T Nation

Looting in Iraq?

Hitchens puts a different – and more interesting – analytical tilt on the recent NYT story. I think this view fits with the overall idea of money, weapons and other things flowing into Syria before the invasion.

However, the NYT story is still very problematic if the dates are correct – it would seem this occurred after the invasion. Still, precise facts would need to be cross-checked to see whether it would even have been feasible to control for this – it does not necessarily lead to the conclusion there was a failure in the plan if the whole of Iraq wasn’t under the type of control that we would expect in NYC. We already know there were intelligence problems – this would suggest the problems were of a different type than the “No WMD – Bush lied!” crowd likes to babble about:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2114820/

This Was Not Looting –
How did Saddam’s best weapons plants get plundered?

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2005, at 5:29 AM PT

Once again, a major story gets top billing in a mainstream paper?and is printed upside down. “Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/13/international/middleeast/13loot.html ) This was how the New York Times led its front page on Sunday. According to the supporting story, Dr. Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, says that after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, “looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein’s most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms.”

As printed, the implication of the story was not dissimilar from the Al-Qaqaa disclosures, which featured so much in the closing days of the presidential election last fall. In that case, a huge stock of conventional high-explosives had been allowed to go missing and was presumably in the hands of those who were massacring Iraqi civilians and killing coalition troops. At least one comment from the Bush campaign surrogate appeared to blame this negligence on the troops themselves ( http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/july-dec04/explosives_10-29.html ). Followed to one possible conclusion, the implication was clear: The invasion of Iraq had made the world a more dangerous place by randomly scattering all sorts of weaponry, including mass-destruction weaponry, to destinations unknown.

It was eye-rubbing to read of the scale of this potential new nightmare. There in cold print was the Al Hatteen “munitions production plant that international inspectors called a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory.” And what of the Al Adwan facility, which “produced equipment used for uranium enrichment, necessary to make some kinds of nuclear weapons”? The overall pattern of the plundered sites was summarized thus, by reporters James Glanz and William J. Broad:

[i]The kinds of machinery at the various sites included equipment that could be used to make missile parts, chemical weapons or centrifuges essential for enriching uranium for atom bombs. [/i]

My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or MoveOn.org activist in the entire country who hasn’t stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam’s propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq’s physicists as “our nuclear mujahideen.”

My second question is: What’s all this about “looting”? The word is used throughout the long report, but here’s what it’s used to describe. "In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 ? teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. ? ‘The first wave came for the machines,’ Dr Araji said. ‘The second wave, cables and cranes.’ " Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to “organized looting.”

But obviously, what we are reading about is a carefully planned military operation. The participants were not panicked or greedy civilians helping themselves?which is the customary definition of a “looter,” especially in wartime. They were mechanized and mobile and under orders, and acting in a concerted fashion. Thus, if the story is factually correct?which we have no reason at all to doubt?then Saddam’s Iraq was a fairly highly-evolved WMD state, with a contingency plan for further concealment and distribution of the weaponry in case of attack or discovery.

Before the war began, several of the administration’s critics argued that an intervention would be too dangerous, either because Saddam Hussein would actually unleash his arsenal of WMD, or because he would divert it to third parties. That case at least had the merit of being serious (though I would want to argue that a regime capable of doing either thing was a regime that urgently needed to be removed). Since then, however, the scene has dissolved into one long taunt and jeer: “There were no WMD in Iraq. Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

The U.N. inspectors, who are solemnly quoted by Glanz and Broad as having “monitored” the alarming developments at Al Hatteen and elsewhere, don’t come out looking too professional, either. If by scanning satellite pictures now they can tell us that potentially thermonuclear stuff is on the loose, how come they couldn’t come up with this important data when they were supposedly “on the ground”?

Even in the worst interpretation, it seems unlikely that the material is more dangerous now than it was two years ago. Some of the elements?centrifuges, for example, and chemical mixtures?require stable and controlled conditions for effectiveness. They can’t simply be transferred to some kitchen or tent. They are less risky than they were in early 2003, in other words. If they went to a neighboring state, though ? Some chemical vats have apparently turned up on a scrap heap in Jordan, even if this does argue more for a panicky concealment than a plan of transfer. But anyway, this only returns us to the main point: If Saddam’s people could have made such a transfer after his fall, then they could have made it much more easily during his reign. (We know, for example, that the Baathists were discussing the acquisition of long-range missiles from North Korea as late as March 2003, and at that time, the nuclear Wal-Mart of the A.Q. Khan network was still in business. Iraq would have had plenty to trade in this WMD underworld.)

Supporters of the overdue disarmament and liberation of Iraq, all the same, can’t be complacent about this story. It seems flabbergasting that any of these sites were unsecured after the occupation, let alone for so long. Did the CIA yet again lack “human intelligence” as well as every other kind? The Bush administration staked the reputation of the United States on the matter. It won’t do to say that “mistakes were made.”

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and a regular contributor to Slate. His most recent book is Love, Poverty and War. He is also the author of A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq and of Blood, Class and Empire.

So does that mean they are retracting the drivel they wrote about there being no WND’s?

I have heard a lot about this. You can’t really call it looting if the “looters” show up with heavy lift equipment and dismantle and ship the equipment out. Looters usually destroy what they can’t carry. This seems to be state sponsored theft. I guess the state where the equipment wound up is the one who sponsored it.

Time to bomb the neighbors!
They have WMDs too ya know…

Bush lied, there were no WMD programs.

I mean Bush let Syria, Iran and Al Qaeda steal the WMDs.

But that cannot be true becaue Bush lied.

Either way, the execution was abysimal.

[quote]hedo wrote:
So does that mean they are retracting the drivel they wrote about there being no WND’s?

I have heard a lot about this. You can’t really call it looting if the “looters” show up with heavy lift equipment and dismantle and ship the equipment out. Looters usually destroy what they can’t carry. This seems to be state sponsored theft. I guess the state where the equipment wound up is the one who sponsored it.
[/quote]

The article doesn’t say WMD, it says machinery. So its still not drivel. And its not just the NYT, it’s the Duelfer Report and President Bush that admitted Iraq had no WMD (and haven’t had them since 1991).

The point is, because pentagon civilians (Rummy and Wolfie) ignored good planning by pentagon military, we had precious few resources to watch things like facilities that manufactured WMD.

But I think hedo, you have nailed how the right will spin this… Rush will be saying “see even the NYT is saying Bush was right about WMD!”
Of course they know their audience will never bother finding out what the NYT actually wrote.

What the facts say: Bush incompetence leads to looting of machinery from weapon facilities, the threat of which was one of our reasons for invading.

What the right will say:“Even the NYT says now that they had WMD”

yes they had them…in 1991.

[quote]100meters wrote:
hedo wrote:
So does that mean they are retracting the drivel they wrote about there being no WND’s?

I have heard a lot about this. You can’t really call it looting if the “looters” show up with heavy lift equipment and dismantle and ship the equipment out. Looters usually destroy what they can’t carry. This seems to be state sponsored theft. I guess the state where the equipment wound up is the one who sponsored it.

The article doesn’t say WMD, it says machinery. So its still not drivel. And its not just the NYT, it’s the Duelfer Report and President Bush that admitted Iraq had no WMD (and haven’t had them since 1991).

The point is, because pentagon civilians (Rummy and Wolfie) ignored good planning by pentagon military, we had precious few resources to watch things like facilities that manufactured WMD.

But I think hedo, you have nailed how the right will spin this… Rush will be saying “see even the NYT is saying Bush was right about WMD!”
Of course they know their audience will never bother finding out what the NYT actually wrote.

What the facts say: Bush incompetence leads to looting of machinery from weapon facilities, the threat of which was one of our reasons for invading.

What the right will say:“Even the NYT says now that they had WMD”

yes they had them…in 1991.
[/quote]

So you put your trust in the esteemed Sadaam and his trusted band of honest Baath Party associates. Sure they really did have our best interests at heart…we just didn’t give them a chance.

