Somebody said we were allowed to think out loud. Pardon the mess.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Gestalt management versus box checking & whip cracking.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the "35th Anniversary of the Internet" event in Los Angeles, from Xeni Jardin @ boingboing
We allocate about 70% of our resources to our core business and 30% to "other" because we never know what that other will become. We also ask our employees to spend 20% of their time on exploration, and those tend to be complementary to our core.

Our agenda tends to be driven by a bottoms-up process not so much traditional strategic planning. Google is trying to solve the next problem not the last problem.

[ Question: Was it serendipity that made google what it became? ] I think the word is luck. The principles from which Google was built do exist in other indstries. Ours is a reproducable model, and others may end up reproducing it and solving other problems. We're just seeing the beginning of this.

Good management is not that complicated, it's about leadership. Some managers need to micromanage everything, but that doesn't produce creativity. If you can figure out a way to tell a story, that's how people learn. they have a beginning middle and an end. if you have the right kind of people and the right kind of values, that can work. The great thing about high tech is that labor is very mobile, and if you want to deal with other people, you are forced to deal with them as peers and equals.

There are many uses of the net that are not touched by Google. Peer to peer, and the majority of email traffic. It's very important that people work on internet monitoring, internet scaling, all of the next generation projects -- I don't think any single one is of dominant importance.

We're in a real time world where people who need to collaborate can do so instantly. That has a downside because evil people can collaborate quickly, as well as the good guys, but the overwhelming effect is very positive.

Software businesses, intellectual property businesses have good cashflow if they're run right. A friend who went to business school once told me the only rule you need to know is DNROOC. Do not run out of cash. For us the decision to go public was viewed as a neccesary thing but not something we needed for our operations. People were surprised about the fact that the decision to go public was such a last minute thing, which it was -- we made the decision hours before we filed. We then went through the whole process which was of course widely covered and entertaining in lots of ways. At the end of it, we flew back to our offices and went back to work. Following Monday we had a one hour biefing about what we felt we did right or wrong. We had one of the executives announce the "end of the IPO," and we haven't talked about it since.

The company is about end users changing the world, the good and bad things they're doing out there. It's not about the IPO....

Speaketh, O' Mighty Max, of the Dismal State of Qoin

Max Sawicky
THE WAGELESS RECOVERY

The Prez says the economy is strong and getting stronger. By the evidence of the labor market, however, it is weak and getting weaker.

My colleague and labor market genius Jared Bernstein shows that from the third quarter of last year to this year, the wage and salary component of the Employment Cost Index increased by 2.4 percent, relative to inflation of 2.7. The does not mean that total compensation in these terms is less, since these figures do not reflect fringe benefits, but it does mean that for workers this recovery stinks. Faster employment growth and better jobs would put upward pressure on money wages.

This is the slowest growth rate on record. The most recent comparable period was the first half of 1993 -- Poppy Bush's economy, for all practical purposes.
Sometimes, the Qa Qaa comes down so heavy you need a helmet

Knight Ridder
WASHINGTON - The more than 320 tons of missing Iraqi high explosives at center stage in the U.S. presidential election are only a fraction of the weapons-related material that's disappeared in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion last year.

Huge amounts of arms and ammunition were stolen from military sites, and there's "ample evidence" that Iraqi insurgents are firing looted weapons at U.S. troops and using some of them in car bombs and improvised explosive devices, said a senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

[SNIP]

In a new disclosure, the senior U.S. military officer and another U.S. official, who also spoke on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that an Iraqi working for U.S. intelligence alerted U.S. troops stationed near the al Qaqaa weapons facility that the installation was being looted shortly after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003.

But, they said, the troops took no apparent action to halt the pillaging.

"That was one of numerous times when Iraqis warned us that ammo dumps and other places were being looted and we weren't able to respond because we didn't have anyone to send," said a senior U.S. military officer who served in Iraq.

