The White House is playing down the fact it lost 380 tons of high explosives. Apparently, it’s no big deal to the Bushies that they’ve let an ammunition dump that had been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prior to the war to be looted to the floorboards.
Reports have downplayed the seriousness of the situation, focusing on the fact that the explosives aren’t as dangerous as nuclear weapons. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said at a press gaggle today:
[T]he first priority, from our standpoint, was to make sure that this wasn’t a nuclear proliferation risk, which it is not. These are conventional high explosives that we are talking about. And the President wants to make sure that we get to the bottom of this. Now, the Pentagon, upon learning of this, directed the multinational forces and the Iraqi survey group to look into this matter, and that’s what they are currently doing.
Now, if you go back and look at the Duelfer report that recently has come out, according to the Duelfer report, as of mid-September, more than 243,000 tons of munitions have been destroyed since Operation Iraqi Freedom. Coalition forces have cleared and reviewed a total of 10,033 caches of munitions; another nearly 163,000 tons of munitions have been secured and are on line to be destroyed. That puts this all — that puts this all in context.
So, the excuse is that because it has captured and destroyed 406,000 tons of munitions since the invasion began, the loss of 380 tons isn’t a serious issue. But this doesn’t represent an apples-to-apples comparison, as much of the 406,000 tons of confiscated munitions is guns and ammunition and not high explosives. However, the real point is that 380 tons of high explosives is out there in someone’s hands.
Tthe real issue is that the explosives can be used against civilians and soldiers in Iraq and around the world. Consider that only five grams of RDX, for example, is enough to kill a person when used in an anti-personnel land mine. When 1,000 pounds of explosives were set off by a suicide bomber in Baghdad last January, 24 people were killed. The Irish Republican Army used about 900 pounds of explosives to set off 22 bombs that killed nine and injured 130 people seriously on “Bloody Friday” in 1972.
Taken with that background, the 380 tons of lost high explosives is enough to commit hundreds or thousands or atrocities. If we estimate that 800 pounds of explosives can kill 20 people and injure 100, the lost munitions are sufficient to build 950 bombs that would kill 19,000 people and injure 95,000 people.
That is a screw-up of massive proportion. What possible excuse is there for this material being unprotected, for not dropping a huge special forces team in during the invasion to lock this down, since the IAEA told the Administration it was there about before the war?