NYTimes.com > Opinion
Making Things Worse
Published: October 26, 2004
President Bush's misbegotten invasion of Iraq appears to have achieved what Saddam Hussein did not: putting dangerous weapons in the hands of terrorists and creating an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The murder of dozens of Iraqi Army recruits over the weekend is being attributed to the forces of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been identified by the Bush administration as a leading terrorist and a supposed link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. That was not true before the war - as multiple investigations have shown. But the breakdown of order since the invasion has changed all that. This terrorist, who has claimed many attacks on occupation forces and the barbaric murder of hostages, recently swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and renamed his group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
The hideous murder of the recruits was a reminder of the Bush administration's dangerously inflated claims about training an Iraqi security force. The officials responsible for these inexperienced young men sent them home for leave without weapons or guards, at a time when police and army recruits are constantly attacked. The men who killed them wore Iraqi National Guard uniforms.
A particularly horrific case of irony involves weapons of mass destruction. It's been obvious for months that American forces were not going to find the chemical or biological armaments that Mr. Bush said were stockpiled in Iraq. What we didn't know is that while they were looking for weapons that did not exist, they lost weapons that did.
James Glanz, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger reported in The Times yesterday that some 380 tons of the kinds of powerful explosives used to destroy airplanes, demolish buildings, make missile warheads and trigger nuclear weapons have disappeared from one of the many places in Iraq that the United States failed to secure. The United Nations inspectors disdained by the Bush administration had managed to monitor the explosives for years. But they vanished soon after the United States took over the job. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was so bent on proving his theory of lightning warfare that he ignored the generals who said an understaffed and underarmed invasion force could rush to Baghdad, but couldn't hold the rest of the country, much less guard things like the ammunition dump.
Iraqi and American officials cannot explain how some 760,000 pounds of explosives were spirited away from a well-known site just 30 miles from Baghdad. But they were warned. Within weeks of the invasion, international weapons inspectors told Washington that the explosives depot was in danger and that terrorists could help themselves "to the greatest explosives bonanza in history."
The disastrous theft was revealed in a recent letter to an international agency in Vienna. It was signed by the general director of Iraq's Planning and Following Up Directorate. It's too bad the Bush administration doesn't have one of those.
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