Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 29, 2004
POLITICS: Kay on HMX
Saw David Kay being interviewed by Soledad O'Brien on CNN's American Morning this morning on the issue of accounting for Iraq's prewar stocks of heavy-duty conventional explosives HMX and RDX (a link to the transcript should be posted on this page later today). Specifically, they watched a newly-released (as of last night, I think; I confess that this story is unfolding too fast for me to have confidence that I've followed every twist in it). First off, agree with him or not - or agree with him only in part - you have to like David Kay; his bluntness stands in stark contrast to the doublespeak of most international bureaucrats, and he mostly doesn't seem to have a dog in the various fights he weighs in on (recall how his initial report cheered opponents of the war with his declaration that "we were nearly all wrong" about Saddam having WMD, and also cheered proponents of war with his insistence that Saddam was deceiving and evading inspections and that Iraq was even more dangerous, on the whole, than we thought).
Anyway, once again Kay's recollections and analysis of the video gives a little something to everyone. His points, in no particular order:
1. He (Kay) had argued during the 1990s for destroying this stuff, but Hans Blix gave in to the Iraqi regime's demand that they be allowed to keep it for civilian construction purposes.
2. The tape (apparently shot by US media in April 2003, if I heard correctly) clearly shows an unbroken IAEA seal on at least one bunker, indicating that there was still some quantity of the explosives there at the time US troops arrived.
3. To Kay's eye, it's clear that the tape shows the presence of HMX. Kay didn't talk about RDX. Since I, like most bloggers, had never heard of either one until four days ago, I'm still mulling the significance of this, but as I noted below, Wizbang has been looking into the RDX side of the ledger.
4. Kay believes that US troops would and should have recognized these as explosives but, not being professional weapons inspectors, would likely not have recognized them as stocks of HMX.
5. Kay thinks the troops, having located stocks of explosives, should have been responsible for guarding them.
6. Although he didn't discuss the logistics of moving 360 or 380 or whatever tons of the stuff, Kay cautioned that you would be surprised at the things that looters, moving without trucks, can cart away by hand. He noted having seen people literally dismantling and taking away buildings brick by brick.
7. Kay stressed that it's important to keep in perspective the fact that this was just a small percentage of the high explosives in Iraq; he asserted (and this surprised even me) that Iraq possessed approximately 2/3 the amount of explosives as the US military, a staggering quantity for a country the size of California that could barely feed its people.