[SNIP]

Al Qaqaa was on a classified list of Iraqi weapons facilities that the CIA provided to Pentagon and military officials before the invasion, said the U.S. intelligence official.

But when the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command produced their own list of sites that a limited number of U.S. "exploitation teams" should search, priority was given to those identified by exiled Iraqi opposition groups, he said. Al Qaqaa wasn't one of them.

"The top of the list was dominated by nuclear facilities and places where we expected to find chemical and biological weapons," he said. "Iraqi exiles had a very heavy hand in determining which places got looked at first."

Al Qaqaa was one of some 900 known weapons sites in Iraq that U.S. experts estimated held more than 650,000 tons of munitions.
"Iraqi exiles." Quaint euphemism for Ahmed Chalabi, early contender for President of a newly free Iraq, sponsored by the Neocon braintrust; and, $380,000 per month advisor and "friend" of Wolfowitz, Rumsfed and Feith @ DoD who had the poor taste to play both ends against the middle and backdoor US intel and codes to the Iranian security services. Yeah, those Iranians, the Axis-of-Evil ones. Small world isn't it? Still, maybe he can get us some of the 'energetic materials' back. For a price, of course.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Economist pulls the ripcord

And rips Bush a new one. They rightfully don't view Kerry as the Second Coming, but....
With a heavy heart, we think American readers should vote for John Kerry on November 2nd

But on November 2nd, Americans must make their choice, as must The Economist. It is far from an easy call, especially against the backdrop of a turbulent, dangerous world. But, on balance, our instinct is towards change rather than continuity: Mr Kerry, not Mr Bush.

If Mr Bush is re-elected, and uses a new team and a new approach to achieve that goal, and shakes off his fealty to an extreme minority, the religious right, then The Economist will wish him well. But our confidence in him has been shattered. We agree that his broad vision is the right one but we doubt whether Mr Bush is able to change or has sufficient credibility to succeed, especially in the Islamic world. [More]
Next?
Fundamentals of Playing with Fire 101



TRANSLATION: "To defend and help complete the Führer's gigantic labors during the war is the greatest joy and highest duty of every German." [Source]

TRANSLATION not needed: Slate
"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
I wanna puke.

Homeland security. Patriot acts. Freedom marching. Raised hands. Loyalty oaths. One man. Crazy people.
Pentagon steps in deep QaQaa

From a press gaggle today:
CNN QUESTION: Major, could you please better describe the explosives that were removed? Were they primarily assembled weapons? Were they raw material like the granular HMX or RDX? And could you, sort of, give us a ratio out of that 250 tons how much were assembled weapons and how much were raw material?

PEARSON: As a conventional ammunition ordnance officer, I deal with ammunition logistics management. I am not a technical specialist. I am not explosive ordnance disposal or technical intelligence. My role and what I've been trained on is to manage ammunition facilities and mitigate the risk and exposure to U.S. forces and civilians.

The specifics of what we talked about that we pulled out of there, from my recollection, is some TNT, plastic explosives; I can't further define other than that, plastic explosives. Detonation cords, initiators, and white phosphorous rounds, which were a higher priority for us to go in there.

QUESTION: So you don't know...

QUESTION: But do you believe there was HMX?

QUESTION: Yes. You don't know if there was HMX?

DI RITA: Let me handle that.

QUESTION: Did it look like those barrels -- you know this video that ABC had.

DI RITA: We've described what we know. And as we learn more, we'll describe that. The major has...

QUESTION: Why doesn't the major talk about that?

(CROSSTALK)

DI RITA: Excuse me for one moment.

The major had -- we had units that had responsibility for identifying and understanding what IAEA seals were. The major's unit had the responsibility to go in and clear conventional ordnance.

QUESTION: But, Larry, you've told us that you believe part of the 250 tons represents the material under question. You have said that.

DI RITA: Represents some portion of the material.

QUESTION: The major has not said that. So we would like to hear from him...

QUESTION: Do you believe you had RDX in there?

PEARSON: I had plastic explosives in there.

