Monday, October 25, 2004

Pentagon Endeavors to Keep Its Story Straight

I'm confused.

AP story this morning:
At the Pentagon, an official who monitors developments in Iraq said U.S.-led coalition troops had searched Al-Qaqaa in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives, under IAEA seal since 1991, were intact. Thereafter, the site was not secured by U.S. forces, the official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

AP story this evening (same author):
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said U.S.-led forces searched the Al-Qaqaa facility after the invasion. "Coalition forces were present in the vicinity at various times during and after major combat operations," he said. "The forces searched 32 bunkers and 87 other buildings at the facility, but found no indicators of WMD (weapons of mass destruction)."

And there's this story, from AFP this afteroon:
A Pentagon spokesman said it was unclear whether 380 tons of high explosives reported missing from a weapons facility in Iraq disappeared before or after it fell under control of US forces.
* * *
"This is a first report. We do not know when -- if those weapons did exist at that facility -- they were last seen, and under whose control they were last in," Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said. "It's very possible -- certainly it's plausible -- that it was the Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) regime that last had control of these things," he told AFP.

DiRita said US forces visited the Al-Qaqaa site several times after the US invasion of Iraq as part of a US-led search for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related material. But he said it is unclear whether the missing explosives were at the site during those visits. "The forces searched 32 bunkers and 87 other buildings at the facility. Some explosive material was discovered, none of it carried IAEA seals. They did find stuff there. They probably secured it or destroyed it," he said.

DiRita said Iraq was swimming in weapons and ammunition after the war. More than 500 weapons sites were identified after the war, and some 200,000 tons of ammunition have been destroyed by US forces. "I'm told they (US forces) made several visits to that facility looking for WMD related (material), and obviously we need to learn more about exactly what it is they saw there," he said. "There have been these reports that there is evidence this place has been looted. But I think that's something to be very careful about. That place was not in anybody's control but Saddam Hussein's from the beginning of the war until sometime in April," he said.

"It's just really difficult to say with any kind of certainty what happened to those weapons, and who were the last people who had control of them. But I think it's at least arguable that the last person who had control of them was the Saddam Hussein regime," he said.

Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo) notes the discrepancy too.

No comments: