The New York Times reports again on Al Qaqaa this morning, and again its report is misleading at best. Astonishingly, the Times has yet to mention the fact that the 3rd Infantry Division was at Al Qaqaa on April 4, 2003; that they knew that the site had been designated as one that was important to search; and that they did search the site. As we and many others have pointed out, contemporaneous news reports in organs like CBS and the Washington Post described in detail what the 3rd ID found in Al Qaqaa, including boxes filled with white powder, vials, and Arabic instructions in how to conduct chemical warfare. What the 3rd ID didn’t find, however, was 380 tons of explosives. At this point, pretty much everyone knows this story except, apparently, the Times. This morning, the Times writes:
The exact timing of the disappearance of the explosives is critical to the political arguments of each campaign. Mr. Kerry’s contention that the administration did not adequately secure the country and was unprepared for the war’s aftermath presumes that the explosives disappeared after the fall of Saddam Hussein on April 9, 2003, as officials of the interim Iraqi government say.
That’s right. Yet, having pointed out how critical the time sequence is, the Times fails to report what is publicly known on the issue.
Later, the Times says:
The last time that international inspectors saw the explosives was in early March 2003, days before the American-led invasion. It is possible, inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency say, that Saddam Hussein’s forces may have tried to move the material out of the 10 huge bunkers at the Al Qaqaa facility where it was stored to save it if the facility was bombed.
Once again, the Times can’t get its facts straight. The last time the inspectors “saw the explosives” was in Janauary 2003. In March, they simply observed that the seals were intact, but did not inspect the explosives. And we have good reason to believe that Saddam was able to replace seals after removing or tampering with weapons.
The Times concludes today’s hit piece with this pro-Kerry spin:
But Mr. Bush on Thursday did not address a critical issue raised by the discovery of the missed explosives: why American forces were not alerted to the existence of a huge cache of explosives, even though the atomic energy agency and American officials had publicly discussed the threat it posed, and knew its exact location.
The commander of the troops that went into the Al Qaqaa facility on the way to Baghdad in early April, Col. Joseph Anderson, of the Second Brigade of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, has said he was never told the site was considered sensitive, or that international inspectors had visited it before the war began.
Once again, the Times appears to be the only news organization in America that doesn’t know that the 101st Airborne merely passed through Al Qaqaa on the way to Baghdad without searching the site. It was the 3rd ID, which reached Al QaQaa six days earlier, that knew the site needed to be searched, and did, indeed, search it. Can the Times really be this inept? I don’t think so. I think it’s deliberate. No newspaper could be this bad accidentally.
The Times notes proudly that the “missing explosives” story–a hoax that it perpetrated along with CBS News, is now “dominat[ing] the Presidential campaign.” To the extent that statement is true, it is testimony to the utter corruption of the mainstream media, most notably the Times itself.
UPDATE: Reader Brick Smith pointed out that ABC News has this observation on the security provided by the “seals” the U.N. relied on at Al Qaqaa:
The IAEA documents from January 2003 found no discrepancy in the amount of the more dangerous HMX explosives thought to be stored at Al-Qaqaa, but they do raise another disturbing possibility.
The documents show IAEA inspectors looked at nine bunkers containing more than 194 tons of HMX at the facility. Although these bunkers were still under IAEA seal, the inspectors said the seals may be potentially ineffective because they had ventilation slats on the sides. These slats could be easily removed to remove the materials inside the bunkers without breaking the seals, the inspectors noted.
ABC and other news outlets are also reporting that there may have been far less explosive material stored at Al Qaqaa than the 380 tons that were initially claimed.
This story has blown up in the face of John Kerry and the New York Times like an exploding cigar; the question is, will voters figure that out between now and Tuesday?
BIG TRUNK adds: As I noted yesterday in “Deqonstruqting Qaqaagate, take 2,” the Times itself reported the inspection of the site in a story by Judith Miller and Douglas Jehl on April 5, 2003. In that story the Times reported:
Senior American officials have barely mentioned the hunt for Mr. Hussein’s unconventional weapons in recent days. At an industrial site south of Baghdad today, United States troops found what were reported to be thousands of boxes of white powder, believed to be a nerve agent antidote. But preliminary tests showed it to be an explosive.
Troops also discovered documents in Arabic that officers said might relate to Iraq’s chemical warfare program. But military officials here said that special American teams with headquarters in the region had not been sent to the site.
This suggests that the substances and documents, found at the Latifiya Explosives and Ammunition Plant Al Qaa Qaa, about 25 miles south of the capital, might be related to Iraq’s efforts to defend itself against chemical weapons, rather than to an offensive chemical warfare program.
At the Times, the spirt of Walter Duranty lives on.