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Kerry Spot [ jim geraghty reporting ]
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ABOUT THAT TELEVISION AFFILIATE VIDEOTAPE FROM AL-QAQAA
I watched the big ABC News report: “Video Suggests Explosives Disappeared After U.S. Took Control.”
And at first glance, it appears to make the case that when the 101st Airborne Division arrived on April 18, 2003, there was still a large supply of explosive materials in the facility.
But there are still a few problems with this story.
Problem one: Take a look at the orange label on the container, in this photo.
It says, “EXPLOSIV EXPLOSIVE 1.1 D 1”. (The same label can be purchased here.)
There are three explosives we are looking for here:
HMX, cyclotetramethylene-tetranitramine, also called Tetrahexamine Tetranitramine
RDX, Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine, and
PETN, Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate
According to this chart from GlobalSecurity.org, the 1.1D classification can be used for the storage and transport of quite a few high powered explosives. Among them are:
Cyclotetramethylene-tetranitramine, wetted or HMX, wetted or Octogen, wetted with not less than 15 percent water, by mass
Cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine, wetted or Cyclonite, wetted or Hexogen, wetted or RDX, wetted with not less than 15 percent water by mass
Pentaerythrite tetranitrate, wetted or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, wetted, or PETN, wetted with not less than 25 percent water, by mass, or Pentaerythrite tetranitrate, or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, desensitized with not less than 15 percent phlegmatizer by mass.
So - this orange 1.1 D is the label we would look for on HMX, RDX, or PETN. But did those explosives in these containers have 15 or 25 percent water or other dilution liquid in them? Or did they look pretty dry in that desert?
And as we look at the rest of that chart, we see that a lot of other explosives that fall in the 1.1 D category.
Specifically there are 79 other substances and types of explosive material and supporting equipment that would get the 1.1 D label, including gunpowder, flexible detonating cord, photo-flash bombs, mines, nitroglycerin, rocket warheads, grenades, fuzes, torpedoes and charges. And few of them require any liquid dilution.
Is what’s on this news report video HMX, RDX, or PETN? Possibly, if the material inside is some sort of diluting liquid that we didn’t see on the tape, or if the Iraqis were storing these high-grade explosives in an unsafe manner. Or it could be one of the 79 other substances. Or some containers could have the big three, and some could have others.
As usual, it is foolish for folks to jump in and conclude that they know what was in the containers without gathering all of the facts. How many Kerry-backing writers who will cite this video as a smoking gun are familiar with what materials are classified 1.1D?
Problem two: This doesn’t quite explain the internal IAEA documents ABC reported that suggested that significant amounts were gone before the invasion began. “Confidential IAEA documents obtained by ABC News show that on Jan. 14, 2003, the agency's inspectors recorded that just over three tons of RDX were stored at the facility — a considerable discrepancy from what the Iraqis reported.” It all suddenly came back before the war? Or is what we’re seeing in the video three tons?
Problem three: This doesn’t quite explain the Pentagon’s satellite photos of large numbers of trucks leaving the facilities before the war.
Problem four: This doesn’t quite explain how all this could be taken down a road full of heavily armed U.S. forces, under skies full of coalition warplanes. The Pentagon called the removal of that much material from the facility during or after the war “very highly improbable”:
Col. David Perkins commanded the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division, the division that led the charge into Baghdad. Those troops first captured the Iraqi weapons depot from which 377 tons of explosives disappeared.
Two major roads that pass near the Al-Qaqaa installation were filled with U.S. military traffic in the weeks after April 3, 2003, when U.S. troops first reached the area, the colonel said.
Perkins and others in the military acknowledged that some looting at the site had taken place. But he said a large-scale operation to remove the explosives using trucks almost certainly would have been detected.
Problem five: This doesn’t quite explain why none of this explosive has to date shown up in any Iraqi insurgent attack.
One last observation. Follow the shifting headline as the story moves from one news agency to another:
ABC News headline: “Video Suggests Explosives Disappeared After U.S. Took Control
Reuters headline: “Report: Video Shows Explosives Went Missing After War”
[Posted 10/28 09:52 PM]