The Washington Dispatch October 29, 2004
Pentagon Presents Inconclusive Evidence Regarding Missing Weapons
News Analysis by TWD's Editor, Shane Cory.
In a Pentagon press briefing, the Department of Defense presented an Army officer to clear up the ongoing scandal regarding the missing high explosives recently reported by the New York Times.
The officer, Maj. Austin Pearson, explained his duties while in Iraq and that he had removed approximately 250 tons of ammunition from what could have been the al-Qaqaa complex. The removal operation was conducted on April 13th 2003 according to Pearson.
Although Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita began the briefing stating that some of the weapons removed were the missing HMX and RDX explosives, when grilled by reporters, Maj. Pearson could not say definitively that any of the explosives in question were removed by his unit. Furthermore, he could not say whether he saw any IAEA seals which were used to mark HMX bunkers. He did state that they went into bunkers that were already open.
The impact of the Pentagon's press conference was greatly minimized by the video evidence that has been released within the last 48 hours.
Footage shot by ABC affiliate KSTP on April 18th 2003 shows boxes clearly marked "al-Qaqaa" along with barrels marked with U.N. hazardous materials stickers. Soldiers used bolt cutters to gain access to bunkers sealed with what appeared to be an IAEA marker. Within the bunkers were rows of barrels and boxes designated at 1.1D which is the HazCat code for materials such as HMX and RDX.
The Washington Dispatch contacted defense and intelligence expert John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org regarding the KSTP video. Asked whether the footage supports the IAEA and Iraqi Interim Government's claim that the weapons went missing after April 9th, Pike stated that the footage was "strongly suggestive, but not 100%." Additionally, Pike pointed out that IAEA reports state that the explosives were stored in boxes and barrels as shown within the video.
In addition to the strong video evidence presented by KSTP, the Pentagon contradicted earlier reports and photos that suggested that the weapons were removed before the Invasion of Iraq. Additionally, the satellite photo released by the Pentagon dated March 17, 2003 shows vehicles in front of a bunker in al-Qaqaa. As clarified by John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. The bunker shown in the Pentagon photo did not contain the high explosives according to pre-existing IAEA maps.
Thus far, the Bush administration and their defenders have been emphatic in steering the onus of responsibility away from George Bush during this final week of the election. Arguments presented against the growing evidence have included the theory that the weapons were removed by Saddam before the invasion; that the weapons were removed by Russian forces; and today that the weapons were destroyed by American forces on April 13th 2003.
While there is no definitive answer as to what happened to the missing explosives, the evidence unknowingly filmed by embedded KSTP reporters represents the closest link to the truth and supports the claims made by the IAEA and Iraq's Interim Government.
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