After several days of twisting (or perhaps spinning) in the wind over the disappearance of 380 tons of potent explosives from the Al Qa Qaa munitions stockpile, the Bush Campaign may finally be brought up short by the facts. It seems it's own poor planning is to blame for this latest, and quite serious, cock-up.
According to a joint CBS News/AP story
, the commander of the first U.S. military unit to arrive in the area said,"Our focus was killing bad guys." He then added that he "would have needed four times as many troops to search and secure all the ammo dumps his troops came across during the push into Iraq."
He again confirmed what many have already reported -- that U.S. forces did not search the site for explosives, and they did not secure it.
In recent days, the Bush administration has tried various spins to evade responsibility for the fact that thousands of tons of high explosives are now in the hands of terrorists. Initially, they said they were shocked
, shocked to learn that munitions were missing, and that the situation would be thoroughly investigated.
They tried to deflect attention, by touting the large numbers of munitions that U.S. forces did manage to secure in Iraq (although Scott McClellan got tripped up by his own math
). They also tried to take the position that these explosives, which can bring down a jumbo jet or detonate a nuclear bomb, are not that big a deal.
Finally, they tried to grab an apparent life-raft flung to them by NBC News -- a report which suggested that the munitions may have already been gone by the time U.S. forces arrived on the site. Kind of a "the old regime ate my homework" excuse. Within 24 hours, Tom Brokaw
himself issued a clear, if overly polite riposte, saying:
We did not conclude the explosives were missing or had vanished, nor did we say they missed the explosives. We simply reported that the 101st did not find them. For its part, the Bush campaign immediately pointed to our report as conclusive proof that the weapons had been removed before the Americans arrived. That is possible, but that is not what we reported.
And ultimately, all of the administration's early explanations were based on the demonstrably false premise that they knew nothing about this situation until the middle of October.
The SCLM is doing a variable job with this. The Peach salutes NBC Nightly News for underscoring the holes in the administration's case, and we are feeling warm and, well, fuzzy, about the New York Times today, based on its willingness to hold Bush accountable in this case. Meanwhile, CNN continued (at least till yesterday) to run with the discredited administration spin on the original NBC report.
The biggest mystery, for our money, is how Bush could have failed to even make mention of this huge story for two days now. Again, not for want of trying by our usually timid press corps. He has studiously ignored shouted questions from reporters, attempting to get answers on this.