Bleeding hearts…you guys crack me up.

what do you think the equipment was for?..making children’s toys. Actually bad question you probably do.

[quote]100meters wrote:
hedo wrote:
So does that mean they are retracting the drivel they wrote about there being no WND’s?

I have heard a lot about this. You can’t really call it looting if the “looters” show up with heavy lift equipment and dismantle and ship the equipment out. Looters usually destroy what they can’t carry. This seems to be state sponsored theft. I guess the state where the equipment wound up is the one who sponsored it.

The article doesn’t say WMD, it says machinery. So its still not drivel. And its not just the NYT, it’s the Duelfer Report and President Bush that admitted Iraq had no WMD (and haven’t had them since 1991).

The point is, because pentagon civilians (Rummy and Wolfie) ignored good planning by pentagon military, we had precious few resources to watch things like facilities that manufactured WMD.

But I think hedo, you have nailed how the right will spin this… Rush will be saying “see even the NYT is saying Bush was right about WMD!”
Of course they know their audience will never bother finding out what the NYT actually wrote.

What the facts say: Bush incompetence leads to looting of machinery from weapon facilities, the threat of which was one of our reasons for invading.

What the right will say:“Even the NYT says now that they had WMD”

yes they had them…in 1991.
[/quote]

Do you actually think there is a large, important difference between enriched uranium and equipment used to create enriched uranium in terms of how our foreign policy should have treated the possibility that Saddam had them?

NOTE: Edited for clarification

[quote]hedo wrote:

So you put your trust in the esteemed Sadaam and his trusted band of honest Baath Party associates. Sure they really did have our best interests at heart…we just didn’t give them a chance.

Bleeding hearts…you guys crack me up.

what do you think the equipment was for?..making children’s toys. Actually bad question you probably do.

[/quote]

Hedo,

what don’t you get(or do you pretend? never really sure) He had wmd pre 1991, this we know, in part because WE HELPED FINANCE HIM. Post 1991 (Gulf War) he stopped these programs. Inspectors and no-fly zones and all the rest made them stay stopped. Just read the damn Duelfer Report. It wasn’t a matter of “trusting Saddam…” jeez… Why can’t you just cheer the President and say Rummy blew the planning. He blew it big time, and the military planning that Rummy ignored was just dead-on. You can at least do that can’t you?

Speaking of trust we went to this damn war because the President and crew trusted basically one guy, Chalabi. Guess what? He lied. And may have exchanged classified info to Iran. But I’ll guess you’ll cheer that too.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
Do you actually think there is a large, important difference between enriched uranium and equipment used to create enriched uranium in terms of how our foreign policy should have treated the possibility that Saddam had them?

NOTE: Edited for clarification[/quote]

Again, we treated the problem in a very effecive way. See Duelfer Report. If it had not worked, we would be finding WMD, instead we are finding no WMD since 1991.

[quote]100meters wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:
Do you actually think there is a large, important difference between enriched uranium and equipment used to create enriched uranium in terms of how our foreign policy should have treated the possibility that Saddam had them?

NOTE: Edited for clarification

Again, we treated the problem in a very effecive way. See Duelfer Report. If it had not worked, we would be finding WMD, instead we are finding no WMD since 1991.

[/quote]

I actually think it’s a stronger argument for intervention that Iraq had the implements to create their own systems, as compared to an alternative situation in which Saddam was limited to WMD he would purchase on the open market.

BTW, if it took this long for info to come out that huge equipment was moved, don’t you think we should allow for the possibility that much smaller items like chemicals, biological agents or enriched uranium may have been moved – either exported or hidden – when Saddam was still in power?

[quote]100meters wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:
Do you actually think there is a large, important difference between enriched uranium and equipment used to create enriched uranium in terms of how our foreign policy should have treated the possibility that Saddam had them?

NOTE: Edited for clarification

Again, we treated the problem in a very effecive way. See Duelfer Report. If it had not worked, we would be finding WMD, instead we are finding no WMD since 1991.

[/quote]

Yes and they kept the inspectors out of all those areas because they didn’t want them to see…what?

