The enormous cache of explosives is unaccounted for and may have fallen into the hands of terrorists or been used in bombing attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops. The White House has thus far been at a loss to explain how a mistake this egregious was allowed to happen under their watch: administration officials "say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded." A look at the administration's mismanagement of post-invasion Iraq offers an explanation, though. After the invasion of Iraq, the White House failed to safeguard the large stockpiles of powerful explosives; the administration also failed to send enough troops to Iraq to quash the post-war insurgency, resulting in rampant looting.
HMX AND RDX EXPLAINED: The powerful explosives in question are HMX - high melting point explosive - and RDX - rapid detonation explosive. HMX and RDX can be used in bombs which could bring down entire buildings or "shatter" airplanes; for example, "the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material." The chemical makeup of these explosives make them "insensitive to shock and physical abuse during handling and transport," making it particularly simple to smuggle the munitions to terrorists.
INTERNATIONAL WATCH WAS WORKING: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tried to warn the U.S. about the potential danger posed by the explosives and "specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured" after the invasion. The Bush administration, however, refused to allow the agency back into the country after the invasion to verify the status of the explosives stockpile.
EXPLOSIVES USEFUL FOR INSURGENTS: The danger posed by the explosive "is its potential use with insurgents in very small and powerful devices." Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the IAEA, warns, "Our immediate concern is that if the explosives did fall into the wrong hands they could be used to commit terrorist acts and some of the bombings that we've seen." HMX and RDX are "the key components in plastic explosives, which insurgents have widely used in a series of bloody car bombings in Iraq." According to the Nelson Report, cited by Josh Marshall's Talking Points, "administration officials privately admit this material is likely a primary source of the lethal car bomb attacks which cause so many US and Iraqi casualties."
ADMINISTRATION FAILED TO SECURE KEY FACILITIES: Explaining the theft in a letter to the IAEA, a senior official from Iraq's Ministry of Science and Technology wrote the explosives disappeared because of looting that occurred "due to lack of security." The White House has increasingly come under fire for neglecting to send an adequate number of troops into Iraq to secure the country after the invasion. Recently, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, charged inadequate military presence after the invasion allowed rampant looting in Iraq and said the U.S. "paid a big price" for not sending enough troops to secure the peace.
WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?: Iraqi officials say they warned Bremer in May 2004 that the sensitive military installation had probably been looted in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. Note this happened while the United States was still in command, before the transfer of power to the Iraqis. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice claims she only found out about the missing explosives within the past month. The IAEA was only notified - by the Iraqis - a few weeks ago. According to Talking Points, the Nelson Report reveals the Defense Department not only may have known about the looting, it may have exerted pressure on the Iraqis to keep the story quiet.
WHOOPS, WE DID IT AGAIN: This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened in Iraq. Earlier this month, international U.N. weapons inspectors found that sensitive material and equipment had been looted from nuclear facilities in Iraq. The IAEA had successfully monitored equipment and low-grade uranium at a plant in Iraq before the invasion. It was forced to leave in March of 2003, however, and the sensitive material was looted and may have found its way to the black market.