QUESTION: It's the HMX that we're concerned about. And you've seen that video that the affiliate...

PEARSON: I have not.

QUESTION: You've not shown him the video of the barrels? Didn't you just say you've shown him...

(CROSSTALK)

DI RITA: He saw some photos from yesterday, and had understood that, as I said, the palletized boxes -- I think you said those were the kinds of things you removed. The barrels that some people have said is HMX that I don't know is accurate and I'm not prepared to stipulate whether it is or is not was not.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) a symbol on it though that...

DI RITA: The one we have seen on some of the photos is a symbol that identifies a class of ordinance.

PEARSON: Hazardous division class. This is one of the techniques we teach to ordnance and how you use -- it's an international symbol for shipping hazardous materials. The Haz Class Division 1.1D (ph) -- there's multiple types of ordinance in that class. Off the top of my head, I'm sure there is at least 80 or 90 different types. And whether it's HMX, I couldn't verify it.

QUESTION: You talk about this procedure though. You say there's a procedure in place and they know what to do. And yet apparently the major didn't know he was even looking for HMX or what was there or what to do if you found it sealed.

Do you remember seeing the IAEA seals?

PEARSON: There was -- I do not -- I did not see any IAEA seals at the locations that we went into. I was not looking for that.

My mission specifically was to go in there and to prevent the exposure of U.S. forces and to minimize that by taking out what was easily accessible and putting it back and bringing it into our captured ammunition holding area.

DI RITA: And some of these are good questions that we are still trying to better understand and as we do that we will try and provide it.

QUESTION: I'm not understanding your conclusion, Larry. Based on what the major has said, how do you come to the conclusion that some of the 250 tons this unit removed is the materiel under question? . . . [emphasis added]
Of course, the fact that they are scramblng, can't pull a hefty file of removal protocols, advance plans and inventoried results of steps taken tells us all we need to know. That DiRita doesn't KNOW that RDX is not HMX (mega-mondo dual use nuke detonation explosive and kick ass conventional bang) only shows how completely their knowledge of the situation is hooey and backfill. The major didn't help much in this hash of a press conerence. Whatever he took (primacord, lower graded plastique and munitions) isn't what everyone's so exercised about. DiRita was hoping for an Ole! and ends up wrestling a goat.

HMX is stored in relatively innocuous and stable powder form. It's only when a plasticizer or binding agent is added to them that they become major boom-boom. If there were a serious effort to nail down threatening resources available to be flipped against US forces as an offensive insurgent threat, officers from Captain on up would have been briefed on what to look for and how to handle it. This particular 380 tons was thoughtfully and very conspicuously sealed and labelled by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It is just one cache of many.

The Pentagon is right: Iraq was chock full of nasty conventional weapons and material. But so is Iran. And Pakistan, Syria, Sudan and Indonesia. And, for that matter, so is America. Turn any of those countries into a rudderless chaotic mess by decapitating and disbanding their security and public safety forces and you would get the same result: A terrorist's smorgasbord of free all-you-can-carry doom and destruction, with, as it seems happened in A Qa Qaa and Tuwaitha, obliging Iraqi locals charging budding Bin ladens and Zuwahiris top dollar to rent them the trucks to cart it off. This stuff is what killed 289 marines in Lebonon under Reagan. It blew a hole in the USS Cole in Yemen. It obliterated the UN Mission in Baghdad last year, and did the same to an American compound in Saudi Arabia. Ditto our Embassies in Kenya and Nigeria. The stuff, it's power, and the damage it's already done is not news.

As Bush has noted ad infinitum, the Terrorists only need to be right once, we need to be right 100% of the time. This single, but certainly not solitary, instance of being wrong now mutates into a hundred or a 1000 more opportunities for a terrorist to "get it right." Our long odds just got longer. I feel much safer.

So, this is how the 'grown-ups' do it?

