October 26, 2004



A controversy over whether or not Iraqi stockpiles of RDX and HMX explosives went missing before or after U.S. forces arrived has effectively defused yesterday's "breaking" story as an immediate threat to Bush's campaign. By midday the story was already off CNN's main page as a separate news item (FoxNews, however, still has it front and center). FoxNews reports: When Did Missing Explosives Disappear?.

The mystery over tons of missing explosives in Iraq turned Tuesday from a question of what happened to them to when they disappeared.

The United Nations' nuclear department, the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Monday that insurgents may have stolen the 380 tons of conventional explosives -- the kind used in the car bombing attacks that have killed many soldiers and bystanders in Iraq.

But senior Defense Department officials told FOX News they’re not sure whether looters made off with the explosives or whether Saddam moved them before the war began. NBC News reported Monday night that one of its reporters was embedded with the 101st Airborne. She watched the troops conduct what can be described as a "cursory search" of the premises on April 10, and found a great deal of conventional ordnance, but no RDX or HMX. 

Such questions haven't stopped Kerry from trying to exploit the issue: Kerry Blasts Bush on Missing Ammo.

Kerry accused President Bush on Tuesday of trying to cover up bad decisions relating to the execution of the war in Iraq and alluded to the possibility that more bad news has yet to be uncovered.

"Mr. President, what else are you being silent about? What else are you keeping from the American people?" Kerry said during a speech in Green Bay, referring to the estimated 380 tons of highly explosive material that have gone missing from an arms depot in Iraq.

Although Kerry and the Democrats are blaming the Bush administration for losing the ammo, calling it "one of the great blunders" of the Iraq war, recent reports by NBC and further details given by the Pentagon and International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday suggest that the material may have been missing before the 101st Airborne Division rolled into the Al-Qaqaa facility as Saddam Hussein was being deposed in nearby Baghdad in April 2003.

Vice President Dick Cheney responded for Bush from Florida, saying, "It is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad."

Also today, Kerry released a campaign commercial that capitalizes on the story. Apparently they did a quick edit on another commercial and inserted the new claims. (Via Little Green Footballs)

James Taranto has more: The Times Spoils CBS's Surprise.

UPDATE I -- October 27: This story is more complex than yesterday's reports indicated. Belmont Club has more about who saw what when and where: The RDX Problem Resolves Itself. And The Wall Street Journal ponders the political aspects of the story: Munitions Overkill.

UPDATE II: Looks like the fuse is still smoldering after all. The story is back on CNN's main page: Missing Iraqi explosives fuel campaign rhetoric.

UPDATE III -- October 28: Kerry seems to be putting all his campaign eggs into the Al Qaqaa basket. FoxNews reports: U.S. Military Releases Al-Qaqaa Image.

UPDATE IV -- October 29: FoxNews reports: U.S. Team Took 250 Tons of Iraqi Munitions.

Posted by Forkum at October 26, 2004 08:35 PM