Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 2004 / 13 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Jack Kelly

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October surprise was on the media — BUSTED! | The ambush was supposed to have been sprung by CBS, on "Sixty Minutes" the Sunday before the election. If things had gone according to plan, there wouldn't have been time before election day for the truth to catch up.

But the New York Times ran with the story it concocted with CBS about explosives missing from the Al QaQaa munitions storage facility south of Baghdad on Oct. 25th, eight days before the election. That vitiated its impact, and increased the likelihood of blowback on the intended beneficiary of this "October Surprise," John Kerry.

Some 380 tons of the high explosives RDX and HMX, once under seal from the IAEA (because they could be used in detonating a nuclear weapon), are missing from Al QaQaa.

In its first story, the Times said: "White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year."

That wasn't the truth, as the Times admitted the next day: "White House officials reasserted yesterday that 380 tons of powerful explosives may have disappeared from a vast Iraqi military complex while Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq."

By Day 3, the Times claimed only that "some of (the munitions) may have been removed" after U.S. troops left the area.

The Times went on to say that the commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, which occupied al QaQaa on April 10, did not search the facility.

But as the seven reporters the Times had working on the story knew, or ought to have known (since it was widely reported at the time), the 3rd Infantry Division had occupied al QaQaa on April 4th, and its engineer brigade had conducted a thorough search.

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"U.S. troops found thousands of boxes of white powder, nerve agent antidote, and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare," said a contemporaneous account from (ironically) a CBS reporter embedded with the 3rd ID.

A Fox News embedded reporter provided more detail: "Col. John Peabody, engineer brigade commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said troops found thousands of 2 by 5 inch boxes, each containing three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare."

The 3rd ID troops found no bunkers sealed with the IAEA seal, indicating they had been removed earlier.

"The commander on the site had complete real time intelligence on what to expect and possibly find at the al QaQaa depot," an officer who was there emailed National Review Online's Jim Geraghty. "The ordnance in question was not found when teams were sent in to inspect the area. When this information was relayed, operational plans were adjusted and the unit moved forward. Had the ordnance in question been discovered, a security team would have been left in place."

Pentagon officials note there is no evidence the terrorists in Iraq have ever used RDX or HMX, which suggests they were moved out of the country before the war began.

The 380 tons of explosives probably couldn't have been removed between April 10, when the 2nd Brigade of the 101st was at al QaQaa, and the end of May, when the Iraq Survey Group certified the explosives were missing. It would have taken 40 large trucks to haul the explosives away. All the main roads at this time were clogged with American military traffic.

The 380 tons are relatively small potatoes, considering the arsenal Saddam's Iraq was. There were an estimated million tons of weapons and explosives in 8,700 weapons depots, several as large as al QaQaa, according to the Iraq Survey Group. Of this, the U.S. has destroyed some 280,000 tons, and has prepared 160,000 tons more for demolition. The 380 tons missing from al QaQaa amount to less four tenths of one percent of the total estimated munitions in Iraq, less than two percent of what already has been destroyed.

A good news organization would have put the 380 tons in perspective, but we're talking about the New York Times.

And if the missing 380 tons of munitions present the danger the New York Times claims, consider that terrorists would have had access to a million tons of weapons and explosives if President Bush hadn't invaded Iraq.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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