The tragic thing is, this gang of decision-makers who so took pleasure in saying only they had the cojones and the knowledge of how to really fight, how to treat troops, how to make us safer, really don't know what they're doing. Now, as the vortex of misjudgement and inexperience gains speed, they are forced to denigrate troops, deny reality, and define down what "a safer America" really means.

And it will only get worse: Post-election, however it turns out, they will be faced with the now solidfying and factually supported figures of 100,000 Iraqis dead as a result of our "Gift of Freedom" to Mesopotamia. The independent numbers from Lancet, Britain's equivalent to the New England Journal of Medicine, say an alarmingly high percentage of those dead are women and children. Middle East expert Juan Cole has more:
The Lancet, a respected British medical journal, reports that the US and coalition forces (but mainly the US Air Force) has killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians since the fall of Saddam on April 9, 2003. Previous estimates for civilian deaths since the beginning of the war ranged up to 16,000, with the number of Iraqi troops killed during the war itself put at about 6,000.

The troubling thing about these results is that they suggest that the US may soon catch up with Saddam Hussein in the number of civilians killed. How many deaths to blame on Saddam is controversial. He did after all start both the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. But he also started suing for peace in the Iran-Iraq war after only a couple of years, and it was Khomeini who dragged the war out until 1988. But if we exclude deaths of soldiers, it is often alleged that Saddam killed 300,000 civilians. This allegation seems increasingly suspect. So far only 5000 or so persons have been found in mass graves. But if Roberts and Burnham are right, the US has already killed a third as many Iraqi civilians in 18 months as Saddam killed... [More]
Just as 400,000 Iraqi soldiers disbanded and sent home toting their weapons was a bad idea, so too is flipping open a conventional weapons bazaar like Iraq. In for a dime, in for a dollar. This week, Bush asked for another 75 Billion, making Kerry's claims of a 200 Billion cost for Iraq an underestimate. Keep counting. This will be known as the one-trillion dollar hunch by the end of the decade. To paraphrase Colin Powell, we own it.

If I was George Bush, I wouldn't want a second term. It will destroy the viability of a Republican President, and possibly his party, for 20 years. Too bad. And ironic. In running away from his daddy's shadow, he severed contact with the one man who perhaps could have saved him from himself.
Al Qa Qaa: the shell game version

Via Flit
Bunker bingo update

QaQaa aerial

The image you're looking at is the southern third of the Al QaQaa bunker complex, oriented to north. You can see the fence around the whole area, and individual bunker buildings.

The bunkers in red are those that were inspected in January 2003 when IAEA inspectors returned, found to be still full of tonnes of HMX stored in cylindrical drums, and resealed. All these explosives are now reportedly gone. The two on the left in a somewhat darker red also had HMX, but it was stored in boxes, not drums, according to the IAEA. There was one more IAEA-sealed bunker farther north in the complex, off the top of this image: in total 194 tonnes of HMX are alleged to be missing from the nine sealed bunkers at Al QaQaa.

The bunker in yellow (bunker #47) is the bunker that in January contained 3 tonnes of RDX explosive in 77 "Yugo drums," and 3.5 tonnes of PETN explosive in boxes, now all apparently missing as well. This bunker was NOT sealed by the IAEA, as they were only interested in tracking the amount of RDX Iraq had at Al QaQaa, not completely denying its use. It is thus conceivable that bunker 47 would have had other sorts of munitions in it as well. (The rest of the missing RDX (125 tonnes) was supposed to have been in another bunker complex altogether, 20 miles away, the IAEA confirmed yesterday.)

The bunkers in green are those where reconnaissance photos released by the DOD yesterday indicate there was some activity in the days just before the war. As you can see, they are not the sealed bunkers, or bunker 47.

The news team accompanying the 101st Airborne said they approached from the southeast of the complex (bottom of the picture), so they were almost certainly in one or more of these bunkers in this photo. (They don't mention going over what would presumably be a chain link fence, so they likely came in through that gate southeast of bunker 47.) Their footage appears to show American soldiers cutting the locks off a non-sealed bunker, which had a large number of containers resembling "Yugo drums" inside, mixed in with some other, non-proscribed munitions. It also showed at least one other bunker nearby with its IAEA seal left intact.

