Nope. No bias here. We’re credentialed.

MSNBC headline: Report: GIs witnessed theft of Iraq explosives

The content:

The soldiers said they could not confirm that looters took the particularly powerful explosives known as HMX and RDX. One soldier, however, said U.S. forces saw looters load trucks with bags marked “hexamine,” which is a key ingredient for HMX.

I might be wearing my pajamas (sorry, no pictures available) but those seem to be two very different stories.

Never mind that hexamine is an INGREDIENT.

Some Freepers claim that hexamine is a urinary antiseptic. One writes

Basically, they ‘stole’ urinal cakes, then?


  1. Main Entry: me+the+na+mine Pronunciation: m&-‘thE-n&-‘mEn, -m&n Function: noun : a crystalline compound C6H12N4 used in medicine as a urinary antiseptic especially in cystitis and pyelitis called also hexamethylenetetramine, hexamine;

  2. ah a google search reveals that Hexamine isalso useful in a wide variety of applications..including explosives: ‘HEXAMETHYLENETETRAMINE (HEXAMINE) is a white crystalline powder with slight amine odor. Specific gravity is 1.27 at 25C . HEXAMINE is soluble in water, alcohol, and chloroform, but insoluble in ether. Formaldehyde and ammonia yield methenamine, or hexamethylenetetramine, which is used as a urinary antiseptic. Nitration of methenamine gives the explosive cyclonite, or RDX. Formaldehyde and acetaldehyde react with Hexamine in the presence of calcium hydroxide to give pentaerythritol, the tetranitrate of which is the explosive PETN. HEXAMINE is also useful in adhesives, coatings, and sealing compounds. In medicine, it is an antibacterial agent. It is used as a dye fixative and in the preservation of hides. It is used in vulcanizing rubber and as an anti-corrosive agent in steel. It is used in the detection of metals and in the absorption of poisonous gases. It stabilizes lubricating and insulating oils. It is sometimes burned in camping stoves, because it burns without smoke.’

  3. My limited knowledge and understanding of the issue is that the hexamine does indeed have many uses. One of them is as a urinary antiseptic. Another is as an ingredient for some forms of explosives. My guess is that it was the latter reason which explains is presence in an explosives factory. In any event, it is an ingredient. No one is using hexamine to blow up US troops. The charge was that we allowed 380 tons of explosives to be looted because the plan was bad. This report does nothing to confirm or deny that charge. Background noise shamefully headlined as a significant discovery.

  4. I don’t get your point about whether the plan was bad. We don’t know whether the explosives were stolen before of after the invasion. However, the fact that they COULD have been stolen after the invasion means the plan was bad. There should have been a plan in place so that major explosives stockpiles (and that wasn’t the only one) were secured immediately. That way we’d only have to deal with the stuff the Iraqis had time to hide. Even though we aren’t sure when the HMX was taken, there are plenty of cases of other weapons stockpiles that we know were looted after the ‘major hostilities’ were over. Now that your guy won, can’t you at least admit the mistakes he made (even if he can’t)?

  5. BTW, I looked up HMX and hexamine on google. It seems like the process to turn hexamine into HMX is not trivial. Its not a particularly complicated process but you do need the right industrial equipment. Its certainly not as simple as the fuel/fertilizer combo bomb (although its much more explosive than that).

