POSTWAR CONFUSION….More bad news about the search for WMD in Iraq:
The Pentagon originally planned to deploy about 20 “mobile exploitation teams” of up to 30 people each to scour weapons sites, interrogate scientists and analyze documents. But only two such teams are now hunting for weapons in Iraq. Because relatively junior warrant officers are leading the teams, their reports must go through multiple layers before reaching senior commanders.
The Pentagon hasn’t supplied enough transport helicopters and military guards to the teams. This limits the teams’ movements and their ability to use two highly sophisticated chemical and biological laboratories that were left at an air base in northern Kuwait in shipping containers. “They’ve been totally unusable,” one official said.
Because of the delays, scores of suspect Iraqi military sites, industrial complexes and offices were stripped of valuable documents, equipment and electronic data before U.S. forces or the exploitation teams reached them. Not all the looting appears to have been random, and U.S. officials believe Iraqi officials deliberately burned or removed some critical evidence to prevent detection.
There’s a common ? and peculiar ? strand in how we’ve handled postwar Iraq, and it makes itself visible in the looting, the destruction of the museum, the confusion over humanitarian aid, and now the fact that we were obviously unprepared to look for WMD once the war was over. This last especially makes no sense since even if the Bush administration didn’t really care about enhancing their credibility by finding the much hyped WMD, they surely saw the importance of locking it down so that it didn’t get into anyone else’s hands.
Is it possible that there’s no WMD to find? Sure, although that seems unlikely to me, and elsewhere in the story intelligence sources insist that we really did have “conclusive” evidence of an ongoing problem.
My best guess, for now, is a different one: all the cakewalk talk notwithstanding, they expected a much longer fight. They weren’t prepared for a lot of the postwar activities because they didn’t figure there would be a postwar until May or June. The fall of Baghdad seems to have taken the army by surprise every bit as much as it did us, and now they’re scrambling to figure out what to do.
Of course, if June rolls around and they’re still scrambling, then I’ll have to think up another theory….
UPDATE: Some good comments below, several of which point out that another explanation for the postwar confusion is the small invasion force that Rumsfeld insisted on. It was enough to win the war, but not enough to keep control of the country after we won. There’s also another possibility: all along the administration expected the UN to cave at the last minute, so they’d have UN peacekeeping and humanitarian forces right behind them. When that didn’t happen, they weren’t able to gear up a set of revised postwar plans fast enough.