Thursday, April 17, 2003

Well, looks like nothing's been found so far. The biggest possibility, radioactive material at a weapons plant near Karbala, turned out to be a bust:

The team found radioactive material in a maintenance building and "dual use" biological equipment that could be used for peaceful or military purposes buried in metal containers under huge mounds of gravel and dirt.

Col. Richard McPhee, commander of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, a Defense Department unit responsible for the search for unconventional weapons, took a specialized nuclear detection team to the site today and removed seven canisters containing a radioactive isotope of cesium from the huge maintenance warehouse.

Although analysts have not yet determined its specific purpose, the experts said they thought that the cesium was probably intended to calibrate machinery in one of the many new buildings and production facilities that were under construction here.
The article goes on to point out that the inspectors are having some real problems: they are underequipped, get either underreaction or overreaction from military brass, and (ironically?) are beset by looters, who are carrying off things before they can be inspected.

Word that the plant was open to pillage spread quickly through surrounding impoverished villages, several of which have been without electricity, medicine and even water since the war began. By the time the Defense Department specialist unit arrived, much had already been looted.

For instance, the experts found manuals that came with two drying ovens imported from Germany, equipment that can be used to culture viruses and bacteria for weapons. But the ovens themselves were gone by the time the specialists arrived.
This is ominous. It suggests that the widespread looting is not just the theft and destruction of the heritage of the Iraqi people by gangs of thieves, but a security risk in-and-of itself if WMDs are indeed present. (Of course, if they aren't, there are other problems.)

By the way... I'd like to address the pathetic Movementarian rhetoric that the looters are somehow "the Iraqi people" and thus deserve their loot. Historical treasures like those found in the National Museum belong to all the Iraqi people, not just whichever got to the loot first. By allowing looters to steal and destroy these antiquities, the Bush administration (who, as I mentioned, were warned about this) are either inadvertently or deliberately erasing the past of the Iraqi people. This is also true of the fineries in Saddam's palaces- why should something that belongs to all the Iraqi people only benefit those who happen to live in Baghdad and fight their way into the compound first? If the palaces are to be sold off, then let them, but it should benefit all equally, not whomever happens to luck into stealing it. It is precisely this problem which plagues the former Soviet Union, albeit on a much, much grander scale: the kleptocrats were and are essentially looters, and beneficiaries of one rather unsuccessful form of American-led "transition". That, of course, wasn't Bush's fault, and had nothing to do with him. Still, it's an object lesson- looters are not representatives, or victims. They are simply thieves, stealing what should be public property and making it private without the people's knowledge or consent.

Then again, if you stop and think about it, that isn't a new thing for the Movementarians, is it?

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