Tuesday, October 26, 2004

About that "Search"

The GOP and Whitehouse are spinning that the missing 760,000 pounds of high grade explosives that were just reported missing were missing when the US got there. This is the "Bart Simpson" defense, stage II. But like all White House spin, it's just plain wrong. From MSNBC's interview with the reporter who was actually traveling with the 101st Airborne in the report cited by the White House as searching the facility (emphasis mine):
MSNBC, 10/26/04 (Transcript):

Amy Robach: And it's still unclear exactly when those explosives disappeared. Here to help shed some light on that question is Lai Ling. She was part of an NBC news crew that traveled to that facility with the 101st Airborne Division back in April of 2003. Lai Ling, can you set the stage for us? What was the situation like when you went into the area?

Lai Ling Jew: When we went into the area, we were actually leaving Karbala and we were initially heading to Baghdad with the 101st Airborne, Second Brigade. The situation in Baghdad, the Third Infantry Division had taken over Baghdad and so they were trying to carve up the area that the 101st Airborne Division would be in charge of. As a result, they had trouble figuring out who was going to take up what piece of Baghdad. They sent us over to this area in Iskanderia. We didn't know it as the Qaqaa facility at that point but when they did bring us over there we stayed there for quite a while. We stayed overnight, almost 24 hours. And we walked around, we saw the bunkers that had been bombed, and that exposed all of the ordinances that just lied dormant on the desert.

AR: Was there a search at all underway or did a search ensue for explosives once you got there during that 24-hour period?

LLJ: No. There wasn't a search. The mission that the brigade had was to get to Baghdad. That was more of a pit stop there for us. And, you know, the searching, I mean certainly some of the soldiers head off on their own, looked through the bunkers just to look at the vast amount of ordnance lying around. But as far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away. But there was – at that point the roads were shut off. So it would have been very difficult, I believe, for the looters to get there.

AR: And there was no talk of securing the area after you left. There was no discussion of that?

LLJ: Not for the 101st Airborne, Second Brigade.
They were -- once they were in Baghdad, it was all about Baghdad, you know, and then they ended up moving north to Mosul. Once we left the area, that was the last that the brigade had anything to do with the area.

AR: Well, Lai Ling Jew, thank you so much for shedding some light into that situation. We appreciate it.

LLJ: Thank you.
She was there with the troops. There was no seach and no talk of securing the area. The GOP lies again.

UPDATE
Bubba noted a good catch from Josh Marshall. It seems that even if the 101st didn't find any explosives, the 3rd Infantry definately saw some:

UN weapons inspectors went repeatedly to the vast al Qa Qaa complex, most recently on March 8. But they found nothing during spot visits to some of the 1,100 buildings at the site 40 kilometres south of Baghdad.

Col. John Peabody, engineer brigade commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said troops found thousands of five-centimetre by 12-centimetre boxes, each containing three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare.

A senior U.S. official familiar with initial testing said the powder was believed to be explosives. The finding would be consistent with the plant's stated production capabilities in the field of basic raw materials for explosives and propellants.

So what would Bart be writing on the board at the start of this episode? I've got it: "I will not allow looting of high grade explosives on my watch."