The RDX Problem Resolves Itself
A little more data for the RDX pot. Whatever the MSNBC embeds saw with the 101st, the 3ID which preceded them saw more. It searched Al Qa Qaa and found suspicious material Instapundit finds this reference in CBS via the Captain's Quarters.
April 4, 2003. CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction continues at sites where the U.S. thought chemicals weapons might be hidden. "And although there are no reports of actual weapons being found, there are constant finds of suspicious material," Martin said. "It obviously will take laboratory testing to find out exactly what that powder is." U.S. troops found thousands of boxes of white powder, nerve agent antidote and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare at an industrial site south of Baghdad. But a senior U.S. official familiar with initial testing said the materials were believed to be explosives. Col. John Peabody, engineer brigade commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said the materials were found Friday at the Latifiyah industrial complex just south of Baghdad.
... The facility had been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons site. U.N. inspectors visited the plant at least nine times, including as recently as Feb. 18. The facility is part of a larger complex known as the Latifiyah Explosives and Ammunition Plant al Qa Qaa. The senior U.S. official, based in Washington and speaking on condition of anonymity, said the material was under further study. The site is enormous and U.S. troops are still investigating it for potential weapons of mass destruction, the official said. "Initial reports are that the material is probably just explosives, but we're still going through the place," the official said. Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare.
The contemporaneous CBS report, written before anyone knew al Qa Qaa would be a big deal, establishes two important things. The first is that 3ID knew it was looking through an IAEA inspection site. The second was that the site had shown unmistakable signs of tampering before the arrival of US troops. "Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare." Now presumably those thousands of boxes were not all packaged and labeled with chemical warfare instructions under IAEA supervision, so the inescapable conclusion is that a fairly large and organized type of activity had been under way in Al Qa Qaa for some time. It is important to reiterate that these are contemporaneous CBS reports which were filed no with foreknowledge of the political controversy to come.
Michael Totten wonders why "there is no mention of 380 tons of HDX and RDX". Perhaps the reason the RDX isn't mentioned can be found via a link through Josh Marshall, quoting NBC's Jim Miklaszewski. (Hat tip reader Trebbers in Comments)
Following up on that story from last night, military officials tell NBC News that on April 10, 2003, when the Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne entered the Al QaQaa weapons facility, south of Baghdad, that those troops were actually on their way to Baghdad, that they were not actively involved in the search for any weapons, including the high explosives, HMX and RDX. The troops did observe stock piles of conventional weapons but no HMX or RDX. And because the Al Qaqaa facility is so huge, it's not clear that those troops from the 101st were actually anywhere near the bunkers that reportedly contained the HMX and RDX. Three months earlier, during an inspection of the Al Qaqaa compound, the International Atomic Energy Agency secured and sealed 350 metric tons of HMX and RDX. Then in March, shortly before the war began, the I.A.E.A. conducted another inspection and found that the HMX stockpile was still intact and still under seal. But inspectors were unable to inspect the RDX stockpile and could not verify that the RDX was still at the compound.
Here we discover the rather important fact that the UN inspectors hadn't actually seen the RDX in their final inspections. They just assumed it was there because the seals were intact. So let's put it all together. The UN inspectors conduct their final inspection before OIF without actually having seen the RDX. The 3ID reach the site on April 4, 2003, know they are looking at an IAEA site and find thousands of white boxes which they suspect may be chemical weapons. The boxes are labeled with chemical warfare instructions. On April 10, the Second Brigade of 101st Airborne arrives with press embeds. They look around but press on with their main combat mission. From this the NYT comes to the conclusion that the RDX was lost after the US assumed custody of the site. It is worthwhile to reiterate the NYT's key assertions. In their article of October 25, the Times said:
The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.
It turned out that White House and Pentagon officials had acknowledged no such thing. The next day, the NYT reported:
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, saying a brigade of American soldiers did not find the explosives when they visited the complex on April 10, 2003, the day after Baghdad fell. But the unit's commander said in an interview yesterday that his troops had not searched the facility and had merely stopped there for the night on their way to Baghdad. The commander, Col. Joseph Anderson, of the Second Brigade of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said he did not learn until this week that the site, known as Al Qaqaa, was considered highly sensitive, or that international inspectors had visited there shortly before the war began in 2003 to inspect explosives that they had tagged during a decade of monitoring.
In the light of the unearthed contemporaneous CBS report, the NYT's use of an interview with the Col. Anderson is totally worthless. They interviewed the wrong unit commander. It was a 3ID outfit that searched the place with the intent of discovering dangerous materials nearly six days before. The 101st had no such mission. Moreover, the NYT's innuendo that "the huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years ..." suggests a well-manicured facility that had been run to seed by knuckle-dragging American incompetence after faithful care by the IAEA. It totally ignores the disorderly condition in which 3ID found it, where, if the NYT correspondents had been present, they might have taken home their own boxes "with three vials of white powder, together with documents in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare" -- surely a sign it was untampered with, unless the NYT wishes to assert the contrary and thereby destroy their own case.
Incidentally, the condition of Al Qa Qaa is yet more indirect proof of the redeployment of war materiel which took place under the cover of UN obstruction, most notably by barring 4ID from attacking south through Turkey into the Sunni Triangle, which was the subject of Belmont Club's War Plan Orange.