If this story about 380 tons of missing explosives has stoked Democrats' dreams of an "October Surprise" that would rise up and bury George W. Bush…Well, that dog won't hunt and the whole attack may well backfire.
First of all, thanks primarily to the Drudge Report and the Los Angeles Times, virtually every objective person paying attention to the election knows that the story is inaccurate. (This excludes folks whose partisan animosity makes it difficult for them to accept reality.) As much as the mainstream media seemed reluctant to report it, word of the embedded NBC reporter who saw the storage facility in question empty one day after the liberation of Iraq back in April 2003 spread so fast the Kerry/Edwards team weren't even finished filming their commercial on the story before it was debunked. Not that that will stop them from airing it, but clearly the effect will be diminished.
Beyond that, however, this news shouldn't have been much of a "surprise." My own April cover story in the Spectator warned about the dangers of the between 650,000 and one million tons of laxly guarded conventional weapons floating around Iraq. Bill Gertz's recent book, Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies, deals extensively with the same problem. It's quite interesting that the New York Times failed to put this 19 month old story on page one until a week before the election, and, likewise, that CBS was apparently willing to sit on this urgent news until next Sunday's 60 Minutes, less than two days before the election. And when they decided to do it, they didn't bother to fact-check a Bush-hater like IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei Once again, the motives of both outlets -- is this information or political activism? -- are quite reasonably under question.
It's also telling that neither John Kerry nor John Edwards has managed to get the same ire up about our allies -- France, Russia, Germany -- likely providing Iraq weapons and support in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Oh, but three points down in the polls, and they're suddenly angry now. "This is exactly the kind of explosives that terrorists want," Edwards wailed. "They're easy to transport, they're easy to conceal, and powerful." Elsewhere, Kerry chimed in, "And now, the explosives are missing, unaccounted for and could be in the hands of terrorists used to attack our troops, our people or our country."
Wait, I thought this was "the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place"? I thought Iraq was not an imminent threat and had no weapons that could threaten "our troops, our people or our country"? Didn't Dick Cheney make all that "Saddam Hussein was a threat" stuff up? Apparently the tide turns for the Dems when they get a sniff of news that might benefit them.
Sometimes you actually get the feeling the ignorance is willful. Consider: Kerry and Edwards are both huge fans of the recent Duelfer Report and love quoting from it, if only selectively. But if the Democrats' Dream Team had taken a break from their endless series of feel-your-pain town hall meetings long enough to check out Charles Duelfer's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, perhaps they would have a more expansive understanding of the problems they are attempting to make into a campaign issue.
"A lot of materials left Iraq and went to Syria," Duelfer said of the months during which our Democratic brethren were encouraging us to let inspections run their course. "There was certainly a lot of traffic across the border points. We've got a lot of data to support that, including people discussing it."
I AM IN NO WAY attempting to whitewash the situation vis-à-vis loose arms in Iraq. Certainly, the Bush Administration's success at guarding the huge weapons caches in Iraq has been spotty at best. Officials in both the State Department and the Department of Defense told me that the U.S. had no idea going into Iraq that they would find such staggeringly large stockpiles. The unspoken addendum to such a statement is that we had no firm plans to deal with them, either. As early as the beginning of this year, many of these ammo dumps -- some up to 40 square miles -- were wide open and only spottily patrolled, serving as Jihad 7-Elevens. The car bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices and all the rest that we constantly hear about are frequently just piles of spare ordnance packed tightly together with a plastic explosive trigger in the center.
But now that we know the materials from the Al Qaqaa facility were already missing at the time of liberation after a lightning fast ground war, it would seem that what actually allowed these weapons to either cross the border into Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, or fall into the hands of terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had little to do with the Bush Administration's post-war plans. On the other hand, it could have had quite a bit to do with the long, drawn-out process of confronting Saddam Hussein throughout 2002 and into 2003. Do Kerry and Edwards believe Hussein was the best steward for these deadly weapons? If these weapons are such a concern to Kerry and Edwards, perhaps we should have spent less time appeasing their precious pals over at the United Nations and gone into Iraq sooner.
KERRY AND EDWARDS SPEND quite a bit of time frantically demanding that Bush go before the nation and admit some -- any -- mistake. Now with the truth about Al Qaqaa well known and Duelfer on record saying the Iraqis had plenty of time to pass materials -- possibly conventional weapons, possibly WMDs to nations such as Syria -- are they willing to admit their own mistake in dragging their feet in the so-called "rush to war"? Now that they have taken such an interest in the weapons stockpiles of Saddam Hussein, are they willing to stand before us and admit maybe we should have spent less time appeasing their precious pals over at the United Nations and gone into Iraq sooner to secure these weapons?
If not, they should spare us the histrionics. It reeks of boredom and hypocrisy. Worse, it suggests that the two men who so desperately want to lead our country in both the War on Terror and in Iraq actually have no idea what the context of either conflict is. They seem to be waiting for the New York Times or CBS to explain it to them, and this week those two outlets have proven that they catch on exceedingly late in the game.
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