Staggering, Breathtaking, Overwhelming Incompetence

This story, originally just reported in the NYTimes but now being picked up by other news organizations, is big. And awfully, awfully bad, for all of us — but especially for our soldiers in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 24 – The Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives – used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons – are missing from one of Iraq’s most sensitive former military installations.

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man’s land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.

…The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.

These explosives are now killing dozens or scores of Iraqis and Americans in Iraq every week, and may be valuable on the black market to parties interested in developing nuclear weapons. Josh Marshall has more sordid details and depressing implications of this story, including how the US pressured the Iraqis to violate IAEA rules and not report the theft of this dangerous material.

I am flabbergasted. I goggle. I am in awe. I can not overstate how much spectacular incompetence it must have taken to let this happen.

Someone should lose their job over this. Since Bush seems incapable of holding any of his people accountable for their mistakes, I suggest making it Bush himself.