NBC now says that the 380 tons of missing Iraqi explosives might have vanished before the U.S. invasion. If true, it's a small comfort -- the bottom line is, the insurgents there now have the stuff, to go along with their giant bankroll, swelling manpower, and seemingly-impermeable command structure.Besides, the NBC story -- now being pushed by conservative commentators -- doesn't quite hold together, Josh Marshall believes.
On Monday, the Pentagon gave mixed signals about what the first troops on the scene found. Or rather, an official whom the AP describes as closely involved in the Iraq survey work says the explosives were there, while Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita says they weren't.Di Rita's claim that the explosives were already gone was picked up this evening by NBC news which reported that one of its news crews embedded with the 101st Airborne visited the facility on April 10th and found no weapons...[But] military and non-proliferation analysts say that a detachment of soldiers not specifically trained in weapons inspections work and certainly an NBC news crew simply wouldn't be in a position to make such a determination. We're not talking about a storage unit with a few boxes in it, but a massive weapons complex made up of almost a hundred buildings and bunkers.Former weapons inspector David Albright was asked about this on CNN Monday evening and he said, "I would want to check it out. I mean it's a big site. These bunkers are big and it could get lost in that complex and it may be that they just didn't go to the right places and didn't see it."THERE'S MORE: "There wasn't a search," says the NBC news producer with the 101st when it stopped at the weapons dump. "The mission that the brigade had was to get to Baghdad. That was more of a pit stop there for us. And, you know, the searching, I mean certainly some of the soldiers head off on their own, looked through the bunkers just to look at the vast amount of ordnance lying around. But as far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away. But there was at that point the roads were shut off. So it would have been very difficult, I believe, for the looters to get there."