Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Systematic Chaos

Peter W. Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, was one of the US officials in Iraq after the overthrow of Sadam, and a supporter of the War. He's also another to add his voice to the chorus of administration officials and eye witnesses who attest to the fact that the Bush administration failed to plan for anything beyond the combat stage of the Iraq war. What he writes about in the Boston Globe today are events he witnessed first hand and reported to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz upon his return to the US in 2003. The 760,000 pounds of high grade explosives pale in comparison to this:
The looting that I observed was spontaneous. Quite likely the looters had no idea they were stealing deadly biological agents or radioactive materials or that they were putting themselves in danger. As I pointed out to Wolfowitz, as long as these sites remained unprotected, their deadly materials could end up not with ill-educated slum dwellers but with those who knew exactly what they were doing.

This is apparently what happened. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued earlier this month, there was "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear program." This includes nearly 380 tons of high explosives suitable for detonating nuclear weapons or killing American troops. Some of the looting continued for many months -- possibly into 2004. Using heavy machinery, organized gangs took apart, according to the IAEA, "entire buildings that housed high-precision equipment."

This equipment could be anywhere. But one good bet is Iran, which has had allies and agents in Iraq since shortly after the US-led forces arrived.

This was a preventable disaster. Iraq's nuclear weapons-related materials were stored in only a few locations, and these were known before the war began. As even L. Paul Bremer III, the US administrator in Iraq, now admits, the United States had far too few troops to secure the country following the fall of Saddam Hussein. But even with the troops we had, the United States could have protected the known nuclear sites. It appears that troops did not receive relevant intelligence about Iraq's WMD facilities, nor was there any plan to secure them. Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites.
Not only 380 tons of high grade explosives, but also biological agents and the tools to make nuclear weapons. Now it is probably in the hands of terrorists or the government of Iran or both. So let's review: Bush launches a crusade (his word). We invade a country that had no ties to terrorism or 9-11. We secure oil refineries but not weapons depots or culturally significant sites. We fail to plan for the aftermath of the invaision, failing to restore basic infrastructure like water and electricity for months. We play right into the hands of Osama bin Laden and religious fanatics like him, aiding in terrorist recruitment. Then we allow these same people to come right into Iraq and take the raw materials they need to kill us.

Grand plan Mr. President. Grand plan. Lest you think Mr. Galbraith is a anti-war liberal from our side of the isle, think again:
I supported President Bush's decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein. At Wolfowitz's request, I helped advance the case for war, drawing on my work in previous years in documenting Saddam's atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds. In spite of the chaos that followed the war, I am sure that Iraq is better off without Saddam Hussein.
Even the people on the President's side think Iraq is FUBAR. I feel much safer now, don't you?