Wednesday, October 27, 2004

CBS Reported Search For Weapons at Al-Qaqaa in April

From Captain Ed at Captain's Quarter's. CBS reported in A that the Third Infantry Division had indeed searched the Al-Qaqaa site, and had found the suspicious white powder that would have constituted the type of material the New York Times now claims the Bush Administration let walk away. From the CBS News archive:

U.S. troops found thousands of boxes of white powder, nerve agent antidote and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare at an industrial site south of Baghdad. But a senior U.S. official familiar with initial testing said the materials were believed to be explosives.

Col. John Peabody, engineer brigade commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said the materials were found Friday at the Latifiyah industrial complex just south of Baghdad. ... The facility is part of a larger complex known as the Latifiyah Explosives and Ammunition Plant al Qa Qaa.

The CBS story continues:

The senior U.S. official, based in Washington and speaking on condition of anonymity, said the material was under further study. The site is enormous and U.S. troops are still investigating it for potential weapons of mass destruction, the official said.

"Initial reports are that the material is probably just explosives, but we're still going through the place," the official said. ...

The facility had been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons site. U.N. inspectors visited the plant at least nine times, including as recently as Feb. 18.

It appears that CBS News failed to search its own archives before it launched an attack against the troops and against the President. A guest blogger at Instapundit has pointed to this entry from the Belmint Club which makes an excellect point:

The contemporaneous CBS report, written before anyone knew al Qa Qaa would be a big deal, establishes two important things. The first is that 3ID knew it was looking through an IAEA inspection site. The second was that the site had shown unmistakable signs of tampering before the arrival of US troops. "Peabody said troops found thousands of boxes, each of which contained three vials of white powder, together with documents written in Arabic that dealt with how to engage in chemical warfare." Now presumably those thousands of boxes were not all packaged and labeled with chemical warfare instructions under IAEA supervision, so the inescapable conclusion is that a fairly large and organized type of activity had been under way in Al Qa Qaa for some time.

A Powerline reader sent the guys there an image of a story from an April 5, 2003 story by Judith Miller and Douglas Jehl that included the following paragraphs:

Senior American officials have barely mentioned the hunt for Mr. Hussein's unconventional weapons in recent days. At an industrial site south of Baghdad today, United States troops found what were reported to be thousands of boxes of white powder, believed to be a nerve agent antidote. But preliminary tests showed it to be an explosive.

Troops also discovered documents in Arabic that officers said might relate to Iraq's chemical warfare program. But military officials here said that special American teams with headquarters in the region had not been sent to the site.

This suggests that the substances and documents, found at the Latifiya Explosives and Ammunition Plant Al Qaa Qaa, about 25 miles south of the capital, might be related to Iraq's efforts to defend itself against chemical weapons, rather than to an offensive chemical warfare program.

Three things are now abundantly clear:

1) CBS and The New York Times set about to launch an October surprise to influence the election. It is possible that they used a letter given to them by Mohammed El Baradei for the story.

2) CBS and The New York Times were so determined to get what they saw as a story damaging to the President in the paper and to the public that they failed to do even a cursory check of their own archives. It took simply searching the CBS site to come up with their own story from April 2003.

3) The Kerry Campaign is willing to grasp at headlines, no matter how untrue, in the last week of this campaign. Kerry/Edwards is willing to trust the New York Times over the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne.

The fact is there is no there there. The only story from this is that the New York Times and CBS are willing to work in concert with the Kerry Campaign on a fraudulent story in order to try to damage the President in the last week of the campaign. At this point in the campaign, this tyoe of story would probabnly have little effect on how anyone votes anyway. If a person is willing to change their mind and vote for Kerry over the President because of a confusing, unclear story about a small cache of weapons in a country that held a million tons of weapons then so be it. The story will only live on in Kerry spoeeches and in the pages of the New York Times, the average American has already moved on.

Be sure to check the current posts for updates.