  6. We made the decision to go fast and light into Iraq. By necessity, that means not slowing down for everything you’d like to. For instance, a year ago many happily pointed out the shortages of MREs and other staples that US troops encountered during the push to Baghdad. That was a consequence of choosing the fast and light approach. You may argue that it was the wrong plan, but it certainly isn’t the absence of a plan and it does have many merits despite some drawbacks. At the time, the thought seems to have been that it’s better to race up and destroy as much of the Iraqi military as we can before it pulled back into Baghdad or retreated north. Although you give up a lot to accept this strategy, the benefits can be pretty significant. Not always guarding all the ‘rear’ or bypassed areas is one of the shortcomings. So, like the supply lines that were harassed in many areas, all the ammo dumps and other militarily significant sites cannot be 100% secured. If I understand correctly, this HMX isn’t ready to use right out of the box. I might be wrong on that, but I’ve read that you don’t just get some and make a bomb out of it. That makes it less useful to insurgents, in many ways, than a box of AK-47 ammo or a crate of RPGs. And if this was non-fighters looting military goods to sell, they would probably not want to grab barrels (boxes? bags?) of explosive components. And the hexamine ‘seen’ by some soldiers is only a component of the components. I don’t think the explosives were totally ignored by ‘the plan’, however. That major who testified that his group destroyed some explosives at al Qa Qaa seems to demonstrate that the plan took the site into consideration. Granted, the major’s testimony isn’t really worth its weight in gold, but charges that no one thought of the site don’t seem to hold water. As for this particular story, my point was that the headline was very misleading, even if the claims mentioned inside are verifiably true. I just have never found the ‘missing explosives’ story to have much military significance or to reflect on the planners or soldiers in a meaningful way.

  7. For what it’s worth, I think the stories of 4,000 more surface-to-air missiles out on the market is about a million times more important. I don’t really know the details of the allegations, or if/how it’s anyone’s fault. But I can see arguing that controlling those missiles is a something that can conceivably be done. I don’t think controlling explosives can be.

  8. I’m not sure there’s much difference between these two statements: Me: There was no plan to secure these sites. You: The plan was not to secure these sites. No militarily or politically sensitive sites were secured (well, except for the oil ministry, but I got so sick of hearing Kerry say that phrase I almost left it out). We are seeing the results of that today. Keep in mind if we’d had more men on the ground, the ‘fast and light’ guys could have done exactly the same things, while additional troops secured key sites behind them, as they were liberated. I was for the war, but I cannot believe that the Iraq we face today represents the best we could have done.

  9. Also, I believe you are wrong about HMX. Everything I’ve seen (and not just media coverage) implies that no further processing is necessary to get a really nice explosion. It comes in crystaline form so for some uses (like making nuclear triggers) you need to plasticize it. It makes a really big explosion as-is, though. You can even make shaped charges by packing it in bags or other containers that you can place in the right shapes.

  10. I haven’t heard about 4,000 missiles. That is much more scary. I don’t believe the explosives themselves is what is important in the HMX story. I think it is just one small example of the way that this administration was completely deluded about how to operate in Iraq.

  11. As for the plans, I’ll conditionally accept your you/me summary as long as it’s clear I don’t think the sites were ignored or simply left to whoever wandered by. There were US forces in the area continually after the first troops arrived. What I mean by ‘not securing’ is not posting a detachment of guards at every door and carefully inventory-ing every piece repeatedly to verify accuracy. The area was nominally occupied and policed, though not ‘secured’ in the traditional sense of total absolute control and safety. As for the usability of HMX, I will defer to you on this as I don’t really know. Although the further processing required for nuclear triggers may be why I thought what I thought. But I thought it needed significant work to make into a usable bomb. Unless I hear differently I’m perfectly willing to accept your claim. Still, I have trouble buying the fact that this stuff is more dangerous than the millions of tons of weapons laying around. Although HMX apparently is usable right out of the box, is it more valuable than RPGs or mortar rounds? If this stuff gets used in a spectacular time and place I’ll be willing to revisit my dismissal of its military significance. But with so much ordnance out there I have trouble getting excited about this, even if it was 141 tons. Again, the reasoning behind my post in the first place was the misleading headline on MSNBC. And regardless of the usability of HMX as is, the hexamite stuff is not usable as is. Thanks for the great comments.

  12. Hexamine does have a military use. Many armies (including the UK, Dutch and Germans) use hexamine tabs for heating rations. One tab(approx. 15g +/-) will bring a half litre of water to a boil in about 8 minutes. Not very…. high explosive. But the word ‘Hexamine’ itself sounds rather scientific and scary, and so I suppose makes good copy if you’re trying to push a story.

  13. nitrating hexamine produces the explosive RDX, which can be stablized with things like mineral oil to produce hollywood’s favorite explosive, Composition-4 (C4). While RDX itself is explosive, it is much more stable in C4 form. All these terrorists would need to make C4 from hexamine is nitric acid and mineral oil, both of which are not hard to come by.