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Tuesday, October 26, 2004
 
It's the Nukes, Stupid!

While I applaud Josh Marshall's tireless exegesis of the timing and shifting explanations of the looted explosives story, I believe the effort misfires on the administration's greatest culpability: this stuff can be used to make nuclear weapons.

Anchoring the credibility and relevance of all the administration's talk about WMDs was always the specter of Saddam's bomb. That's why they had Condi and Colin shred their reputations over easily-disproven nuclear connections with aluminum tubes and yellowcake. The uncertainty surrounding Iraqi WMDs became a solid thing in the public mind from which America had to defend itself only when nukes were added to the equation.

By our unilateralist approach to the invasion of Iraq, we arrogated to ourselves responsibility for Iraq, and especially for the WMDs or components thereof which (we are told) prompted us to act in the first place. These explosives were a known quantity, in a known location, having been quarantined by the International Atomic Energy Agency back in 1991, and confirmed to persist there not long before the invasion.

Administration officials have attempted to obscure the supreme importance of the loss of the explosives by listing all the other munitions the coalition forces have found and destroyed. They have attempted to elide responsibility for oversight of the explosives by claiming they had already been looted by the time we arrived on the scene. Even if that is the case, it is inexcusable.

It is an admission that those in charge of the invasion failed in their oversight of a known nuclear component at a time when we had unquestioned air superiority and at least enough intelligence capability to detect the 40 or so trucks that would be required to move the stuff. Any activity going to or from Al Qaqaa should have prompted immediate U.S. air strikes, if the administration was at all doing the job it had told us it needed to do.

The fact that the HMX and RDX also happen to be ideally suited for use in guerilla attacks against our soldiers widens the catastrophe of the loss, but it also works to equate the explosives with the more conventional weapons and ordinance which we never had a prayer of entirely neutralizing. But that is not the point.

The point is that this stuff was special because it could be used to make nuclear bombs. It was specifically tracked by weapons inspectors because it was special. It was checked on by the invading force because it was special. And, because it was special, there is no excuse why, before, during, or after the invasion, this stuff was left unsupervised for even a minute.

If they had time and resources to guard oil installations, that only makes things worse for the administration. The world can survive a minor spike in oil prices and pipelines can be rebuilt. Nuclear explosions are forever, and they're more likely now because of this collossal fuck-up.

Once this crucial fact is firmly established in the media, and only then, should we say, "and, by the way, this stuff is probably being used right now to blow the arms, legs, and heads off of the good men and women of the United States armed forces."