LOOTING….I’m genuinely sympathetic to the idea that there was a limited amount we could do to halt the looting spree that started after the fall of Baghdad. Still, the evidence is growing that the military planners were so convinced that we would be greeted as beloved liberators that they didn’t even plan for the possibility of looting and ignored warnings of its likelihood. The LA Times has a disturbing story about this splashed across its front page today:

The spree of looting and destruction across Iraq is hampering Bush administration efforts to revive the country’s economy, search for chemical and biological weapons, and hunt for Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants, U.S. officials said Thursday.

They said that neither the Pentagon nor the U.S. intelligence community anticipated the scale and ferocity of the postwar rampage, which appears to have caused far more damage in some areas than did the war.

….One U.S. official said the Pentagon was caught off-guard because of its recent experience in Afghanistan. “There wasn’t much looting there,” the official said. “Frankly, there wasn’t that much to steal.”

The story goes on to say that the looting has been not just of office furniture and national treasures, but also of intelligence offices, military installations, and oil fields. This is slowing down the search for Baathist party officials and for Iraqi WMDs, something that surely must have been a top priority, even if protecting museums wasn’t.

The whole story is worth reading. As I said, I don’t blame the military for this entire debacle, but it’s sure starting to look like they foolishly encouraged a bit of “untidiness” without realizing how far it would go. I hope they are now beginning to have a more realistic view of what it’s going to take to control post-Saddam Iraq.