departure of combat troops from the 101st Airborne Division.

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

But one soldier said U.S. forces had watched the looters' trucks loaded with bags marked "hexamine" -- a key ingredient for HMX -- being driven away from the facility.

Members of the 258th Rear Area Operations Center came across the looting at Al Qaqaa during patrols through the area. The 258th unit, which comprised 27 soldiers, enlisted help in securing the site from troops of the 317th Support, the soldiers said.

The troops visited Al Qaqaa over a week in late April but received no orders to maintain a presence at the facility, according to the soldiers. They also said they had received no response to a request for help in guarding the facility.

"We couldn't have been given the assignment to defend a facility unless we were given the troops to do it, and we weren't,'' said one National Guard officer.

A senior U.S. military intelligence official, who corroborated some aspects of the four soldiers' accounts, said there was no order for any unit to secure Al Qaqaa. "No way," the officer said, adding that doing so would have diverted combat resources from the push toward Baghdad.

"It's all about combat power," the officer said, "and we were short combat power.

Great article, because it addresses and destroys pretty much all of the main conservative myths about Al Qaqaa one by one.

Posted by Observer at November 5, 2004 06:59 AM

Comments on entries can only be made in pop-up windows while those entries are still on the main index page. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes, but this blocks about 99.99% of the spam the blog receives.

I live in Florida and read Carpe Datum most every day. I didn't vote for Kerry, though. Just couldn't do it. Sorry.

Of course, I couldn't vote for Bush either. That would be crazy. So that left Nader.

Posted by: Higgs Boson on November 5, 2004 09:42 AM

If you couldn't support Kerry because of ideology, like I said in the other comment thread, I'm ok with that. I wouldn't mind nearly as much losing an election based on basic philosophical differences in which I am in the minority. But that's not what happened this time.

What gets me mad is people who love Bush or hate Kerry because they are ignorant or misinformed about what either stands for. "Most extreme left-wing liberal", "A few bad apples", "The tax cuts didn't cause the deficit". Those are the kinds of phrases that set me off.

Posted by: Observer on November 5, 2004 09:55 AM

Ok, I re-read you link #26, and it doesn't really support your argument at all. Sorry. No real facts, just Krugman's opinions. Nothing to say the deficit isn't mainly the depressed economy (from the 1-2 punch of dotcom idiocy and 9/11) and increased military (both home and abroad) from 9/11. Sure the tax cuts hurt, but I was sure you were calling me ignorant for saying they weren't ALL the tax cuts, which doesn't make sense.

Posted by: Humbaba on November 5, 2004 11:34 PM

See subsequent post "Budget Math" for an elaboration that should put this myth to bed for good.

Posted by: Observer on November 6, 2004 07:44 AM