Looters were already throughout the Al-Qaqaa installation south of Baghdad when troops from the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade arrived at the site a day or so after other coalition troops seized the capital on April 9, 2003, Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, deputy public affairs officer for the unit, told The Associated Press.
''Orders were not given from higher to search or to secure the facility or to search for HE type munitions, as they (high-explosive weapons) were everywhere in Iraq,'' he wrote.
A U.N. official said Al-Qaqaa installation was believed to be the only site in Iraq where high explosives such as HMX, RDX and PETN were stored. When Iraq declared the explosives after the 1991 Gulf War, IAEA experts concentrated them at Al-Qaqaa so they could be monitored by U.N. nuclear inspectors, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
AP Correspondent Chris Tomlinson, who was embedded with the 3rd Infantry but didn't go to Al-Qaqaa, described the search of Iraqi military facilities south of Baghdad as brief, cursory missions to seek out hostile troops, not to inventory or secure weapons.
The enormous size of the bases, the rapid pace of the advance on Baghdad and a limited number of troops made it impossible for U.S. commanders to allocate any soldiers to guard any of the facilities after making a check, Tomlinson said.
NBC correspondent Lai Ling Jew, who was with the 101st, told MSNBC that ''there wasn't a search'' of Al-Qaqaa.
''The mission that the brigade had was to get to Baghdad,'' she said. ''As far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away.''
There's more on the specific dates of all this in the story, and as we've pointed out before Josh Marshall has pulled together all the math to make sense of it. His later coverage, is similarly reasoned and clear-headed. Inform yourself.
In the meantime, as I was watching Fox and listening to the other Wingnut pundits yesterday (See Edward Daley's "Al Qaqaa Bomb Cache Fraud: A New Low For Liberals" for instance), this question occured to me:
What is more important at this point?
You tell me which one of those questions should be of more concern right now.