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October 28, 2004 -- SHOULD the United Na tions decide who be comes our president? Sen. John Kerry wouldn't mind. He's shamelessly promoting the lies that the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency is telling about Iraq.   A devious IAEA report suggests that 400 tons of explosives were spirited away by our enemies under the noses of our Keystone-Cops troops after the fall of Baghdad. The document just happened to be released in the closing days of our presidential election. Purely a coincidence, of course. Brought to you by those selfless U.N. bureaucrats who failed in Iraq and are now failing in Iran.

Since Kerry's willing to blame our troops for a scandal invented by America-haters, let's look at the story the military way, by the numbers.

One: The IAEA claims its inspectors visited the ammo dump at Al-Qaqaa on March 9, 2003, and found the agency's seals intact on bunkers containing sensitive munitions. Unverifiable, but let's assume that much is true.

Two: Faced with an impending invasion, Saddam's forces did what any military would do. They began dispersing ammunition stocks from every storage site that might be a Coalition bombing target. If the Iraqis valued it, they tried to move it. Before the war.

Three: Members of our 3rd Infantry Division - the heroes who led the march to Baghdad - reached the site in question in early April. Despite the pressures of combat, they combed the dump. Nothing was found. Al-Qaqaa was a vast junkyard.

Four: Our 101st Airborne Division assumed responsibility for the sector as the 3ID closed on Baghdad. None of the Screaming Eagles found any IAEA markers - even one would have been a red flag to be reported immediately.

Five: At the end of May, military teams searching for key Iraqi weapons scoured Al-Qaqaa. They found plenty of odds and ends - the detritus of war - but no IAEA seals. And no major stockpiles.

Six: Now, just before Election Day, the IAEA, a discredited organization embarrassed by the Bush administration's decision to call it on the carpet, suddenly realizes that 400 tons of phantom explosives went missing from the dump.

Seven: Even if repeated inspections by U.S. troops had somehow missed this deadly elephant on the front porch, and even if the otherwise-incompetent Iraqis had been so skilled and organized they were able to sneak into Al-Qaqaa and load up 400 tons of Saddam's love-powder, it would have taken a Teamsters' convention to get the job done.

Eight: If the Iraqis had used military transport vehicles of five-ton capacity, it would have required 80 trucks for one big lift, or, say, 20 trucks each making four trips. They would have needed special trolleys, forklifts, handling experts and skilled drivers (explosives aren't groceries). This operation could not have happened either during or after the war, while the Al-Qaqaa area was flooded with U.S. troops.

Nine: We owned the skies. And when you own the skies, you own the roads. We were watching for any sign of organized movement. A gaggle of non-Coalition vehicles driving in and out of an ammo dump would have attracted the attention of our surveillance systems immediately.

Ten: And you don't just drive high explosives cross-country, unless you want to hear a very loud bang. Besides, the Iraqis would have needed to hide those 400 tons of explosives somewhere else. Unless the uploaded trucks are still driving around Iraq.

Eleven: Even if the IAEA told the truth and the Iraqis were stealth-logistics geniuses who emptied the site's ammo bunkers under our noses, the entire issue misses a greater point: 400 tons of explosives amounted to a miniscule fraction of the stocks Saddam had built up. Coalition demolition experts spent months destroying more than 400,000 tons of Iraqi war-making materiel.

Our soldiers eliminated more than a thousand tons of packaged death for every ton the United Nations claims they missed. Does that sound like incompetence? Why hasn't our success been mentioned? Can't our troops get credit for anything?

Twelve: The bottom line is that, if the explosives were ever there, the Iraqis moved them before our troops arrived. There is no other plausible scenario.

Sen. Kerry knows this is a bogus issue. And he doesn't care. He's willing to accuse our troops of negligence and incompetence to further his political career. Of course, he did that once before.

Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace."


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