But it is what is inside that is of interest, especially to U.S. forces looking for evidence that Saddam Hussein's forces were preparing chemical or biological weapons for battlefield use. In the first warehouse is sophisticated laboratory equipment obviously used in processing chemicals. In the next are hollow metal disks and a makeshift foundry, and in the next, a roomful of metal lathes much as you would find in an ordinary American college, there are dozens of 122 mm artillery rounds. A few artillery rounds sit next to each lathe. In a fourth warehouse, which produced school desks, are cases for shipping the artillery rounds stacked halfway to the ceiling.
The proximity of the artillery rounds to the chemical laboratory could be coincidence. The soldiers of Battalion 3/4 of the 7th Marines who uncovered the site on their push northwest into Baghdad are not experts, and there is no proof yet that non-conventional weapons were being made in this middle class suburb. But the U.S. has already declared the college a sensitive site. American officials like Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy hope their investigations of this and similar installations "will prove to the world why we're here."
Already the number of sites uncovered is proving too many for American sensitive-site exploitation teams to handle. As TIME toured the warehouse, locals looted another part of the college. The 3/4 Battalion was careful to cordon off the area, but orders came that, despite the apparent importance of the site, the main aim is still to push on, even if it means abandoning such places. "Of course it's nice to prove what Iraq was doing," says McCoy, "but we may already have done that."