Not surprisingly, most news media outlets are missing the most important point of the missing explosives story. In their search for what they call "balance," they have posed the controversy as a dichotomy: Either (A) the weapons went missing after April 9, in which case the Bush administration is at fault, or (B) they went missing during the invasion, in which case the White House and Pentagon can be exonerated.
But even if the explosives were taken away sometime during the three-week invasion -- which so far sounds improbable -- the fact that they would almost certainly still be wrapped securely in UN inspection seals should be presented to the public. No matter how the explosives disappeared, the net result is that the invasion led to the discovery of zero weapons of mass destruction but resulted in the loss of nearly 380 tons that had already been identified and secured.
Also receiving the gloss-over is the fact that the US, by its own admission, has known since May 2003 that the explosives were missing. Conservative pundits are crying "foul" about the timing. Releasing such an "October Surprise" story just a week before the election does seem curious...
But didn't the Bush administration fail to inform the public in the last year and a half that it lost massive quantities of a substance suitable for taking down airliners and starting major fission reactions? (No matter what Scott McClellan says, it is a fact that HDX/RDX explosive can be used to initiate a nuclear detonation -- in fact the presence of such stockpiles in Iraq has been used as evidence that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program!)
In case I sound too partisan, let me assure readers that I see no reason whatsoever to believe that a John Kerry administration would treat this scandal differently than the Bush White House has so far.
The bipartisan strategy for handling this type of "situation" would be as follows:
- pretend the explosives are not missing (whistle inconspicuously)
- make sure international inspectors are not allowed to find out what is missing -- limit their "mandate" to specific sites
- when someone inevitably points out that the explosives are missing, sound surprised
- downplay the potential danger of the explosives
- conclude that the explosives were already missing when you showed up on the scene
- blame the opposition for pointing out that you messed up and put the entire world in grave danger