Just read this snippet from a new article in Newsweek …
Some of the lapses are frightening. The well-known Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, had nearly two tons of partially enriched uranium, along with significant quantities of highly radioactive medical and industrial isotopes, when International Atomic Energy Agency officials made their last visit in January. By the time U.S. troops arrived in early April, armed guards were holding off lootersâbut the Americans only disarmed the guards, Al Tuwaitha department heads told NEWSWEEK. âWe told them, âThis site is out of control. You have to take care of itâ,â says Munther Ibrahim, Al Tuwaithaâs head of plasma physics. âThe soldiers said, âWe are a small group. We cannot take control of this siteâ.â As soon as the Americans left, looters broke in. The staff fled; when they returned, the containment vaultsâ seals had been broken, and radioactive material was everywhere.
U.S. officers say the center had already been ransacked before their troops arrived. They didnât try to stop the looting, says Colonel Madere, because âthere was no directive that said do not allow anyone in and out of this place.â Last week American troops finally went back to secure the site. Al Tuwaithaâs scientists still canât fully assess the damage; some areas are too badly contaminated to inspect. âI saw empty uranium-oxide barrels lying around, and children playing with them,â says Fadil Mohsen Abed, head of the medical-isotopes department. Stainless-steel uranium canisters had been stolen. Some were later found in local markets and in villagersâ homes. âWe saw people using them for milking cows and carrying drinking water,â says Ibrahim. The looted materials could not make a nuclear bomb, but IAEA officials worry that terrorists could build plenty of dirty bombs with some of the isotopes that may have gone missing. Last week NEWSWEEK visited a total of eight sites on U.N. weapons-inspection lists. Two were guarded by U.S. troops. Armed looters were swarming through two others. Another was evidently destroyed many years ago. American forces had not yet searched the remaining three.
There are a lot of things happening in Iraq now, about which it’s fair to say ‘it’s a complicated job, it’s messy, but it’s early, etc.’ But I don’t see how you can say this isn’t pretty bad.