Game, set, match

Yes, we lost 380 tons of high explosive, because no one was told to look for them and no one kept track of whether they had been found. Unbefrigginlievable!

Well, it’s official: the explosives were still at Al Qaqaa, still behind IAEA seal, when the 101st Airborne moved through shortly after the fall of Baghdad. That the 101st destroyed some explosives, but weren’t specifically aware of — and apparently never found — the material under IAEA seal, suggests just how badly planned the whole operation was: obviously, no one had a complete list of sensitive materials.

The current Administration line — no one knows what happened to those explosives — is, properly considered, more damaging than anything Kerry has said. We don’t know? We don’t know? Why the hell don’t we know? What is this, frigging amateur hour? In a war supposedly fought about weapons of mass destruction, securing known WMD sites and their sensitive materials should have been at the top of somebody’s task list, and somebody else should have been keeping a checklist.

If the order to find and secure that batch of HE had been given, there would be a record of it, and that record would have been found in the three weeks since the Administration learned about the Iraqi report to the IAEA. So we know for certain that no such order was given. If there had been a list of sensitive materials with that cache included, that too would have appeared by now. So we know that either that there was no such list or that somehow the HMX and RDX weren’t on it.

(Note, by the way, that the claim that the 380 tons of HE had been looted wasn’t first made by Kerry: it’s in the official report of the allegedly sovereign government of Iraq to the IAEA.)

More disgusting even than the incompetence and the lying on this has been George W. Bush’s attempt to twist John Kerry’s criticism of Bush into criticism of the troops on the ground. (Only Rudy Guiliani, with the contempt for the people who actually do the work of government that has always characterized him, has dared to suggest that this was somehow the soldiers’ fault. It’s obvious now that no one was told to find and secure that HE.)

What happened seems clear: Out of some combination of bad planning and politicized decision-making, we went into Iraq way too light: enough troops to take the place, but not nearly enough to occupy it. As a result, we’ve never had enough boots on the ground to handle what needed to be handled, and balls got dropped. That’s largely Don Rumsfeld’s fault, with Tommy Franks sharing some of the blame for not insisting on adequate forces.

But we all know where the buck stops, don’t we now?

And for once there’s justice in the world: the Administration’s decision to kick up dust, rather than saying Monday that the explosives hadn’t been properly handled and writing it off to the fog of war, has meant that five consecutive newsdays have been devoted to a story that isn’t the story BushCo wants the undecided voters thinking about as they make up their minds this weekend.

Update: Knight-Ridder has more. The 380 tons is just the tip of the iceberg; lots of weaons and ammo were stolen. Al Qaqaa was on a CIA target list, but the Pentagon preferred listening to Chalabi. I missed this, but Digby didn’t.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: