I noted last night about midnight that ABC News was reporting that the amount of explosives that apparently disappeared from Al Qaqaa may have been much less than reported.
That was true but Andy McCarthy crunched the numbers better than I did and, in the interest of accuracy, here’s what he came up with:
Cliff — The ABC story says there were 141 tons of RDX said to be stored at al Qaqaa as of July 2002, but only 3 as of January. This is an extremely important development, but it does not mean the Times necessarily overstated the case by 377 tons. Rather, it overstated it by at least 138 tons. However, that does not affect the 194 tons of HMX, still said to be, probably, accounted for as of January 2003. The disappearance of 138 tons of RDX does not mean the 194 tons of HMX were not still there. The catch there, however, is that the HMX may also have been missing — but this is speculation (albeit very educated speculation). That is, IAEA presumes the HMX was there because the seals were not broken, but ABC reports the integrity of the containers was so poor (due to porous “ventilation slats”) that Saddam could easily have removed the much or all of HMX without breaking the seals — which the IAEA might not have detected in March because they evidently (and incompetently) just checked to see whether the seals wre still intact rather than actually looking inside the containers.
I think you can safely say the ABC story indicates that, rather than 380 tons, we may be talking about no more than 197 tons (3 RDX + 194 HMX) and that it could be as little as 3 in the logical but unverifiable event that IAEA incorrectly assumed HMX was still there.