The British, French and Pakitstani intelligence services as well as our own…they all got it wrong too I guess.

Wake up time…smell the coffee. It’s not about cheering the president or bashing Rummy. It’s about common sense.

What kills me is how so many people say we should have gone in with more troops, as if that was a real option.

Due to the reduced size of our armed forces and our limited mobility we used what we had.

All military commanders will ask for more troops and equipment especially if they know it is not available. That way if things go wrong they can blame someone else for not getting exactly what they wanted.

Whether the invasion of Iraq was the most logical step in the War on Terror remains to be seen.

Why so many people get caught up in political propoganda baffles me.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
100meters wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:
Do you actually think there is a large, important difference between enriched uranium and equipment used to create enriched uranium in terms of how our foreign policy should have treated the possibility that Saddam had them?

NOTE: Edited for clarification

Again, we treated the problem in a very effecive way. See Duelfer Report. If it had not worked, we would be finding WMD, instead we are finding no WMD since 1991.

I actually think it’s a stronger argument for intervention that Iraq had the implements to create their own systems, as compared to an alternative situation in which Saddam was limited to WMD he would purchase on the open market.

BTW, if it took this long for info to come out that huge equipment was moved, don’t you think we should allow for the possibility that much smaller items like chemicals, biological agents or enriched uranium may have been moved – either exported or hidden – when Saddam was still in power?[/quote]

This info was breaking during the days after the war! When was that news team in MN filming Al qua qua or whatever? That was a day before bagdad. That’s the whole point of the article, incompetence in pre-war planning. God, you can’t admit that?

And neither one of you Hedo or BB are addressing NO WMD SINCE 1991. And yes Hedo all intel services relying on Chalabi were dead freaking wrong. Your President even says they didn’t have WMD. Don’t you trust the President Hedo?
The war’s about democracy now, not WMD and ties to Al queda.

[quote]100meters wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:
100meters wrote:
BostonBarrister wrote:
Do you actually think there is a large, important difference between enriched uranium and equipment used to create enriched uranium in terms of how our foreign policy should have treated the possibility that Saddam had them?

NOTE: Edited for clarification

Again, we treated the problem in a very effecive way. See Duelfer Report. If it had not worked, we would be finding WMD, instead we are finding no WMD since 1991.

I actually think it’s a stronger argument for intervention that Iraq had the implements to create their own systems, as compared to an alternative situation in which Saddam was limited to WMD he would purchase on the open market.

BTW, if it took this long for info to come out that huge equipment was moved, don’t you think we should allow for the possibility that much smaller items like chemicals, biological agents or enriched uranium may have been moved – either exported or hidden – when Saddam was still in power?

This info was breaking during the days after the war! When was that news team in MN filming Al qua qua or whatever? That was a day before bagdad. That’s the whole point of the article, incompetence in pre-war planning. God, you can’t admit that?

And neither one of you Hedo or BB are addressing NO WMD SINCE 1991. And yes Hedo all intel services relying on Chalabi were dead freaking wrong. Your President even says they didn’t have WMD. Don’t you trust the President Hedo?
The war’s about democracy now, not WMD and ties to Al queda.
[/quote]

The frustration that many have with an ABB’er like yourself is the blindness you exhibit due to your hate of the president.

Any reasonable person when presented with the multitude of information from a variety of sources, including other intelligence services, would have made the same decision. Unfortunately reasonable is the operating word and I have yet to have a discussion with an ABB’er that is reasonable.

Fortunately the fallacy of the arguments you and your fellow bashers have been clinging to have fell of deaf ears. But please continue to make them, you are driving the middle to our side. Pretty soon politics in this country will be the vast conservative majority and the liberal fringe.

Do you really think the Iraqi’s trained in a chemical environment because they didn’t intend on using chemical weapons. Do you think they spent all that money on manufacturing equipment because they didn’t want to make a bomb with it? Just curious?

Your argument will have to start making sense (common) for me to stay interested with it.

[quote]hedo wrote:
The frustration that many have with an ABB’er like yourself is the blindness you exhibit due to your hate of the president.

