March 13, 2005


5 Bucks Sez Jonah Will Ignore This "Scoop"

Last week, Jonah Goldberg puffed up his itty-bitty chest and took on the "liberal media" (specifically The New York Times) for providing the Kerry campaign with an "October Surprise":
Where Did that “News Scoop” Go?
Remember al-Qaqaa? This was the massive cache of explosives that American forces failed to secure after the fall of Saddam. In the final week of the presidential campaign it was The Most Important Story on Earth.

The New York Times splashed the news on its front page and didn't stop splashing it for a week. In all, the Times ran 16 stories and columns about al-Qaqaa, plus seven anti-Bush letters to the editor on the subject over an eight-day period. Editorial boards across the country hammered the "outrage" for days. It led all the news broadcasts. It became the central talking point of the Kerry campaign, with John Kerry bellowing his indignation at the administration's incompetence at every stump stop. Maureen Dowd wrote a column about it, titled "White House of Horrors."

Bush supporters were furious. The original Times story read like it was intended to be an October surprise. It dripped with frightening quotes about how the stash was so big it was like "Mars on Earth." The authors quoted an IAEA memo warning that this was "the greatest explosives bonanza in history" and that it was now surely in the hands of shadowy terrorists across the Middle East. Because these explosives were allegedly of the type used to trigger nuclear weapons, the authors felt the need to drag in the specter of the Nagasaki bombing (though the question why WMD-less Saddam wanted explosives used for nuclear triggers got lost in the Bush bashing). Worst of all, we were told, Bush had been warned about these explosives and failed to snap them up right away.

But, as to the intentions of these critics, the most revealing facts were ones that did not appear in that first broadside in the Times. The frightening multi-author article, which dropped like manna from heaven for the Kerry campaign, couldn't find room to mention that the 380 tons of missing explosives constituted a fairly small fraction of the 400,000 tons of explosives and weapons that had been either destroyed or secured from more than 10,000 sites. In that context, what Kerry was calling the greatest blunder of the war suddenly was more like a regrettable but not quite remarkable lapse, in the midst of an extremely fluid situation.

Oh, and they left something else out: The weapons might have been removed before the invasion. Over the course of the week, the Times was forced to concede, often grudgingly and obliquely, that the weapons may not have been there for U.S. forces to secure in the first place. Moreover, it became increasingly implausible to imagine a convoy of trucks absconding with the explosives without U.S. intelligence noticing in the early days after the fall of Iraq. The United States owned the roads and watched them from the air.

So, anyway, I'd forgotten about all this. Bush won the election despite the al-Qaqaa drumbeat from Kerry and his surrogates in and out of the press.

But Byron York, my NR colleague, didn't forget. He wondered, whatever happened to The Biggest Story on Earth? The answer, it turns out, is nothing. The Times has not run a single story about the al-Qaqaa story since November 1. Nada, bupkis, zilch.
I'm going to try and ignore the fact that this dear boy Jonah thinks the loss of 380 TONS (!) of explosives is "regrettable" and move right to Exhibit B: Today's New York Times:
Looting at Iraqi Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Official Says
In the weeks after Baghdad fell 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, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away...

The threat posed by these types of facilities was cited by the Bush administration as a reason for invading Iraq, but the installations were left largely unguarded by allied forces in the chaotic months after the invasion.

Dr. Araji's statements came just a week after a United Nations agency disclosed that approximately 90 important sites in Iraq had been looted or razed in that period...

White House officials, apprised of the Iraqi account by The New York Times, said it was already well known that many weapons sites had been looted. They had no other comment.
Jonah? Jonah? Are you out there?

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