Limbaugh, Morris, and Charen falsely claimed that only three tons of explosives were missing from Al Qaqaa

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

In their respective October 29 columns, FOX News Channel political contributor and New York Post columnist Dick Morris and conservative syndicated columnist and author Mona Charen relied upon an October 27 ABC News report, which has been questioned, to claim that "only three tons" of now-missing explosives could have still been at the Al Qaqaa weapons installation in Iraq when U.S. troops first arrived there. Not only did Morris and Charen use a report that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has discredited, but they also misrepresented that report's contents. On October 28, before the IAEA cast it into doubt, radio host Rush Limbaugh also mischaracterized the report to make the same claim that it was only "three tons" and not 380 tons of weapons that have gone missing from Al Qaqaa since U.S. troops invaded.

On October 27, ABC News reported that possibly only three of the 141 tons of RDX explosives contained at the Al Qaqaa weapons installation as of July 15, 2002, were still present at the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The ABC report suggested that IAEA documents detailing inspections from January 14, 2003, "could mean that 138 tons of explosives were removed from the [Al Qaqaa] facility long before the United States launched 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' in March 2003."

But, as the Associated Press reported on October 28, the IAEA "raised questions about the [ABC] news report, saying it cited an inspection report of a single day and that most of the explosives were kept at another site the IAEA considered part of the overall storage area." Similarly, The Washington Post noted on October 29 that "IAEA officials said records showed another 138 tons of the RDX were being kept then at a military warehouse used by [Al] Qaqaa's managers at Mahaweel, 25 miles away." Morris and Charen both made the "three tons" claim after the IAEA had called the ABC report into question.

Another article in the October 29 edition of the Post documented Vice President Dick Cheney's use of details in the ABC report to accuse Senator John Kerry of being "dead wrong" about the missing explosives, noting, "Later, after the International Atomic Energy Agency said the report was incorrect, Cheney dropped the 'dead wrong' phrase from his criticism of Kerry."

Beyond citing ABC's questionable report, Morris and Charen also misrepresented it, as did Limbaugh, claiming that ABC reported that only three tons of explosives could have gone missing. The New York Times first reported on October 25 that "nearly 380 tons" of explosives were missing. That figure, which approximates the 377 tons cited by the Iraqi Interim Government, includes both RDX and HMX explosives. But the ABC report made no claim that the 200-plus tons of HMX explosives had been removed prior to the arrival of U.S. forces. ABC noted the following: "The IAEA documents from January 2003 found no discrepancy in the amount of the more dangerous HMX explosives thought to be stored at Al-Qaqaa" (although ABC did suggest that some explosives could have been removed without the IAEA detecting it). A subsequent ABC News report, which aired on October 28, noted that IAEA inspectors "last saw" the "214 tons" of HMX explosives in January 2003.

Morris's column was published in the conservative New York Post; Charen's column appeared on the conservative Heritage Foundation's website Townhall.com.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
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