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Monday, October 30, 2006

If we didn't arm our enemies, then where would we be?

NY Times:
The American military has not properly tracked hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces and has failed to provide spare parts, maintenance personnel or even repair manuals for most of the weapons given to the Iraqis, a federal report released Sunday has concluded.
[T]he inspector general's office ... found major discrepancies in American military records on where thousands of 9-millimeter pistols and hundreds of assault rifles and other weapons have ended up. The American military did not even take the elementary step of recording the serial numbers of nearly half a million weapons provided to Iraqis, the inspector general found, making it impossible to track or identify any that might be in the wrong hands.

Exactly where untracked weapons could end up--and whether some have been used against American soldiers--were not examined in the report, although black-market arms dealers thrive on the streets of Baghdad, and official Iraq Army and police uniforms can easily be purchased as well, presumably because government shipments are intercepted or otherwise corrupted.

In a written response to the inspector general's findings, the American military largely conceded the shortcomings. The military said it would assist the Iraqis in determining the spare parts and maintenance requirements for the weapons. The military also said it has now instituted a "process to accurately issue weapons by quantity and serial number listing."
Mr. Bowen found that the American military was not able to say how many Iraqi logistics personnel it had trained--in this case because, the military told the inspector general, a computer network crash erased records. Those problems have occurred even though the United States has spent $133 million on the weapons program and $666 million on Iraqi logistics capabilities.
Remember how one of W's excuses for invading Iraq was that Saddam hadn't documented the destruction of his alleged weapons of mass destruction? Like this, from the State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003:
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
Saddam, at least, had a plausible reason. If Saddam did, indeed have 30,000 whatevers at some point in time (Bush is obviously being intentionally vague on these points) after the Gulf War, then he was violating one of those UN resolutions, which might give some idiot US president a reason to start a war. With weapons inspectors crawling around the country, Saddam decided (if indeed he still had them at this point) to destroy every such weapon he could locate (since confirmed by UN and US weapons inspectors). Documenting this destruction would have provided evidence that he had in fact violated those resolutions. Was Ken Lay standing by the shredders at Enron, keeping careful records of every incriminating document destroyed? From the Downing Street Memos and many other sources, we know that W was going to war with Iraq in any case. Saddam didn't record his destruction of his WMD's, and W used that against him. If Saddam had recorded the destruction, W would have used THAT against him. (The "mobile biological weapons labs" were bogus from the very beginning; Bush might just as well have demanded that Saddam document that he had destroyed Darth Vader's death star.)

On the other hand, what possible excuse does the Pentagon have for handing out half a million weapons with no documentation whatsoever? As usual, they'll hide behind incompetence and the fog of war. But I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the ruling class in this country is making a fortune from the war. If it started to look like the war was over, the gravy train might cease. They can't count on the miniscule alleged flow of arms from Iran and Syria to keep the blood flowing--they have to make sure that Iraqis are armed sufficiently to keep killing each other and Americans for years to come. They made sure that Iraqi conventional weapons dumps like al Qaqaa were open to all comers during and after the invasion, and they've been handing out weapons by the hundreds of thousands to Iraqis of (understandably) questionable loyalties--and not bothering to keep track of any of it.