This has been a public service to help you make sense of my and others' previous blathering on this subject. The photo has been lifted from the globalsecurity.org site, cropped and turned so up is north, and the bunker numbers and contents cross-checked with the IAEA January report.
The Buck Stops in Mesopotamia.

Giuliani must have liked Dubya's "Don't blame me, the Generals could've asked for more troops" line in the second debate so much, Rudy 's now using it on Colonels, Captains and Corporals...

ripple of hope via Atrios
The president was cautious, the president was prudent, the president did what a commander in chief should do. No matter how you try to blame it on the president the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?
Today Show Video [.wmv file] of Rudy, being the selfless patriot and "supporter of the troops" that he really is.

Wait, the administration says the Russians might have taken them, pre-invasion. Aided by Colonel Mustard. In the Drawing Room. With a candlestick.

Oops, the Russians say that's, ummm, oh, what word did they use... Oh yeah, "Absurd." Damn you, Pootie-poot!

Wait, the White House says the Iraqi Coalition Government can't count explosives very accurately.

Whoops, ABC, NBC and some gnomes in the Pentagon say they count just fine. And they read a calendar better.

Hmmmm. Now, the question is, as this wends its way to ultimately land back in the lap of Bush sometime in the next few weeks, will all those people who were intially appalled, then were reeled back toward Bush by the above spin machine just in time to cast their ballot for Bush Tuesday--will they get a refund, or a do over, say middle to late November? Can they get their vote back after being hoodwinked yet once agan?




UPDATE: Oh, dear. It seems that a Minnesota TV news crew, KSTP, embedded with the 3rd I.D. got a bit of b-roll video at Al Qa Qaa when they dropped by April 18th, 10 days after the war and and 8 days afer the 101st had a looksee. Seems the junk was still there--IAEA seals, labels, the works
Report: Video Shows Explosives Went Missing After War

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - ABC News on Thursday showed video that appeared to confirm that explosives that went missing in Iraq (news - web sites) did not disappear until after the United States had taken control of the facility where they were stored.

The disappearance of the hundreds of tons of explosives from the Al Qaqaa storage facility has become a hotly contested issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites) said it was an example of President Bush (news - web sites) bungling the Iraq war. Bush countered that Kerry was making wild accusations without knowing the facts.

Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) said it was possible that the explosives had been removed from the site before the U.S. forces arrived there.

ABC said the video was shot by an affiliate TV station embedded with the 101st Airborne Division when members of the division passed through the facility on April 18, nine days after the fall of Baghdad.

ABC said experts who have studied the images say the barrels seen in the video contain the high explosive HMX, and U.N. markings on the sealed containers were clear.

The barrels were found inside locked bunkers that had been sealed by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency just before the war began, ABC reported.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The things we will learn in the next 6-18 months

• How much Iraqi looted explosives made it to Chechnya and Palestine and small Mediterranean ports.
• How many permanent Bases we have built in the western desert of Iraq and their unfavorable lease condtions.
• What Paul Bremer, Jay Garner and Colin Powell really thought of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
• What was left out of the Taguba Report on Abu Ghraib, and where there 2, 3 or 4 more "Abu Ghraibs"?
• What Donald Rumsfeld thinks of George Bush.
• How "cordial" where Cheney's 3 or 4 visits to Langley and what resulted.
• What did NSC staffers really think about Condoleeza Rice.
• Who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA NOC status to Robert Novak.
• Where all that missing walking-around/greasing-Iraqi-skids money for occupation forces went.
• What the EPA didn't tell us in the WTC environmental impact study.
• What the Mediare Prescription Drug Bill really costs.
• Who was at the Bush Administration's secret energy policy meetings conducted by Cheney and what did they talk about.
• How much the Pentagon was undercounting dead and wounded--ours and theirs.
• What really happened and what did we give away to have our Navy Recon plane and crew released by the Chinese in early 2001.
• How much well-vetted intel passed through NSC, State and DoD about North Korea's fast-tracking of plutonium conversion beginning mid- to late-2001.
• How deeply was Ahmed Chalabi aligned with Iran's Intelligence Services and how obvious, in hindsight, was it?
• How many times Tony Blair had to talk George Bush down off the ledge.
• How much DoD money was given to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Jordan, Syria
• How deeply known, and how high, was the WMD McGuffin known as such and, how surprisingly early.

