We knew there was looting going on after the invasion of Iraq, but we didn't know it was on such a large scale.
The interim Iraqi government recently discovered that 350 tons (give or take 100 tons) of high explosives and ammunition had disappeared from a bunker complex 30 miles from Baghdad.
How do you loot 350 tons of ammunition, and why would anyone want to do it?
This is embarrassing for the United States because we have always believed looting is a bad thing, whether it's a television set, an icebox or a Waring blender.
Why we didn't know about the bunker is now being thrashed out in the hallowed halls of the Pentagon.
The people who tell us it is not a big deal (Donald Rumsfeld) say they have to get all the facts before they come to a conclusion. Rumsfeld's damage-control staff is studying the issue, and when they find out what the munitions were doing there and how come we didn't know about it, they will issue a report -- hopefully after most of the public has forgotten it.
But now the theories abound.
The explosives were there at one time, but then Saddam Hussein rented Ryder trucks to haul them out to God-knows-where. Why didn't our satellite pictures show the vehicles outside the bunkers if Hussein did that? Satellites can't show everything, and even if there were photographs, the people who read them thought they were trucks from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
A second theory is that, for political reasons, the news of the bunkers was broken only a week before the elections. The media should have waited until afterward so as not to embarrass the people in charge of running the war.
A theory also is being pushed forward that no weapons were there in the first place, and it is just one of Hussein's many dirty tricks to make us look silly.
A few of the experts say it doesn't mean anything to know where the explosives were. What's important is where they are now.
Then, of course, there is the looting theory -- that Iraqis raided the bunker to take home souvenirs.
That is the theory I subscribe to.
I take you to Mosul, where Ali bin Adam is just planting a Scud in his back yard.
Mrs. bin Adam says, "Ali, this is the third Scud missile you've brought home this week. They're crowding out all the begonias in my garden."
Ali says, "Toukret Farsi has planted five Scud missiles in his back yard, and I still have some more looting to do."
"You brought home five cases of high explosives and put them in our bedroom."
"What's wrong with that?"
"The dynamite doesn't match the color of our walls."
Ali says, "I took what I could get. No one was guarding the bunkers and you should have seen the greedy crowds."
"If you were going to loot, why couldn't you at least walk off with a mattress or a coffee grinder?"
"They didn't have any. I was lucky to get 20 pounds of plastique."
"Suppose," says Mrs. bin Adam, "they search our house and find all this stuff?"
"We'll tell them we bought it through a Sharper Image catalogue."
(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services