Any reasonable person when presented with the multitude of information from a variety of sources, including other intelligence services, would have made the same decision. Unfortunately reasonable is the operating word and I have yet to have a discussion with an ABB’er that is reasonable.

Fortunately the fallacy of the arguments you and your fellow bashers have been clinging to have fell of deaf ears. But please continue to make them, you are driving the middle to our side. Pretty soon politics in this country will be the vast conservative majority and the liberal fringe.

Do you really think the Iraqi’s trained in a chemical environment because they didn’t intend on using chemical weapons. Do you think they spent all that money on manufacturing equipment because they didn’t want to make a bomb with it? Just curious?

Your argument will have to start making sense (common) for me to stay interested with it.

[/quote]

Uhggh!

Hedo, how big are your bush pom poms? Damn! Reasonable people…WTF? You have yet to use reason in one of your responses! Reasonable would have been let weapons inspectors continue not finding WMD since 1991, while continuing to keep eyes in the sky, no fly zones, and not misleading the american voters. That reasoning would have saved how many billions in taxpayer dollars. That reasoning would have saved how many lives, how many limbs? Those tremendous resources of money and men could have been used on defending America and americans and killing the terrorists that existed before we created a new terror hotbed in Iraq, or was Porter Goss being unreasonable when he reported that Iraq is now a breeding ground for terrorism for at least the next 10 years.

In the event a real reason was found to invade Iraq a reasonable person would probably give a shit about military planning and therefore would carefully follow the advise of military experts. After listening to those experts a reasonable person would have known that we wouldn’t be greeted with flowers, and that the war would cost far more than the 1.7 billion claimed by Natsios. The same reasonable person would have hired really competent people to head the reconstruction of Iraq instead of hiring recent college grads to be in charge of millions of dollars because they posted their resume at the Heritage Foundation (painfully true). A reasonable person would never dream of writing up a torture policy, and he probably wouldn’t promote idiots that screw up.

Reasonable, commonsense? There’s nothing reasonable about this whitehouse.

[quote]100meters wrote:

This info was breaking during the days after the war! When was that news team in MN filming Al qua qua or whatever? That was a day before bagdad. That’s the whole point of the article, incompetence in pre-war planning. God, you can’t admit that?

And neither one of you Hedo or BB are addressing NO WMD SINCE 1991. And yes Hedo all intel services relying on Chalabi were dead freaking wrong. Your President even says they didn’t have WMD. Don’t you trust the President Hedo?
The war’s about democracy now, not WMD and ties to Al queda.
[/quote]

No – the only thing those al Aquaa (or whatever) has in common with the current information is that there were accusations of looting. The al Aquaa accusations dealt specifically with high-grade explosives – this was a different site, and dealt with equipment that could be used to produce WMD. Completely different, and completely different implications – which goes directly to your second point and what I brought up previously.

Firstly, yes, there were WMD since 1991, and the U.N. weapons inspectors were documenting their disposal prior to their being kicked out in the mid 90s. Secondly, as I said above, don’t you think that the fact these new allegations of “looting” of huge equipment – we’re talking large centrifuges and labs and things that needed to be transported by a fleet of trucks here – didn’t come to light until now indicate that perhaps much smaller items – such as actual WMD or their components – could have been moved and/or hidden while Saddam was still in power?

100 meters

Where do you get this information? I am a govt. contractor. I own a company and we bid Federal work all the time. It’s hard to get.

Do you know how hard it is to get work from the govt.? Especially for reconstruction and defense. It’s a dollars and capability game.

Recent college grads in charge of reconstruction in Iraq because they posted a resume on the Heritage foundation site? That has to be one of the most ridiculous things you have posted. Seriously I am sure you actually have something to say…but stuff like that just makes people laugh.

How big ar my pom-poms for Bush. Gez imagine supporting a sitting president during war time. I’m old enough to remember that used to be the right thing to do. Too bad the bias and hate clouds your judgement.

