Posted by Peter
Despite the NBC News report that told America that its own reporters verified the HMX and RDX had been removed from the Al-Qaqaa bunker in Iraq before American soldiers ever got there, the New York Times continues to push its discredited "gotcha" on its front page:
The White House sought on Monday to explain the disappearance of 380 tons of high explosives in Iraq that American forces were supposed to secure, as Senator John Kerry seized on the missing cache as "one of the great blunders of Iraq" and said President Bush's "incredible incompetence" had put American troops at risk. ...
Yet even as Mr. Bush pressed his case, his aides tried to explain why American forces had ignored a series of warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency about the vulnerability of the huge stockpile of high explosives, which was first reported on Monday by CBS and The New York Times.
In several sessions with reporters, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, alternately insisted that Mr. Bush "wants to make sure that we get to the bottom of this" and tried to distance the president from knowledge of the issue, saying Mr. Bush was informed of the disappearance only within the last 10 days. White House officials said they could not explain why warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency in May 2003 about the vulnerability of the stockpile to looting never resulted in action. At one point, Mr. McClellan pointed out that "there were a number of priorities at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Times write David Sanger never bothers to mention the fact that NBC's report earlier tonight essentially negated the entire thrust of their argument (also at Drudge):
NBC News: Miklaszewski: “April 10, 2003, only three weeks into the war, NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne as they temporarily take over the Al Qakaa weapons installation south of Baghdad. But these troops never found the nearly 380 tons of some of the most powerful conventional explosives, called HMX and RDX, which is now missing. The U.S. troops did find large stockpiles of more conventional weapons, but no HMX or RDX, so powerful less than a pound brought down Pan Am 103 in 1988, and can be used to trigger a nuclear weapon. In a letter this month, the Iraqi interim government told the International Atomic Energy Agency the high explosives were lost to theft and looting due to lack of security. Critics claim there were simply not enough U.S. troops to guard hundreds of weapons stockpiles, weapons now being used by insurgents and terrorists to wage a guerrilla war in Iraq.” (NBC’s “Nightly News,” 10/25/04)
As I posted earlier, this confirms that the materials had already been moved or looted from the site before American troops arrived at Al-Qaqaa. After finding the IAEA seals already broken and no high-priority materiel on site, the Americans moved on to more pressing problems -- like combat and securing lines of communication.
The bigger question we should ask is why the Times feels the need to push this story so hard. It's not exactly like Rathergate in that no fraudulent documents have been used to rationalize the story, but it feels like the Times may be trying very hard to find anything that will embarass the President in the final week of campaigning. In this case, the Times rushed a story to its pages without doing any proper research on the underlying facts, and wound up getting smacked down by NBC.