and last but not least:

• How many of Bush's notable business and political supporters were "truly and deeply" concerned about his volatile imbalances and decision-making, but were "afraid to say anything."

What am I forgetting?

Oh yeah, where was that damn undisclosed location?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush endorses.... Kerry?
ABC News
For a political candidate to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief
Sound reasoning, Mr. President. Just a little bit too late.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

As noted earlier, al Qa Qaa was an April 10 pee-break for the 101st. Nothing more. Then, on to Baghdad.

Larry Di Rita is a liar. Seems that's part of the membership requirement in this administration. Oh yeah, I lied too. It was 380 tons, not 350. I'll submit my resignation forthwith.

MSNBC (Transcript via kerry blog (Not posted to MSNBC yet, too new.)
MSNBC, 10/26/04 (Transcript):

Amy Robach: And it's still unclear exactly when those explosives disappeared. Here to help shed some light on that question is Lai Ling. She was part of an NBC news crew that traveled to that facility with the 101st Airborne Division back in April of 2003. Lai Ling, can you set the stage for us? What was the situation like when you went into the area?

Lai Ling Jew: When we went into the area, we were actually leaving Karbala and we were initially heading to Baghdad with the 101st Airborne, Second Brigade. The situation in Baghdad, the Third Infantry Division had taken over Baghdad and so they were trying to carve up the area that the 101st Airborne Division would be in charge of. As a result, they had trouble figuring out who was going to take up what piece of Baghdad. They sent us over to this area in Iskanderia. We didn't know it as the Qaqaa facility at that point but when they did bring us over there we stayed there for quite a while. We stayed overnight, almost 24 hours. And we walked around, we saw the bunkers that had been bombed, and that exposed all of the ordinances that just lied dormant on the desert.

AR: Was there a search at all underway or did a search ensue for explosives once you got there during that 24-hour period?

LLJ: No. There wasn't a search. 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.

AR: And there was no talk of securing the area after you left. There was no discussion of that?

LLJ: Not for the 101st Airborne, Second Brigade. They were -- once they were in Baghdad, it was all about Baghdad, you know, and then they ended up moving north to Mosul. Once we left the area, that was the last that the brigade had anything to do with the area.

AR: Well, Lai Ling Jew, thank you so much for shedding some light into that situation. We appreciate it.

LLJ: Thank you.

A few pounds here, a few pounds there...

and pretty soon you get an idea of just how monumentally inept, unfocused and uncaring this administration is with regard to small things like the lives of the troops they "support," and amazingly, the sustainablilty of the political missions they fabricate and sell us.


Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq

NYT: The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year. [More]
In poker they call these slips of focus or intent "tells." Usually, after tells like outing CIA spy Valerie Plame, Tora Bora, the firing of Jay Garner, the disbanding of the Iraqi military, the "unexpected" looting, Abu Ghraib, the advance and retreat from Falujah, Ahmed Chalabi's intel leaks to Iran... well, lets just say the sharks would be circling your table waiting to get their bite out of "the Rube." But, on to the point.

350+ tons? Of what? Military.com:
On a battlefield, nothing has the efficiency and destructive power of explosives. Combining the right compounds and combinations, the military has a few recipies up their sleeve to reap death and destruction on the enemy.
Don't buy any of the bullshit you hear about this being a "field" decision or that they disappeared pre-, mid, or immediately post-war. This was a strategic screw up of tragic proportions.

