If you look through the right-wing media universe this morning you will hear that perhaps the explosives were never at al Qaqaa at all. Or if they were there perhaps Saddam's men carted them off in March. Or if Saddam's men didn't cart them off for the insurgency then the Russians carted them off to Syria. Or if, God forbid, it really did happen as the critics say, well, President Bush wasn't there. It was the fault of the troops on the ground.
If you can't quite get your head around the audacity of that last one, that's what the president's surrogate Rudy Guiliani said this morning on one of the morning shows.
"The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there," said Mr. Guiliani, "Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"
But, please, let's see through the snowstorm of mumbojumbo the president's handlers and liegemen are trying to toss in our eyes and focus on the essence of the matter.
The president and his advisors insisted on a warplan that had far too few troops to secure even the key facilities in Iraq that were the reason for the invasion in the first place. Remember, many of the nuclear facilities were stripped bare too. This wasn't the fault of troops streaming through on their way to Baghdad, doing a quick check for chemical and biological weapons. The error was in the planning of the war itself -- planning that came from Rumsfeld's civilians and the White House over and against the advice of the generals.
Now, in this particular case, could the White House get lucky and it turn out that the al Qaqaa munitions were actually carted off to Mars?
Sure. Even though no evidence adduced to date suggests anything but that they were looted because they were not secured.
But that would hardly change the essential issue. The administration didn't deploy adequate troops to secure these facilities and didn't even have a plan to do so. It wasn't even a concern until late Sunday evening when the issue blew up into a political firestorm and they began desperately trying to come up with some rationale, any rationale, to shift the blame off themselves.
Nor is that all.
Why was the mission so undermanned?
Part of the explanation comes from Secretary Rumsfeld's and his staff's view of military transformation, one that puts a heavy emphasis on high-tech weaponry and airpower over ground forces.
That's not the biggest reason, though.
The biggest reason is that President Bush and his chief advisors knew that it would be much harder to get the country into Iraq if the electorate knew the full scope of the investment -- in dollars, deployments and casualties -- upfront. In other words, undermanning the operation was always part of the essential dishonesty and recklessness with which the president led the nation to war.