Wash. Post touted Pentagon's defense over explosives issue, ignored compelling new video


An October 29 Washington Post article, labeled an "analysis" and titled "Munitions Issue Dwarfs the Big Picture," compiled evidence that appeared to support President George W. Bush's claim that missing high explosives once stored at Iraq's Al Qaqaa military installation "may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site." But the Post ignored a newly surfaced video that strongly suggests the explosives were still present at Al Qaqaa as late as April 18, 2003 -- two weeks after the arrival of the first U.S. troops at the site in early April 2003. Both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported the video on their front pages.

In the Washington Post article, staff writers Bradley Graham and Thomas E. Ricks reported two contentions by defense officials:

Although invading U.S. forces never secured the [Al Qaqaa] facility, defense officials have disputed the notion that such a large quantity of explosives could have been transported without notice by the U.S. military.

Bolstering the possibility that the munitions were removed before U.S. troops arrived, defense officials say, is the Hussein government's history of moving weapons to elude air attack. An official also said intelligence photos show lots of activity at [Al] Qaqaa before U.S. forces reached the site.

But the Post article failed to mention the video, taken by a news crew from Minneapolis TV station KSTP, an ABC affiliate, while traveling with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, which provides strong evidence to the contrary. CNN reported that David Kay, former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, said the video appears to show the explosives in question. Kay also judged that the seals shown in the video resemble those that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uses. (The original New York Times article reported that IAEA inspectors placed seals on the bunkers containing the high explosives before the U.S. invasion during a January 2003 visit to Al Qaqaa.) CNN reported:

Based on a review of the KSTP videotape, former weapons inspector David Kay said late Thursday that the seal is consistent with those used by the International Atomic Energy Agency and that the explosives in the barrel were the type of high-grade explosives missing from the complex.

"That's either HMX or RDX," Kay said, referring to the types of explosives. "I don't know of anything else in Al-Qaqaa that was in that form."

Moreover, while the Post noted Pentagon officials' reference to "intelligence photos" that show "lots of activity at [Al] Qaqaa before U.S. forces reached the site," an analysis by GlobalSecurity.com indicates that the photo released by the Pentagon does little to prove that Iraqi forces moved the high explosives before the U.S.-led invasion. That's because the bunker shown in the photo did not contain the explosives in question, according to IAEA records and maps.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
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