Monday, October 25, 2004

350 tons of RDX vanished in Iraq

What is it with these people? Every time you expect them to do something that isn't evil, like seizing people's library records, raping prisoners of war or allying themselves with a government that boils dissidents, they botch the job. Talking Points Memo has the details on the Iraqi government's declaration to the IAEA that a huge stock of super-high explosive went missing in the first few months of the occupation. If you want a really big bang, RDX is the stuff. It took one pound of it to kill a 747 over Lockerbie. It has a wide range of uses in the field of - well - blowing things or people up. The IAEA had carefully counted it, marked it and sealed the bunker it was stored in as part of the UN inspection process, because one of its uses is as the trigger for a nuclear bomb. (Yes, those weak, pathetic librul UN inspectors again.) Basically, for a well-designed nuke, you need to arrange for the sphere of fissile material to be instantly crushed, equally all over, at the moment you want it to go off. The simplest way of doing this is to put a layer of very high plastic explosive all over the sphere and stick detonators in it like garlic in a leg of lamb. That's what you need the RDX for.

Unfortunately, because you can make anything go bang with it, not just a nuke, the inspectors couldn't confiscate it. Iraq was within its rights to make it into shells, rockets, grenades, landmines, indeed anything that kills you so long as it does it the old-fashioned way. Or they could use it for blasting purposes. (Yeah, right.) So the stuff was carefully marked and left.

Now it's gone. All 380 tons of it. Now that isn't a bunch of ragged looters scooping it into carrier bags. That's a whole drove of articulated trucks. That's a trainful of the stuff. It's also enough to keep a terrorist happy for years. The IRA kept going for a good fourteen years on four tons of Semtex and they still had plenty left when they decided to give up and spend more time with their kickbacks. Granted, they let off more bombs in Iraq, but that still gives them a few decades' worth of war. The real strategic material of terrorism, of course, is money, and they are unlikely to run out of that either. The US reckons something like $1 billion bucks were transferred to banks in Syria by the regime at the end of the war, and they've only traced half of it. Five hundred million bucks and three hundred tons of plastique - you could have a fine night out in one of Tony's fantastic new casinos with that.

Let's hope the people who nicked the explosives weren't the same ones who took that whole nuclear research centre, eh.

EDIT: Three hundred and eighty tons. Sorry.

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