The New York Times is reporting that " nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, produce missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations."

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no-man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished after the American invasion last year...The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.
Josh Marshall has more, including this heartwarming tidbit:
The Defense Department has been trying to keep this secret for some time. The DOD even went so far as to order the Iraqis not to inform the IAEA that the materials had gone missing. Informing the IAEA, of course, would lead to it becoming public knowledge in the United States.
The Times notes that "the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the material of the type stolen from Al Qaqaa." Now, the insurgents have something like 700,000 times that amount at their disposal, to go along with their ocean of cash, and increasingly sophisticated tactics like these. Bad. Very, very bad. Andrew Sullivan hits in on the head:
In terrorist-ridden Iraq, the possibility of serious weaponry falling into the hands of the enemy and being deployed against American troops and conceivably American citizens is unforgivable. The whole point of the invasion was to prevent this kind of transfer from taking place. Yet, thanks to this administration, it may have precipitated it.
THERE'S MORE: Juan Cole points out that this is one of several "missing deadly weapons" scandals to break in Iraq. In the middle of the month, we heard about the nuclear equipment buildings that simply disappeared from the world's satellite screens. And in the summer of 2003, we learned that radioactive materials -- good for a dirty bomb -- had vanished from Iraq's al-Tuwaitha facility.
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