As to troops in Iraq. Let’s just say their are a lot of things worth fighting for. Read up on “current” strategy. (strategypage.com) terrorists are being killed everyday. It is convenient that they are collected in one place, using old tactics to fight the great satan.

[quote]hedo wrote:
100 meters

Where do you get this information? I am a govt. contractor. I own a company and we bid Federal work all the time. It’s hard to get.

[quote]

Ok

[quote]
Do you know how hard it is to get work from the govt.? Especially for reconstruction and defense. It’s a dollars and capability game.

[quote]

totally with you here…

[quote]
Recent college grads in charge of reconstruction in Iraq because they posted a resume on the Heritage foundation site? That has to be one of the most ridiculous things you have posted. Seriously I am sure you actually have something to say…but stuff like that just makes people laugh.

[quote]

O.K. lost you here, If you were telling the truth before about capability, you should be outraged that some taxpayer dollars are being controlled by inexperienced children.

[quote]
How big ar my pom-poms for Bush. Gez imagine supporting a sitting president during war time. I’m old enough to remember that used to be the right thing to do. Too bad the bias and hate clouds your judgement.

[quote]
I’m old enought to remember that the president said the rest of the world was none of our business (no nation building, not the world’s police force) while you cheered so loudly as the president lied to your face and hired as many staffers as possible from Project for a New American Century whose main goal IS to be the global police force. I find it really hard to support a guy who has so little respect for the american voter, and impossible to support a president who lies about being a conservative when he is really a neo-con whom I abhor. What aspect of the Neo-con agenda do you cheer for the most Hedo?
your love of Leo Strauss? American Imperialism? Preference for a welfare state?

[quote]
As to troops in Iraq. Let’s just say their are a lot of things worth fighting for. Read up on “current” strategy. (strategypage.com) terrorists are being killed everyday. It is convenient that they are collected in one place, using old tactics to fight the great satan.[/quote]

what’s convenient about creating people to kill? It’s costing big bucks, and worse, many lives to create and kill these new terrorist hedo.

[quote]100meters wrote:
hedo wrote:
100 meters

Where do you get this information? I am a govt. contractor. I own a company and we bid Federal work all the time. It’s hard to get.

Ok

Do you know how hard it is to get work from the govt.? Especially for reconstruction and defense. It’s a dollars and capability game.

totally with you here…

Recent college grads in charge of reconstruction in Iraq because they posted a resume on the Heritage foundation site? That has to be one of the most ridiculous things you have posted. Seriously I am sure you actually have something to say…but stuff like that just makes people laugh.

O.K. lost you here, If you were telling the truth before about capability, you should be outraged that some taxpayer dollars are being controlled by inexperienced children.

How big ar my pom-poms for Bush. Gez imagine supporting a sitting president during war time. I’m old enough to remember that used to be the right thing to do. Too bad the bias and hate clouds your judgement.

I’m old enought to remember that the president said the rest of the world was none of our business (no nation building, not the world’s police force) while you cheered so loudly as the president lied to your face and hired as many staffers as possible from Project for a New American Century whose main goal IS to be the global police force. I find it really hard to support a guy who has so little respect for the american voter, and impossible to support a president who lies about being a conservative when he is really a neo-con whom I abhor. What aspect of the Neo-con agenda do you cheer for the most Hedo?
your love of Leo Strauss? American Imperialism? Preference for a welfare state?

As to troops in Iraq. Let’s just say their are a lot of things worth fighting for. Read up on “current” strategy. (strategypage.com) terrorists are being killed everyday. It is convenient that they are collected in one place, using old tactics to fight the great satan.

what’s convenient about creating people to kill? It’s costing big bucks, and worse, many lives to create and kill these new terrorist hedo.

[/quote]

100

Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I am saying you are making that comment up. Their are no children overseeing the reconstruction in Iraq. The military has a lot of young men. So do the contractors. No contractor go that job by posting on the Heritage website.

As to killing terrorists. Think rats. Want to kill a lot of rats, go to where they live. You don’t go stalking them. Read Tommy Franks book. Anything by James Dunnigan, the strategy is pretty straight forward.