Sunday, March 13, 2005

Gosh, it seems like only about a week and a half ago that Jonah Goldberg was snarking off (at National Review Online and elsewhere) about looting in Iraq:

Remember al-Qaqaa? This was the massive cache of explosives that American forces failed to secure after the fall of Saddam. In the final week of the presidential campaign it was The Most Important Story on Earth.

The New York Times splashed the news on its front page and didn't stop splashing it for a week. In all, the Times ran 16 stories and columns about al-Qaqaa, plus seven anti-Bush letters to the editor on the subject over an eight-day period. Editorial boards across the country hammered the "outrage" for days. It led all the news broadcasts. It became the central talking point of the Kerry campaign...

Goldberg assured us in that March 4 column that this was just an attempt by the Liberal Media Forces of Darkness to hornswoggle the nation so John Kerry would be elected president. First of all, the looted material was just a drop in the bucket:

... The frightening multi-author article, which dropped like manna from heaven for the Kerry campaign, couldn't find room to mention that the 380 tons of missing explosives constituted a fairly small fraction of the 400,000 tons of explosives and weapons that had been either destroyed or secured from more than 10,000 sites....

Plus, the timing of the looting was uncertain:

Oh, and they left something else out: The weapons might have been removed before the invasion. Over the course of the week, the Times was forced to concede, often grudgingly and obliquely, that the weapons may not have been there for U.S. forces to secure in the first place....

Plus, it was all the fault of Satan's branch office on Earth, the United Nations:

...As Times columnist William Safire and Cliff May, a former Times reporter and NRO regular, have suggested, the whole al-Qaqaa story might have been orchestrated by Mohammed el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in order to influence the American presidential election.... According to the Wall Street Journal, Baradei triggered the process which resulted in the al-Qaqaa story getting leaked to the Times and CBS News.

And the smoking gun that proves this was a work of dastardly propaganda is the fact that the Times dropped the story like a hot potato as soon as Kerry lost:

... Byron York, my NR colleague ... wondered, whatever happened to The Biggest Story on Earth? The answer, it turns out, is nothing. The Times has not run a single story about the al-Qaqaa story since November 1. Nada, bupkis, zilch....


Until now:

In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away.

Dr. Araji said his account was based largely on observations by government employees and officials who either worked at the sites or lived near them....

Dr. Araji said equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons....

The peak of the organized looting, Dr. Araji estimates, occurred in four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003...

As examples of the most important sites that were looted, Dr. Araji cited the Nida Factory, the Badr General Establishment, Al Ameer, Al Radwan, Al Hatteen, Al Qadisiya and Al Qaqaa....

So we have a new Times story. It's sourced to an Iraqi official. It pinpoints the time of the looting as after the U.S. invaded. It notes that the looting was even worse than we thought when the Al Qaqaa story broke.

Ah, but why did the story drop off the radar for months? Because the evildoers at the UN failed in their dastardly plot to elect Kerry?

Er, perhaps not:

Last fall, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, put public pressure on the interim Iraqi government to start the process of accounting for nuclear-related materials still ostensibly under the agency's supervision. Iraq is obliged, he wrote to the president of the Security Council on Oct. 1, to declare semiannually changes that have occurred or are foreseen.

In interviews, officials of the monitoring commission [UNMOVIC, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] and the atomic energy agency said the two agencies had heard nothing from Baghdad - with one notable exception. On Oct. 10, the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology wrote to the atomic agency to say a stockpile of high explosives at Al Qaqaa had been lost because of "theft and looting."

During the American presidential election last fall, news of that letter ignited a political firestorm. Privately, officials of the monitoring commission and the atomic energy agency have speculated on whether the political uproar made Baghdad reluctant to disclose more details of looting.

Well, that will be dismissed as more words from Satan's lips, but it sounds plausible to me.

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