RDX and HMX High Explosive (HE) is nasty stuff, as any car bomb witness from Belfast to Athens to Baghdad will tell you. The problem with this particular batch of HE was.... well, it wasn't considered WMD-worthy. (Very surprising, since HMX is a dual-use HE; good for cutting steel in construction, or, as the primary explosive for the very nukes Bush told us to worry about.)

Not WMD. Sure, it's a weapon. 350 tons is a massive amount. And it's damn destructive. But it wasn't the "sexy reveal"; it didn't have the marquee value this Public Relations administration wanted. No voila! No Press Bang.

But, like budget figures, it just damn hard for us average folk to get our heads around what we're talking about here. So, let's do the math.

350+ tons of High Explosive (RDX, HMX) = 700,000+ lbs.

Do you remember the Bali bombing that killed 191 Australians, Europeans and Balinese, injured scores more and decimated a city block last year? That was 200 lbs of an HE and homebrew explosive mix in a Toyota. Boom.

The Madrid Train Bombing? A few hundred-weight. Boom.

Pan Am 107 that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland? Supposedly, 1-2 lbs of C4 high explosive. Smaller boom, but 259 dead.

The Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that are taking out US Humvees and convoys and, oh yeah, Coalition troops at 2 a day, are estimated to range between 5 and 50 lbs; some are just looted artillery shells hooked up to a celluar phone and detonated remotely by a simple phone call. Some IEDs are more sophisticated, consisting of anywhere from 5 to 50 lbs of brick or sheet HE, or explosive scooped out of artillery rounds. Boom. Boom.

The Murrah Building in Oklahoma City? That was about 1000 pounds of ANFO--essentially, fertilizer and fuel oil packed in drums. ANFO is much more cumbersome, less brisant (rapidly burning) and about 40-50% weaker, pound for pound, than the missing Iraqi High Explosives. 1/2 Boom, 168 dead, counting dozens of kids.

So, 350 tons of HE, or 700,000 lbs equals:
3,500 Bali nightclub bombings.

or 1,400 Oklahoma City Bombings

or 35,000 IED attacks on American troops and convoys in Iraq.
Massive amounts of "mid-level" destruction? This stuff is the seed capital of terrorism. And it held no interest for the guys in the basement at the White House, or in the E-ring of the Pentagon?

Scott Mclellan and DoD press flacks for Rummy and Wolfowitz say the ammo dump at Al Qa Qaa, where this stuff disappeared under our noses, was mid-level priority. The things that were top line were the Oil Ministry and Oil fields (their characterization, not mine.) Note: there are estimates of 20-30 ammo dumps across Iraq, many of which recieved little or no attention in the months after the war. In similarly sensitive facilities outside Falujah and Basra (and well-known to the coalition intel and commanders), reports immediately following the invasion had civilians literaly pouring out barrels of toxic effluent stored, still under IAEA seal, from after Gulf War One. Was anybody watching the joint? Besides a few Iraqis slipped a few bucks to keep the gates locked, no. Why were the people dumping barrels of munitions processing waste out into the dirt? They wanted to use them to store drinking water. No doubt, birth defects and cancer will soon be another legacy of Iraq to replace rape rooms. Must be the Price of Freedom we hear so many talking about.

Still, 700,000+ pounds of boom-boom. Still too abstract? Wonder what it feels like? Since my physics sucks, I googled up this Comparative Energies Table and edited it a bit for clarity.





































Energy
(Joules - NewtonMeters)
Example
Power (Watts)
1 Nm An apple falling from 1 meter hitting table 40W
230 Nm Fastball @ 100 mi/hr caught in mitt 2300 W
450 Nm .357 Mag Handgun (150 gr @ 1000 fps) (impact into steel plate) 12.5 Megawatts
5000 Nm Hit from 220 lb tackle running 40 yd in 4 sec 20 kW (assuming .25 second hit)
490 KiloJoules 3000 lb Automobile crashing into concrete wall @ 60 mi/hr 2.1 Megawatt
2 MegaJoules 1 Lb High Explosive (detonation velocity 6000 meter/sec) 240 Gigawatt


So, a linebacker tackling you equals 20,000 watts (20 kW) of power spread over a quarter of a second -- a long time in explosive terms.

