Joe Biden irate over missing explosives in Iraq

By Mark Follman
Published October 27, 2004 11:48PM (EDT)

On a conference call today with reporters, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden ripped into the Bush administration for dodging responsibility for the nearly 380 tons of high-tech explosives missing from the Al Qaqaa depot in Iraq. (Biden's comments are from a transcript of the call provided by the Kerry campaign.)

"Come on guys, get real. Get real, these guys knew where it was and even if it was gone before, which I doubt that it was, ask them the question, youre tough reporters, ask them the question, who did you have there guarding that facility? Why the hell didnt they know it was gone back when we went in? This makes me angry. My kid and a lot of other kids might get their ass over there and get blown up by these because of their civilian incompetence. And theyre talking about John Kerry was somehow unreasonable suggesting that this is incompetence, come on. If you think Im upset, I am. ...

"And by the way, the one point, the main point, dont even question whether they were there. The fact is the IAEA said they were there and the very embedded [NBC] reporter and the soldiers who has headed up the April 9th, 2003 101st Airborne Second Brigade when it reached Al Qaqaa, said quote: 'Orders were not given from higher to search or secure the facility or to search for this material, HMX.' That's what he said. Now they were told explicitly, explicitly, this site was sealed with 194.7 tons of HMX and 141.2 tons of RDX."

Likewise, Biden painted the Rumsfeld Doctrine a disaster, and described the daunting set of circumstances a Kerry administration will inherit from Bush.

"Let me remind you, Rumsfeld started off the bid saying we only needed 40,000 troops going in, CENTCOM said 380, they agreed to 250, they sent 140. You had [Gen.] Abizaid testifying last year in the United States Senate, and I quote, 'There is more ammunition in Iraq than anyplace I've ever been in my life and it's not securable, I wish I could tell you we had it all under control, we don't.' He went on to say there is certainly not enough forces anywhere to guard this ammunition in Iraq. ...

"Because of these god awful mistakes that the civilians in this Administration keep making, the bar that John Kerry is going to have to go over to make this right again, is going to be incredibly difficult. But I think he has the guts and the gumptions to do what has to be done, and to make it clear to our allies that 'Look you don't have George Bushs incompetence to deal with anymore, you cant fend of your responsibility by saying theres no plan. Heres a plan, I need your help, you need to get involved in it.' But is it going to be hard, very, very hard."

Biden's sharp comments, of course, are meant to spotlight the administration's negligence at the peak of the campaign. While conservative outlets like Fox -- and even CNN's Lou Dobbs -- tried to knock the story down by picking up on the NBC report, Tom Brokaw himself said on Tuesday night that the NBC report had been misused in the attempts to absolve the administration.

For its part, the Kerry camp is pleased with how the key story played on the networks today. Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry told War Room late this afternoon, "We won the day."

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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