Monday, May 12, 2003

So, remember back when we needed to go to war in Iraq now! immediately! because of the threat of the weapons of mass destruction! which Saddam Hussein was concealing! from the UN? Remember back to then?

The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants. ...

Leaders of Task Force 75's diverse staff -- biologists, chemists, arms treaty enforcers, nuclear operators, computer and document experts, and special forces troops -- arrived with high hopes of early success. They said they expected to find what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 -- hundreds of tons of biological and chemical agents, missiles and rockets to deliver the agents, and evidence of an ongoing program to build a nuclear bomb.

Scores of fruitless missions broke that confidence, many task force members said in interviews.

But their disappointment has to be balanced against the liberation of the Iraqi people at large. And sure enough, Jay Garner, head of our provisional authority is departing very quickly, just like he said he would. If only to be replaced by another American proconsul, L. Paul Bremer III, as part of a overhaul of the administration there. And he'll find the liberation going just swimmingly:

Officials said the impetus for the overhaul stems in part from urgent warnings that the escalating violence and a breakdown of civil order are already paralyzing the effort to rebuild Iraq.

"Unless we do something in the near future, it is likely to blow up in our face," one official said.

Today, black smoke billowed over Baghdad's skyline as looters set fire to the city's former telephone communications center, apparently as a distraction for others who tried to steal cars nearby.

On the other side of the city, hundreds of looters, who now range through the city every day, poured into a former palace of Saddam Hussein after American military units decided to vacate it.

Baghdad is once again becoming a city of almost hourly eruptions of gunfire. Criminals are shooting at other criminals, officials said. Families are settling scores, and some Iraqis are just taking potshots at American forces.

But hey, some Iraqis have truly been liberated:

The only mental patient left behind at the high security ward of Al Rashad state hospital is a killer named Ali Sabah, a former math and science teacher with jet black hair and dark, searching eyes. ...

The complaint of the Iraqi psychiatric staff is that the marines stood by as looters carried away every bed, basin, cooker, air-conditioner, piece of furniture or thing of value.

The marines broke the door down on the maximum security wing, and in no time the patients were gone, untethered from the antipsychotic drugs that stabilized many of them.

One doctor said he was told by a Marine officer that the officer was there to "liberate and then leave."

But at least we now know we don't have to worry about the Iraqi WMD program, right? QuothNewsweek:

The well-known Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, had nearly two tons of partially enriched uranium, along with significant quantities of highly radioactive medical and industrial isotopes, when International Atomic Energy Agency officials made their last visit in January. By the time U.S. troops arrived in early April, armed guards were holding off looters -- but the Americans only disarmed the guards, Al Tuwaitha department heads told NEWSWEEK. "We told them, 'This site is out of control. You have to take care of it,' says Munther Ibrahim, Al Tuwaitha's head of plasma physics. "The soldiers said, 'We are a small group. We cannot take control of this site'." As soon as the Americans left, looters broke in. The staff fled; when they returned, the containment vaults' seals had been broken, and radioactive material was everywhere.

But none of the looted material would be helpful in building a nuke -- just a "dirty bomb" spreading radioactive poison with conventional explosives. So the war was a success! I feel so much better now.


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