1 lb of High Explosive equals 240,000,000,000 watts (240 gW) of power. In thousandths of a second.

240 *billion* watts of boom. Very quick. In other words, standing next to 1 lb of detonating RDX HE is like getting hit by 12 million linebackers. Or, if you prefer, being shot by 19,200 .357 magnums. Stand a hundred feet away from 20 lbs and it's only like a few houses falling on you. Either way, you're dead, and in lots of pieces to boot. That's the kind of mass destruction we all take personally.

It's a cliche, sure, but War is serious business. Ironically, this is a war about cliches. About nations, motives, religions, political parties and voters. And about reflexive ignorance, arrogance and vengeance. These people in offfice, many of whom haven't heard a shot fired in anger, never mind served, these people are not serious about this war, nor about weapons of mass destruction, and neither, obviously, are they pure in their aims. The tells are everywhere, and have been since before 9/11. They just like the idea of war. The stagecraft of it, the impression of decisiveness. And yet, they have none of the critical and ideology-free decision-making skills neccessary to execute with forethought. War makes them feel manly, it makes them feel needed.

It makes them feel necessary and wise. In theory.

In practice, they are none of the above. And I wouldn't rehire them to lifeguard my pool.

8 days to go. Many years of remediation, realignment and capable reengagement to come.

[UPDATE 3:36 : Drudge says: An NBCNEWS crew embedded with troops moved in to secure the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003, one day after the liberation of Iraq. According to NBCNEWS, the HMX and RDX explosives were already missing when the American troops arrived. "The U.S. Army was at the site one day after the liberation and the weapons were already gone," a top Republican blasted from Washington late Monday.

Sorry, that dog won't hunt, as Josh Marshall seems to have noted a few minutes ahead of me here. He rightfully points out that moving that amount of junk, 40 trucks worth, in the lengthy run-up to the invasion would have been nigh impossible given our control of the skies and recon overflights that were ubiquitous 24/7. It's been established by AP, sourced to a Pentagon intelligence official on he ground in Baghdad that the explosives were there, as linked above: "US-led coalition troops had searched Al-Qaqaa in the immediate aftermath of the March 2003 invasion and confirmed that the explosives, which had been under IAEA seal since 1991, were intact."

The muddying and administration faux-anger has begun full-force, but this one will work itself out. Too many previously dismissed, and ultimately vindicated, players in this mess--IAEA, The Survey Group, et al--say Larry DiRita and his crew at the Pentagon are spinning furiously because they *don't* know the exact status of Al Qaa Qa, post invasion. And that's the problem. If it were a family home, it would have a porch stacked with unread newspapers and bottles of rancid milk.

One thing Marshall doesn't note is this: For at least 4 months prior to the March 8 invasion-proper, US and British Special Forces teams were covertly wandering the countryside of Iraq ID-ing and sighting targets and pre-positioning materiel. Some were disabling and blowing stuff up where possible. And that's key, following on the point above about this being a mother-lode of terrorist booty: They could, should, and would have torched it prior to it becoming an enemy asset. If ground forces hadn't 86'd it, it should, would or could have been on the A-list of preemptive, or at least, initial aerial bombardment targets once the invasion commenced March 8.

That is, if these guys were truly serious, about real targets of opportunity. But al Qa Qaa was 'boring.' Instead, it seems they had a hard-on for their new rootin-tootin' piece d'resistance: Shock and Awe. Too bad it consisted of bombing the neighborhoods of Baghdad, instead of a lowly cluster of bunkers 30 miles south of town. No cameras there, I guess.]

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